For more than four decades, I have been recovering from a traumatic injury that happened when I was just twelve years old. During the tenth week of the Forming class, I took one more step towards recovery, but before I tell you about how God touched me during Forming, let me tell you my story.
I was born in Jamaica, West Indies. At the age of six, my father moved to the U.S., leaving his family behind. He would come home to see us during the holidays, and we always looked forward to his visits; but shortly after his arrival in Jamaica, he would vanish and not reappear until it was time for him to board his flight back to the States. As a young child, the distress I felt due to his sudden comings and goings rendered me physically ill with asthma, even to the point of needing to be hospitalized.
A week before my 12th birthday, we moved to join Dad in Coney Island, New York City. We lived in a large apartment complex, directly across the street from my elementary school. I had already learned the sixth-grade material the year before in Jamaica, so I quickly became the teacher’s pet. One day, a jealous classmate threatened to beat me up after school. My teacher took her threat seriously and kept me in the classroom after school in the hopes that she would tire of waiting and go home. But as soon as I left the school grounds and crossed the street into my apartment complex, there she was, waiting for me with most of my classmates. She struck me in the face with a wooden pole, littered with nails. The force of the blow destroyed the lens in my right eye. One of the nails cut my eyelid and neck, just missing my jugular vein. When my classmates saw me bleeding, they fled. No one called for help. Providentially, a passerby came along and helped me home.
I was hospitalized for five days and didn’t see my father until he came to pick me up from the hospital. Afterwards, he had little or no involvement with the medical efforts to save my eye. As I faced the biggest crisis of my life, my Dad was absent. Because of his absence, I began to believe that I was unworthy of love—after all, my own father did not care that I had been brutally attacked. The lie that I was unlovable became firmly planted and later confirmed when three years later, he abandoned our family for good.
In college, I sought counseling and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from the attack. I did therapy for several years and thought I had fully processed my trauma. However, two years ago, my father died and I resumed therapy to deal with his loss. I also began taking Healing Center classes. During one of my sessions, my therapist urged me to talk to my family about the attack. In my discussion with my mom, I mentioned that my dad did not seem to care about what had happened to me, but to my surprise, she contradicted me: “Your dad was very upset. He was so distraught in the emergency room that they nearly had to restrain him.” At first, I could not take in her words, because her version of reality was so different from mine.
As I realized that what my mom was saying was true, I began to consider other scenes from life that had reinforced my belief that my father didn’t care about me. My heart was heavy as I considered it all. If what I had believed was a lie, if Dad had cared about me, if he had cared about what had happened to me so long ago . . . I had wasted years! I began to talk to God, but it was not until two days later, when I was in Forming, that it all began to come together. As David Takle explained how distorted thinking can impact us, I began to see that the belief that I was unlovable had distorted my view of God and myself for decades.
Following Takle’s teaching, as I journaled and listened to God, the truth began to emerge: Dad had been a terrible father, but he had cared that my classmate had attacked me. I began to grieve the years the canker worm had stolen. As I journaled, I saw how much these false beliefs had cost me. For years, I had rebuffed men, fearing rejection of my unlovable self. As a result, I had never married. Now, I saw my path of singleness was rooted in my distorted thinking. I was overcome by the devastation of what I had lost and feared that it was too late to catch up.
I cried out to God, “Father, I need you to show me my worth and value.” For so many years, other people had told me that I was valued and important. But the knowledge that my father had cared and the nearness of God broke something in me. I could finally accept what I had been hearing God say for years: “You are loved and valued!” Before that moment, I had not been able to accept it. Now the words rang true. I was loved and valued by God. I felt the lies fall off me. It was visceral; I could feel it go. My heart responded, “Yes, God I hear you. I do have self-worth. I do have value. I can accept my true value and worth through your son, Jesus Christ.” In that moment, more than 40 years of distorted thinking was broken off me. The lies could no longer hinder me.