I watch with a heavy heart as five young children in my family who, through no fault of their own, struggle with living life. These particular children were adopted into our family before they were three years old, but all the love in the world has not been able to erase the moments when they felt abandoned, hungry and afraid. They learned very early that they could only depend on themselves for survival, this was a defining moment for these sweet babies. At a time when they should have no concerns and be free to learn how to use their imaginations for play they were faced with how to have their basic needs met. They needed to be loved but no one responded, they cried for food and none was given, and they were afraid and no one comforted them. Even now in their preteen years, they find it hard to count on their loving parents to provide and care for them physically and emotionally. We can understand how physical and emotional abuse can cause this type of hurt in a child. My hope is that with counseling, lots of love and the help of physicians, these children will one day have a redefining moment. One of them seems to be on that path.
My defining moment is not as tragic as these children above but I know as an adult that it had a tremendous effect on my life and especially in my healing from sexual assault. My biological father left when I was six weeks old and never returned to our home. My brother and sister were seven and five years old when he walked out, leaving a hole in their hearts that each of them tried to fill without success. As I got older, my siblings used to tease me that our father left because I was so ugly when I was born that he couldn’t stand looking at me. They thought this was funny and I would laugh with them. Their words never really bothered me until one day my biological father came back to town and ask to see us, it was really a guise to see my Mother.
I was five years old and had never met my father and I was so excited! At that first meeting, I wanted him to hug me and tell me he was sorry for leaving, that didn’t happen. What he did do was to reach in his pocket and hand me a nickel. As I am holding this cherished nickel in my hand, he asked to see it. I handed it to him and with a quick glance he stuck it back in his pocket without a word or a replacement. My defining moment, I wasn’t even worth a nickel! In that moment, the teasing of my siblings became my truth, I was ugly and worthless!
Twelve years later, I heard that my father had returned to the area and was staying at his parent’s house. I was now seventeen and decided that I had to see him. I had to find out why he took that nickel back. I introduced myself to him and he looked at me with confusion. The perplexed expression remained until I explained that I was the third child he had with Lou, my Mother. After a few minutes, I told him my memory about the nickel. To my surprise, he remembered! He had no memory that he had a daughter named Debbie but he remembered his precious nickel! I asked, “How could you do such a thing?”
His response, “It is my lucky Indian head nickel.”
Trying to hold back the tears I asked, “Do you still have it?”
Reaching into his pocket to access his prized possession he said, “I sure do.”
“May I see it?” He handed it to me and I replied, “It is mine now! I have spent the last twelve years thinking I wasn’t even worth a nickel! As long as I have this, I am at least worth a nickel!” That nickel sits in an alabaster box on my dresser still today. That was a redefining moment, though I wouldn’t see it as such until much later in life, but it was start.
How many defining moments in your life have been lies that you have accepted as life truths? Perhaps you weren’t protected by those who were supposed to love you, or you were abused by someone you trusted. Has someone’s constant berating words overcome you to the point of believing their words were true? Or have you made some mistakes and are feeding yourself lies about who you are and your worth? If we do not value ourselves we will never think we are worthy of the struggle it is to heal from sexual assault. We will believe that we deserve to feel lousy about ourselves. We will convince ourselves that we do not deserve anything more, making healing an elusive goal.
May I help you begin a redefining moment right now? No matter what your circumstances, no matter what you’ve done or had done to you, you have value and are worthy to be happy!