316/444 Healing from Infidelity: Sexual Intimacy #11, Surfing for God, The Voice of Love Speaks Louder than the Voice of Shame
When asked what my goal is for counseling someone, I reply, "To do my best to create a space for the person across from me to have an encounter with God." I can do a little, but real deep change comes from our Creator, our surrender to Him and his dogged pursuit of our souls.
In Surfing for God, Michael Cusick shares a powerful story that brings me to tears every time I read it. Praying and meditating on this story could very well lead a person to one of those encounters with God. It is a beautiful, painful, courageous, vulnerable telling of an intimate encounter with God.
Several years after my healing from sexual addiction, I began another leg in my journey toward wholeness that was totally unexpected. I began experiencing random flashbacks that left me traumatized.
A psychologist eventually diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from my childhood sexual abuse. Many combat veterans experience this disorder after coming home from battle. In severe cases, they may be walking down the street, hear a helicopter overhead, and suddenly, reflexively, start running for protection under a picnic table or in a dumpster. Though living in the present, their emotions and physiological responses convince them that they are actually reliving the moment of trauma.
I discovered early in this journey that when the flashbacks occurred, my walk-in closet was one of the only places I felt physically and emotionally safe. One time, a very severe flashback thrust me back in my mind to the pain and violation that had been inflicted on me well over forty years before. As cortisol, adrenaline, and other brain chemicals surged through my bloodstream, my heart began to race, my chest grew tight, and the feelings of abuse washed over me all over again. Suddenly, I became that little boy, and all rational, adultlike thinking disappeared. I crawled to my closet and began to weep uncontrollably, curling up in a ball and wrapping myself in a quilt.
After twenty minutes or so, the flashback passed. Exhausted, I continued lying there in the darkness of my closet. I heard the doorbell ring downstairs, followed by the excited voices of my wife and kids. My friend Eric, a twenty-year police veteran and SWAT team hostage negotiator, was at the door. Because of our friendship, I was acutely aware that police officers are tough and rarely show any weakness. Hiding in my closet, I felt relieved knowing I wouldn't have to deal with him.
Just then, deep in my heart, I heard a voice. It was a voice of Love, the Voice of my heavenly Father. He spoke to me as I burrowed into the quilt, alone in the dark closet, with swollen eyes. I want you to invite Eric into this closet with you. I want to show you My love through him, said the Voice.
"But I'm almost naked, there's snot running down my face, and I can't stop crying," I answered.
I want you to receive My love through him, the Voice replied.
I knew this was the voice of God. But in my pride and fear, I resolved that there was no way I would allow Eric into that closet to see me in this shameful condition. Just then, Julianne knocked on the door to check on me. I'll never forget what happened next. As she opened the door, I knew that my greatest desire--to be loved and accepted for who I really was--was deeper and truer than my fear of being rejected. So I said to my wife, "Honey, please get Eric. I want him to see me."
Moments later my friend stood in the doorway of the closet. As he slowly knelt down and rested his hand on me to comfort me, I had never felt so vulnerable, exposed, and naked. I was surprised, however, because I also had never felt so deeply loved and known. In that moment I knew I had nothing to hide, nothing to lose, and nothing to prove. It was a completely new experience of freedom. By humbling myself and inviting Eric into my shame, I opened my heart to receive the love of Christ through the presence of my friend. In that series of eternal moments, he became the hands and feet of Jesus. The voice of Love began countering my lifelong voices of shame.
All of us have hiding places where we stow away our shame. Where do you hide yours? What memories or triggers send you scurrying for cover? If the voice of shame could be silenced, what do you think the voice of Love might say to you? What do you long to hear? Who might be an Eric to you--someone you could invite into your shame who would not be frightened by your nakedness? Who can you trust with you?
Thanks Michael. Truly.