Two years ago I hated leaving my house. I would poke my head out the window before taking the dog out to avoid possibly running into someone and having to interact. I liked going to the grocery store late at night or really early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
I’d been so hurt by people, I felt like there was a constant threat of danger. It’s not much of a stretch to say that I assumed everyone was a murderer waiting for me to let my guard down so they could kidnap me. It may sound silly, but that was the level of fear and paranoia I carried.
Whether they intended to or not, almost every man in my life had hurt me. Not all, but most. Some hurts were simply a reopening of an old wound caused by someone else. Some hurts were the devil misinterpreting someone’s words. But the outcome was emotional pain that became harder and harder to endure.
There’s a lot of talk about snowflakes and crybabies these days, and if I’m being honest, I fall into that category. The profound wounds I sustained over my lifetime left me feeling like everyone and anyone was stabbing me in the heart with a knife.
Before Jesus, I had no way of healing the wounds, so in the absence of the power of the cross, the only options were to cry and endure the hell of emotional pain or to harden my heart and become a defensive man hater. Usually I did both.
I had never been taught how to process emotions in a healthy way, and I was around people with anger issues that would lash out at those around them. I had heaps and heaps of word curses poured over my head. I grew up feeling like I wasn’t valuable because I was a woman. I grew up hearing that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I spent most of my life hearing everything that was wrong with me out of the mouths of men who were supposed to care most about me.
My experience was that men were the source of my pain and hurt. If man after man hurt me, then all men must be bad.
That was the lie I believed. Even last week I found myself hyper defensive over interactions I was having with men. I perceived everyone as a threat. Every word spoken to me carried the shadow of past abuses.
Last Thursday I almost missed Freedom Ministry Level I. I was playing kitchen with my daughter when I received a text message from a leader saying, “Are you okay?”
I racked my mind for any reason why they would think I wasn’t okay, and it hit me like a ton of bricks that I wasn’t at Level I. I looked at my phone and it had started 30 minutes prior, and it would be a 30 min drive to get there.
I looked at my daughter and said, “Do you want to go to church?”
“Yeah!” she shouted. We threw on our shoes and ran to the car. I’d be late, but I knew there was freedom available and that I wanted to be in the place where God was moving.
As I walked in the building, the first thing I heard was “Abused women can start to believe the lie that they are not worthy, and that abuse is the best they can expect. Even if you were abused, you don’t have permission to hold onto unforgiveness. You are limiting the power of the cross. Your identity isn’t about the past, it’s about God. You can get so free from what happened to you that it’s like it never happened. Memories about your past no longer bring pain because you are healed and set free.”
I’d been late according the the clock, but I was right on time for what God wanted to do with me. The woman preached for another hour and it was like being cut open to have my cancer exposed.
I’d been so wounded in the past, I felt like my entire identity was built upon my unforgiveness for what was done to me. Who was I if not a victim of abuse from men?
Before we even stood up to pray, I got hit by the power of Holy Spirit moving in the room. I started to cry and whimper as all the pain of the abuse rose to the surface. All the cancer came boiling up.
I had a choice. Do I take it home with me or do I surrender it?
I heard the pastor say, “How free do you want to be?”
I felt like my skin was just a holding container of pain and unforgiveness. I was sobbing, ripping tissues out of boxes right and left. I couldn’t stop the fountain of tears pouring out of my eyes.
The preacher said stand, and I rose to my feet. But my knees were so shaky that I had to hold the back of the chair. She said to pray after her in a loud voice, but all I could manage was a whimper.
She walked us through a prayer of repentance of unforgiveness, and it took everything in me to whisper after her and repeat what she said.
I got through that prayer by the grace of God. I couldn’t forgive what was done to me on my own. It was too much pain and too much damage. All I had the strength to do was honor the pastor’s voice, and rise when she said rise and speak when she said speak. She gave me the words to say, and I said them.
She told us to whisper the name of everyone we harbored unforgiveness toward. I think I whispered every person I ever met, just in case. As the pastor preached, I realized that unforgiveness and bitterness was a poison that was causing death in almost every area of my life. If there was even the smallest shred of unforgiveness toward anyone, I wanted it dealt with then and there.
I saw people going to the front, but I waited. I wanted Holy Spirit to bring up every person I needed to forgive. I saw face after face pass into my mind. I said their names, and when I didn’t remember their names, I said, “That guy.” God knew who I was talking about.
I stepped into the area for the altar call, and I was hit again by Holy Spirit power. I felt like a little girl, and I was searching for someone to help me, but found no one. I was a woman, searching for someone to help me, but found no one.
And then a prophet came and stood in front of me. I could smell the beautiful fragrance of anointing oil as she touched my head. I heard her say that there were times people should have protected me and they didn’t. Her words described the spiritual cry for help I held in my chest.
I fell to the floor as a dam broken inside me.
She had me hold out my hands, and she touched them saying, God is giving you grace to surrender. Grace to release the gift of forgiveness. I felt it drop into my hands like it was real.
God knew. He knew I couldn’t do this on my own. But he took my small act of obedience, and in my weakness gave me the strength I needed to surrender to what He was trying to do to heal me.
I went home feeling empty and tired. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know who I would be after getting free from unforgivness. What would that freedom look like?
The same prophet had ministered to me months before in a freedom room. She said that once you get freedom, the enemy will come and push buttons to try to get back the territory he lost.
Today I went on a walk, and I was processing how free I felt waking up this morning. I could feel the shift in me of the profound freedom that was released through Freedom Ministry. On my route, I walked past a field where teenage boys were playing ball. My old habit rose up to feel defensive. Then I passed a rental property where two gentleman were waiting for a realtor to show up. Again, I felt myself avoid eye contact.
At first I asked, “Why are there so many dudes out today?”
Then I realized that the enemy was pushing those buttons trying to see if I would stay in old patterns of fear of men. I had repented for unforgiveness that caused a fear of man, but now I needed to break the old patterns.
I had a choice: do I enforce the victory I got in Freedom Ministry, or do I continue to let the enemy make me fearful of men?
I remembered the voice of my spiritual father say, “The lie of hell is that all men are the same.”
Would I believe his voice or the voice of the enemy saying “All men are out to hurt you.”
It was a choice I wouldn’t have been able to make had I not experienced the breakthrough I did at Freedom Ministry. The rest of the walk I kept passing men, and instead of being afraid, I made the choice to believe that not all men are like my abuser, and that I have a God who has promised me that I was safe and secure. I found myself smiling and waving from a sincere place of peace and freedom.
It may not sound like a big deal to smile and wave at someone, but it was a huge victory for someone who was terrified to leave the house two years before. Profound freedom comes out of little baby steps that enforce the victory at Calvary.
We don’t have to be a slave to fear, because Jesus died on the cross so that we could be set free!