I recently took a walk in our local park just as the leaves were starting to emerge. I looked up, then felt that familiar pang that God was trying to say something to me. I remembered those teenagers when I was five. And for once I didn’t remember what they did. I remembered what I did. Which was obey. Acquiesce. Be a good little girl.
When I recounted the story to my daughter Sophie, I started crying. “I realized that I’ve long been that good little girl who obeys, even if it means being abused.”
My friend D’Ann has been a blessing to me, reminding me of when I’m over apologizing or allowing abuse to continue. Lately she sat across from me, flanked by my friend Leslie, and she said she saw growth in me, that as my book about worth releases, I’m actually, truly growing in this area of worth.
All this backstory to say, while it may have been helpful for me as a child to “obey,” (since maybe it prevented further injury), it is not a trait a grown woman should cultivate.
Because sometimes you have to push back. Sometimes you have to fight. Sometimes you have to see yourself as valuable and precious, scrapping for the dignity to live your life as God leads you.
Several years ago, I pushed back after taking abuse. As an innate people-pleaser, this was not a natural thing for me to do. There were many sleepless nights where my thoughts tangled inside me, worrying, fearing, fretting. But eventually I said what I felt needed to be said. Everything I feared would happen, happened. All hell did break loose.
And yet, I stood. I lived.
It was part of God’s process of maturing me. Giving me my voice back.
My story has often been this: I was a victim of sexual abuse. And yet, I’m realizing what a disservice this is to myself to stay in that story. To deny that would be strange–it did happen. But to give it the kind of power that mandates both the beginning and the end makes me succumb to its inevitability. The “the end” is not written on your story. And your role of victim is no longer the role you need to succeed in life to find joy and freedom.
We have to give God space to re-write our stories. He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith, after all. Yes, I may have been a victim. I may have obeyed as the good little girl. I may have been stolen from. All true. But today, I no longer have to play the role of victim. With God’s resurrection strength, I can play the role of protector, truth-teller, healing-agent. What Satan meant for utter destruction, God can mean for redemption, not only of me, but for those He encircles me with.
That good little girl needs to grow up into a God-fearing, well-loved woman–one who pushes back injustice, stands up for herself, and gives herself permission to have opinions, a voice, a will.
Perhaps my tears as I recounted my tree limb story were more than sadness. Perhaps they were grief. Perhaps God was saying, “It’s time to say goodbye to that little girl, Mary. It’s time to grow up, let her go, and continue to sing loudly for your freedom.”
Maybe that’s what you need to do, too. To give up the submissive compliance. To give up the status of victim. To give up being the one taken advantage of. To let go of the belief that you deserve abuse and nothing more. To stop letting people be their worst, and instead set boundaries so they have the opportunity to grow, to be loving, to be their best.
This is your new story. Your new path. Your new mindset. You are made in the image of God, and anyone made in His image deserves kindness, compassion and dignity. Perhaps you have allowed others to treat you poorly because you are accustomed to treating yourself that way. You scream your unworth inside, so it’s only a matter of time before you open the doors for others to do the same.
No longer, friend. No longer. You don’t have to be that good little girl (or boy) any longer. It’s okay to stand up for yourself, to love yourself enough to set boundaries.
But be forewarned. It won’t feel natural or fun or emancipating when you begin the process of finding your voice. And many times, you will be like the Israelites, who, after a mighty deliverance by God through the Red Sea, looked back with longing on their slavery nation. Slavery has been your fall back, your comfortable place, the way you feel safe. To step beyond it is frightening, unsettling. I’ve run back to Egypt a few times myself.
But the shackles feel worse. And the longing for genuine personal freedom grows stronger like a heart-pounding anthem.
All that to say, let God deliver you from whatever abuse and slavery you’re experiencing. Let Him. He loves to do it. He loves to slurp up the seas, providing impossible pathways.
You are the protagonist in your story. You have permission to live your life beautifully, freely, hope-filled. Find your voice. Sing your freedom. Trust your Deliverer. Step into the water.
What about you? Do you relate to this post? Why? What have you learned along that way that’s helped you say no to abusive folks?