A Healing Retreat for Survivors of Abuse
It was a retreat for survivors of abuse. It was an excellent experience and turns out I felt like I was a little further along than most who were there.
Then the Lord reminded me that I had many rocks left unturned. We had an exercise in which we were left in a room full of crafting, coloring, blocks, magazines-scissors-glue…..and Scripture verses to choose from. We were to pick a verse and create something. I felt like, really foolish – an adult in his 50’s playing first-grader. But I gave it a chance. My Scripture verse was the story of the lost sheep that the shepherd goes and finds in the woods.
And the Lord went to work. I suddenly realized that when the 100th sheep gets lost in the woods, it isn’t an accident. Long before he steps into the woods, he has become dissatisfied with the “herd life” and is searching for more. So, I considered him to be the 99th sheep. He’s the one who wanders the tree line trying to see what the woods have to offer that he thinks is missing in his life.
I was the 99th sheep for quite some time – more than once. So, I drew a Serta sheep with a “99” on his side. And I cut it out like a good first-grader. And I drew the “100” sheep, who I knew very well. And the Lord went back to work some more.
When the Good Shepherd carries the 100th sheep back to the flock, it is covered with scars and missing patches of wool from all the brambles and thick forest undergrowth it scrambled through when the woods played on his fears and stole his hope. So, here he is, dropped back into the flock, with his betrayal, his failure, and his selfishness on display for everyone to see. It’s called shame. This thought brought back my own shame.
It was so unexpected, and so unwelcome. And it took some time. I took a break, a walk, a snack, and my go-to…a cup of good coffee. When I sat back down, I drew the 3rd sheep, #101. The shamed one. So I continued the story. The Good Shepherd’s flock is generous and kind. And they let the ‘found’ sheep fall back into the life of the flock. The shame was all inside. It didn’t come from anyone else’s words or actions. He rejected himself in his heart when the flock wouldn’t do it for him.
Until the special day came. The whole flock looked forward to this day. All but him, #101. He dreaded this day. Shearing day. The day his scars would be laid bare again. Still, there would be one consolation, the Good Shepherd.
On shearing day the shepherd spends as much time as he wants to with each and every sheep in the herd. He doesn’t just cut wool off. He looks them over well, treats anything he finds that needs attention, and loves on them as only He can. After all, the Good Shepherd knows every sheep better than we know ourselves.
Our sheep, #101, is so filled with divided emotions when his turn comes. His time with the Good Shepherd is so worth any shame that will follow. So he puts himself in the Shepherd’s hands no matter what comes next. And it is as wonderful and fulfilling as he expected, and more.
He is ready for the others in the flock. Mingling among the others, he is hesitant to raise his head to the stares and comments. But he is overwhelmed when he looks up to see that so many of his fellow sheep have scars, many deeper than his own, all laid bare today. He doesn’t see condemning stares and comments. He sees only compassion. They are finally able to show him what they have tried to tell him all along. That is when he is no longer a number.
So I had to make another sheep, without a number. Being a first-grader was just what I needed that day. So, I hung my four sheep on the wall with great satisfaction.
A special thanks from the editors of The Healing Voices to our fellow survivor for this gift of wisdom and for capturing this pivotal moment – and sharing it with all of us and our readers. Your writing has reached other hearts this day. For information about the retreat, which is available for men and for women, click here.