In the last section called "God Heals Trauma" I spoke briefly about how God began to address the severe difficulties I had as a direct result of traumatic events. I received no counseling for this because no counsel was available. At the time, there was no acknowledgment that the traumas I had endured as an adult or child could cause my symptoms. Psychological abuse was not even acknowledged or appreciated as a serious form of child abuse.
Many children retreat into denial over what is happening to them, but by and large I did not. I did not believe my mother and stepfather were nice people or hold out unending hope that they would change. I did not know what kind of psychological 'illness' each of them might be said to have, but did know one thing: What they were doing was wrong and cruel even though I did not know what it was called.
As a young adult, I was so overwhelmed with the task of being on my own that I did not have the time or energy to explore my feelings over my childhood. Furthermore, I seized that scripture about "...forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead..." as my Solution to everything. Problem was, that scripture is not about child abuse or recovery from trauma at all, but rather about forgetting the 'attractive' things (prestige or power, wealth, the pleasures of wanton sin) that a person gives up in favor of Christ. Still, many Christians whisper it to one another as good advise for all situations. It is not always good advise at all.
By 1985, I worked in a residential substance abuse center on staff as a nurse. We were already well aware that most of our clients had been abused as children. Some of their stories were astonishing-- certainly their stories made me feel 'lucky' that I was not physically abused like they were! However, one day a co-worker showed me a magazine article to read. The title of the article I was shown gave me a start. It was titled, "Verbal Abuse." The article stated that therapists had now identified a new type of 'abuse', which they decided to call verbal abuse. Then it described what verbal abuse was. Reading the article was nothing short of stunning to me. Even the words or phrases used as examples of verbal abuse in the article were exactly what I had heard as a child on a nearly constant basis.
As if that weren't enough, at approximately the same time, the song "Luka" came out by Suzzane Vega. I usually did not like to listen to the contemporary secular music of the 1980's, but the clients played it every day. The song described how an abused child feels: "I think it's cause I'm clumsy. I try not to talk to loud. Maybe it's because I'm crazy. I try not to act too proud...They only hit, til you cry, after that you don't ask why... you just don't argue anymore..." When I first heard it, I fell apart and cried, eventually pulling myself together. Later, I called my younger brother and asked him if he had heard the song yet, and if he could identify with it. He said he mostly certain had heard it and that the song stunned him too because it was so accurate to how he felt as a child. It was then that I told him that I had heard of something called "verbal abuse," and we tallked about what happened when we were children.
Years later, I had the following dream which notified me of the spiritual effect of the verbal abuse I endured as a child. I will relate a part of this dream because of what the Lord said to me afterwards.
The Wounded Tree (approx. 1990):
The first part of this dream is edited out because although it was related to the second part, it would take a very long background explanation. However, in the second part, I saw myself coming close to a tree and reaching for some of its leaves on the ground nearby. The tree was very large, straight and tall, with most of the 'crown' on the top, leaving a huge trunk that was bare of multiple branches. It's leaves were golden brown or brown-- like either late autumn leaves. For some reason I was determined to gather some of the tree's shed leaves from the ground. I could not get too close to the tree while doing so, though. In the dream, I knew that would be dangerous. Then I looked up. There it was-- this huge tree. However, it was dark outside. An eerie wind blew through the branches of tree and all around me. The branches were mostly bare of leaves since it was late autumn. What was amazing though was the huge hole in the center of the tree. This hole was halfway up between the trunk and where the branches began. It did not go all the way through the tree at all but it was large enough in diameter that one might wonder how the tree was still alive. Then I was shown the exact nature and order of Satan's attack on me which took advantage of this wound in the tree. I also understood the meaning of the tree's wound.My mother never once complimented me that I can remember. Not once. Throughout my whole childhood. Never did I have her approval, and never her praise. The tree was a representative of the condition of my soul before coming to Christ, and the hole in the tree was there as a result of this total absence of approval. Sometimes I 'returned' to the sad state of my 'old self' by seeking or hoping for approval or compliments. I was desparate for praise-- always trying to fill up that hole. That is why I was trying to gather the dead leaves. The dead leaves, I reasoned, represented the old life.
I woke up.
I woke up crying and physically shaking from this dream. I told God I was sorry that His approval wasn't enough, and that sometimes I sought approval. I repented with bitter tears. Suddenly and unexpectedly the Lord spoke to me in a clear voice: "Teri! People need compliments from other people. They need approval. It is not wrong for you to need approval. It is normal. It is how people grow in a normal way. You do need compliments. It is the failure of others that they do not freely give to you as you have given to them."
Suddenly I realized that God was saying many things at once. For one thing, I should not feel condemned for my human needs. Thinking of these needs as evil or bad was not going to help me. I could not wish them away. For another thing, I often gave sincere compliments to certain people even though I did not receive any of them from those same people. Something was not quite right with that.
