I woke up that first morning at the beach feeling lighter than I had for many years. It was a glorious day and I couldn’t wait to go walking.
Coffee, daily scripture reading, and off I set. I have made it sound as if the path to healing is a bruising fight, and it is, but the outcome is worth every minute of the battle. Whenever you have to face deep seated defensive attitudes and behaviours, it is going to hurt. Actually, in my case, some of what the Lord revealed about the state of my heart embarrassed me more than hurt. But before we got there, He dealt with me as only a loving Father could: He gave me time to rest. It is in the resting that we regain our strength, and resting is not something that people who come from a background of abuse do easily.
Part of the atonement price I believed I had to pay is perfection, making sure I did everything extraordinarily well, nothing left to chance. It follows, therefore, that if I had to be perfect, so did everyone around me. If something went wrong, it reflected on me, and that could not be allowed. If I messed up, the repercussions were untenable, and the future became a little bleaker, so those around me were not allowed to mess up, and if they did I made sure they paid the price for it. I hurt many good people with my cutting words, not least my sons.
And then there is a perverse rider to perfectionism. Just to cover my tail, I made sure there was a way of escape, a ‘failure hatch’ I now call it, so I always had some circumstance, or person to blame for things not turning out the way they should. This habit, like all destructive tendencies, escalated until I was entrenched in a cycle of setting myself up for failure, so that I could feel justifiably victimised and hopeless.
Isaiah talks about this in chapter 50 verse 11:
Who encircle yourselves with sparks:
Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled –
This you shall have from My hand;
You shall lie down in torment.”
Such was I when I arrived at the seaside, tired, exhausted, hidden behind my hedge of sparks.
I experienced so much peace those first weeks on my own, that I began to feel guilty. I walked each day, reveling in the beauty of my surroundings, and the lightness in my heart. I found myself laughing out loud as I walked along, and hugging myself in glee for no reason. For the first time in many years I did not start each day with tears of anguish, wondering how on earth I was going to get through that 24 hours. Instead I woke up rejoicing, excited about what all I would see and learn and experience.
When I asked the Lord why, what this time was about, why I felt so light and happy, He told me this was a Sabbath rest, that I was to embrace it without guilt. I understood that I needed to enjoy this time, allow the happiness of those days to strengthen me. I read in Psalm 18 how the Lord delivers His children, and then in verse 19: “He delivered me because He delighted in me.” Wow! The God of all creation delights in me! Small, insignificant, damaged me! How dare I not be delighted in Him? What an amazing revelation to titillate the mind.
And so I want to reassure those of you who want to start your journey, or possibly are on the way, to healing. God knows us so well, and His desire is for us to be whole and healthy. It will take a certain amount of courage, but He will not take you further than you are ready to go.
I recently got to watch my granddaughter at a swimming lesson. The teacher was incredibly gentle with her, while still firm enough to ensure she took the next step. “I’ll hold your hand,” she promised. That is what God says to us. “Fear not, I’m holding your hand, and I will not let it go.”
The biggest advantage for me of this time of rest, is that I began to hear God’s voice. In that quiet place, physically and emotionally, finally, those voices of accusation stopped long enough for me to hear the reassuring voice of my Father. At first I thought it was my imagination, but the words were too direct, too pertinent to have come from me.
One of the first scriptures that leapt out of the page at me, was Jeremiah 17 v 10:
“I the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”
I like to check cross references, and I found one in Psalm 139 v 23:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxieties.”
As I read these words, I heard the Holy Spirit quietly asking if I would allow God access to my heart, to search it for the secrets that I didn’t even know were in there. For a few days I kept getting similar scriptures, about the Lord searching our hearts. I had never understood that we need to give the Lord permission to enter and search our hearts and thoughts. He will point out sin and errors to us, but He will never go where He is not invited, even into the hearts of His people.
I hesitated only a fraction. If I was really serious about finding out who I was, about walking away from my past in freedom, I really had no choice but to allow God free and unfettered access to my heart.
As I invited Him in, and gave Him that permission, I was filled with trepidation. It reminded me of when I learnt to swim, when I finally let go of the rail, lay back trusting the water to carry me. At the same time I was filled with a strange peace.
The journey had begun.