Sunday, February 7, 2010

Unit 6 Lesson 5, The Potter's Hand

The book of Jeremiah records an important story that applies to sexual abuse.  God sent Jeremiah to observe a potter at work.  The potter was making a pot, but he discovered a flaw.  Possibly the potter allowed his hand to slip, knocking the pot off center on the wheel.  At any rate, the pot was damaged.  So the potter remade the pot into another vessel.

"But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him."  Jeremiah 18:4

Just as a pot can be damaged by the action of the potter, sexual abuse victims have been marred by the actions of abusers.  Teh abuser shapes a vessel that is full of shame, guilt, fear and despair.

Then God spoke to Jeremiah and gave the second half of the picture.  He said, "'Oh house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?' declares the Lord. 'Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.'"  Jeremiah 18:6

When a pot has been damaged, the potter does not throw away the clay.  The potter reuses and reshapes the clay into a new vessel.  God said that just as the potter can use the damaged clay, He can make something beautiful from the ruins of our lives.  Contrast Jeremiah 18:4 and a passage that you have read previously....  Psalm 139:14 states, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

In your journal, write two lists.  Compare what you feel about yourself, or what you felt about yourself before beginning recovery, with Psalm 139:114.  Do you feel that you are "fearfully and wonderfully made" or do you feel that you are "damaged goods"?

Fill in the blanks:

1.  What I have felt about myself:
2.  What the Scripture says about me:

People injure us when the abuse us, but God is the true Potter who takes the damaged clay and makes it into a beautiful vase.  Let God make you aware that you were created to be a vase full of life, full of value, full of worth.  You can recover as you allow God to remake you according to His plan.

Leave You Burden with the Perpetrator

Shame and guilt are both tremendously destructive.  To restore your life, you may need to forgive yourself for your own sinful choices.  Please do it.  Be cautious, however, to leave the shame and responsibility of sexual abuse with the person who abused you.  Most of us felt the need to seek God's forgiveness for our abuse as well as from choices that we had made based o our faulty thinking.  For us to ask for and accept God's forgiveness for our wrong choices is appropriate.  For us to see forgiveness for what others have done to us is fruitless.  You need not seek forgiveness for someone else's actions.

In the paragraph above you read about two kinds of forgiveness most of us feel the need to seek.  From your life experience, name at least one example of each.

1.  An example of my abuse (for which I do not need to be forgiven) is:
2. An example of a bad choice I made based on my wrong thinking is:

Many of us are accomplished self-guilt artists.  For the first response you may have listed any of the actions of your abuser or of those people who aggravated the abuse by their actions or their inaction.  For the second response, many of us have made wrong choices in dating or other relationships.  We sometimes have been vindictive, or critical, or defensive.  We need forgiveness for our choices.

"For you, Oh Lord, are good and ready to forgive [our trespasses - sending them away, letting them go completely and forever] and you are abundant in mercy and lovely riches to all those who call upon you." Psalm 86:5

In your journal, as an act of faith, please write:  "I thank you, Lord Jesus for your willingness to forgive my sins by sending them away, letting them go completely and forever."  Feel free to journal in detail the sins He has forgiven.

You are the victim of another person's sin.  If you had been shot by a bank robber and you had been paralyzed for life, you would be a victim of the person's crime and sin.  there would be no reason for shame or guilt on your part.

Many times we feel false guilt because we think our actions caused the abuse.  Sometimes the fact that we have made bad choices adds to the problem.  In the case of the bank robbery, suppose you had slipped away from the office during working hours, against company policy, to cash a check.  You would be guilty of violating company rules, bu tnot of wanting to be shot!

If some negligence of action on your part contributed to your sexual abuse, describe that negligence or action in your journal.

Did you, by that action or inaction, desire to be sexually abused?

Did you commit the crime by sexually abusing yourself or did someone else commit the abuse?  (Yes, the question seems ridiculous.)....  What is your answer?  I did it - OR - The perpetrator did it.

