He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!”(which means “Little girl I say to you, get up!”). Mark 5:41
I first encountered God in a fundamentalist church when I was nine years old, but he wasn’t a God I could trust.
When I went forward to accept Jesus as my Savior in that church, my deep desire was to be a good girl, to find acceptance from the God who held the keys to my eternal future in his grasp.
I also wanted relief from the fear and shame that followed me around like a bad smell. Living in a family that “has problems” will do that to you. I wanted someone who would offer me love and kindness and would say once and for all that things were going to be okay.
The wounds inflicted by this harsh, condemning church mixed with a troubled home life with my mentally ill mother, created a condition that injured the soft core of my developing identity.
My innate yearning for God that emerged during these early years could not be fulfilled by the distorted, heartless images of the religious god presented by our legalistic church and later by my extended family. My young church experiences never brought me any closer to a pure understanding of God’s love and grace.
My mother’s crippling depression pushed her into several suicidal attempts. I witnessed the first of these traumatic events when I was nine years old, and the second when I was twelve and alone with her at home.
These terrifying experiences drove me to my knees. “God, please help my mommy not to be so sad anymore,” was a frequent bedtime prayer. I lived in fear that any little thing could trigger another episode. I remember thinking that it was my fault that my prayers went unanswered, that somehow I wasn’t fulfilling some heavenly requirement that would permit a righteous God to hear me.
Childhood wounds can shatter the soul, leaving disturbing memories that linger for years. These memories became a major chord that would resound in my heart for decades. The minor chord, with equally powerful notes, said:
You are all alone.
You are not enough.
You must try harder if you want to be loved.
Over the years I would learn to make friends with these messages because they became my constant companions.
These wounds also splintered a piece of my young self away from my identity, creating a younger version of myself that I tucked away and kept out of sight. This splintering of the self often happens to survivors of childhood trauma. Let’s just call her Little Lisa, a panicky little girl who, long into my adulthood, would show up at the most difficult times in my life. She shambled around in the darkened rooms of my mind, but she was never welcome.
Despite these hardships, I managed to create a typical American life for myself. I finished college, married a good man, had two children and embarked on an interesting career.
Regular church attendance rounded my recipe for the perfect life and ensured that my children were surrounded by a loving Christian community, but I tended to hang around the fringes on Sunday mornings, rarely lingering for conversations with the pastor or chats in the foyer with other believers.
Even after all these years, I still felt nervous and out of place around church people, like that little unwashed nine-year old who never felt clean, even after she was freshly baptized.
By the time I reached my early forties, three decades of untended injuries had left me bone weary, and the weight of carrying life alone became soul crushing.
I had grown so tired from the isolation of trying to hold it all together for my children, my husband, my employer, my staff and my household. The up-before-dawn, plow-through-the-day, try harder frenzy held no joy or meaning.
I developed a deep thirst for more—more of God, more love, more life and it was this thirst that drove me to a powerful women’s retreat at a remote location in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There I found a community of women like me who were struggling to find hope and healing from their wounded pasts.
Throughout the course of this retreat, the origin of the lies I believed about God began to emerge. These false concepts were shaped by my mom’s emotional abandonment of me, experiences that fouled my understanding of a loving God. I could no longer bear the weight of the sentences that had vexed and tormented me my entire life. My soul yearned for a relationship with this magnificent God who I had just started to understand. I needed to take my complaint to the Source, to God himself, and ask him what he thought about the whole mess.
So I did.
And that’s when everything changed.
I took a long, meandering walk and settled on a log in a beautiful meadow. I inhaled a long, deep breath and lifted my chin, my gaze following the endless sapphire sky that rose above the soaring mountain peaks. I struggle to describe for you dear readers, all that transpired in that mountain meadow. Words on a page cannot bring to life the fullness of all I experienced, but here is my very best effort.
All my senses sharpened. Electric energy filled the air that touched my skin. The sky took on an opalescent blue. A sweet, fragrant scent brushed my nose. The rays of the sun warmed my face as my heart expanded inside my chest. A glowing presence began to thaw the glacier of fear in my mind, melting it into a river of tears that flooded into the waiting cup of my open heart. The tears became a torrent as I sobbed for all that I never had, all that I had lost, and all the years I had spent blaming God for my heartache.
And then Jesus showed up.
Everything spiritual became real in that moment, more real than the natural world that surrounded me. Jesus never appeared to me in bodily form, not did I audibly hear him speak. My soul touched his presence and my heart heard his voice with a deep knowing more powerful than anything I had ever experienced in the physical world. A divine, transcendent moment.
I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN WITH YOU. YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN ALONE. NOT EVER. NOT FOR A MOMENT.
He entered into the broken heart of my Little Lisa and told me the truth.
NONE OF THIS WAS YOUR FAULT. YOU ARE NOT UNLOVABLE.
And then the words my desperate heart longed to hear.
I LOVE YOU. I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED YOU. I WILL AWAYS LOVE YOU.
How could this be happening to me? Was this true? I didn’t know. I’d been wrong before.
I UNDERSTAND WHY IT’S HARD FOR YOU TO BELIEVE ME. BUT IT’S TRUE. YOU CAN TRUST ME.
“So it’s really true, isn’t it God? How is it possible that you love me so much?’
BECAUSE YOU ARE MINE.
In that beautiful moment Jesus came for my little girl, drew her near to his heart and healed her. It’s been over fifteen years since Little Lisa met with Jesus and I have never been the same.
I’ve had to face many hardships over these years, events that had the power to wreck me, but I am now a wholehearted person, wholly transformed by a loving Savior. The fears that overwhelmed me for most of my life no longer hold any power over me.
I share this story because this type of healing is not limited to just a few lucky individuals. Jesus came into this world to bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free. If you put your faith in Jesus, this means you! If your life feels burdened by the weight of your younger wounded self, please know that our merciful God has the power to soothe and heal all of your damaged, young places.
Never believe the lie that you are just too broken to experience God’s healing. He greatly desires to give you the freedom to live life in the fullness of the beautiful identity that he designed for you. He loves you more than you can possibly imagine.
Over the last five years, God awakened my desire to write, a talent that emerged when I was just five years old.
In April 2021, I published my memoir that chronicles the whole story of my troubled childhood and transformative journey. I also have a website and blog where I post Life Stories of everyday miracles, true stories of moments when God shows up at the point of our greatest need.
Lisa’s book ‘She’s Still In There: Healing the Wounded Child Within is available on Amazon in e-book and paperback.
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