It’s strange, the journeys we go on when we step back and let God take charge. After months of trying to quiet myself, of trying to discern, of being as obedient as I could, I had hopes of a new Advent journey into some unknown. I longed for something new and refreshing – because I was tired out from the work year. Tired of the same ruts and trenches. The same struggles.
I wanted a change and I hoped for this Advent to give me that. I tried to direct God a bit too – by asking to be gifted with the book, A Pathway Under The Gaze of Mary. I went to a place where I was sure I would find it. Being the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it made me doubly certain that my prayers would be answered.
Once more, I learned that my way was not God’s way. There was no book.
So, I allowed my disappointment to steer me towards hearts that needed to be filled. The 12th of December passed quietly. The 13th brought little parcels of sweetness as we took a break for a quick holiday with the family.
But the 14th dawned and the familiar restlessness was back. It was the feast day of an old friend, St. John of the Cross, to whom I owe my very life. There being no spot in my heart that I cordon off from him, I lay my seeking at his feet, asking,
What am I supposed to learn?
There is always something to learn when you come. So, what is it this time? All through my washing, my baking and cooking, I badgered. Tell me. Teach me.
He helped me as I cooked. Watched over me as I napped. Yet, not a word passed through St. John’s lips.
But as the rain-soaked night air pressed the hidden sun to sleep, two words from of old appeared once more,
As any adult survivor of Narcissistic Personality Abuse will tell you, celebrations like Christmas are really tough. Because you’re expected to go home, to light fires of cheer and goodwill where your love is demanded in ways and means beyond you, but not valued nor treasured. Times like these, though brief, fill all the barrels for the coming year with enough hurt and tears to keep the sun out.
And yet, the barrels keep filling and spilling over because the abuse never stops as long as contact remains. For the NPD parent firmly entrenched in narcissism, to stop abusing is to die. They keep hurting us in order to live on, believing in the deception that they have only our best interests at heart.
But if we choose to draw the lines in the sand to cut off and separate our lives from theirs, we erect a wall they cannot climb – which is what I finally did, after more than 40 years of pain and madness that took my marriage and family life to the brink of tragedy and life-long sorrow. I was at the very edge of the cliff. Just before the rocks beneath me gave way, St. John of the Cross pulled me away. But he didn’t just leave me a safe distance from that cliff-end.
St. John brought me face to face with God.
And that day, I learned that Christian NPD parents are not above abusing the 4th Commandment: Honour thy father and mother, that all may go well with you. That day, I learned that I had been trained and conditioned to worship, not honour. And that was wrong. That day too, I learned that no vocation must be forsaken for the love of earth.
My submission to Narcissistic Personality Abuse was destroying my vocation of Marriage and Family.
In my situation, there was no option of standing up to my abusers. Not a chance of gently making them understand or even of forcing them to respect my vocation, because not only did this abuse in my family stretch back to two generations with multiple abusers and secret victims and abuse of varying degrees, it was also fed from both bloodlines. For every limit I had endeavoured to impose, there was always someone else with NPD in the family to back them up, to enforce the idea that they had done no wrong.
That it was I who was wrong. And that they had been wronged by me.
In God’s heart that day of my epiphany, I finally saw that the only way to save my marriage and family was to yield to a boundary my abusers could never cross.
It’s now been 5 years since I’ve begun to learn the meaning of lying down in green meadows where a brook gurgles past blooms that dance in winds of freedom. Yet, every celebration time, the mist of fear and worry rises a little within me: Should the boundary remain? Should I return? Each time the question forms, I become afraid. I begin to fret over unlocked gates, passing cars. I tense up in familiar family grounds. I fear the phone, the mailman. All the things that bear the stains of past encounters.
In those minutes when I give that question life, I am unable to live. My mind gets caught in the trap of what-ifs. Prayer becomes careless, patience erodes, anger creeps in. And that is ominously telling. The boundary must remain for the vocation to live.
In today’s coming though, St. John brings me a second reason for the boundary: the safety it accords me is not merely for my sanity and vocation; it is to enable me to pray for my parents. The existence of the boundary means I am no longer trapped and held in bondage to the abuse that takes hostage my very mind and will. I am no longer caught up in anger and hurt and frustration. My mind is no longer clouded by lies and deception. My time is no longer taken up in paying homage to those who believe themselves to be God. I am free to live as God wants me to.
But I have also been freed – to pray heart and soul, for my abusers. Because as the good priest made clear to me that day – the abuse makes me the person who knows exactly what to pray for them – that one day, like me, they too reach that shore where God’s outstretched Hand awaits them.
And like me, they reach out and take It. And be freed.
For that reason, the boundary must remain. The court of public opinion would assert that these are lines drawn with hate and unforgiveness.
They are wrong. It is love.