Christmas is always my favorite time of year. Growing up in an area of the country that never saw snow, it came as a wonderful surprise to find myself surrounded by glistening white over the past several Decembers. I love everything about it. The warm drinks, the softened landscapes hidden by snow, the merry lights twinkling in the distance, and the beautiful truth that without Christmas we could never celebrate Easter.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
– Matthew 1:21-23
That’s the very great promise of Jesus’ birth. He came to save his people from their sin. And each Christmastime, I am again reminded of how greatly I need that salvation. But this Christmas, I also need to know that he didn’t just come to save me from my sin. He also came to be with me – to never leave me, nor forsake me. I require this truth today, because I am so painfully lonely and afraid.
Trauma, the stage of healing our family is currently in, lasts anywhere from 6 months to years depending on how it is handled. For some people, they are never able to transition out of it. The pain and reality of the original experience overwhelms them and they die, literally, of a broken heart. For others, trauma becomes a way of life. They harbor the fear of pain deep inside themselves, so that all life experiences are turned into equations of safety that inform which relationships and activities are allowed – and which ones are not. Trauma creates shock and numbness that provides a cushion for the body, or mind, to handle the situation in the moment. But we are never meant stay in it.
I require God with me in order to move beyond the fear and loneliness of this moment.
These past weeks showed me that our new normal is not automatically a place of peace. Removing Asher, and by extension ending the abuse, did not simultaneously create harmony in our home. Oh, that it had!
Instead, Georgia is even more numb and disconnected. She runs from the car the moment we come to a stop and can barely stand to be in the same room as the rest of her family. She loses herself in books at home and social interactions when she is outside our home. She is oversharing with peers in an attempt to gain acceptance even as her own, biggest fear, is the discovery of her shame.
Olivia is offended at everything. Everything. If we look at her with a weird face we are obviously mocking her. If we speak her name above a soft whisper we are yelling. If we expect appropriate behavior and reactions with her siblings we are unfair and mean. There is no winning. She is put out by the smallest event and lives contrary to just about anyone who crosses her path.
Nathan is turning into a hyperactive, impulse-driven, crazy person. My once sweet, tender-hearted boy is living life with the volume turned to 11. This exaggerated lifestyle is apparently quite normal in children experiencing sexual abuse and often presents before the abuse is discovered. In fact, there are many things about Nathan’s behaviors that sadly point to Asher’s own victimization because of the similarity between the two boys’ choices. However, Nathan’s developed after the abuse came to light. While it is still a “normal” response to abuse, it causes us concern as we work with his therapist.
God, with me!
Jesus, stand by my side and show me your presence in each of the horrifying moments I must face each day. May you be the first thing I see in the morning and the last thought at night. Cover my heart with your hands and carry my brokenness through this advent season. Remind me that nothing is lost or in vain, and you are bringing a peculiar glory out of this shattered life.
You are my God, with me.