Walking through healing from abuse is an exceedingly lonely road, and anyone with a history of abuse will tell you that the holidays can be the darkest, most isolating days of the whole year. While the lights twinkle and the world rushes and spins wild and we are surrounded by “busy” and the lighthearted atmosphere of joy and giving and celebration, it can take us right back to those downright deadly feelings of existing in a vortex of silence and deafening isolation and terrifying, unending pain while the whole world just goes on, even more oblivious than usual. Survivors with family based abuse can especially struggle because the holidays are so centered around family. Many deep hurts lie here.
So now, while people around us talk of plans and traditions and relish memories of holidays past, we struggle to shove wave after wave of grief and pain and memories best left unremembered back down into our souls. We want to make new memories. We try to be happy – to be just like everyone else, just as we did during all those years of abuse. We practice gratitude. And we work so hard to follow the advice of counselors and work at forming new traditions to disempower the traditions of our pasts. And inside we scold ourselves for somehow just not being able to get it right.
While people talk about relatives coming to visit or of road trips to be taken to spend Christmas with loved ones, of their clear and joyful memories of Christmases past, we frantically try to hold back a flood of pain or tears, embarrassed that we have nothing to add to the conversation, and hoping no one will notice.
I wrote this post two years ago, and when I re-read it today, I saw that I am, in many ways, still right here. Oh, He has come for me – many times this year. And He keeps coming for me. I keep sitting down in the darkness and trying to convince myself that this is all there is…and He keeps coming.
But I have not made it out of this dark valley yet. And I am well aware of the presence and pain of my fellow valley dwellers. I know some sisters who might need to be reminded that you are not alone in this holiday vortex. This, my friends, is my hand, reaching out for yours. We won’t be alone here in this valley of the shadow. We will wait – together – for Him to come for us. And we will know that even though we may feel invisible at times and like the pain might just swallow us whole right here, we are not alone, for He has allowed our paths to intersect, here – right here in this dark valley. And we are proof to each other that light can dawn, and it will dawn – right here – in the valley of the shadow of death, until it burns so bright that we can finally see the path out – for He has come, and He will come, and He will keep coming, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Will you be brave enough to look for it with me this year? To fight again, to live? We can do this together.
And friends? If your feet have found the path of peace through the valley of the shadow of death, would you do one thing? Would you not forget the ones that He came for – the ones who have only ever known that valley? The ones who have not yet found the path of peace where you walk now. For it is easy to forget them as you hustle and bustle and plan and work so hard to make life in the light so grand. But they are there, in your midst, whether you notice them or not. They are the ones who are quiet while you chatter on about your memories of Christmas past. They are the ones whose eyes won’t make contact while holiday road trips are being bemoaned and the nuisance of sharing space in close quarters with quirky relatives is the topic of the day. Could you be the one person who might notice them, sitting quietly in chains, invisible to most eyes? I promise you that they are in your midst. Would you ask Him to see with His eyes this Advent season? And would you open your heart and welcome one of these as your very own family this year, if He allows?