When the need to forgive has been hidden, part 2

The dreams

Today on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about a window, clean sheets, a laundry basket, a china doll and bookends, plus a whole lot more. Am I giving decorating advice today? Nope. I’m not really into that stuff. Pinterest is not for me.

The other day, after I took something to the Please Take This Away spot at the edge of our driveway, I described it using the word tchotchke. Brandon was like, “Huh? What does that mean?” He’s usually the one who uses expressions that I don’t understand. It was kind of fun to be on the “I know something that you don’t” end of the conversation. Our brains definitely float around in different hemispheres. That’s okay. Life at our house can be very interesting. We’ve gotten to that stage of life where the most common expression is, “I can’t hear you!” I can admit that.

Adapting, the pull and the transformation
Speaking of stages of life, have you ever spent time trying to put together the pieces of your Life Puzzle? Have you had questions? Have you wanted to know more? I sure have.

Last time on Choosing Peace, we explored how the need to forgive can be hidden—for those of us who were raised in an abusive/neglectful home. We dug into the ways that adapting protects us, allowing us to survive in an unsafe environment, and how it shields us from the truth—from the danger.

We also went over The Gravitational Pull—how we’re drawn to people who feel like home; but for some of us, home was bad. Very bad. Eventually, the pain of our adult relationships can take us to our knees, calling out to God for help. After we truly surrender our lives to God and follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we can experience an amazing emotional and spiritual transformation.

Healed by the truth
As the lies that we heard and believed are replaced by the truth—by God’s truth—something powerful begins to happen in us. Our thinking starts to align with God. We experience healing. Truth is the key component in healing. And in transformation. That’s why Jesus said:

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:32, World English Bible

Free from what? Free from lies. Free from deception. Free from the power of darkness and sin. Free from worry and fear. Free to trust God and rest in his love.

The gift of dreams
Today we’ll explore how God uses dreams to help us—to teach us the truth. The truth isn’t always rosy, in the I’m-Sure-Glad-That-Happened sense. But the truth is healing. It is good, ultimately, for us. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our heads around that. When we understand special dreams and grasp these difficult, hurtful truths from our past, we realize that someone wronged us. Then we realize that we need to forgive that certain someone in order to walk in freedom instead of in chains. (To explore The Chain of Unforgiveness, see this post.)

Do we understand these important dreams when we have them? Not necessarily.

God gave me a dream about my mom when I was in elementary school. He showed me what it meant last summer, more than 40 years later.

The dream came at the right time. And the interpretation of the dream
came at the right time—when I was ready to receive it—
when I could nod my head and smile.

God is never late.

The dream about my mom
When I had the dream, we were living in a two-story house in Virginia. In my dream, I fell out of one of our second-story windows. My mom was in the backyard holding a laundry basket filled with clean sheets. She saw me falling and she ran around, trying to catch me in the laundry basket. She didn’t catch me. Everything went black.

I didn’t understand at the time that I died in the dream.

The timing
Why did I have that dream? What was it for? God gave me the dream to teach me the truth. He gave me the dream when I was a young girl. And last year, after I forgave my mom, God knew that the right time had come to show me what the dream meant. As I was driving to work one morning, he showed me the interpretation of the dream from so long ago. I really appreciated it. The dream interpretation gave me a strangely-sweet confirmation—a confirmation of all that I’d learned about my parents and my childhood. And I smiled.

The interpretation
Even in a life-threatening situation, my mom wouldn’t put down her chores to help me, not even to save my life. She would not put her chores down. Period. Because she wouldn’t put her chores down—because she used her chores to protect herself—I was in grave danger. My mom couldn’t protect herself and me at the same time. She didn’t protect me.

I explored this danger in The Trauma of Disengagement, part 3. The subheading of that post is The Silence. The dangers were very serious. Some of them were life-threatening. And she said nothing.

The excuse
How could she ignore danger, sin, murders, death? How could she ignore me? My life? My need for truth and protection? How could she sit there and ignore it all? How could she justify that? How could she explain her apathy—her disengagement—in her own mind? How?

I’ll tell you how. Her letter gave me the answer. She could lay her head on her pillow and say: “At least I’m not nosey.”

And I guess that was good enough for her.

See this post to dig more into those dangerous situations—including the part about a serial killer.

The dream about my dad
After my first marriage ended, I had a dream about my dad. I didn’t understand it until I was writing this blog 20 years later. In the Grieving series, I described the dream in my anger letter to my dad.

After the divorce, I had a dream about you. It was in my house. You grabbed me and smashed the back of my head on the bathroom floor. When I looked down at myself, I looked like a china doll whose head had big cracks in it…. I saw the cracks on my face. I was dead.

The timing
When I had this dream, I knew it was bad. Even though I didn’t understand it at all, I remembered it, vividly. When the time was right, the Lord helped me piece it together.

While I was growing up, we visited my mom’s parents in Mississippi every summer. There were china dolls there. We knew the china dolls were special. We were instructed to be extremely careful with them. My dad stressed to us that once a china doll got a crack in its face, it was worthless.

The interpretation
A few years ago, I began digging into my relationship with my dad. I knew I needed to peel that layer of my Trauma Onion. The first step, for me, was to write my anger letter to him—to acknowledge the issues and my feelings. In that letter, I wrote the interpretation of the dream: “I was a china doll. Broken and worthless.”

