Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Yoanna's Struggles

Helène Aylon, 'Self-Portrait'
Yoanna's Struggles
© (2006) By Yoanna

When I was a little girl my parents never really ever spoke of God. All I knew was what I heard on TV.

I often thought of God as being sort of like Santa Claus, "if your good, then good things would happen to you."

I've been told over and over again that "the first perception one has of God comes from the way we perceive our parents". I guess this has been one of my biggest problems connecting with the idea of there being "a loving God."

My childhood experiences tell me that "God" rapes children. Because of this I have never been able to understand why anyone would want to go to a church or a synagogue to worship a sex offender.

I know that I'm not the only person in this world who "just doesn't get it." I have a great deal of difficulties separating out what happened to me (physical and sexual abuse) as being actions of a human vs. something "God" decided should happen to me.

For a long time I thought that I must have been born bad. It was the only explanation I could come up with.

I was always trying to figure out how to make myself be a better person so that bad things would stop happening to me.

From the time I was a young girl until my late teens I would volunteer a great deal of my free time. If someone needed help with something I would be the first to jump up to do what ever it was. The problem was that no matter what I did my father would still come to my bed late at night.

When I went away to college I started searching for something spiritual. I had no idea what that meant, yet I was on a sort of quest.

I never felt at home in any of the Jewish youth groups, so I dabbled with the Christian ones. I still couldn't connect. The only place that felt authentic to me was within the Buddhist community. For some reason the philosophy felt empowering and healing, yet it was still lacking something. I still had the issue of having to worship something that I felt was abusive.

I have called many rabbis over the last few years in hopes of finding someone who would help me work though my "God issues." The problem has been that it seemed none of them could relate to what I was feeling. The only thing they all said was that I had to separate out the actions of my father from the actions of Hashem. I've asked them how do I do this, yet none had an answer.

I've gotten tired of banging my head against the wall. I've just given up on the concept of a "a loving God". It all seems to me to be like a fairy tale.

(This conversation has been continued here)


Blogger Vicki said...

Dear Yoanna,

I grew up with a similar backbround...there was no talk of God in our house, except in swear words. So I figured I must have been very bad and nothing I did would make me good and my father kept coming into my room each night too. How could God be good??? It is imposible to think he/she could be a "good/loving" God. I have found some peace in that area talking with other women...and participating in some activities at our Temple. Our Rabbi is a woman and is understanding....to a point. I am in therapy which helps....but last year my husband of 34 years walked out on me...and it was during a time I had just told my daughters about the abuse. He has never been very supportive....basically he didn't want to hear about it. And I also came down with a chronic autoimmune disease which manifested itself on my skin. So it was like my skin was crying out too. Now I am on my own...and I cry a lot and I am not settled and I continue to look for that "loving" God....as bad things continue to happen to me.


August 16, 2006 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Yoanna,

I'm beginning to believe that survivors who have been abused by those in spiritual positions (whether parents or rabbis) can only begin to really heal when we let ourselves give up and let go of any idea of "God", and think of power and autonomy for ourselves.

I don't really believe I began to start healing until I let go of any 'neediness' for a god, a group, a religion, a people. It's frightening, at first, but as time has gone on, that is what has worked for me.

And if it turns out there *is* a God after all, I'm sure he/she will be big enough to be more than understanding.

August 16, 2006 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous #1,

I too had to let go of any concept I had that there was a higher power greater then me.

I started living for today. It's sort of like John Lennon's song "Imagine."

I too went to rabbis and started to feel like I was being blamed for not understanding what they were talking about. I tried "faking it until I made it", yet I only felt like a hypocrite.

August 16, 2006 10:56 AM  
Anonymous If Only said...

I think it's time for the "if only's".

1. If only there was a rabbi who was a survivor of child sexual abuse would be public. I know there are rabbi survivors out there. If only they would let us know how they were able to make the connection that some of us are struggling with.

2. If only our rabbis would try to meet us where we are at. And try to communicate with us in terms that we can understand and relate to.

3. If only our rabbis would stop blaming us and classifying us as being "needy" or "mentally ill". could you imagine what would happen if they would for once see us all as individuals who have been traumatized?

