(This post comes from a reader named Mark.)
Standing in my kitchen, I feel the tiredness of this old house. Almost a decade ago I moved back into my childhood home to take care of my ailing parents. They are gone now; I’m still here.
This house is where my sexual, emotional, and religious abuse and physical neglect took place. During those years, the house wasn't ever clean or orderly. The walls were dirty with faded paint and torn, greasy wall paper. The kitchen ceiling had a gaping hole surrounded by sagging plaster. Old linoleum floors were cracked and peeling.
There’s been a lot of changes made to the house since then. I keep it (mostly) clean and neat. Dirty walls have been updated with fresh paint. The ceiling’s been replaced. The floor covering is new. On the surface, there is little similarity to the house I grew up in. But no amount of remodeling will change the reality of what occurred within these 1,100 square feet.
Many abuse victims try to cover up the damage done to their souls and bodies by pursuing job promotions or more degrees, by investing blood, sweat, and tears into building a killer physique, or by changing relationships, or burying themselves in addictions. I’ve been there. (Not the killer physique part.)
No matter how much effort we pour into making ourselves look good or successful, or how much we try to make our pain stop, we still know that underneath the many layers is a scared child wanting to be loved and accepted. Our hearts are broken.
My heart is healing as I open up my pain and memories to trusted friends and my Celebrate Recovery group. I’m changing for the better as I share what was done to me, and admit the wrong choices I made trying to fix myself. I’ve formed friendships with other men who understand abuse. My relationship with God is growing.
Although the facts of my past won't change, my heart is healing. Repainting the walls of my house doesn't change its core structure; the healing of my heart is rebuilding my core. I accept that I am a man whom God has created with value and worth. A man who forgives, receives and gives love. A man standing for my own freedom, and for the freedom of others.
I may still live in the house of my abuse, but I am no longer defined by its walls.