Leaving the Illusion Behind: Responding to Repressed Memories of Sexual Abuse
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Leaving the Illusion Behind

When I was a child, the Andy Griffith Show depicted life in a quaint little Southern town called Mayberry where relationships were genuine and everybody got along dandy in the end. A lot of TV shows were like that back then. In fact, until my late forties, I believed my life was like that too.

I was the youngest of four children whose ages spanned 15 years. My dad was a construction worker and deacon in our church. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. I have happy childhood memories of family gatherings, extended-family holiday celebrations, and fun adventures with siblings and friends. I would have described us as the typical American family.

I believed this even more after I left home. I married as a teenager and had two children by my early twenties. As might be expected, my teenage marriage hit a few rough spots, so my family of origin continued to define “ideal” for me. My father died a few years after my children were born. He was a good man who taught us by example. I missed his Godly wisdom. An older brother became my confidant as I continued to struggle with transitions in marriage and family. In many ways, he became a father figure to me after our dad died. When my daughter rebelled as a tween, my brother and his wife invited her to spend weekends at their home. I trusted him to be a positive influence in her life. I thought this was just what she needed.

I couldn’t have been more mistaken! Fifteen years later, while expecting her first child, she told me how my brother had molested her during her early teen years. These revelations triggered flashbacks from my own childhood as well. The details of abuse that continued to emerge over the next few years horrified me. The subsequent temptation of denial was strong and made me even more grateful for collaborating evidence that served to substantiate the things I feared most.

The illusion of “Mayberry” (i.e., an ideal childhood in a trustworthy, supportive community) had protected my mind from what my heart couldn’t bear for a long time. A counselor would later describe these repressed memories as “God’s mercy.” She said He graciously allowed them to surface only when I was in a safe enough place emotionally and spiritually to process them. She assured me that, “God’s timing is perfect.” Nevertheless, I must confess I still don’t fully understand His ways.

I wish things could have been very different for us. However, I can’t create “Mayberry” for my children now any more than I can continue to live there myself. An ideal family is not what is most needed, rather an intimate relationship with God who reveals truth and can take our family’s tragic losses and transform them into triumphs is pivotal.  Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). I certainly believe that. I used to think that meant knowing the truth about God. Now I realize it also includes knowing the truth about ourselves. Sometimes that truth hurts, and it seems much easier to continue believing a lie. When you live in denial, however, you are content to stay in a make-believe place like a television studio that God never intended to become anyone’s hometown.

Scripture says we’re just passing through this life on our way to a city where justice is real, relationships are true, and children aren’t abused anymore.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—A heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

When we set our hearts on that city, the bad actors we encounter along the way can’t keep us from our destiny.  My brother’s betrayal totally altered the foundational trust of family for me. Yet in Hebrews 2:10-11, the Bible speaks of another brother—Jesus—who remains worthy of my trust. In learning to lean on Him in the way I once leaned on my natural brother, I’m finding healing for my soul and wisdom to help my family. In future posts, I’ll share more about this. Have you ever lived in “Mayberry”?

Author

joy.restoreddestiny@gmail.com

Comments

Myra
February 17, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Excellently written and a very good comparison to what we are led to believe, until the wounded come forward to reveal otherwise. Thank God for them, as they need all the love and support they can get to move toward healing. I pray for us and them every day! You too Joy! Thanks for your site and your insight.



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