Although we may have forgiven someone who hurt us, we might yet still harbour fears that they, or someone else, may hurt us again in a similar way. Those fears might rule our hearts. Lucy Marfleet shows how she was freed of these types of binding fears. Please read her encouraging story.
I don’t remember much about learning the piano. I do remember the fear though. It accompanied every lesson, starting in my stomach as I was driven every Saturday morning and reinforced in every scale and arpeggio I had to practise through the week. It played out in my nervous and incapable fingers and it cast shadows through my young mind.
I hated learning the piano, I remember that much. I was only at primary school, but had been raced through several grades with no option of stopping lessons.
I don’t think it was the piano itself though.
It was my piano teacher. He made me desperately uncomfortable. I wanted to please him, but I felt watched, judged, small and incompetent. He came up and sat close to play duets or show me what I was doing wrong, sometimes reaching his arm around me. He drew glasses on my music, ostensibly to draw my attention to places I needed to work at. I saw in the small pencil doodles his eyes watching me, even when I was at home. I didn’t want to look at them.
When he died a few years after I finally stopped lessons, my mum commented that as a child I had said I loved him. I had forgotten that. Sometimes children say that sort of thing about their teachers. But there had been such mixed feelings about him. I couldn’t understand at eight or nine why I was scared; I felt sharp and flat all at once when I was around him – eager to get his praise, terrified of his presence, his nearness, his criticism.
And there was a sad edge to the experience. He had died by suicide, with the reason being because the police had found unhealthy pictures of children on his computer. Was he overstepping the mark with me? Hardly – I cannot recollect anything sinister he did or said. But he exerted power over me in ways which terrified me. These days you might bracket it as grooming.
I was terrified of men for some years after the experience, finding ways to avoid being alone with them, dressing unattractively, wanting to prove myself in my own right. The fears didn’t stop there either. I feared elements associated with the lessons, with the piano teacher, with music and particularly with physical contact. I made mental and emotional blocks and guarded myself against anything which reminded me of failing.
God didn’t want to leave me there.
Slowly over the following years, each area of fear was challenged as my trust grew. It started with forgiveness.
I had to learn my need for forgiveness. That forgiving in practice is so much more hard work than the theory. That there is no quick fix. Forgiveness meant letting go of the grips of fear, even the fears I was gripping on to. God gently and slowly led me through each fear and helped me overcome them.
I was scared of failure. It took two years of my life working and studying in the world of engineering, culminating in an incredibly bad set of results at university, to show me that I was not cut out for it. I had to retake my exams in order to change subject. I got down to intensive study, passed each module and transferred to a subject which I love: theology. The failure was a step towards a more positive future. Later I failed to get funding to do my masters in biblical studies in a good UK university. This failure too was met by an unexpected opportunity to study in Prague instead. Studying at the International Baptist Theological Seminary has opened up other exciting doors through contacts I’ve made there. I have learned to embrace failure rather than fear it.
I was scared of men. This was a big fear; perhaps the major one for me. In my mid-twenties I had never had a boyfriend and assumed I never would. Who could I trust? How could I touch them? I shunned physical contact. I opened up to my minister, who prayed with me. Less than a month later, God spoke to me as I sat at a table with a group of other Christians that I was about to meet my husband. It was true; I did. He was even an engineer. Those two years getting inside the mindset of engineers turned out to be worthwhile after all. God brought me a gentle man who was willing to learn to love me well. It took me months to be willing to let him kiss me, but we both realised that God’s timing made perfect sense.
I hated music. Despite playing in music groups in churches, I very rarely connected emotionally with it. But God loves music; I’m sure of it. Gradually over time I was able to dissociate myself from feelings of anger or apathy and learn to enjoy it, to even seek it out and learn new things. There are ways music can be used to express things words can’t say alone.
I hated feeling small, voiceless, insignificant. God’s underlying grace has carried me through so many storms, including many days of deep depression as I yearned for wholeness and significance. When I was weak God strengthened me and gave me purposes in helping others at home and abroad, and moved me from self-damaging thoughts to being able to champion the needs of the voiceless. He has much still to do with me. I am still very much a Work in Progress.
But my story is that forgiveness has opened up a road to healing and wholeness. This journey God has been taking me on gets better as I understand more of his mercies in action. I have shifted from a minor to a major key emotionally. Now I understand that God is Good, and that Good Things are Going to Happen.
Lucy writes at www.lucymarfleet.com and www.jamandgiraffes.com. She has degrees in theology from Durham University and the International Baptist Theological Seminary. She is also a trained teacher and has worked in schools and prisons. Her writing stems from a passion for the Old Testament and for those on the edges. Recently she completed a series on interviewing biblical characters for Families First online magazine. She tries to tell the truth in imaginative ways.