I wrote last week about my husband being my defender as the Lord enabled him to be. I mentioned that my husband was often misunderstood in His strong defense of me, since only he and I knew why he was doing it. My husband was doing a loving, noble thing. I let him and yet knew that there were moments when he broke and roared much too loudly, which scared me. It also scared my children. This week I want to own up to the fact that I was the source of the storm that created the collateral damage in the lives of those I love – my husband and my children.
I have been reading two books lately. The first is called, “The Wounded Heart” by Dan Allender, and the second is “How People Grow” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Both of these have caused me to reprocess the damage the fears, anger, and bitterness, had on my husband and children BEFORE I surrendered the right of forgiveness and grace to the Lord when I turned forty.
I have shared how I asked my children’s forgiveness and the Lord has faithfully, but continually, worked to heal my relationship with them both. But until I read some things in both of these books lately, I failed to realize how much of the collateral damage to my children I have not taken ownership of – the barriers I have created between them and their father. It breaks my heart that I hurt them this way. I knowingly hid behind my husband while the kids fended for themselves to understand and assimilate what a family was through that distorted lens.
How could they have know who their daddy REALLY was?
How could they have know the genuine graceful, compassionate heart I knew?
I was selfishly sucking it all up for myself, leaving them with this ugly, skewed impression of their dad based on the meager reserves he had left after defending me. I say I knowingly and selfishly did this, but the confession is deeper than that. I confess to being terrified of my husband not defending me and me having to feel the hurt of my heart by myself, thus having to tell my kids what was wrong with me, shattering their image of safe family forever. I clung to an illusion of protecting them and instead wounded them through the theft of the true goodness of their daddy.
Now telling this in a very public place makes all my alarms go off and creates the desire to run back into the hole of protection of anonymity. But I love my kids too much to go there any more.
They BOTH need to hear me say:
“I was too afraid to protect you.”
“I was too focused on protecting myself to love you as you needed me to – with grace, truth, love, humility, and gentleness.”
“I was so afraid of being known, I kept you from a relationship with your daddy that would have changed your world for good.”
“I stole your dad from you and I know I cannot take that back. Neither of you deserved it – you or your dad. I came out looking like the good one, but I am not. It was an illusion because I was draining life from your dad, letting HIM be the strong one, faithful to his task of being the defender of his wife and his home, taking the fall for MY weakness and fear of your disapproval if you really knew who I was and what had happened to me that I never shared with you.”
This is not about me. I have tried to make your wounds something about me for all these years. But they are YOUR wounds and they shaped YOU for life in a way that has left you wandering and frustrated and disconnected from the family as it should have been. You deserve to know that.
You deserve to fully know your dad. I want that for you. I want you to know this man who prays for you both, smiles and tells me to tell you “Hi, I love you, How is it going?, etc.”, when I am talking to you on the phone. The man who wants great things for you as people – in the world AND in the Lord. The man who is fixing up our new home so family – YOU – can visit and feel welcome. The man who went to work and still does every day, to be sure those under his care are provided for, no matter how much his body aches and his mind is tired – he believes the Lord is up to something through it, thinking who is he to question God’s plan for his life? The man who is a faithful friend and a loyal co-worker, ready to help anyone at any time, because he cares about their needs and not his own. That is your dad. That is the man I stole from you, that my fear and insecurity used up, so you could never know it or experience it in its fullness.
All this to ask your forgiveness.
I admit I sinned against you both in all these ways.
And probably so many more…
I have a close friend who reminded me once that Jesus died with His arms wide open, fully surrendered, taking our sin on Himself. He didn’t defend Himself or protect His reputation. He took what was mine so I could have what was His. That is merciful, gracious love. She then said that in light of Christ’s example, when we own up to and confess our sin, we need to NOT make any qualifiers or defenses of why we did what we did, NOT fill in context, and NOT trying to soften the reality of the fact it happened. Confession acknowledges full responsibility for what was done and letting the person sinned against decide how to handle it solely on its own merits.
I know I am not THAT mom anymore, but I WAS that mom then and the collateral damage to your lives and souls was real. I know the Lord has forgiven me, but I want you to have the opportunity to absorb the full disclosure of what I have already confessed to Him. Collateral damage of sexual abuse was caused by MY sinful response to what happened to me. I CHOSE to respond that way. I CHOSE to not go to the Lord, but lean too heavily on your dad for strength. I hurt YOU in the process. I seek YOUR forgiveness and pray YOU would take every opportunity to get to know your dad without the filters of what MY sin created between you. He is a good man. A flawed man. A man in need of forgiveness. A man who leans into his Lord and Savior to live well every day.
He loves you -always has and always will.
To my readers:
I sent this to both of my kids before I posted this today so that they could know it wasn’t for the glory of a blog, but something I really wanted them to know and be able to heal from. I shared it publicly because I want to challenge those of us who have been emotionally, verbally, and sexually abused to own the collateral damage of our own wounded hearts along the way – from brokenness to wholeness.
We are healing and becoming more confident in Christ, living forward without fear. We owe it to those who journeyed with us through the brokenness, that were affected or shattered by our process, to know we see what we were then and what we did to them. We need to own up to it and make the amends we can, because their lives were also affected by abuse – they were our collateral damage. The Lord wants to heal them too.
If any of this made certain people in your life jump to your mind, please seek the Lord as to how to make amends and own YOUR collateral damage. Let me know how I can pray for you. Would love to know how this spoke to you today.
How will the future be different because you owned your part in the past?