“Yes ma’am…yes ma’am.” I heard these words one morning as a little girl, while crossing my sister’s large living room. My mother and I were taking our annual summer vacation to visit family and had spent the night in the home of one of my older sisters. I knew my mother and I had to go and visit other family that morning, so I bounded out of bed, before the rest of my sister’s house was awake, and went looking for my mother. From the bedrooms, I could see my mother in the kitchen, on the telephone. As I strode the expanse of my sister’s living room, I heard my mother meekly say, “Yes ma’am…yes ma’am”. Even with her back turned to me, I could tell something was wrong, because she sounded as if she had just been kicked in the chest. My quick, clumsy gait slowed to steps of caution as I approached. My mother hung up the phone and could no longer stand. She collapsed into a broken heap of sobs.
Through her crying, my mother said that she had just called her mother, my grandmother, asking what time we could come over that day. My grandmother’s response was: “Don’t be calling here so early in the morning, waking folks up.” As my mother wept, she bemoaned this question, over and over, “I can’t call my own mama’s house? I can’t call my own mama’s house? I’m her child, too!” My family was accustomed to our grandmother’s curtness. But that morning, my mother, herself a married, middle-aged mother of five and grandmother of eleven, was shattered.
In her own childhood, my mother experienced repeated sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. As a result, my mother was sent to live with her cousin while my grandmother stayed married to that man. My mother forgave her stepfather and, as an adult, went with her stepbrothers to visit him before he died. Still, I do not know how much healing my mother experienced, personally, or in her relationship with her mother. My Christian family was one of those that “didn’t talk about such things”. So, there was no counseling, no church community involvement, no pastoral care. Instead, what I witnessed most of my life was my mother always trying, unsuccessfully, to garner some type of attention, affection, or nurturing from her mother.
A recent Huffington Post article cites a report from the American Psychological Association that childhood psychological abuse, not only is just as harmful as sexual and/or physical abuse, but can also have “long-lasting impact”. What are our churches doing to walk with, not only our children who have been on the receiving end of any type of abuse, but the adults among us, as well? There is life past abuse. We are supposed to be pointing people towards Jesus. How are we also helping them to find healing in that? One resource we would like to point you towards is a booklet from Faith Alive Resources, entitled Emotional Abuse, found at http://www.crcna.org/SafeChurch/what-safe-church-ministry under General Resources.