4. If only our rabbis would stop passing survivors off to other people. When I ask questions they just want to refer me to a therapist. I have spiritual questions. If only they would take the time out to learn enough so they could help answer them for me.

5. If only God would let us know why he or she allowed us to be raped as children. How does this all help things in the long run? How does it help in the"master plan??

August 16, 2006 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so sad. I wish I had the vocabulary to help each and everyone of you to understand the beauty of Judaism.

August 16, 2006 8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Yoanna,
I too have a very hard time with
G-d. I teach my children the beauty of Judaism,the holidays, the prayers and how to thank G-d by saying a Bracha. I still don't understand. if G-d is listening to if we say the correct bracha or the right prayers at the right time and He is so personally involed with each of us then how does G-d allow these horrible bad thing to happen to us. I know He can't take away free will and some people do horrible things but NO CHILD DESERVES ABUSE!! It is not something we endure and then it is over but it affects us the rest of our lives. I want to understand how to put these two things together. How can Hashem(G-d) allow these things to continue to happen and expect us to love and belive in him. Please someone help us understand!


August 17, 2006 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For any Rabbi's reading this I want you to respond.


I used to have this great pin that said, "I WAS NOT CREATED IN YOUR IMAGE OF GOD."

The Jewish "frum" version of God that I grew up with leaves me hating Hashem, myself, and my parents, who abused me and taught me about Hashem at the same time.
They taught me that Hashem is constantly judging our every word, thought, and action very strictly... ...So I am always judging myself strictly.
They taught me to "love" Hashem by doing the Mitzvot (commandments), and that we do not question Hashem's ways.
...They expected me to treat them the same way while they were abusing me.
They taught me that Hashem made the Haulocaust happen because people were leaving Torah.
...So when I left, I blamed myself for Hitler's Holocaust as well as for my parents.

When my family abandoned me and I was truly alone in a psychiatric institute, tied to a bed to keep me from hurting myself (the way I "knew" I deserved to be hurt),...I suddenly had an Ah,hah, moment about God.
I realized that I had been relating to God as a person.
God is not a person.
God is the force of good and beauty and love in the world.
The other force, the one that causes me to hate myself, question my goodness, hurt myself (ie. my parents when I was a child, and now, myself, as an adult,)
THAT is the force of evil.
And in that moment in the hospital bed, I allowed myself to recreate my image of God to be the parent that I always needed but never had.
God is my (imaginary?) all knowing and all loving/accepting parent.
I want God to be real in that way.
I NEED God in this way, but does that make God real??
At times I feel it must be true and at times I just feel sad and confused.
I was taught that God's love is very conditional. If I am "good" Hashem will bring blessings to me, and if I am "bad" Hashem will punish me. It is written very clearly in the Torah. My parent's taught me that I am intrinsically bad.
How can my parents be wrong?
And if God loves me unconditionally, and He/She is truly God, than why wouldn't He/She love and accept my parents the same way even though they abused me?? (Yuck!)
If there is justice in the world than WHERE IS GOD when children cry alone and in pain???? Where was God when I was an alone and crying child for so many long years??
I can only hate a God who is all powerful and let's children suffer.
So maybe God is not all powerful?
But then He/She is no longer "God" and becomes "god"!
Or maybe there is a good reason for suffering, that we just don't get, because we are human and limited in our view?
In that case we are justified in being angry at God for Her/His apparent abandonement of us as hurting children and adult survivors.
...Like a two year old who doesn't understand why mom takes her to the doctor to get a shot...and in pain, fear, and anger, screams at mom, and pushes her away...???
Does mom fault the small child for her anger? No, she comforts and accepts the intense feelings because she knows that they are VALID, and that the child is not expected to understand.
I want to believe that this is what God is.
So I allow myself to HATE God and I scream at and push God away and I know that it is ok to do that. Because if God is a REAL God than He/She is not going anywhere.
You can do it to, Yoanna.
And when you are finished yelling at God, ...remember to cry because you are HURTING and God will be right there to hold you.

I struggle with this issue every day Yoanna, and I want you to know that you are not alone and it is not your fault that Rabbi's allow themselves to be so stupid and uneducated.

I wish you healing and peace, Yoanna.
Eisrau's daughter

August 18, 2006 3:44 AM  

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