By Jeannie Ewing
The first memory I have of life was when I was three years old. I lived with my parents in a ranch-style home in southern Kentucky, and everything evoked fear in me. I was afraid of the dark, spiders, being alone – everything. Fear, it seemed, was inborn and innate. I could not escape its fate.
That was thirty-five years ago. I’ve battled shame resulting from molestation and sexual assault, verbal abuse at the hands of a sibling, and criticism from my family of origin. For decades, I believed all of this happened to me because I was flawed, inferior, unworthy. I’ve since discovered that nearly every person understands this struggle well.
Truth tells us that we are not loved by God because we are perfect. On the contrary, He wants us to come to Him with our misery, our brokenness, our pain. I recently read a quote by Jewish rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk: “There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.”
It is precisely the holes, the scars, the shattered dreams, our fears and shame – these are not what define us, but they do shape us. We can either crumble in despair or realize that Jesus became brokenness so that we would find refuge in Him.
When we accept the lie that we are unworthy of love because of our past or what was done to us, we cannot receive the truth that we are loved precisely because we are heartbroken. Jesus longs to enter into our suffering in ways we cannot fathom, and when we have confidence in this, His grace permeates all the holes and crevices that make us feel less-than-whole.
One of the most powerful prayers upon which I frequently meditate is saying, “Jesus, please hide me in Your Wounds.” I imagine His crushed Body gently reaching in to my heart and placing it at His side.
“By His stripes we are healed.” – Is. 53: 5
About the author:
Jeannie Ewing is a Catholic spirituality writer who writes about the hidden value of suffering and even discovering joy in the midst of grief. Her books include Navigating Deep Waters, From Grief to Grace, A Sea Without A Shore, and Waiting with Purpose. She is a frequent guest on Catholic radio and contributes to several online and print Catholic periodicals. For more information, please visit her website jeannieewing.com.
You are telling my story of an abusive childhood. It grew into an abusive adulthood. My family of origin still tries to bully me in unspeakable ways. I have been in treatment for PTSD for awhile now. I’m sure you, and others, could tell of addional abuse throughout a lifetime. I thank you for your sharing and for the short, but powerful prayer! May God richly bless you!
Beautiful, Jeanne! Thank you and God bless you!
Thank you for sharing some of your story, Jeannie. I’m sure it wasn’t easy but it has blessed and encouraged me.
Jeannie, I share a lot of your history… Besides my faith and especially my sisters in faith, one of the biggest helps for me in dealing with a lot of these issues has been a 12-step group called adult children of Alcoholics and dysfunctional families. It is a miracle of recovery and has blessed me greatly. Also the spirituality of this 12-step program perfectly melds with my Catholic spirituality! God bless you and thank you for sharing your story.
I read recently, and I cannot remember where, that it is from our wounds that we find our ministry, should we choose to accept the invitation there from the Lord. I believe it, and my childhood wounds are the exact places from which I have found the strength (and motivation to accompany that strength) to minister to others. As I meditate on the lives of the saints, it seems to me that there is a correlation between the suffering that they endured and the sanctity to which they rose through the grace of Jesus which poured into their spirits in the exact places of those personal wounds. Thank you for your perceptive and brave reflection today, Jennie Ewing