My divorce represented a catastrophic humiliation for my narcissistic dad, who was obsessed with The All-Important Question: “What will people think?” My dad didn’t respond to my divorce with concern for me. He wanted me to disappear.

What the dreams showed me
What did these two dreams teach me? God intended for me to know the truth about my parents and their impact on my life. Truth brings freedom.

God gave me these two dreams to free me
from the lies, the traumas and the sins of the past.

In both dreams, I died. In the dream about my mom, my life was clearly in danger and she failed to save me. She failed to prioritize my life above her chores—what she was carrying. What. She. Was. Carrying. And she was carrying much more than a laundry basket. See this post to read about her secret. That dream showed me a picture of my mom’s neglect and the danger of her neglect.

In the dream about my dad, he killed me. That dream showed me a picture of his abuse—his hostility, his violence and how dangerous he was to me.

My mom passively killed me because I wasn’t important enough to her. My dad actively and intentionally killed me because I embarrassed him.

Life and death
Why did each of the dreams result in my death? What was that about? Right after I wrote those questions, the still, small voice gave me the answer.

My life didn’t come from my parents—not in The Creating Department
or in the ultimate sense—in The Salvation Department.

That’s a rather deep concept; and, trust me, I didn’t come up with it.

Virtues, church and mental illness
My parents were actually hindrances to my salvation because they didn’t demonstrate or teach me about love, truth or any of the other virtues of life. Yes, they took me to church; but church attendance didn’t erase the mental illness in the house. Remember this quote about the power of the family, from the last post:

“The most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home.”
William Temple

If you read the last post, you know that after that quote, I “went off” on Things That Are Not a Conversation. Indeed. The Narcissist gives a speech. The Little People sit there and listen admiringly. Ugh. I’m shaking my head and rolling my eyes—a two-for-one yet again.

What I avoided and what they avoided
During spring break in March, I finally asked God an important question—a question I’d been avoiding. “Was I right when I wrote that my parents didn’t love me?” Quickly, the still, small voice in my mind replied, “Yes. They didn’t know how.”

God is patient and kind.

Honestly, I would’ve liked an apology at some point. For something. Anything. Oh well. Their unwillingness to acknowledge problems and speak challenging truths was part of their sickness, to be sure.

From the last series:

God did not tell my parents or Brandon’s parents to treat us wrong—to abuse or neglect us. Our parents are responsible for that. Our parents are responsible for failing to wake up one day and admit the obvious: “You know what? My way isn’t going so well. I need to ask God what his way is and make some changes.” They kept doing the same old thing and getting the same old results. Abuse. Neglect. Lies. Complacency. Control. Apathy.

Sin conceives and eventually
gives birth to loss and trauma.

Truth and peace
Digging for truth about my childhood definitely shined the light on my parents’ abuse and neglect. Some people would rightfully ask this basic question: “Was that really helpful?” Absolutely. My life finally made sense after I saw and accepted the truth—sad as the truth was. And I viewed myself and my sins and mistakes with more compassion. I finally understood my own confusion and my decisions. My life finally made sense. It really did.

When I looked at The Big Picture—asking the hard questions (why, why, why?)—God was faithful to answer them all. The truth gave me a great sense of peace. Peace about who I am.

Bookends and the destination
I realized something extremely cool while I was writing this post. These dream interpretations bookended an incredible time in my life.

Step 1
God gave me the dream interpretation about my dad while I was taking my first step into this chapter of The Healing Journey—The Season of Grieving about my parents, my childhood, my life. Seriously. It was Day 1, Task 1, Relationship 1. I was writing my anger letter to my dad.

The end
Two years later—after I forgave my mom, after she died, after I finished digging for the answers to many, many questions—God gave me the dream interpretation about my mom. He gave me that dream interpretation at the end of that whole process, when I could smile about it. I could smile because I knew the work was done. The grieving was done. The truth was clear. The healing was complete. It really was.

People like to argue that The Healing Journey is never over. If that’s true, then Jesus is not The Great Physician. He’s just The Mediocre Nurse Practitioner. Now my eyes are bugging out. The destination of The Healing Journey is actually healing. We sure like to make things complicated sometimes. For more on those subjects, see What Forgiving Is and Isn’t, part 8.

So, what does today’s post have to do with the title—“When the Need to Forgive Has Been Hidden”? When God gave me those two important dreams—one when I was a child and the other when I was an adult—I had no idea that my parents had been abusive and neglectful. I didn’t have the foggiest idea. I didn’t know—for 50-something years—that I needed to forgive them for their abuse and neglect. I really didn’t know. We unpacked those strange realities in the last post.

The dreams were clues. Essential clues. Clues given by God. Clues that I needed to follow to find the truth. And the truth led me through The Season of Grieving to the destination—to healing, which included forgiving my parents. I journeyed to the place where I could lay everything down—my anger, my disappointment, my desire to rewrite my story, my regrets, my sadness, my unforgiveness and more. I laid it all down.

I’m thankful for my life. All of it. I can’t tell you how good that feels.

Smiles galore.

Coming next: I’ll be digging into two fascinating dreams about Brandon’s relatives. Come back soon to see what I discover—in the houses, the white linen, the windows and much more.

Until then, thanks for reading and for Choosing Peace.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Galatians 5:1

Song for Healing: Enjoy this unforgettable song released 21 years ago—“Free” by Ginny Owens.