The next night I was stunned by the continuation of “the terror”. Again, false expectations set me up for a rude awakening in more ways than one. Naively supposing one night of rediscovery would bring relief to the affects of my dad’s four year war against my soul, I had blithely continued to new memories and experiences. Imagine my surprise, when my child’s voice whispering desperately in the dark for her mommy startled me into consciousness. Now, given that my relationship with my mom was less than stellar, I don’t particularly like it when that happens (and besides…I am 58 years old). Also, I had thought I was finished with that phase (again those expectations). Inwardly sighing, I turned my mind to my Lord for understanding and direction.
He began to bend my thoughts towards nighttime in the small, cramped house where we tried settling for a second time following my dad’s acceptance of a new job. There, according to my mom, horrible nightmares would cause me to wake up screaming in the middle of the night. Since I don’t remember much about those dark years, I have often wondered about the reasons for those distressing nighttime experiences and my frantic cries…in the darkness of this night I would find out.
After waking, my body began to convulse and with silent screams I began to relive the excruciating pain of my initial encounters with my father…again muffled by my gracious Lord and Savior. (I wonder how similar this was to those frightening, forgotten nights in my 8 year old life…). When I could no longer endure, I got up and moved to the couch. There, once more, I was led to forgive. I forgave my dad for his selfish, self-absorbed infliction of pain on my toddler’s body. While writing this, I was struck with the realization that I must also forgive him for the pain he inflicted on her psyche: her soul, her spirit, her mind and her emotions. So, I did. And, miraculously, I drifted back into sleep.
Exhausted, the following morning I actually gave myself permission to relax, to be kind to myself (a thing unheard of in the past), and the day developed into a good one…praise God. As I headed to bed that evening, I wondered if the night would hold any new revelations. When I awoke in the dark, I found that it did. This time, I gained a clear understanding that it was my dad’s choices which took him down the path of perversion. His choices to disobey and rebel against his God (he was raised in the church with an understanding of Scriptures) and his repetitive conscious decisions to continue on that route were the cause of my suffering. Again, I was led to forgive. And again, I amazingly drifted back to sleep. (Another buried truth has risen to my consciousness as I write… the abuse was his choice; it had nothing to do with me. What relief! I know that victims often blame themselves, but I did not know there was some residue of that belief still in me.)
The third evening, I eyed my bed with some mild trepidation wondering what, if anything, might be revealed there in the night. Stirring in the small hours of the morning, I came briefly to the surface of slumber where an image awaited me…a mental picture of a steel ball. This steel ball was at the core of my child’s being where her feelings had once resided. Her inner person had become impenetrable and cold because of the continuous recurring trauma of her father’s abuse. Her suffering was too great; becoming numb to the pain was the only way to cope.
Normally, following such a revelation, the pattern has been to forgive. But, to my surprise, when I tried moving through that door, it was shut. And, clearly that moment was not the time for it to open. Sensing there was more that needed to be understood before I could cross its threshold, I surrendered to the greater wisdom of my God, trusting Him to guide me in the way I should go. (This is what my God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8) Gradually sleep again enfolded me.