God can not entirely substitute for the kindness of other people, and He should not be expected to. Yes we should not run our lives by the approval of man, but I did not do that. Many times over my life I did not let anyone bully me into conformity, and instead suffered the 'consequences' of their disapproval. Even so, I did compromise in small ways. Sometimes I got so desparate that I returned to my past, metaphorically speaking.
I needed to change that. What I realized that night and afterwards, was that I needed to adjust my life by quietly adjusting the people I hung around with. I should no longer be so tolerant of snobbish folks who acted as though if they gave anyone 'lower' or 'needier' than them a compliment, the lucky recipients of their rare benevolence will get big heads. This especially happened with religious folks. Having lived with prideful, withholding, people while growing up, spotting this air of superiority should be pretty easy. Still, I got fooled by a few people sometimes. Only a few years later, a friend and I stood out on my front steps and briefly discussed it. I talked about how some 'friends' had dumped me after all I had done for them, but I knew they were hardly worth the grieving over. He said, "Yeah that has happened to me recently too. Well, Teri. We're just 'trading up' in friends. That's actually a good thing."
And it was.
Confirming visions: The Tree Is Healed (1996-'97)
I have the advantage of writing this retrospective "diary" many years after the fact. This means I can give reports that should be encouraging to anyone who has suffered like I have, and has felt the sting of realizing just how much a wound from their childhood has profoundly effected them.
A large specimen of the American Birchtree is a magnificent tree. It grows straight and tall, with most of the 'crown' on the top. However, it has a peculiar weakness for trees: It cannot heal itself. This is why most people can't resist cutting into the bark to carve their initials--years later what was cut into the tree will still be there.
I had many difficulties and lacked an understanding of love and grace. I knew this very early on in my spiritual walk and prayed about it. As I have indicated, part of the problem really was my exposure to other 'tree cutters', metaphorically speaking. This was verified over and over again by the Lord in many different ways, who made it quite clear that an 'anti-' support system worked against His good will for my life .
People often assume that it is just a matter of knowing and applying certain truths. While this is true in, complete healing cannot be done in a vacuum. In other words, we need each other in the Body of Christ. I already knew I could not do things on my own strength and did make efforts to call for help or talk to people. Even though at times this was extremely difficult and many times it backfired, the Lord kept encouraging me to never give up.
About five years after the dream of the wounded tree, I found myself at a meeting with a woman teacher (prophetically gifted) who spoke about depression and repressed memories. It was exhilirating to listen ot her because she said many things I had been shown by the Lord over the years while I suffered depression. Finally, someone was addressing this issue in a nonsuperficial way, and even offering to pray for people for depression!
Well of course I asked for prayer. What followed was the realization in my mind of a memory from when I was very young. The memory was of my Mom making herself throw up in the bathroom. My father had once indicated that she did this for awhile, and I thought it odd that I never remembered any of it. However, now suddenly, I remembered it. The absolute helplessness and pain I recalled feeling while my Mom hurt herself was horrific. After I remembered this and wept for it, and while this lady prayed for me, I had a small vision of a spatula-type tool sealing up this hole in the tree (it had been so long since the dream, that I had virtually forgotten about it).
So, don't think that I healed myself. I merely co-operated with that healing. That is what the Lord requires and even needs. We do not need to be our own worst enemy, nor let others be that enemy for us. We need to cooperate with Him in all ways and make that a priority. God does use wounded soldiers in ways that we think He might, because he is just too nice to do so. He just cares about us too much.
In any case, at about 1997, God confirmed the healing. A lady who was visiting from another country had a brief vision for me while praying for me. She was puzzled as to why God would show her me as a tree, yet she dutifully described the vision. In it, I was a huge tree. She saw an old wound in the tree that was completely healed. She said the wound had once been a huge hole but now was covered over by new tree 'flesh' and was now as if it had never been. However, the Lord allowed it to be still visible just a little at the edges to remind myself and others that He had healed me, and as a testimony to that healing. She said that the tree had been in winter for so long that no one (including the tree) expected much out of it. Suddenly though, the tree bloomed all over the place--leaves and flowers too, and her indication was that the tree would now never again return to the barren (winter-like) state before.
Over the years, harsh words from very judgmental people (and I am not exaggerating) have set me back. However, any kind or caring person at all made a huge difference in my life too. I would like to assure people that kindness is not wasted upon those who appreciate it and do not use grace as the doormat of their sin. Keep it up!
This is the end of my testimonies of how God used dreams or visions to show me truth or heal me, spread out over the course of many years. I hope you have learned from these examples that were chosen as representatives of approximately 12 years time from 1978 to approximately 1990.
Blessings, Teri Lee Earl
This section of "Diary
of Dreams" called is part of our Prophet
"God As Therapist" ,
"God Heals Trauma." (warning: a three-part off-shoot from this page deals with P.T.S.D. without describing actual traumas)
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