To Intervene or Not...

I cannot pretend to know the mind of our Heavenly Father in almost all things. But I felt impressed to sit down and write some of my thoughts and opinions on physical/spiritual intervention by Heavenly Father after a comment from a friend in a recent conversation.

My childhood was not a positive one. When I was eighteen and I was able to legally leave and walk away, I was gone as quickly as I could. Unfortunately, leaving the family home didn't mean that my mother could give up her obsession of punishing me. And I also found myself very torn as I understood that I could not be a good faithful member and not speak with or spend time with my family. This was a conflicting problem for me for several years.

One Sunday in a ward that I was visiting changed everything for me. I was sitting in the foyer listening to Sacrament meeting in a small ward in Utah and ended up starting a conversation with a couple sitting in the foyer along with their children. The husband of the couple mentioned I looked exactly like my grandfather and we started talking about my family. Within two minutes, I became very uncomfortable... I realized that this family knew my whole family. As I became quiet, his wife leaned over and looking me in the eye, she said “It is OK to not speak to your mother anymore. You are an adult and so you are free.” Startled, I continued the conversation with them, sacrament meeting forgotten. When sacrament meeting was over, their children were sent to Primary and we continued talking until church was over. A few points have stuck with me and have come to my mind several times over the years.

1. Heavenly Father cannot intervene in everything. Otherwise.. well, we would have Lucifer's plan. We would all do the right things and return to our Heavenly Father. The plan of salvation allows us to make our own decisions and if he intervened to protect us in all things and in all times, pain would not exist and neither would sin. In almost all cases he cannot intervene. And that is why bad things happen and why people are allowed to do bad things. We can argue and rail against the plan of salvation, but we all agreed to it to come to this earth. Some doctrine even suggests that we knew some of the hardships that we would face in this life. Whether that is true, I do not know. But I do believe that all of us knew that there were really risks in coming to this world. That knowledge doesn't change pain or suffering, but it can help us to understand WHY we have some of the trials that we have. Heavenly Father will help us with many things both big and small, but he cannot force people to do the right things.

kn2. D&C 98:39-44. Joseph Smith received a revelation that helps to understand and gives a little more clarity on repentance and forgiveness. While Jesus asked us in the New Testament to 'turn the other cheek', this revelation clarifies how often and how long we needs to do that to follow the Lord's commandments. When we are wronged, we are required to forgive as the individuals repents. We are required to forgive a wrong three times. If the individual continues to sin toward us after three times, we are required to not 'forgive' and to bring the problem to the Lord. The couple I spoke with stated that it is their belief that then we are to take steps to protect ourselves from the individual. As with abuse, you do not continue to take it.... you protect yourself and loved ones from the abuser. It was after reading these scriptures and praying for several days that I stopped talking with my parents.

3. Carlfred Broderick was a wonderful writer. In his book “My Parents Married on a Dare”, he wrote an essay on abuse. He discussed his confusion and sorrow that abuse happened and the general lack of understanding as to WHY it does or is allowed to be. But then, he wrote about a transitional character - “A transitional character is one who, in a single generation, changes the entire course of a lineage. The changes might be for good or ill, but the most noteworthy examples are those individuals who grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and who somehow find a way to metabolize the poison and refuse to pass it on to their children. They break the mold. They refute the observation that abused children become abusive...Their contribution to humanity is to filter the destructiveness out of their own lineage so that the generations downstream will have a supportive foundation upon which to build productive lives.” This is not a comfortable thought and is not a happy thought. (If we were Sirius Black, the dementors couldn't take this thought from us.) But it is a goal and a starting point for dealing with the pain.

Sometimes, I do wallow in the pain and let it wash over my head like a thick blanket. I will cry and bite my hands to keep the moans and screams in so I can hide my feelings from my family. But more often, I pray and read and try to fight the feelings. I fight the feelings and struggle to do the little things that make me feel better (or at least give me the strength to keep going while I work on my brain. 'Fake it until you make it' is my motto on many days. It is also definitely helpful to have as little contact with my parents. It is really hard to learn other thinking processes and behavior if your spirit and physical body are being shunted back and forth between defense mechanisms/ingrained behavior you have around the abuser and the behavior/ thought organization that you use in the rest of your life. It gets easier with time... well, most of the time. Something else that helps is to find a 'buddy' in suffering to talk to and try to laugh about it. After awhile, I promise that many things that were not laughable at the time can be quite funny later (or at least pieces). One of my buddies is my sister and sometimes a good laugh and “Do you remember when...hee hee hee”.

There are many other people out there who have these same problems. What have you done to make it easier to deal with in your life? What advice do you have for others who struggle? How have you kept your faith during the abuse and/or your recovery?

Suggested reading

1. Confronting Abuse – Anne L. Horton (LDS author)
2. My Parents Married on a Dare – Carlfred Broderick (LDS author)
3. There's Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self Hate – Cheri Huber
4. Help Yourself – Dave Pelzer

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