One of my adult daughters and I went to the new Beauty and the Beast movie. Oddly enough, there were many adults in the theater without kids in tow! Truly, Beauty and the Beast is a classic love story; one that teaches us that the soul of another is more important than what is on the outside, that family is everything, that it is okay to dance to the beat of a different drummer, and that in the end we will all live happily ever after. If only life were so magical!
As I sat in my theater seat mesmerized by every moment, every lyric and note, the heartache, and triumph, I also found myself weeping. Come on now, I am an adult woman, well over the age of 50 who does not believe in fairy tale endings, yet I wept! Being the self-analyst I am, I needed to dissect such an unexpected reaction. What I discovered surprised even me.
The tears were happy tears, tears of joy for Belle hanging in there, seeing beauty in the soul of the beast, for loving when others chose to fear, and hate. And, tears for my kids and me having made it to the other side of abuse. Even though we are several years on the other side, in that moment when Belle and the Beast were dancing in the ballroom, the realization hit me with full force. Isn’t it interesting how we are bathed in revelation and light at the most odd moments? I was crying tears of joy, an emotion that had not been a part of my life for a long time; the kind of joy that permeates every cell, the kind of joy that fills every tear flowing down our cheeks, and inhabits every infectious belly laugh.
Abuse robs us of joy, hope, purpose; it sucks the life force right out of our souls. Many who survive abuse in any form never fully recover to experience life on the other side. The insidious nature of abuse lulls us to sleep, brainwashes us into believing that what is happening in our lives is somehow “normal”. The brainwashing tricks our minds into believing that we are the cause of the abuse, that if we were more cooperative, or tried harder, the abuse would stop. Alas, it does not. The only option for those caught in the insanity of abusive relationships is to get out, the first step in living life on the other side, and the beginning of hope for healing the fractured spirit and messed up mind.
I do not believe any can experience true healing without God. God meets each of us at our point of need and He comes in many different ways. Literal lightning bolts from heaven don’t fall, but God does send them to us in other ways. Family may come alongside, a true friend may step up and offer help, whether it be financial, spiritual or emotional, opportunities open up where once there were none. These experiences begin the process of healing as we consciously or subconsciously internalize the reality that we are worthwhile, accepted, and even loved by others. Hope begins to well in our spirits for the possibility of a better life; God is at the center of renewed hope.
Why didn’t God intervene long before the abuse started, before the damage was done? I cannot answer that except to say that we each have free will, the freedom to decide for ourselves, and unfortunately we often make poor decisions; decisions without God’s input. The other side of that is abusers exercise their free will in the lives of others. The whole free will thing sounds like a good deal until it is exercised apart from God’s will and used to harm others. Disaster is usually right around the corner.
Leaving abusive relationships requires trust; trust is in short supply for those of us on the receiving end of abuse, however. At some point many who muster the courage to leave have reached out to God and trusted that He would guide us out of the darkness. Trust does not come easily for us; at one time we had trusted the abuser. The struggle to freedom is real, and the path lit one step at a time. We learn to trust all over again, but this time the One we trust is trustworthy.
To weep real tears of joy was a new step for me on the journey of healing. Many of us harden our hearts to joy, refuse to feel, shut it down in self-preservation. To feel means that we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable again; a state that many avoid for the rest of their lives. Vulnerability is risky business, even with God.
In some ways the Beast is representative of those who have experienced abuse; Belle saw through the hurt, thru the armoured exterior of self-preservation and protection, and showed the Beast he was accepted as he was, and worthy of love. Her acceptance of him chipped away at the wall he had erected around his heart. If we are blessed, God brings “Belle”s into our lives to see thru the hurt, fear and mistrust. For me, it is my husband. He came along and took all of us on, hurt and all. Is he perfect? Nope, but he has walked thru a lot of healing with us, and taken a lot from all of us as we have worked thru the remnants of the trauma. It hasn’t been easy for him, but he has been understanding and patient; qualities Belle had as well.
In the end, as with all love stories, Belle and the Beast danced their way into their perfect life together. It doesn’t happen that way for us living in the real world, unfortunately. We still have to deal with the disagreements, the misunderstandings, the bills, and the ups and downs of life, but we can still dance as we heal, and feel, for the first time in a long while, joy…..