Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The Wounds of Abuse
Child abuse has been found to be a more common occurrence than once thought. And it takes place in more forms than once thought. Beyond physical and sexual abuse, we now know verbal abuse can be just as damaging Daryl suffered from verbal and physical abuse more than fifty years ago, and the effect remind us of the long-term consequences. His eventual triumph over those consequences also reminds us of the spiritual victory that can result. When Daryl's older brother was sent to school, Daryl's mother sent him along, thinking he was smart and could carry on with the others in the first-grade class, even though he was only four. Anna Smithfield (not her real name) was just out of high school when she became Daryl's teacher. A two-month summer teaching course was all the formal teacher's training she had. In addition, the new teacher brought with her a childhood in an abusive home. Of course, more than fifty hears ago abusive experiences or tendencies were never mentioned or even considered in the hiring and employing of teachers or anyone else. Daryl at age four was not mentally or emotionally ready for the demands of school, even though he was exuberant and bright. It was soon obvious he could not perform as well as other first graders, but Miss Smithfield was determined to make a special case out of him. Instead of asking his parents to wait until he was older before they put him in school, she had him stay in class, determined to teach him if it was "the last thing I ever do." The challenge of teaching a four-year-old in the first grade would be tough enough for any seasoned teacher. But in Miss Smithfield's case, with abuse as her only disciplinary tool to compel children to obey, she began levying terrible consequences on Daryl when he failed to give the answers she wanted. Those consequences included lots of verbal abuse. She frequently put a dunce cap on his head and mocked him by parading him in front of the other students and calling him "stupid," "idiot," and other things. When even this didn't bring him into line, harsh spankings and other physical consequences followed. This went on for the first six years of Daryl's education in the one-room school of olden days. How did Daryl respond to this treatment? Like most children in such a situation, he did not turn his anger toward his teacher, Instead, he turned it toward himself, believing he was born stupid, would never amount to anything, and was the "worst case ever" of "intellectual inability." Fortunately, Daryl escaped that teacher a few years later when she left teaching to get married. He excelled in school from that point on, earning several degrees, including a PH.D. To his amazement, he possessed an acute business sense that made him very successful financially. He married a wonderful woman and raised happy, disciplined children who also grew into achieving adults. But successful as he was, Daryl fought an internal battle with anger that often threatened to rise to the surface of violent, curse-spewing outbursts. Purely out of self-discipline and raw determination, he never let the internal battle show outwardly except in private moments when on one was watching. Even then, his anger remained subdued and controlled, though he seethed with rage inside. This anger, though, manifested itself in another way: He developed a deeply critical spirit toward people in positions of authority. The government, teachers, policemen, and others became the objects of well-shaped barbs of hatred and revulsion. Daryl had nothing good to say about anyone who held such a position. As we worked through this history in my office and then prayed together, the Lord spoke to Daryl's heart in a way I've often seen but which always stuns me at the speed with which it can happen. God revealed to Daryl that he had walled off this tremendous anger toward his grade-school teacher, pretending that feeling never really developed, but manifesting the feeling in this solidly critical spirit. Through the years, the enemy told him, "You are angry at yourself (which he was) and at God who created you stupid, but not at your teacher." Daryl remembered Miss Smithfield, herself quite deceptive and evasive, had a pet phrase she used before she physically or mentally abused Daryl. She'd gravely say, "Daryl, this is for your own good. I am only doing this for you because I care about you. I really believe this will help you do better. This, in some ways, made her a saint in Daryl's mind. He believed that teacher so completely that the idea he was stupid, worthless, and useless stayed with him long into a successful adulthood. During our session, the Lord suddenly revealed the true source and effect of his anger. Sitting there, Daryl said, "You mean I'm not stupid? My teacher was wrong?" It was so obvious to me and everyone else that it was almost funny to see this successful, disciplined, and intelligent man saying such a thing But that is the power of Satan's lies. They imbue themselves into our mental machinery against all evidence to the contrary. I told Daryl that his belief resulted from his teacher's abuse, not because it was real or true. Satan had used the teacher to convince Daryl he was stupid; Satan had convinced Daryl that God had created him that way. For several minutes he sat there confused and amazed as he mulled over this monumental fact. In the end, though, he saw it was true. "I am not stupid. God has given me abilities. "Instantly, the confusion disappeared. All the anguish and bitterness were released in a quiet prayer of confession as he sought God and thanked Him for opening his eyes to the truth. After this confession, he immediately asked the Lord to forgive him for all the criticism he'd levied against others and for his bitterness. At that point, it was as if a dam broke in his soul. The simple prayer resulted in peace and joy flooding his heart, so that a new tenderness toward others gripped him. In only weeks, everyone in his family wondered what had happened. Gentle, kind words fell from his lips and the critical spirit disappeared. What had happened? The lie-formed through the verbal and physical punishment by a teacher-was exposed and he was free. He felt release from fifty years of bondage, not because of me as his counselor, but because God had brought light and life to him in a way he'd never experienced before. Daryl often used the word "healed" in explaining to others what had happened to him: "I've been healed. Today Daryl enjoys a deeper walk with the Lord and has a more effective ministry to the body of Christ than ever before. Real healing came into Daryl's life as the Lord revealed what was hidden; namely, a deep-rooted hostility and anger toward a teacher who abused him almost daily. Rarely does a small child ask, "What is wrong with the person in charge?" Instead, the child asks, "What is wrong with me?" Such abuse is all too common in our lie-bombarded world. A huge part of spiritual warfare is not knocking back the bastions of Satan, but helping his victims see the deceptions of the Evil One and directing them to true healing and hope in Christ. Healing is the best word for describing what happens to patients who have been lied to by the enemy. They were "sick" in the sense that they believed the lies that let them color everything they did and believed. Their conduct and behavior were "tainted" by the disease that the lies spread in their lives. For many of us, healing is the answer. What happens when you're healed from a sickness? When germs invade your body, they weaken it and then take over. If they're given freedom to proliferate, they can render a patient bedridden and eventually destroy his very life. Similarly, when lies attack our minds and we accept them, we can become dysfunctional and sinful, and eventually those lies can destroy relationships at home and work. Healing happens when an antibiotic or drugs in this case, truth-is put into the body (mind and heart), kills the germs (lies), and allows the body to heal (grow spiritually and emotionally). That's the essence of spiritual warfare. Germs have invaded our bodies, bent on killing us. But God gives us His powerful antibiotic-truth-and the lies are destroyed. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.