If you committed some indiscretion - whether great or small in your eyes - confess that action or negligence.  God forgives lavishly and freely.  But just as in the example of the person who was shot during the bank robbery, leave the perpetrator's guilt with the perpetrator, and leave any guilt that belongs to the enablers or co-perpetrators with them.

Exercises for forgiveness

Because we so frequently carry a load of guilt, some of it appropriate but most of it false, we usually need to work through our guilt issues.  The following exercises will help you to sort out the appropriate and the inappropriate guilt surrounding your abuse.

In your journal, describe anything surrounding your abuse about which you need to be forgiven.

Carolyn was only five years old when her parents left her alone and told her not to leave the house.  She was afraid, so she walked down the street to her uncle's home.  Her uncle sexually abused Carolyn.  For the next 40 years Carolyn blamed herself for the abuse.  She believe that, because she disobeyed her parents, she was to blame for the aubse.

Perhaps you have been carrying a weight of guilt and anger toward yourself for being drunk, disobeying your parents, or just using poor judgment about where to be.  None of these mean you were responsible for the abuse.  However, you may need to ask God to forgive you and you may need to forgive yourself for your poor judgment before you continue to recover.

In your journal, describe any choices that you may have made based on faulty thinking as a result of the abuse.

You may have described your difficulty relating to authority figures because of an abusive parent, or the consequences in your life caused by maintaining the secret.  You may have made poor choices as a result of poor boundaries.  Many survivors become sexually promiscuous as a result of the abuse.  One woman in recovery reported that she just recently had her first date ever that did not end in bed.  She said she simply did not know she had the right to say no to sexual advances.  Blaming ourselves for our poor choices will not help, but we do need to ask and accept forgiveness so we can move forward with our lives.

In the Old Testament we find that people suffered the consequences of the sins of others as we do today.  God, however, responds with a plan to redeem the victim of abuse.   

"They sinned against Me: I will change their glory into shame." Hosea 4:7

Hosea 4:7 is about the priests who were abusing their office and the people.  They were haughty and proud, but God promised to place the shame where it belonged - with the abuser rather than the victims.  The sexual abuser sins not only against the victim, but also against God.  The shame belongs to the person who committed the abuse.

In Isaiah 54:4, God speaks to His people using the imagery of a barren woman.  What He says speaks to the victim of sexual abuse as well.  Write down any word or phrase that gives you hope.

"Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;
And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth,
And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
"For your husband is your Maker,

Whose name is the LORD of hosts;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the God of all the earth. 
"For the LORD has called you..."
Isaiah 54:4-6

Give yourself and God the time to complete the good work He has started in you.  This is a very difficult and painful part of your recovery.  It may take a long time.  But please try to remember that even in the valley, God is with you.  He will redeem the time.  You can draw strength from God's promises in Isaiah 54:4, "fear not for you will not be put to shame ... humiliated ... [or] disgraced ... you will forget the shame of your youth."

In your journal, complete the following sentences, keeping in mind that God sees you from a different perspective than you see yourself right now.  Let God redefine how you see yourself.  If necessary, review this unit and your work thus far in Shelter.

For the Lord has called me...
In the Lord's eyes I am...
For the Lord has called me...
In the Lord's eyes I am...
For the Lord has called me...
In the Lord's eyes I am...

We pray that you were able to include words like beautifully and wonderfully made, His daughter/son, clean, worthy of love, to be healed, to be free from shame and guilt.

Many prayers for your continued recovery!  I am so proud of you.


Lily said...

What an absolutely timely post. Everything you wrote about is something that I am struggling with right now. Thank you for giving me the right questions to ask myself, as opposed to the shameful ones I impose on myself from day to day. You blog is such a blessing to me!

Just Be Real said...

Thank you for sharing!! Blessings.

Maggie said...

That means to me that God forgives us.