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How betrayal trauma can teach you why you are killing your own spirit
Healing is messy. I’ve been doing it for over a year now. It doesn’t feel good or right or just. It doesn’t feel like mercy; it just feels hard.
Who can understand the ways of God? Certainly not me. Why He doesn’t come in with one fell swoop and swallow up my enemies. How people, evil people, are allowed to roam the earth happy and free without consequences. How it can be fair that I suffer for their sins and the burden they laid upon me Yes, I am angry.
This is the beginning of healing.
I am thankful to even have an emotion. To feel something, anything after betrayal. And it seems to happen to me quite often that I am too trusting, too loving, too empathetic. I get trapped by my blindness to love without boundaries and trust that the person on the other side has my best interest at heart.
We do not talk much about betrayal. We do not talk about the myriad ways it rearranges our DNA or changes the course of our lives. And we certainly don’t talk about what it’s like to rebuild after betrayal, because it’s embarrassing and shameful. How could this happen to me again and again?
Recognizing patterns is important. It helps to redirect the pain into something productive. Who is this person I am meeting again and again in different forms? I had to recognize that I was doing something that was killing my spirit.
I was committing spiritual suicide.
Ten years ago I healed from sexual abuse trauma in a very linear way. I went through a formal ministry program for sexual abuse survivors, had a workbook, met in a group, and later became a facilitator. I went to retreat weekends, had spiritual counseling, and was able — through God’s grace, in a very direct and calculated way — to be healed from the destruction and devastation that sexual abuse trauma causes. But this time it was different. This trouble with discerning the people that came into my life was the next phase of my healing journey.
This round of healing wasn’t so organized and straightforward. It was eclectic, ever-changing, and it forced me to rely daily on the information that God was supplying. It was ugly and I didn’t like it. Why couldn’t God package my healing in a nice neat box and send it through next-day delivery?
God began by telling me to let go.
God began by telling me to let go of trying to avenge myself. To let go of my role in trying to save others in my life who had also been wronged. He had to take away my title as a self-proclaimed heroine in order for Him to step in and do His work. I was appalled that I couldn’t be the savior of the world.
In my last shattered relationship, I was poked and prodded about my discernment.
“Are you sure you heard from God?” this person said. “How do you know it wasn’t the devil?”
As the texts came through all I could hear was the slithering of the snake’s tongue rattling in the Garden of Eden. The trick of the enemy is to find your weak point and exploit it. Mine certainly came in the form of exploitation of my discernment.
That broken relationship gave me pause because it was so excruciatingly hurtful.
But I had to explore that to see what was so hurtful about it.
This is an important step in healing — to give pause, to look outside of ourselves, and to investigate the devastation. This enables us to pick up the pieces of our shattered hearts and rebuild them into mosaics that use our beauty and our brokenness to create beautiful, glorious images.
This is when I realized that the people who shattered me were also broken. They were broken by sin, shame, and their own egos. Some were abandoned by the father-figures they loved, others had lost important people in their lives through death or divorce. Some found it easier to quell the pain they had caused themselves by blaming others, still, others were stuck in lives they lived many years ago and hadn’t even considered that they needed to heal.
What was my biggest realization?
That I was attracted to broken people just like myself, while expecting them to be healed enough to give me what I gave them.
But I also realized that I was so much further in the healing process than they were; some were not even in the healing process at all. This isn’t to tout my ego but rather to say that I had chosen through Christ to heal, even if it was ugly, even if it was painful.
Even if it meant sometimes cleaning up my side of the street.
During this phase of my healing, I have come to appreciate that they are all children of God, and I saw them in a beautiful tapestry of God’s mosaic. I realized how far I’d come in my healing but how far away so many of them were. I remembered my initial conversion and how God told me that I could not help anyone until I healed. I remember that God used me throughout that process.
Maybe you are like me, seeing patterns with the people you choose to enter your life. Or maybe you are the offender who realizes what you may have done. Either way, there is forgiveness and healing in that— even if it’s messy, even if you caused an explosion.
God is very good at picking up broken pieces and making them beautiful. And because we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
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