My last memory of my father before he passed is of us bowling together. I remember the rundown bowling alley, greasy food, the way he smiled and laughed.
But what I remember the most is the dull ache in my heart. I had confronted him about the one thing no one but he and I knew: that he had sexually abused me as a child.
Now he spun a wild tale about how it was his father who had done it. I played along for the sake of my safety but we both knew he was a liar.
So we ended our trip together with bowling. I sat there, taking it all in. What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to move forward?
I heard a pastor say once that wrath is too holy an emotion for us to experience. He explained that for wrath to occur, it must go hand in hand with justice. Wrath, without justice, is just uncontrollable anger.
I stood in the restaurant bathroom with my sister, shaking and crying. This initial meeting with our father was too much to bear. Every inch of me was covered in rage and I was ready to oblige.
I have spent much of the last five years obsessing over the fates of my parents.
My dad, who was sexually abusive.
My stepdad, the recovering alcoholic.
My mom, the woman who walked away.
Everything inside of me wanted to pull the strings and motivate them to rewrite the stories they had been leading. I thought, if I manipulated the environment enough, they would react and change. While God has made waves in my stepdad and mom’s lives, it is me He has pursued so relentlessly. There came a point in the law few months that I had to look at myself and acknowledge the story I had been writing.
At one point in my life, I was certainly a victim. A survivor in better terms. And God, in His tenderness, held me while I failed over and over to have self-control or make solid decisions. He was my safety net. He always will be. But on my 29th birthday, He told me it was time to kick bad habits and addictions, to forgive and most importantly, to learn the art of Godly sorrow. The kind that leads to repentance.
This is the hardest pill for survivors of childhood abuse to swallow. Yes, our quirks and struggles are byproducts of our circumstances. And the more prolonged the abuse was, the harder the habits are to quit.
But this is what gets me. God did not prevent the abuse from happening (something I am still struggling to reconcile) but in His love, deep, unapologetic love for me, He disciplines me so that the familial story of abuse stops with me. I carry with me the habits and struggles of my parents and their parents and so on and the greatest gift God has given me is the capacity to write a different story.
And oh, does it hurt. It is scary and hard and I often wonder if people will love me by the time I reach the other side. But God is worth it. The victory is worth it.