How Childhood Trauma Impacts My Faith
Sitting in the old, olive green theater seats where I had watched numerous plays as a child, I heard a voice call my name. Looking around at my high school friends, their heads bowed in prayer, I quietly asked what they wanted. They all shook their heads and went back to their prayers. Closing my eyes, I again heard someone call my name. Before I realized it, I was on my feet, responding to the altar call that had followed a very loud and rambunctious youth rally.
I believe on that night God called me to Him. It’s a belief I have always clung to, and in hard moments I’ve reminded myself that God himself called my name. Twenty-one years later, I still believe that, but as more and more repressed memories emerge, I find my faith in the one who called my name to be growing weaker as I also grow weaker and more tired.
On the night I accepted Christ into my life, I knew my life was different than my friends. Their pantries had food in them, their fridges stocked. Their parents bought them clothes and took them to the doctor. As far as I knew they didn’t have to wake their hungover parent up for work in the morning or were never forced to disown a sibling by a parent. I knew my life was different, but I also knew there was something out there that had been watching over me and protecting me until that point.
There was something good out there that had saved me, watched over me and protected me — or so I thought. Something out there had brought the teachers into my life who gave me the belief that I deserved better and could make a future for myself. There was something out there that promised me peace while whispering into my ear that He loved me and I was worthy. On that night, at 17 years old, I accepted Christ into my life.
For 21 years after, my faith was my rock. Life is hard and no matter the problem, I clung to my faith in God. Every uphill battle was a learning experience to grow my faith. Through numerous job lay-offs in the oil and gas industry, my husband and I prayed and believed that God had a plan for us. As my joints grew worse and worse before I was finally diagnosed with Ehler’s-Danlos syndrome, I believed for healing or for a new form of health. Every time I watch our youngest get into the pool, my heart pounding as the memory of her not moving underwater as a toddler raced through my head, I reminded myself that God was with her and would protect her. My faith was solid.
But then my modern life met my childhood. Even though I knew I had a rough upbringing, except for a tiny handful of good memories, I didn’t remember my life prior to 12 years of age. My mom had laughed when she told me that the court-ordered therapist had told her I block out memories. The way she said it made me feel like it was something wrong with me, so I never questioned why I would block out a large part of my life. I was 38 when those memories finally started reappearing and I learned I had blocked the memories not as a flaw, but as protection.
Now I look at my life, in what I thought was God protecting me and realize He was there when I was destroyed. When an adult prayed with me and sang hymns with me as a small child before abusing me, God was there. When one parent told me another one was going to kill us all, God was there. When I was raped, God was there.
And now, in the present day, I sit and listen to a pastor preach peace as every bone within my body is screaming and withering in pain and wonder if God is there. As the memories of being molested and harmed as a child show up without warning, and the childhood torture comes to life within my adult body, I wonder where God is. People cry out for me to trust my Heavenly Father or Daddy God and my heart screams as I struggle to block those words from reaching my ears because of the terror they bring. And then I remember the faces of the two pastors who I finally told the truth and I wonder why God wouldn’t cast me aside like they did. Maybe He already has and if not, maybe He should.
I see God sometimes in the way the memories slowly build day-after-day and I’m able to get help to handle them before it gets too bad. I see God in the fact that He gave me kids and a husband who I want to stay here for when there’s part of my soul that is too tired to keep going. Sometimes I see God giving me a voice for the suffering, a voice I never wanted and I’m too worn to do justice. I see God working to break my faith free from culture and worldly expectations. But then I start shaking, unable to function again because something small sets me off and my faith starts to slip down the rocky slope that tears at my hands and feet.
Most days I wish I could bury my memories once again. If I could dig a deep enough hole inside my mind, the hurt and pain could once again be laid inside. Then I could pick up my life and country club faith and live again. No one would have to know my doubts or be burdened with my care.
God was there. He saw all of the abuse and didn’t stop it. He heard me cry out. He saw my pain. He knew it all, even when I couldn’t remember. My faith is wrecked, but I believe He knew that would happen too, and yet. He still called my name.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash