In Mending the Soul I could talk about the abuse I experienced, the addiction I developed, and all the fallout and consequences; without having to be worried about judgement or rejection. – A male survivor.
I can truly say that though I have a ways to go as far as healing, I am not the same person I was when I entered Mending the Soul. I have regained my voice, set boundaries, gained strength in many ways, and found hope for healing in God. This group has truly been a blessing. – A female survivor.
I am closer to God as a result of Living Waters. I see Him more clearly in my past, anticipate Him more certainly in my future, and follow Him more peacefully in the now. - A male participant.
Living Waters saved my marriage. – A female participant.
As we look forward to celebrating the birth of our Savior and the gift of eternal life that He has given us, we at Reconciliation Ministries would like to celebrate the blessings that you have provided for the ministry participants throughout 2017. The quotes from some of the participants of this year’s Mending the Soul and Living Waters programs (used by permission) highlight the lives that you have changed through your prayers and financial support of Reconciliation Ministries. Many others have found healing through your support of Reconciliation Ministries speaking engagements and affordable licensed professional counseling and prayer ministry. You have touched the lives of many men, women and adolescents who were formerly bound by sexual sin and those who have suffered the trauma of abuse. These precious husbands, wives, men, women, sons and daughters are now experiencing the joy of healing and transformation through Jesus Christ.
Reconciliation Ministries would like to thank those of you who have already joined our support team. Thank you for responding to the opportunity to touch many more lives in Southeast Michigan and Ubon, Thailand in the coming year. If you’re not yet a member of our support team, there’s still time to make a tax-deductible end of the year donation to change even more lives. You can donate securely online by clicking here.
Thank you for changing hearts,
Dan Hitz and your friends at Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.
“I’m going to raise up two, or three, or four people in this room to touch thousands.”
God in Ubon, Thailand on Wednesday, November 9, 2016
The presence of the Lord was powerful among that small group of Thai Living Waters participants. Among them were several who had been delivered from a life of prostitution, a man who was overcoming transgender issues, someone who was HIV positive, and others who had committed serious offenses. Thailand is a stronghold of sexual sin, prostitution and transgender culture. Yet, it was among that group of Living Waters participants that the Lord said He would raise up two, three, or four people to touch thousands.
Sexual sin is rampant in the US as well. Homosexuality, transgenderism, and pornography addiction are on the rise. The prevalence of sexual abuse is alarming, both in popular culture and within the church. We are only now becoming aware of the depths of human trafficking.
Countless lives have been taken captive; yet, there is hope. You can be a part of the solution. You can touch thousands. Join the Reconciliation Ministries support team and help men, women and adolescents experience the transformational power of Jesus Christ in Metro Detroit, Thailand, and beyond.
During 2017, the Reconciliation Ministries support team establish our very first Mending the Soul program to bring healing to survivors of childhood sexual and physical abuse. We were able to reduce the tuition for the Living Waters program, and now have our largest group in years. Many others are receiving licensed professional counseling and prayer ministry to overcome sexual abuse, sexual addiction, unwanted homosexual attraction, gender dysphoria, and more. Marriages are being restored. Men and women are being set free.
More plans are underway for 2018. Your partnership will make it possible to run our second Mending the Soul group and further reduce the tuition for the Living Waters program. We’ll be adding a part-time counselor and making other improvements to foster our ministry in Metro Detroit. Dan Hitz, Director of Reconciliation Ministries, is making plans to minister in Ubon, Thailand from July through December of 2018. He will be helping to strengthen Living Waters Ubon, mentor male leaders, and present sexual and relational healing seminars in the surrounding villages.
You can touch lives in Metro Detroit and around the world. Reconciliation Ministries invites you to become a member of our monthly support team. We are praying for 30 new members to invest an average of $100 per month into the lives of broken people. You can help those who are hurting experience the healing power of Jesus Christ, and become the men and women that God created them to be. If you are already a member of our support team, please know that we truly appreciate you. If you aren’t a current member of our monthly support team, please join us. You can also make a special year-end donation to touch lives in Metro Detroit and Thailand. All donations are tax deductible. An investment of any amount can change someone’s life for all of eternity.
You can join the Reconciliation Ministries support team online through PayPal by clicking here.
Thank you for sharing this journey with us,
Dan Hitz, Director
Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.
P.S. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, or if you would like to meet for coffee and hear more about how your investment through Reconciliation Ministries can change lives.
Images used under license with www.shutterstock.com.
Me too… Unfortunately… To be honest, I have been wrestling with a personal response to the entire "me too" campaign since those two words began showing up on my Facebook news feed. Sexual assault and harassment of women in the work place is a serious issue that needs to be resolved. I honor those who have come forward in a very personal way to address this critical issue. I would like to offer some sincere thoughts about a very sensitive topic. I ask that your responses be sincere and sensitive as well.
At first I wasn’t sure that I should speak those two words. While I can acknowledge the need to address the specific focus of sexual assault and harassment of women in the workplace, I am praying to come up with a proper response concerning the other lives touched by abuse/assault in other venues. Innocent girls and boys, women and men, heterosexuals and members of the LGBT community, who were victimized elsewhere; in a wide variety of circumstances and a wide variety of places. I am also praying to come up with adequate words to address the many males who have been victims of sexual assault/abuse. Sometimes males who have been abused can feel marginalized. The effects of abuse on males is often minimized or overlooked through the lens of a broken culture with a false concept of masculinity. The reality is that abuse and assault have touched so many people in so many walks of life. All victims... all survivors… need compassion and understanding. Those who have not endured such trauma will not be able to fully understand the depths of the effects, yet those who have not endured abuse can certainly offer prayers, support, and compassion to those who have been abused.
Let’s all do what we can to end abuse and create an atmosphere of safety and healing for all who have suffered the trauma of abuse. If you are someone who can also write those two words that have such a huge impact, “me too”, and would like to talk about it with people who can help, call Reconciliation Ministries at 586.739.5114. You can also read testimonies and articles to help you overcome the effects of abuse on the archives section of our website by clicking here.
Thank you for partnering with us to help hurting hearts find healing and restoration through the power of Jesus Christ. You have helped many overcome sexual abuse, sexual addiction, unwanted same-sex attraction, and transgender issues. Another group of people that you help through your partnership with Reconciliation Ministries is Healing Hearts, a support group for parents of LGBT identified people. Christian parents of the LGBT community often struggle alone. Members say, “When Christian kids come out of the closet, the parents go into the closet.” It is truly heartbreaking for parents to see their sons and daughters making sinful and harmful choices. Many parents sink in despair and false guilt. They wonder how they can continue to have a good relationship with their kids without giving the impression that they embrace their wrong choices.
Your support of Reconciliation Ministries helps bring life back into these worried parents’ lives. Healing Hearts teaches parents how to love and have a relationship with their LGBT identified sons and daughters without compromising their Christian convictions. It is a confidential place to cry, ask questions, pray and receive Biblical hope. Many parents share how they came to the group hoping to learn how to change their kids, then realized that the Lord did a deep work of change in their own hearts. Meetings are held on the second Sunday of each month from 2pm to 4pm at Renewal Church in Warren, 11174 E 13 Mile Road. There is no charge to attend and everyone who wants to love their LGBT identified son or daughter with the love of Jesus is invited. If you’re hurting over your LGBT identified son or daughter, come to this group, get support, and learn to breathe again.
At our next Healing Hearts meeting, we’ll be watching the movie Tranzformed: Finding Peace with Your God-Given Gender. This movie, features interviews with 15 former transgender men and women who have overcome personal transgender struggles through the grace of Jesus Christ. This movie will help you understand the inner turmoil of those who struggle with transgender issues, and give you hope that Jesus Christ can touch your loved one. Anyone wanting to learn more about transgender issues is welcome to attend.
Thank you for partnering with us to bridge the gap between the church and the sexually broken,
Mom and son photo used under license with www.shutterstock.com.
I thank my God every time I remember you… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3,6
God is always faithful and good. About eight or nine years ago our family was going through a horrible valley. I was at the point of giving up hope when the Lord spoke to me and said, "It’s not over yet." Since that day worse things have happened. Since that day better things have happened. I can honestly say that God has been faithful through it all. The situation from eight years ago remains unresolved; nevertheless, I can still say that God is faithful and good. No matter what you're going through today, He loves you very much and He will carry you. He will finish the good work He started in you.
Reconciliation Ministries is here to help. If you or someone you know is struggling, call us at 586.739.5114. We have multiple options available to care for you. There are currently openings for individual licensed professional counseling and prayer ministry. Walking Free, our open support group for men and women at any stage in their recovery, is held on the second and fourth Monday of each month. The Healing Hearts group for parents and family members of individuals dealing with LGBTQ issues meets on the second Sunday of each month. As we look ahead to the future, our next Living Waters program will be starting in October with a reduced tuition rate, while our Mending the Soul program will expand to fourteen weeks and is tentatively scheduled to begin next October.
We would like to thank you for helping us expand the ministry and touch more hearts. In our last newsletter, we asked for your help to add an additional office and give our entrance a much needed facelift. We are happy to report that we have received the finances we need for this project. The participants will soon be greeted with a warmer entrance. We will be adding another therapist soon and increasing our outreach. Thank you for making this all possible through your prayers and financial support.
Your brother in Christ,
In last month’s newsletter I presented the vision that the Lord has laid on my heart to bring healing to many more souls in Metro Detroit; Ubon, Thailand; and beyond. We at Reconciliation Ministries are thankful for the lives already changed and invite you to invest in transforming many more.
The next steps in our ministry expansion are to add an additional part-time counselor to our staff, and to increase our support team by reaching out to potential members with the invitation to invest in changing lives. Adding another counselor will expand our current services, and ensure that our local counseling services will continue while I’m ministering in Thailand next year. In order to do this, we need to remodel the room next to my current office to provide another counseling office. We also need to give our counseling entrance a much needed facelift through some simple coats of paint and adding a few lights to brighten things up.
We at Reconciliation Ministries would like to thank our generous support team members who have already contributed towards the ministry’s expansion, and invite you to invest in the expansion needs listed below.
- 3 solid core doors with windows for counseling offices - $175 each
- Sound proofing materials (insulation, caulk, plywood) - $100
- 2 new light fixtures for counseling office - $30 each
- 5 gallons of paint for counseling office - $25 each
- 5 gallons of paint for counseling entrance - $25 each
- 2 light fixtures for counseling entrance - $40 each
- 2 white noise generators to ensure privacy - $25 each
- Carpet for new office - $350
- Furniture – couch, chairs, desk – donations appreciated
- We are still getting estimates for labor - approximately $1500 - covered
- Ministry brochures - $300 - covered - covered
- Support team outreach - $500
- Ministerial training - $1200 - covered
Your investment can help someone overcome sexual sin and the trauma of abuse, and walk in their true identity in Christ. Please make a special donation towards our ministry expansion. You can sponsor a specific portion of the project by indicating it on the enclosed donation form, or when you make a donation online via the PayPal link on our website at www.recmin.org.
Your brother in Christ,
Reconciliation Ministries began in 1984 with a focus on ministering specifically to those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. Through the years, our focus deepened to include heterosexual issues and the addition of our Living Waters program. We added licensed counseling to our services of pastoral care and prayer ministry, and recently began a new program for abuse recovery called Mending the Soul.
Over the past several months, you’ve been reading how the Lord has been working on our hearts to minister to those with a deeper level of brokenness than Reconciliation Ministries has ministered to in the past. This part of our journey actually began about three years ago, during a conversation with the Lord that took place over four Sunday worship services. I knew He was doing a deep work in my heart. I was shaking during the last worship service as He asked me to pray that He would send me to the bowels of hell on earth, so that we can save people from the bowels of hell for eternity.
We are excited to announce that the Lord has even more plans in store. As we continue to minister to all forms of sexual and relational brokenness in Metro Detroit, we also have an opportunity to touch souls in Ubon, Thailand. Plans are underway for me (Dan Hitz) to minister in Thailand from July through December of 2018. I have been invited to assist in the development of the Living Waters team in this remote region of Thailand, mentor men who are potential leadership team members, and minister to pastors and villagers in the surrounding areas. You can read more about the progression of this vision and calling on the inside of this newsletter.
Reconciliation Ministries will continue to serve the Body of Christ in Metro Detroit even as we extend our outreach to Ubon, Thailand. We would like to invite you to join us in bringing the transformational power of Jesus Christ to those who desperately need Him. You can become a valuable member of the Reconciliation Ministries Support Team through your generous financial partnership and your prayers for the ministry and the participants. No one can affect the lives that we are called to reach alone, but together through Christ we can reach thousands of people who need His healing touch. You can join our Support Team and help bring healing to those who are sexually broken and to those who have suffered the trauma of abuse by clicking here.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 586.739.5114 or DHitz@recmin.org.
Thank you for sharing this journey with us!
Dan Hitz, Director, Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.
Your prayers and financial support are touching many lives. Although we’ve seen a dramatic cultural and political shift towards homosexuality in the recent years, something has shifted in the spiritual atmosphere since the beginning of the year. Many prodigals are returning to Jesus.
Starting with the implosion of Exodus in 2012, and continuing through the legalization of same-sex marriage and the celebration of Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn, it seems like many who would normally seek help to overcome LGBT issues had decided to accept and act upon their desires. In the past two months we’ve seen many of these prodigals coming home. In fact, we’ve had more people wrestling with LGBT issues seek help in the past two months than we’ve had in all of 2016 combined. Unfortunately, they’ve also experienced the devastation of life as a prodigal. Instead of the freedom and self-actualization that the LGBT community promised, they’ve experienced the devastation of being HIV positive and having marriages that are ready to collapse. Others were feeling suicidal while they were embracing and acting upon their LGBT desires. They have learned the hard way that sin only brings further pain and bondage.
The Father is merciful to the prodigals. Instead of shame and condemnation, He greets them with love, cleansing and forgiveness. Sadly, they still have to deal with the effects of their time “in a distant land”. The good news is that they are also learning the redemption and restoration that Jesus Christ has to offer. It is beautiful to watch their lives being restored.
We are excited to open up registration for Mending the Soul, our brand new program for male and female survivors of abuse and neglect. Mending the Soul is a great addition to the Living Waters program and the professional counseling and prayer ministry already offered by Reconciliation Ministries. It will be run by licensed therapists and focus specifically on overcoming the devastating effects of sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Mending the Soul effectively combines Scriptures and powerful recovery insights and experiences. The group runs for ten weeks and will meet every Monday night from 7 to 8:30pm beginning April 17th. If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of abuse, call Reconciliation Ministries at 586.739.5114 and find out how you can register for our upcoming group.
Thank you for standing with us to uphold Biblical truth. Thank you for praying with us as the Lord expands our vision and brings more lives to touch. Your prayers and financial support are changing hearts for all of eternity. You can donate securely online by clicking here.
Your brother in Christ,
The Lord has given us a lot to accomplish together in 2017. The thought that best sums up my heart lately is, “God is expanding our vision, and giving us more lives to reach”.
No ministry organization can change lives in its own strength. It takes a great team of intercessors, financial supporters, ministry team members, board members and many other faithful volunteers working together for the Kingdom of God. Whether you have helped us stuff newsletters, given a one-time donation, provided financial support on a monthly basis, volunteered for the ministry team, or simply helped spread the word; please know that your service is greatly appreciated and has touched many lives for eternity. Thank you for sharing a rich history with us, and for walking with us into the future.
We started Reconciliation Ministries in 1984 with the vision of helping men and women overcome homosexuality. There were few such ministries back in those days. Jack Hickey and our early ministry partners were some of the brave pioneers. With Tom Cole as the director in the mid-90s, the ministry vision grew to include a wider variety of sexual and relationship issues. Together, we began offering help to heterosexual strugglers as well as homosexual strugglers and Living Waters became one of our main ministry offerings. In the late-2000s we added licensed counseling to the pastoral care offerings and continued to grow in our expertise and impact.
As we pass through the mid-2010s the Lord has been putting on our hearts an increased focus on helping those who have been traumatized by sexual abuse. We have spent the last year researching a variety of resources and are excited to announce that we will be offering a new program called Mending the Soul this coming spring. Mending the Soul is a 12-week therapy group run by licensed therapists. It is designed for men and women who have suffered from any form of abuse, including sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual and neglect. Mending the Soul is a great addition to the Living Waters program and counseling services already offered by Reconciliation Ministries. We’ll be announcing more details in the months ahead.
Together, we will continue to expand our ministry offerings in the near future. Reconciliation Ministries is blessed to have you as a part of our ministry team. Thank you for sharing this journey with us, and thank you for being a part of what God is doing to transform lives.
Your brother in Christ,
Dan Hitz, Director
Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.
P. S. You can help transform lives through your tax-deductible donation by clicking here.
“Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT
“At forty-five years old, I was overwhelmed with the secret pain I carried from my childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse and prostitution. Words cannot express the gifts of healing I have received from Living Waters. These faithful servants of Christ helped me out of my dark hiding place and into the light of His mercy and truth.”
“I came to LW full of shame from same-sex attraction struggles as well as the pain of rejection from my father growing up. I lived through a filter of pain I couldn’t get rid of, and blamed myself for it. The Lord began to bring healing as I opened up in the group ministry and took away the sting and the shame of that pain. Living Waters brought freedom beyond what I thought possible.”
“I came to Living Waters filled with guilt and shame because of my struggles with heterosexual pornography addiction. The healing process revealed to me the sources of the pain and the triggers of my addiction. I found the tools to help defuse these triggers before the addiction cycle kicks in full. The Lord still works with me on these things to this day. I now know that the Lord's love can heal the wounds of my past with His love.”
Perhaps you can relate to these profound testimonies of recovery and transformation. Maybe you are still waiting for that day when you, or someone you love, can speak such words of hope and freedom. Reconciliation Ministries exist to walk with people who are broken and bound by sin, and help them find healing through the wonderful power of Jesus Christ. His birth, His sacrificial death on the cross, and His resurrection, provides all that we need to overcome the worst forms of abuse, trauma, and sexual sin.
You can make a difference in the lives of hurting people. Your prayers help break the chains of addiction and heal the wounds of abuse. Your financial contributions reach out to those in need through the Living Waters program, professional counseling, and support groups. You can encourage, educate and equip by sponsoring seminars and newsletters. You can even reach people on the other side of the world by sponsoring missions trips – healing leaders and raising up others to carry the message of redemption and transformation through Christ.
Maybe you don’t feel like you can make an eternal difference in anyone’s life. I am amazed at the people that the Lord used in Scripture. The very lineage of Christ is full of people like Rahab the prostitute (Matthew 1:5), and Judah and Tamar who conceived a child in sin (Matthew 1:3). From the very beginning of Jesus’ life, the Father showed His love to those whom others cast away. His birth was announced to a group of shepherds who were simply doing their job of taking care of a bunch of sheep somewhere in a field in the middle of the night. Those shepherds had the privilege of hearing the Heavenly choir of angels announce the Savior’s birth and being among the first visitors to see Jesus in the manger. Jesus showed his mercy to the woman at the well (John 4); a woman who had five husbands and was currently living with another guy she wasn’t even married to. He spoke into her heart and showed her how to find what she was really looking for. He showed great mercy to the woman caught in adultery and offered her another way to live when He said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). Even in his death and resurrection, Jesus revealed Himself first to Mary Magdalene, “out of whom He had cast seven demons” (Mark 16:9). Jesus loves the broken.
These beautiful Scriptures are just a few of the many examples of Jesus’ love for those in need. No one is beyond His love and care. No one is beyond his power to transform lives. If you or someone you love is trapped by sin and pain, reach out for help as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Call Reconciliation Ministries at 586.739.5114 and let us walk with you to Jesus.
You CAN make an eternal difference in the lives of others through your prayers. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and join our intercessors’ list. Any financial gift of any size can change someone’s life. All donations are tax-deductible and can be made through the form included in this newsletter, or securely online by clicking here. Make a difference in the lives of those who are hurting today.
Dan Hitz and your friends at Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.
P.S. Here are a few more testimonies. All were used by permission.
“I came to Living Waters after a period of personal crisis— I knew that God loves and forgives me, but I was still deeply confused about the sources of my addictions. Hearing the testimonies of others, reading and working through the lesson plans, and sharing in group discussions has freed me from much darkness that I did not even realize remained.”
“Growing up I was expected to achieve and perform to be acceptable. Only rarely was what I did enough by my parents' shifting standards. During Living Waters I learned that I am of value just because I am; that God loves me expecting nothing. He transformed my mind through the loving and prayerful leaders at Living Waters who cheered me on in my progress toward learning who I am in Christ and being able to accept myself as being worthy of love.”
“I came to Reconciliation Ministries full of self-hatred and condemnation because of my struggle with same-sex attraction. In the process of healing, the Lord touched the roots of my SSA and also brought healing from childhood sexual abuse. I now know who I really am in Christ and have a deep sense of purpose.”
“When I first came to Living Waters Ministry I felt stuck in an abyss of pain that I couldn't seem to escape from no matter how hard I tried. Living Waters helped me discover the root cause; wounds and breaches from my past that were ruling my present. Through the help of loving leaders, I was finally able to name specific abuses and the way these violations impacted my life. As they led me to release my soul wounds into the Cross, and exchange lies for God's truth, I began to walk in peace and freedom. My past abuse was no longer was an unwelcomed guest in my present life!”
One of the deepest and most painful effects of abuse is the profound sense of guilt that often afflicts survivors. Those who have never suffered the pain of abuse would loudly declare that the survivor was the innocent victim who did not cause the abuse and should not feel the least bit guilty. They are correct. Unfortunately, even though abuse survivors would loudly proclaim the freedom of guilt to others who have suffered abuse, they seldom apply this truth to themselves. This article will look at some of the root issues fueling the false guilt of abuse, and help those who are recovering from abuse learn how to overcome false guilt and walk in peace. The list is far from conclusive, but it covers some of the main causes of guilt I’ve seen through the years as I’ve counseled abuse survivors.
As a child, we want the world to make sense. We grow up hearing that the big people are in charge and we need to obey them. Everyone is born with a deep need to be loved and feel secure. We instinctively look to our parents and caregivers to fulfill those needs. Abuse from those who were supposed to protect us does not make sense. There is no way it can. As a child, our need to feel loved and secured is shattered as we are abused by those who were supposed to keep us safe and provide for our needs. After all, we were taught that Mom and Dad were in charge and we assumed that they were always right. In innocence, and in desperation to make sense of the world, children who are abused often assume that they must be the ones who were wrong, and therefore they deserve the harsh treatment they are receiving. This does not make logical sense when we step back from our emotions and evaluate the thoughts. No matter how badly a child behaves, no child deserves to be beaten physically or abused sexually. However, in the mind of an abused person, it seems to make all the puzzle pieces fall into place. “I am so bad that my daddy has no choice but to treat me like this.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
Believing that the abuse was “my fault” also instills a false sense of hope and control. Admitting that the abuse is not my fault, and recognizing that there is nothing that I can do to prevent the abuse, brings the terrifying realization that there is absolutely nothing that I can do to stop the abuse or predict when it is going to happen. This realization is accompanied by terror and helplessness. If I unconsciously believe that the abuse is “my fault” and that “my horrible behavior” caused the abuse, I can hold onto a false hope that I can prevent the abuse by becoming “invisible” or by being a good boy or good girl. After all, we are taught that bad things don’t happen to good boys or girls. Our abusers may even tell us so. Healing comes at a deeper level as we acknowledge that the abuse was not our fault, confront our terror and helplessness, and seek healing from safe people.
“My body responded to the abuse. That ‘proves’ that I must have wanted the abuse to happen.” Our bodies are amoral. Our sexual organs were created with many nerve endings that respond to touch. Our bodies don’t know if that touch was wanted or unwanted. They don’t know if the touch was from the loving hands of our spouse, or from the tormenting hands of an abuser. Our bodies just know that the nerve endings are being stimulated and that the stimulation feels good. Males commonly experience an erection during unwanted sexual touch which adds to the false guilt. Both males and females experience orgasm during unwanted sexual abuse. This does not mean that the abuse survivor wanted the abuse. It simply means that the body’s nerve endings did what they were designed to do in a situation that was not supposed to happen. Recognizing this truth has helped many abuse survivors overcome years of false guilt.
“There were times when I initiated the abuse. Surely this ‘proves beyond a shadow of a doubt’ that I wanted the abuse to happen.” There are many reasons why an abuse survivor may begin to initiate sexual activity with the abuser. The human heart is very complex and the wounds and voids of life can leave us starved for affection. Abusers know this and are expert manipulators. They seem to have a built in radar sensor to figure out which kids have emotional voids and are open to abuse. They can also figure out which kids are less likely to tell an adult that the abuse happened, and which kids are more likely to be shy and silent. They prey upon these vulnerabilities during the grooming process. The abuser grooms – or prepares – the potential victim by showering him with attention and making him feel like he has a special relationship with the abuser. The abuser may even buy special gifts for the child and/or let him do special things that others in his family are not allowed to do. Abusers often introduce abuse through non-sexual touch like hugging or massages. If the child is responsive to this touch, he then begins to make the touch more sensual. The child’s boundaries are eroded and he often suffers emotional confusion as this trusted friend begins to make unusual requests. Sometimes the victim complies because the abuser tapped into a vulnerable part of the child’s heart that craves attention. Sometimes the victim complies because he feels obligated to the abuser due to their special relationship. Manipulative abusers can make the victims feel like the abuse was their idea, and some even threaten the child or his family if he tells. This sets the victims up for further abuse.
Abuse fragments the victim’s heart. Sometimes abuse victims learn to “enjoy” the abuse out of desperation to avoid the emotional torment and terror of the abuse. Victims are usually conditioned to submit to their abusers and may not see any other options but to comply with the abuse. If children who are being abused were forced to live in the ongoing terror of the abuse, they would probably suffer a severe emotional breakdown. Often the child’s mind “splits” or dissociates. This means that a part of their mind stays to endure the abuse, and a part of their mind “goes away”. Think of the last time you had to perform a prolonged, mundane task. Your mind probably got so bored with the task that part of your mind began to daydream that you were off doing something exciting, while another part of your mind and body continued to perform the task. This is a very simple example of dissociation, and most of us experience this from time to time. Dissociation during abuse occurs on a far more severe level. The part of the mind that stays to endure the abuse is forced to “like” the abuse to avoid “going crazy”. Sometimes that part even learns to initiate the abuse to gain the favor of the abuser, or to protect younger siblings from the abuser. The victim initiating the abuse in no way justifies the actions of the abuser. No matter the situation, if a child makes sexual advances towards an adult, an older child, or a person in a perceived position of authority; it is the spiritual, moral, and ethical responsibility of that person to protect the child and to get help for that child as quickly as possible.
Sometimes abuse survivors feel a special bond with their abusers. Tracy, Tracy, and Garrison explain this in their book Mending the Soul Student Edition (Zondervan, 2011). Compounding the manipulation experienced during the grooming process, our bodies secrete special hormones during and after a sexual experience that bond our hearts to the object of our stimulation. God’s intent was that the bonds to our spouse continue to grow as we thrive in marital and sexual intimacy. Remember, our bodies are amoral and can’t tell if our sexual experience is within the boundaries of a godly marriage, or within the broken boundaries of abuse. Unfortunately, this works against abuse victims to deepen the strange emotional connection between the victim and the abuser. This also intensifies the confusion the victims face when they find themselves bonded to the one who causes so much pain. Fortunately, these strange connections can be broken through prayer and counseling to free the survivor from the emotional bondage that was forced upon him during the abuse.
“But I didn’t stop the abuse from happening, and I didn’t tell anybody about the abuse when I had the chance. Doesn’t this ‘prove’ I wanted the abuse to continue?” There can be multiple reasons why victims don’t stop the abuse or report it to others. Remember that abusers are expert manipulators. They often trick the victims into thinking that the abuse was their idea. They may also threaten the victims that they or a member of their family will be harmed if they tell. Other times, the abusers exploit the bond that has been built with the victim. Abusers pressure the victim not to tell anyone or their “special relationship” will end and the abuser, himself, will be in trouble. Not wanting the “special relationship” to end may not make sense to one who hasn’t been abused. It helps to remember the issues of dissociation, whereby the victim’s mind – heart – is split into pieces. The piece of the heart that carries the terror of the abuse is separate from the piece of the heart that engages in a special relationship to avoid going crazy. As healing begins and the fragments of the heart are reunited, the survivor often feels relieved to recognize that a large part of their heart truly hated the abuse.
The process of “learned helplessness” keeps the victims silent. If the abuser uses aggression to force the victim to comply, the fear of being harmed can propel the victim to remain silent even after the abuser is gone. Small children may be fully dependent upon an abusive caregiver. They may fear abandonment and being helplessly left alone if they turn their abuser in. Children don’t have adult reasoning capabilities to figure out how to get help. They “learn” the message that they are helpless to stop the abuse. Even after they grow older and/or their abuser is gone, they continue to perceive that they are helpless. “Learned helplessness” explains why a child who is aggressively abused at home fails to tell a teacher or other caregiver about the abuse. During the healing process, survivors begin to learn their current coping abilities as they heal and grow stronger.
Abusers often refuse to acknowledge their guilt and push it off on their victims. The authors of Mending the Soul Student Edition explain that abusers should feel immense guilt for what they’ve done. This guilt should cause them to feel extreme conviction, leading to repentance and a full acceptance of responsibility for the harm they have caused. Instead of repenting, abusers commonly refuse to accept responsibility and harshly blame the victims. This manipulates the victims into carrying false guilt for what the abuser has done. One of the first steps to overcoming false guilt is to hand the guilt back to its rightful owner – the abuser.
Abuse survivors can take positive steps to overcome false guilt and the negative effects of abuse. The first important step that they must take is to come to Jesus. This step may sound obvious to anyone who hasn’t been abused, but victims struggling with false guilt often feel too dirty and disgusting to come to Jesus. Satan is right there screaming lies in the struggler’s ear. We can remind survivors that Jesus came for broken people. He forgave the repentant thief on the cross who was mocking Him just moments earlier (Matthew 27:44, Luke 23:39-43), and He forgave the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11). No matter how dirty we feel or how sinful we have been, Jesus came to heal people just like us. He loves us in a safe way and He can help us navigate through the healing process.
Abuse survivors will need the help of safe, godly people as they overcome false guilt. Yes, God touches our hearts individually through the Holy Spirit, but He also works through His people to heal our hearts. This can be a scary step for those who were abused by someone who was supposed to keep them safe. It can be especially frightening if that person was in the church. However, a principle in God seems to be to use healthy people to help us heal from the wounds inflicted by unhealthy people. A great first step in finding a safe person would be to talk to someone in the pastoral care department of your local church. You can also talk to a counselor who has experience in helping people overcome sexual abuse. As you heal, you can pray for God to send you one or two other safe people that you can share your story with. You don’t have to tell everyone about your abuse. God will show you who He wants you to tell. You will also need other safe friends just to enjoy life with. It will take some time to learn trust, but it is worth the effort.
Facing the pain of your past with safe others is essential in your healing process. You might feel like you just want to forget your abuse and move on, but it is important to acknowledge your wounds, take them to the cross, and find healing. One of the worst things about getting a physical wound that requires stitches is that the doctor has to wash out the wound before he stitches it up. That hurts. Sure, he could stich it up without washing it out, but that would leave contaminants in the wound that would cause much worse problems down the road. It is better to endure the short-term pain of cleaning out the wound thoroughly so that a deeper healing can take place. Your heart is just like this. It will be painful to talk about the abuse, but in doing so the Lord can bring a deeper and more thorough healing. As your healing progresses, you will find good parts of your heart coming back to life and you will have much more peace. The short-term pain of the healing process is worth it for the long-term peace the process brings.
Give yourself much patience during the healing journey. Healing is a process that usually takes much longer than we wish it did. Give yourself a lot of grace during this process, and take as much time as you need. I hope that your favorite part of the journey will be to learn about God’s safe heart of love for you. He is a safe caretaker that heals our hearts, strengthens us, and teaches us how to do life. You will learn some beautiful things about God along the way. You will learn some beautiful things about yourself too.
If you would like more information about Reconciliation Ministries, or any of the ministries we offer, visit us on the Web at www.recmin.org, or call (586) 739-5114. You may also e-mail us at email@example.com. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential. Reconciliation Ministries is an affiliate ministry of Restored Hope Network.
Images licensed through www.shutterstock.com.
© 2016 Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc. This article may be reproduced and distributed as long as no fee is charged and credit is given.
Living Waters is a Christ-centered discipleship and ministry program for men and women seeking healing in areas of sexual and relational brokenness including pornography addiction, codependency, sexual addiction, homosexuality, sexual ambivalence, childhood sexual abuse, transgender issues, and difficulty in establishing and sustaining healthy relationships. Our next program is starting soon.
Frequently asked questions about Living Waters…
I don’t struggle with same-sex attraction. Is Living Waters still for me? Yes! Everyone in the body of Christ can benefit from Living Waters. Living Waters is for a wide variety of sexual sin and relationship struggles. We hear many testimonies from men and women who have struggled with heterosexual issues such as pornography addiction, codependency, and promiscuity; who have found freedom through the program. Others have found freedom from struggles such as the effects of abuse, food addiction and self-hatred.
Is Living Waters group therapy? Living Waters is a peer ministry, discipleship program and not professional therapy. Our leaders have all overcome their own battles with sexual and relational brokenness and are free to share their journeys with the participants in a way that professional therapists do not. This helps us walk towards Jesus together in a way that personalizes our recovery and brings deep freedom.
What is the difference between Living Waters and Celebrate Recovery? Celebrate Recovery is a wonderful 12-step program that has helped many men and women begin their recovery journey. Many of our participants have told us how Living Waters has deepened the healing they have received in Celebrate Recovery. Living Waters small groups are interactive and the teachings go much deeper on the root issues of our sexual and relationship struggles through Biblical, in-depth studies of issues like the mother and father wound, the effects of abuse, the cross and confession, forgiveness, and an examination of God’s design for our genders. It helps us better understand who we are in Christ and live according to our God given calling in our local church and the greater body of Christ.
Why is Living Waters 24 weeks long? Living Waters is established as a safe place with enough time set aside to work on some very difficult, and sometimes painful, life issues. We know from our own experience that this time commitment is a necessary blessing that helps to bring many victories.
Why does Living Waters have a $495 tuition rate? Living Waters cost less than $21 per week. This is considerably less than counseling and therapy co-pays, and substantially less than many of us have spent on our addictions. We have found that people who make a financial investment in their recovery are far more committed to their recovery when things get tough. The tuition also helps filter out people who aren’t serious about their recovery or who have dishonorable intentions. Living Waters graduates will tell you that the benefits have far outweighed the costs.
Will I be completely “fixed” at the end of the 24 weeks? Recovery and transformation into the fullness of Christ is a life-long journey. No program of any length can bring the complete restoration that Jesus Christ desires to give. Our primary goal for each participant is that they gain a deeper understanding of who they are in Christ. This leads to deeper healing of the root issues of their struggle, and empowers them to live a holy life. Participants will also learn tools to help them in their recovery and deepen their connection to the Body of Christ.
How long has Reconciliation Ministries been offering Living Waters? Reconciliation Ministries has been partnering with faith communities to help men, women, and adolescents overcome sexual and relational brokenness since 1984. We have been offering the Living Waters program since 1995.
If you or someone you love is struggling with sexual or relational difficulties, there is hope and healing through the power of Jesus Christ. Call us and ask about attending the next Living Waters program. (586) 739-5114
© Reconciliation Ministries 2016. This article may be reproduced and distributed as long as credit is given and no fee is charged.
This testimony was written by a member of our Living Waters Ministry team. She has experienced the depths of despair and the great love of our Heavenly Father who reaches into our deepest pits and draws us to Himself. Her life is a wonderful testimony of the grace, restoration, and power of Jesus Christ. This article shares how the love and compassion of the Body of Christ helped her find the mercy of Jesus.
My husband always says that things seem really dark just before they go completely black. I think he’s right. Good thing the Good Shepherd isn’t afraid of the dark. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.”
At forty-five years old I was adopted by my step-dad. That experience opened up for me a bigger share in the inheritance from my Heavenly Father. It was several months later that I went to see Dan Hitz for counseling and was referred to the Living Waters program. My natural father had been involved in witchcraft, adultery, and alcoholism. My step-dad originally came into my life when I was three, bringing me to the waters of Baptism, a life of scripture study, prayer, and regular church attendance.
When I was growing up, our home was a happy place, only it didn’t keep out sexually abusive relatives who had plenty of drugs and alcohol to share. By age fourteen, I had a drug problem and was preoccupied with sex and thoughts of suicide.
My parents’ plea for help was intercepted by the enemy, as they placed me in a drug program run by cruel con-artists. It was actually a warehouse modeled after North Korean POW camps. During my one and one half years of food, sleep, and oxygen deprivation; and mental and physical beatings; I lost all hope. God did not seem to be there, or know that we were there.
After my escape, it was not difficult to find myself caught in the snare of drug, human, and sex traffickers. These professional predators offer help and friendship to gain trust. I even gave them my real name and my parents’ contact information, in case something bad ever happened to me. With this information, they secured ownership, by threatening to kill my whole family if I should try to leave. I was told that I was born for one thing; to please men, and that I would never return to my family, get married, or have children
Upon entering a drop house for the first time, I saw something that horrified me. Drop houses are terrible places where the traffickers imprison their victims. We delivered a father and two small children. A large door was unlocked and slid open to reveal many men, women, and children crammed into this room. The heat and the smell that poured out felt like death. Armed gun men pushed the three in and locked the door. Panicked, I asked my owner what was going on. He explained to me that some people are disposable, “…even God does not know that they exist.” His words confirmed my deepest fear, a lie that had burned deep into my heart in that warehouse; I was one of these people.
One day, something happened that I will never forget. While working my corner, a minister and his wife came up to me. They said that God loves me and they invited me to a church event. They were run off by another street girl, but they had shown me the truth. God DID KNOW where I was! He sent these people of faith to my dark place to shine a bright light. I could hardly recognize the feeling, but it was joy! Although religious practices were forbidden, this visit emboldened me. I never did attend their church, but for Easter I bought some proper clothes and a corsage (my dad had always gotten corsages for us girls on Easter). I snuck out to Church.
I got “the look” as a lady pointed me out to the minister, but it didn’t matter. I felt as if I had been invited by his Boss in Heaven, and that I belonged there. It was the closest I had been to my family in years, even though I was 2,000 miles from home. It only lasted a couple hours, but a bridge of hope to my Father in Heaven had been built. I believed He would get me home one day.
Mark 2:5 says, “And when Jesus saw the faith of his friends, He said to the paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’” At a one day conference, Dean Greer from Desert Stream Ministries asked, “Do you have friends like this?” Thanks be to God, I do! In their faith, I have found the healing power of Jesus Himself. I have also been blessed with 31 years clean and sober, reconciliation with my family, 29 years of marriage, 14 beautiful children, and 3 wonderful grandchildren, so far. God has been so generous and it just keeps getting better!!! Praise be to Our Father, who causes His children to become light that leads us back to Him.
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 NLT
If you would like more information about Reconciliation Ministries, or any of the ministries we offer, visit us on the Web at www.recmin.org, or call (586) 739-5114. You may also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential. Reconciliation Ministries is an affiliate ministry of Restored Hope Network, and uses many of the programs written by Desert Stream Ministries.
© Reconciliation Ministries 2016. Images used under license from www.shutterstock.com
This is part-one of a three part article on developing a relationship with your child and talking with him or her about sexual purity. Next month’s article will talk about repenting to your son or daughter for mistakes you have made as a parent. The following month will discuss ways to talk with your teen about sexuality. This article will look at some ways that you can build and improve your relationship with your child. Ideally we should begin using these ideas when our children are small. However, if your child is older, it is not too late to start. Realize that it will take longer to build or repair a relationship when your child is older.
Sometimes we may need some outside help like a counselor or pastor. No matter how old your son or daughter is, we can trust the Lord to guide us in our parenting. Begin talking to them when you have nothing profound to say. This may sound pretty basic, but it is a thought that many of us miss. If we don’t start talking to our kids when they are young about things like Hot Wheels cars or dolls, we won’t have the relationship built up with them when they are older to talk to them about things like dating, or pornography, or sexting.
We have to develop relationships with them when they are young in order to build the emotional bonds and trust that it takes to talk to parents about things that really matter. Things that require vulnerability to share. Make your home a welcoming place for their friends to hang out. It is far easier to watch over our kids when they are at our house than when they are out at someone else’s house. We need to learn the fine balance between hovering over our kids, and investing in the social activities and taking an interest in the lives of their friends. We may not have the money to provide deep dish pizza every night when their friends come over, but making some popcorn and providing some games and activities is a worthy investment in keeping our kids happy and active in our own homes.
Striking up a simple conversation with their friends from time to time helps us to get to know their friends and lets their friends know that we care about them and that they can come to us if they need help. Realize that you don’t have to correct every single thinking error your son or daughter has while he or she is talking to you. Correcting every single error in your son’s thinking as he talks to you about his developing world view can cause him to shut down and not share his heart with you about anything at all. Of course there are some topics that we have to address, but it is really critical to jump on every movie plot or political thought that your son has that you don’t agree with? It may be better to ask teens what attracts them to a particular ideal than to try to talk them into changing their ideals right away.
If you’ve taken the time to develop a deep relationship with your teen as he was growing up, it will be easier for you to ask questions designed to help him think his thoughts through. This may actually help him recognize areas where he needs to make corrections on his own. This is much more powerful for a teen than a parent trying to talk him into believing something that he just doesn’t have the experience to interpret. Another benefit of not trying to correct every error in thinking in every conversation you ever have with your child, is that he will be much more willing to come to you if he makes a mistake knowing that he won’t be lectured on what he should have done, but encouraged to find ways to resolve the problem he has created. Allow your kids to respectfully disagree with you and hear their point of view. This is another very delicate balance, yet important skill that we need to teach our teens. Of course there are times when they have to do what we say because we are the parent; however, as they mature from the innocent young child and their critical thinking skills begin to develop they may see things from a different perspective that we have never even thought of. Sometimes, they are right and we are wrong. Are we willing to at least hear their point of view? More importantly, are we willing to admit that they may have a better idea than us?
Of course, we will have the last word and sometimes we won’t really know why we want things to be a certain way. We are the parent and we may have to make some unpopular decisions at times, but that will be much easier if our kids realize that we do care about their thoughts and ideas even if we don’t change our minds and follow their ideas. Correct poor choices in an empowering manner rather than shaming your son or daughter. Of course all teens (and parents) make mistakes, and a wise parent will help a teen correct the mistake he has made in a way that equips him to do better, rather than causing him to feel like a complete failure. Public humiliation or yelling tears down personal value. Sometimes we have to calm down and overcome our own emotional reaction to a mistake our teen has made before we talk to him. We should make sure that we work with our son to help him see the problems his choice has caused, help him take ownership of his errors, and help him find a way to satisfactorily resolve the issues as best he can. Here is another learning curve of knowing how much to help our teen resolve his own problems, not helping him at all, or over helping him. This can be challenging when his problems really do affect us and the entire family, and we might need some outside help in some situations. Grant privileges and trust in direct proportion to your teen’s faithfulness and trustworthiness.
It is best to grant as many privileges and practice as much trust at an age appropriate level as your son has earned through his good behavior and trustworthiness. This helps your teen to recognize that his behavior has good and/or bad consequences, and helps him have a goal to work towards. A teen who is given driver’s training and his own car while he does not complete his assigned chores, and drives recklessly develops a sense of entitlement. A teen who sees that helping around the house, doing his homework, and driving safely when practicing with his parent sees that his good behavior is rewarded and is motivated to live conscientiously. If your teen has developed a pattern of bad behavior, outside help can be beneficial in working towards improved behavior that results in increased privileges. Maybe your heart is sinking as you are reading through these ideas.
Some of us have such challenging relationships with our teens that we can never imagine trying to implement these practices. If you have recognized areas where you have made mistakes as a parent, spend some time in prayer to ask the Lord to show you some specific things to apologize to your kids about. Ask the Lord to prepare your hearts prior to your talk, and then wait for the right moment. You can begin to work on your relationship with your teen again. You will have to proceed slowly and have many ups and downs, but don’t give up. The fruits of your efforts will be well worth it. Some of us may need professional help through a counselor or family therapist to work on our relationships with our kids. This is especially true if you or your teen is dealing with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. If that is you, seek help from the pastoral care department of your local church or find a good Christian therapist. Good qualified help is available.
Being Single Through the Holidays
– Leslie Kalis
Leslie has been a faithful member of the Reconciliation Ministries leadership teams in Brighton and Troy for many years. It is a joy to see the Lord flow through her heart with strength and grace.
The holidays are a time for family, faith and fun. It’s a time for giving gifts and spending time with those we love. It's a time for planning and decorating, anticipation and expectation. A time when we reminisce past Christmases, when things were better or perhaps worse. Either way, they tend to bring out the deepest longing in us for love and family. For those of us who are single it can be a time that reminds us of the husband or the wife that we don't have, or loved ones we’ve lost through divorce or death, or the children we desire and never got. Apart from that, it can be a reminder that we are alone and this can often be a dreaded season.
When I first began to think on this subject, my mind went to the natural things to do that would help me enjoy the season… bake cookies for someone… volunteer your time at church, in a nursing home, or at a soup kitchen serving those less fortunate… do a Christmas puzzle… join a choir… have friends over to make wreaths and drink hot chocolate… start an exercise program or a Bible study. These are all good things, but I realized they are just diversions. They just stave off any loneliness or sadness we may be feeling for another time. Yet, at the end of the Holiday when all the gifts are given and the decorations are taken down and put away and families go back home, we are still the same inside only we are no longer reminded of it quite so blatantly. At least we made it through the holidays and life can be normal again. Right?
The world gives us a rosy picture of what Christmas is supposed to look like and what romance is supposed to look like. All of the “happily ever after’s”. I think all of us to some extent have bought into it. We watch the movies that give us warm emotions and stir longings in us for this dream life that promises to fulfill us, but many times they just create unrealistic expectations. If we look at the world today, we see empty promises and broken cisterns. It's no longer about giving ourselves to others and how we can serve them, but it becomes about how we can be served. It’s no longer about Jesus. It becomes about us. Jesus shows us what Christmas looks like in Himself. He shows us that love came to give. And that the greatest of all is servant of all. The life of Christ is our greatest example. Should we do no less? A friend of mine told me a story of a childhood friend who was very concerned about a birthday party she got invited to.
Was she going to have a good time there? She voiced her concern to her mother who wisely responded, “You just make sure everyone else is having a good time and you will too.” Jesus says, “When you do it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” Let's change our focus to Jesus, and look for ways to serve others this season. In so doing, we honor our Lord and are refreshed ourselves. It’s only in Christ that we are truly fulfilled and He sees even the smallest gesture of good and will reward us. “...if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:1 I have known the frustration of unfulfilled desires and the deep pain of dashed hopes and lingering sadness. I grew up with a wonderful mother who was the only love and safe feeling I knew because I was scared of my father. Because she was a stay at home mom, my first day of school was my first separation from her.
We only lived a couple blocks from the school. Hand in hand, my friend and I walked to kindergarten in our new dresses with great anticipation and delight. It would become a day that changed my life. We were going out to recess and the teacher pulled me aside to tell me that my mother was in the hospital and would not be home when I got there. I don't remember what else took place in that conversation, only that my heart was gripped with fear. All I thought was that my mother died. I died on the inside that day. I found a whole in the fence and ran home to an empty house. I lost something that day. I shut down inside. Life was too painful. My heart lived with this expectation that my mom would die at any time and I never told anyone. I just suffered in silence. It would be 32 years before the Lord would miraculously drop that fear from my heart and set me free, but it still left me on a lifelong search for that love and safe feeling that I lost that day.
One day the Lord asked me to give Him my right to be loved. Was He serious? This is what I lived for. I didn't care about money, or fame, or position. I just wanted to be loved. How could He ask that of me? He gave us a desire to be loved as human beings and now He wanted me to give it to Him? I fought this for weeks, reasoning that if I gave this to Him I would never be loved again. It was my Isaac. Could I offer it up? Would I abandon this pursuit to be loved in life and put it on the altar? I finally said, “Yes, Lord, I will give You my right to be loved and I will never be loved again.” I truly left that at the cross to be His. To my amazement, about two weeks later that “drive” to be loved and feel safe inside had left me. What once consumed me was gone. He exchanged my greatest need in life for “resting” in Him. Now I feel truly loved, accepted and complete in Him beyond all I could ask or think. I am never alone because He is with me. What about you? Will you lay your very self at the foot of the cross this Christmas season and trust the One who left His Father’s side in glory to come and give His life for you, so that You could have it more abundantly? I pray that you will truly know the love of Jesus deep down in your soul. I pray that you will and that you experience Christmas with Christ, Himself, in a new way.
So often when we see people discussing – or debating – controversial issues on social media, someone in the group will point out that the church is really good at presenting what they are against, but not so good at presenting what they are for. Sometimes I have to agree with them on that point. With that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the things that we at Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan are for. Though this list is not conclusive, it is a good start.
That people will have a life giving relationship with Jesus Christ so that they can be redeemed and spend eternity in Heaven with the Lord. For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 Helping people know their true identity in Christ. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17
Helping people overcome sinful, addictive behaviors so that they can live free from bondage, deepen their relationship with the Lord, and remain faithful to their calling as Christ-like men, women, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9 Seeing hurting people become free from the traumatic effects of abuse, abandonment, and other devastating life events so that they can achieve their full potential in Christ. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” Jesus in Luke 4:18-19
That people have their lives transformed through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to overcome the sin, trauma and temptations of this world. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Revelation 10:11
For the Biblical definition of marriage as a life-long commitment between one biologically born male and one biologically born female. And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” Matthew 19:4-5
For those struggling with sin, shame and condemnation to be set free. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11
That people can truly know the love of God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 1 John 4:16 We hope this letter helps you to hear the hearts of the men and women who are a part of Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan. We have all been touched by the redemptive heart of Jesus Christ in our own journeys out of sexual and relational brokenness. We continue to be completely dependent upon the Lord’s transforming work in our hearts.
If you or someone you love is struggling with sexual or relational sin, please call 586.739.5114 and see how Reconciliation Ministries can help.
You can also visit us on the internet at www.recmin.org. We could not do what we do without the many men and women who pray for us regularly and support us financially. Let us know if you would like to join our intercessory team by contacting us at email@example.com. Please consider supporting this ministry through a monthly tax-deductible donation or a one-time gift. You can donate online via PayPal. You can become a vital part of this ministry and touch the lives of others.
Director Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan
Dysfunctional Family Roles
Last month’s newsletter article entitled “Home for the Holidays” talked about preparing for family gatherings which are often a source of stress and triggers of emotional wounds. This month’s article explores various roles people play in the dysfunctional family. These roles serve as coping skills and defense mechanisms, but often tend to keep the dysfunction going. Recognizing your role in the family system can help you make healthier choices to overcome the dysfunction and walk in better emotional health. Most of the roles in this article are widely recognized and can be found by searching “dysfunctional family roles” on the internet. This article is a compilation of the roles found through multiple internet resources.
The Person with the True Problem.
Simply put, this is the person with the addiction or other dysfunctional behavior. It may be the alcoholic father, the vengeful mother, or the sibling with the substance abuse problem. Rather than seeking the help he needs, the person with the true problem expects others to adjust to his dysfunctional behavior. Others in the family learn to comply with his demands rather than facing the wrath and harshness of the broken system.
This is usually the spouse of the person with the true problem. She is the family peacemaker who keeps the creator of the dysfunction in business by covering for him. She tries to smooth over the waves caused by the true problem and the fallout from the emotional reactions to that problem. Rather than trying to fix the root, the enabler seems to fertilize the bad fruit hoping for a good harvest. She feels responsible for everyone’s emotional well being. Strangely, the enabler’s behavior tends to get worse when the person with the true problem begins to get help. She isn’t used to “normal” and seems to try to get everyone back to “broken” where she can feel “needed”.
This person adopts the values and dreams of others in an attempt to show the outside world that the family is actually okay. Heroes are usually overachievers with poor self-esteem who intellectualize problems and disregard their own feelings. Although they are forced to interact with others, they don’t allow others to get close enough to see their true emotional brokenness. They view appropriate vulnerability as dangerous and work hard to put up a good front. The oldest children in the family are usually the heroes.
The scapegoat is the opposite of the hero. Rather than playing the game and pretending that things are okay, he tends to rebel against the dysfunctional system and begins acting out unspoken family conflict. The scapegoat is the problem child who takes the focus off of the real problem and makes everyone else look good. Scapegoats are often the second born.
The Lost Child/Loner.
The lost child is usually a loner who becomes a chameleon to disappear into the background and not cause problems. He brings relief because he has learned not to rock the boat and others don’t have to worry about him. He has no opinions of his own and no expression of emotional needs. This complies well with some of the unspoken rules of the broken family system including “don’t talk”, “don’t feel”, and “don’t have needs”. He may also leave the family system as soon as he is able and maintain only minimal contact with them. Middle children are often the ones in the role of the lost child.
The Mascot/Class Clown.
Mascots seek to be the comic relief of the dysfunctional family system and try to diffuse emotional pain through humor. They can develop friendships easily and usually spend little time at home. Mascots have a short attention span and are very poor with responsibility. This serves to help them avoid the family dysfunction and puts their mind on fun things to fuel their escapism. Mascots are usually one of the younger children in the family.
The doer is similar to the hero. Doers may also be referred to as the “adult child”. She is the overdeveloped, overstressed family member who often excels academically and takes care of the siblings for the dysfunction parents. Although she may still be a child, herself, she has learned to act like an adult as a matter of emotional survival. This helps her cope with the adult who is acting like a child. Doers live in the illusion that they exist to meet the needs of the dysfunctional adults.
Manipulators use their skill to get others to do what they want them to do. They have learned the unspoken message that needs and desires expressed directly clash with the family dysfunction and go unmet. They play off the dysfunction of the person with the true problem and the attempts of the enabler to smooth the wake from the problems if the system. Manipulators control others indirectly. Manipulators are extremely intuitive and know what buttons to push in each family member to get their way.
As the name implies, critics use negativity and fault finding to control others.
Daddy’s Little Princess.
This role develops when the father uses the daughter to fulfill his broken emotional needs, and is a subtle form of emotional incest. The father uses the child by drawing her into adult conversations and/or activities. For example he may tell the princess about sexual or emotional struggles that he may be having with her mother. Rather than serving to protect and empower the daughter, the father uses his little princess to fulfill his own brokenness. In her own emotional dysfunction, the princess learns to embrace her role for the perceived benefits she receives. Benefits which are merely illusions and only wound her further.
This role is similar to the little princess and occurs when the son is expected to fulfill the emotional needs of the dysfunctional mother.
The saint’s sense of worth is derived from fulfilling a predetermined occupation or course of action regardless of his own personal needs and wishes. She may attempt to gain extra value by “informing” everyone of the many sacrifices she has made in order to “help” those in the dysfunctional system. Although they often flaunt their own virtue and goodness, saints are internally sad and unfulfilled, hoping to gain a sense of inner acceptance and appreciation from people incapable of providing it.
If you’ve seen yourself as you read through the dysfunctional family roles, there is hope. One of the main steps in your journey into relational wholeness is recognizing the things that need to be corrected. Many of these roles are merely broken expressions of character strengths that are undeveloped. The hero is able to play the hero because he does possess the intelligence and ability to succeed. The lost child is able to become the chameleon because he is able to read people and situations and attempt to bring himself to a place of internal peace in the middle of the storm. The mascot is able to be the mascot because he is personable and able to develop many friendships and make people feel comfortable with him. Through counseling and a deeper walk with Christ, those in dysfunctional family roles can learn to shed the false uses of their personal gifts. They can learn to step out in the power of Christ to implement their gifts for the good that God intended. The hero can learn to evaluate her own personal abilities and determine what is and is not her personal responsibility. Accepting the personal responsibilities of walking in her gifts and allowing others to experience their own personal responsibilities offers both the opportunity for self improvement. The mascot can learn to use her people skills to create a friendly work environment while receiving the satisfaction of meeting her personal responsibilities. Walking into the good of our god-given design will help us to become all that God created us to be.
For others whose roles are deeper expressions of brokenness and sin there is repentance and the grace of God. Through repentance, the scapegoat can learn to accept the responsibility for his own sinful choices and learn to overcome the emotional distress they formerly tried to escape through sin.
Help is available for those who are walking out of a dysfunctional family system. Seek the assistance of the pastoral care department from your local church, a professional therapist, or a good support group. Living Waters, Celebrate Recovery, and other life care groups offer support to those dealing with codependency, negative life patterns, and habitual sin. There is help and hope for everyone through the power of Jesus Christ.
Reconciliation Ministries offers licensed professional counseling and prayer ministry. If you or someone you know needs help, call 586.739.5114 to schedule an appointment.
Home for the Holidays
For many of us, the holidays are filled with anxiety that comes with revisiting the dysfunctional family dynamics of our youth. Family get togethers sometimes place us in the presence of those who have offended us or have the potential to trigger our unresolved wounds – sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. The purpose of this article is to help you prepare for family gatherings so that you can walk through them with realistic expectations and minimal emotional stress.
This may seem cliché, but the most important preparation you can make for your family gathering is to pray. It is important to communicate with the Lord prior to the event and share your hopes and fears. This is the time to ask Him for help and protection in your specific areas of need, and to be reminded of who you are in Him. You can also pray for the difficult people that you will be spending time with, and ask the Lord to put a guard on their hearts as well as yours. Ask trusted others to pray for you. Sometimes just knowing that others are praying for you will give you the extra boost of confidence you need.
Maintain realistic expectations.
It is important to maintain realistic expectations through the holidays. People will not change just because it’s Christmas. You may have taken the time to get healthy, but others may not. They will most likely do what they have always done. If they were overbearing and critical before the Christmas tree went up, they will most likely be overbearing and critical after the tree goes up – and even during the process. Reminding yourself of realistic expectations will help you avoid getting your hopes dashed by reality. This is far different from telling yourself to expect a catastrophe so that you won’t be disappointed if one happens. This is simply reminding yourself of your difficult relative’s character so you can make proper emotional preparations.
Some people do not do well during the holidays because it reminds them of their past abuse. If you were abused during the holiday season by a visiting relative or during a sleepover while on Christmas vacation, this time of year may automatically trigger anxiety and depression. Make plans to have safe others to confide in if you feel your emotional pressure rising. This will help you get the support you need before you reach a breaking point. Recognizing your own vulnerability and making preparations for assistance is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of healthy personal insight and good coping skills.
Establish appropriate boundaries.
Decide prior to your gathering what behavior you will and will not accept. Choose not to allow your family members to treat you disrespectfully, or try to bring you into the middle of their conflict. Decide your course of action ahead of time if a family member violates your boundaries. For example, if someone begins to call you disrespectful names you can calmly state that you won’t allow the person to treat you in a disrespectful manner. If he continues to do so you can remove yourself from that conversation and try to join another conversation, ask him to leave your house, or decide to leave the gathering yourself. When establishing boundaries with others, it is best to keep yourself calm and speak matter of factly. Follow through on your boundaries without yelling. Yelling actually tends to decrease your influence and often plays into the other person’s plan of trying to stir up your emotions. Don’t be surprised when those who are used to violating your boundaries continue trying to do so after you have informed them of your boundaries. They are used to doing so and may not take you seriously. Sometimes their negative behavior may actually get worse for aseason while they try to figure out how serious you are about your boundaries. They may try to get you to give up. Calmly stand firm and hold your ground. The other person will have to decide how they will respond to your boundaries. It is great if they change and learn to respect you. In this case your relationship with that person may improve. If they decide not to respect your boundaries you may have to distance yourself from them and keep yourself in a position where they are unable to offend you.
Recognize that your family members are broken.
Pray, pray, pray… but remember that it is not your job to fix them. Broken people do broken people things. This is not an excuse for poor treatment, but it may help you to put the issue into proper perspective. Remember to implement you boundaries, and resist the urge to walk on eggshells trying to guess what to avoid or do to keep the other person happy. Do what is right before the Lord and walk in obedience to Him.
Recognize that the issue usually isn’t about you.
Don’t let another person’s dysfunction become your dysfunction. Are they reacting to their own deeper emotional issues? Are they merely angry people who take out their anger on anyone who happens to get in the way? Dysfunctional people are operating out of their own brokenness. Even if you do make a mistake, they are the ones choosing to react in a healthy or unhealthy manner. Some dysfunctional people try to pull you into their problems and blame them on you. In situations like this it is helpful to remind yourself that this isn’t your problem and choose not to take it from them. This doesn’t mean that you are heartless and uncaring. It simply means that you are choosing to become healthy and allow others to experience the consequences of their own poor decisions.
Don’t bite the bait.
Many dysfunctional people are addicted to drama and try to pull others into their own internal hurricanes. They may try to provoke you or highlight your imperfections to justify themselves. Others may try to blame their own inappropriate behavior on you. Resist the urge to respond in anger and calmly state your thoughts while maintaining your boundaries. You may have to allow yourself time to express your frustration later in a safe setting, but resisting the urge to bite the bait keeps you from entering into their emotional turmoil. You can choose to enjoy the holiday gathering even if they choose to be miserable.
Give yourself extra grace if you are
grieving the loss of a loved one.
If you are walking through the grief process after loosing someone you love, recognize that the first few holidays without them may bring up a wide variety of emotions. That is normal. It is okay if you don’t have the emotional energy to decorate your house and get the same level of gifts that you usually do. Some people will understand while others won’t. Do what you feel comfortable doing. In time, you will be able to carry on some of the old traditions or you may decide to adjust and develop some new ones. The main thing is that you honor the memory of your loved one, and simply do what you are able to do.
Nurture relationships with healthy family members and friends.
Identify the healthy people in your life and proactively spend time developing those relationships. Learn to overcome the dysfunctional family dynamics in an appropriate manner with those who have walked through similar situations and are on the road to recovery. Discussing personal reactions to issues in an appropriate manner helps build relationships and lets you know that you are not alone.
Recognize the progress that you have made.
Give yourself credit for what the Lord has done in your life and grace for the things He has yet to do. Nobody is perfect. It is really okay to celebrate the small victories while you’re looking forward to the larger ones.
Allow yourself time to recuperate after the event.
Dealing with difficult people can be exhausting. Prior to the event, discuss your need to relax afterwards with safe others. You may even want to schedule extra personal quiet time afterwards or make plans to have fun in appropriate leisure activities with those who are able. It is amazing how beneficial these types of plans can be, and how much easier it will be for you to adjust back into your regular routine once you have take the time to decompress.
Taking the time to pray and read through this list prior to your holiday event can help you navigate through some difficult situations with more peace. Remember to have realistic expectations and trust the Lord to lead you. Don’t condemn yourself if you don’t walk through an awkward situation like you think you should. Give yourself grace to learn and grow more every day.
A Gift for Yourself this Christmas
– Kent Darcie
Kent Darcie is the founder and presenter for Adult Children of Divorce Ministries. He has reached out to adults with divorced parents for ten years. A variety of resources for adult children of divorce are available at his website, http://www.childrenofdivorce.net.
An estimated 50% of US adults who will celebrate Christmas this year have divorced parents. For them this season can be particularly tough. Even those who manage to create the “Hallmark” holiday for their own family must often contend with gatherings which include a hodgepodge of parents, ex-parents, steps, step-siblings, grand-steps, and other combinations too numerous to list here.
While few adults with divorced parents would deny hassles are standard equipment with divorce, fewer still understand just how much their parent’s divorce affects them the other 11½ months. My case was no exception.
I was 13 when the divorce occurred. Until then my father, mother, two younger sisters and I lived a comfortable middle class life. Dad worked. Mom stayed home with us. Though I loved them both, my relationship with my dad felt like joy on steroids. Where he was, I wanted to be; whether under a car as he changed the oil, or exploring on a long bike ride. The occasional punishment or spanking did come, but my glasses couldn’t be any rosier thinking about those early years.
After the divorce, I stayed with my mom and sisters. Visits with my dad were painfully infrequent. Sporadic happiness replaced the joy as life wandered on. Junior and senior high school, college, marriage, and kids rounded out the next 30 years. So did anger, anxiety, feeling unworthy, struggling with inadequacy, fears, and bouts with mild depression every Christmas season. It’s almost sinister how abnormal can seem normal when you live it long enough.
But at a marriage retreat God shined blinding light into my eyes with this truth: even though I was on my first marriage, I was traveling down the same emotional path as my dad who was approaching his third marriage. I swore never to put my kids through a divorce, but it didn’t matter. Apparently that was the path I was on.
We hear how marriages are failing at a 50% rate. What’s not communicated is the disproportionate impact adult children with divorced parents have on the percentage. Simply put, if a person from an intact family marries someone from a broken home, the odds the marriage will fail increase 50%. If both are from broken homes, the chance of the marriage ending in divorce increase 200% (as compared with two people from intact homes.)1 Divorce produces divorce! More frightening is the root causes for these marital collapses are mostly unknown by millions of adults with divorced parents.
Research indicates adult children of divorce (ACD) have issues with anger and trusting people directly due their parent’s divorce. They also suffer from a list of fears including the fear of inadequacy, of inferiority, of conflict, and the fear of doom—which lives life always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Additionally, children from broken homes have far higher addiction rates including drugs, alcohol, and sex. Depression, attempts at suicide, teen pregnancy, and brushes with the law are also side effects from a parent’s divorce. These can create deep cracks in the foundation an adult life is built upon.
Combined or in part, these issues form a concoction proven as toxic to relationships and marriages. But, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2
I've received great comfort from God. Shortly after the marriage retreat, God uncovered resources which helped explain the impact my parent’s divorce had. With these issues exposed, my prayers, research, and actions were more focused on the goal of overcoming the issues. God’s gifts of love, peace, and joy slowly washed away the fears, anger, and other issues that grew like poison mushrooms in a beautiful garden.
This Christmas why not accept this wonderful gift too? You are reading this at God’s leading, but as an ACD you have a choice. Wait 30 years before admitting your parent’s divorce still negatively affects you. Continue limiting yourself and hurting your loved ones. Or bring yourself healing and renewed relationships by applying this new information.
Adult Children of Divorce Ministries provides resources so adults with divorced parents can overcome the unseen tentacles that trip up their relationships with others and God as well. Books, articles, videos, and more are accessible on the website. Seminars, workshops, teachings, and other presentations are available for groups—both small and large. Get information today and jump-start your healing journey.
More important, seek a deeper comprehension of God’s love for you. The holiday season makes revisiting or learning about Christmas’ true meaning easy. Read Luke Chapters 1 and 2. For a more basic approach you can watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. 3 For nearly 50 years Linus has been telling Charlie Brown and the world what Christmas is really all about. Afterward, contact Dan Hitz or myself and learn more about how wide, how long, how high, and how deep Christ’s love is for you. 4 Healing begins with God. Accept His wonderful gift and make this a very Merry Christmas.
Kent Darcie founded Adult Children of Divorce Ministries. Resources are available at www.acdministries.com. Check out his blog at www.childrenofdivorce.net.
1 Paul Amato. www.smartmarriages.com/before.breakup.html accessed 11/6/12
2 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. [ESV]
3 A Charlie Brown Christmas. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2011/12/25/linus-tells-charlie-brown-true-meaning-christmas Accessed 12/5/2013
4 Ephesians 3:18b [NLT]