Kathleen lived in a state of constant fear; and her fear wasn’t unreasonable. Raised in a home characterized by abuse and neglect, Kathleen grew up to recognize abuse as normal and even, an expression of love. This left the door open for child-rapists and sexual exploiters to further abuse her. Even though Kathleen accepted it as truth when her parents and these men said they loved her, something inside of her cried out for something better. Her emotional pain sat at her core, a black hole that sucked in any kind of attention but was never filled. She needed love, she reached for love, and received abuse mislabeled as love. Kathleen stared into Death’s face many times before the age of eighteen and she had no fear of him. Her fear was founded on those things that death comes by and her learned definition of love as degradation and pain. Her fear offered protection. Fear placed her on constant guard-duty, empowering her self-safety through hyper-vigilance. Raised as an unloved child in a hostile world: love, joy, peace, and security seemed to be lofty ideals forever, out of her reach. Acceptance of grim reality and constant fearful watching seemed to Kathleen the only choice for survival. Kathleen longed for the unknowing-ness of Death but her fear of how Death might take her, kept her fighting to survive.
Kathleen was the black-sheep of the family; the family scape-goat held responsible for her parent’s dysfunction. Kathleen innocently accepted this role and definition of herself because there was little effort by anyone, to teach her anything different. Sexual abuse is scapegoating in its most extreme form and Kathleen naturally took on the blame and shame for the abuse she was subjected to. The weight of a sinful, hateful world rested on Kathleen’s young shoulders and if she knew anything about herself, she knew she was sinful, very dirty, and probably evil. When introduced to Jesus as the Savior from sin, Kathleen reached for that salvation without hesitation! The black-hole inside her was filled with divine love. On the inside, she was new but the world didn’t change and in the world, fear still seemed to offer needed safety. Jesus and His unconditional love became a refuge for Kathleen, a special place to hide from a world that remained ever-threatening. Kathleen longed to leave the world and be only, with Jesus but God’s desire was for Kathleen to grow into His perfect love; and free her from her prison of fear, even while living in a dark and dangerous world.
Kathleen wavered for many years between trusting God and fearing other human beings. God, her new tender loving Father, met all her wavering with patience and kindness. He never expected more of her than she was able to give and never condemned her when she failed. Her Father didn’t react to her childish stumbling with anger or by reciting lists of everything she’d ever done wrong. By His love, expressed in truth, He freed her from the final consequence of her sin and thereby, blessed her with enduring hope. He also, freed her from the guilt and shame that others wrongly, placed upon her by that same power of truth in rightful reckoning. Jesus is the divine truth that reveals evil’s true face. Over many years, God proved himself to be a true Father by protecting her, being trustworthy, and never abandoning her. God’s love never failed Kathleen. As she grew in God’s perfect love there was less and less room for fear until, all her fear was gone. In an upside down world, the love of God turned Kathleen right-side-up and her state of constant fear was replaced with ever-growing joy!
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
In the words of my seven-year old grandson, “God is infinity love!”