It is scary, difficult and terrifying to risk trust after abuse and betrayal. It is hard to discern what is regular, run of the mill sin versus a heart steeped in pride. One, is malleable, softened, humble, repentant and self -aware. The other is blinded by proving a point, arrogance, shame, indignation and unrepentant. The first seeks to make amends – the second seeks to prove their ‘rightness‘ to the point of harm.
I have spent the past three years grieving my losses, finding little Rochelle, helping her identify attachment wounds, meeting Jesus there, opening up to His slow wooing of my heart, finding my voice and living exposed before my community. All of these things have led to deep awareness and clearing away distortions that have blocked me from seeing God’s heart for me.
My path now, led me to ponder, what is it that I look for in relationship? It can be fuzzy to discern what is real and true after you’ve clawed your way out of a life marred by betrayal trauma and psychological abuse. This idea of healthy relationship is hard to grasp for those of us who have had our person hood slowly dehumanized. Our reality was flipped on it’s head countless times, so when someone comes along and we think we’re ‘recovered’, that reality quickly becomes hazy all over again.
Is this person real?
Are they, who they say they are?
Does their behavior match their words?
Is this normal?
Is this regular sin and human nature, or is this abusive? (Sometimes, this can be sneakier than you think!)
These inquisitions roll around in the mind causing chaos and anxiety. “Wait. Is this a trigger? Is this my intuition speaking or just old trauma making me distrust the reality in front of me? Which one is it; my gut or past trauma?” And trying the relationship seems almost more emotionally draining than the recovery work.
So, what is the guideline? What is the standard for characteristics of safety?
Do I know what I want for myself to become a person ‘marked’ by the Spirit (a safe person- because I have unsafe tendencies too)?
Do I know what I need and want in a future partner who is ‘marked’ by the Spirit (a safe person)?
Romans 6:19 and Galatians 22 describe the behaviors of a person marked by the Spirit: “… you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led even deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. “… the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other… when you follow flesh the results are very clear: sexual immorality, lustful pleasure, hostility, quarreling, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, fear… BUT the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed (repented) their sinful nature to his cross… so if we are marked by the Spirit let us not become conceited, or provoke one another…” (NLT)
It helps to see this in live action so often times, I will look at mentor couples in my community. I will watch how they interact with each other when parenting, when speaking about one another in public, what is their body language like when they are next to one another or speaking in a small group of people. What is their tone like when they respond to one another? Is their marriage marked by gentleness and kindness? Or, is there marriage marked by undertones of resentment, dissension and sarcasm? Do they gently touch one another and lend a helping hand? Or, is one partner completely checked out and not realizing the other is bogged down by chores, changing a diaper and having a conversation all at the same time? Who are the partners who truly act in partnership and exude immense respect for one another? I spend time with these couples – I listen to the husbands and I listen to the women share their experience on living with their husband. What qualities about him, make her feel safe and secure?
As I forge ahead into the adventurous unknown, I’ve collected enough data now to know the marking of the Spirit. “Those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” -Romans 8:5-6
(I believe this marking and maturity becomes ESPECIALLY evident in times of conflict)
My friend said something brilliant to me last night, “Rochelle, when we say we are God’s child – that means we act like Him, our behavior changes.” Of course! If I am marked as a KINGDOM KID – then I begin to behave with KINGDOM CULTURE. “…you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” -Romans 8:16 Just as we grow up and we repeat what was modeled for us from our earthly parents (whether healthy or unhealthy), I now have a new Father who models for me how to live out my mark of the Spirit, to be controlled by a life of peace and walk in KINGDOM CULTURE rather than my own culture of selfish motives and unrepentant behavior.
This new awareness may seem like “Bible Basics 101″ for those of us who were born in the church nursery, served in ministry for decades or were married to ministry because of our husbands. However, when spiritual abuse has been a part of your betrayal and when the men in your life have spouted off scripture, claiming how much they serve and trust God – but have lived behaviorally in the opposite way… these scripture lose credibility to the victim. The victim will doubt if these passages are real and true – her brain will shut down, she will go dormant and these truths will not be able to penetrate the iron walls UNTIL she hears it from someone safe and can experience JESUS in a safe way. She will fall in love with these truths all over again after she is safe, but when it comes time to discern other’s actions towards her again – it can be very, very difficult to know who is real and who is not.
My dear sister,
Give yourself grace. Be patient with yourself. Fall in love with the truths all over again – but on your own pace, on YOUR terms, in your own time, with the help of community who IS marked with the Spirit. Do not rush or force trust in a relationship. Watch for the ruling of the Spirit in this other person’s life. Focus on your own healing – what are the places in my heart where the Spirit must reclaim and I must repent?
Jesus; the calm in the storm, the Shepherd, Comforter, Defender and Friend – He does NOT condemn. He does not condemn you for doubt, fear, anxiety, inability to hear scripture or listen to a certain type of preaching. He does not condemn, blame or shame you for the way your body responds to protect you when you feel a threat or you sense hypocrisy. He does not condemn for the mistakes we have made.
Listen to your Jesus – He is the standard of a person marked by the Spirit. He acted like His Father because He was his ONE and only Son.
“Jesus will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public.
Jesus will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. (Matthew 12:19)
Jesus will give you rest.
Jesus will teach you because He is humble and GENTLE at heart.
Jesus gives light and speaks life” (Matthew 11:28)
Will NEVER let you down.
God will NEVER walk off and leave you.
God IS there with you.
God IS ready to help
God is fearless NO MATTER WHAT. (Hebrews 13:6)
This is the standard. If someone is adopted by God as His kid, their behavior will reflect that of a KINGDOM kid. Being changed from glory to glory with the marking of the Spirit.
My Dear Sister,
Trust your gut. Your body is good – filled with the Holy Spirit, guiding you and leading you into all truth. Follow His sweet voice and watch Him treat you gently today.
You are not alone.