This summer I was making my way through How People Grow, by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. At one point, though, I had to put the book down. A thought had drifted in, subtle and unassuming, and then had crashed to the floor of my mind like glass falling off a table.
I’m 21 years old, about to graduate, and nowhere near the emotionally healthy adult I should be at this point.
True, I was being hard on myself. Becoming an emotionally mature adult takes time and encompasses many factors. But I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the progress God had accomplished in my life wasn’t enough. The chasms of brokenness and incomplete bridges to healing were affecting even my daily life.
And all of this, I thought in wonder, stemming from one relationship gone wrong.
I had cried enough over this realization in the past, so there weren’t many tears now. But if you have experienced emotional abuse, then you know that recovering from it is hard. Even simply accepting that what we went through was this type of abuse is a journey. The wounds are internal, hidden so deeply in our hearts and minds that sometimes we deem them nonexistent until we see how messed up our lives are because of them.
Dealing with emotional abuse from a parent is, I believe, even harder. When our formative years – the ones in which we learn how to establish healthy identity – are spent trying to cope with and then escape from, a parent who says, “I love you,” but actively undermines our self-perception and our right to be understood, loved and respected, things slowly but surely go haywire. The path to emotional maturity gets sabotaged by the demons of fear, hypervigilance, self-condemnation and distrust.
But whether we’ve endured emotional abuse from a parent, emotional abuse in general, or another debilitating trial in life, Christ’s healing has come and is still coming. Isaiah 53:4 reminds us that Jesus bore our sorrows to identify with us 100%. That identification, accompanied by Jesus’ omnipotence, makes His promises to heal the brokenhearted and bind their wounds (Psalm 147:3) not just words on a page, but reality. Through faith in who Christ is and what He says He’ll do, our growth will slowly but surely increase.
Thus, as much as books like How People Grow uncomfortably expose my areas of incomplete growth, I continue reading them. I continue studying the Bible so I can understand God’s loving view of me and the healing He is accomplishing in me. I continue praying that God helps me keep my commitment to forgive my father. And I continue seeking edifying relationships with family and friends. We may still be nowhere near the healthy, whole people God made us to be. But we can be ever closer than before.