Monday, September 10, 2018

A child of neglect

As Paul and I were prepping the food for our daughter's birthday party on Saturday, I mentioned that my parents had never organised a birthday party for me when I was a kid. Paul seemed taken aback by that news.

"We had very different childhoods," I explained.

And it's true. Paul never doubted he was loved by his parents. As a kid, I was pretty confident in my dad's love for me, but was equally confident my mum despised me. She was, at best, disinterested in my life. At worst, annoyed by it. Her catchphrase, when I approached her, was a cutting, "What do you want now?"

I learned to stay out of her way.

As all children of neglect will know, there are some advantages to having an absentee parent. I became fiercely independent, very young. I was free to roam wherever I wanted, without anyone checking up on me. I got to play and explore to my heart's content. I got myself the three kilometres to school and back every day, building my strength and self-confidence. I did my homework because I wanted to please my dad and my teachers, who were the reliable adults in my life. I did things for myself that most little kids don't do, so I became competent at a lot of things really early.

Thankfully, my relationship with my mother did improve in my late teenage years, after Mum underwent counselling. However, the damage to my psyche had already been done, because, despite all the good that can come from neglect, there are inevitable downsides.

The most significant downside for me is that I don't trust my heart easily. The one person who was supposed to love me, didn't, and I interpreted that to mean there was something fundamentally wrong with me. In all my relationships, I withdraw at the first sign of trouble. I do not show people the real me. I either leave people alone, or I show them what I think they want to see and leave it at that. If I suspect my friends are getting sick of me, I move on, despite the love I may feel for them.

The lie I believe in my heart is that all people will reject me as soon as they glimpse the real me.

I learned early on that the only safe person in my life was me, and so I've coped these thirty-something years by keeping myself to myself. Yes, even in my marriage.

It's really debilitating.

I don't want to live like that anymore.

Thankfully God has been working behind the scenes in my life, and I've come to trust that he won't reject me. In fact, he sees my flaws better than anyone and has paved a way for me to be restored to the wholly beautiful Emma he intended me to be.

In the hope of something better for my life and my relationships, I've started going to counselling again. My aim is to try and combat the lie I believe about myself, as well as to find strategies for investing myself in relationships, even when the inevitable conflict arises.

I also want to find my rest and comfort in God, which is something Abraham, King David and Jesus all did during their times on earth. It's something I've been thinking about since going on a retreat earlier this month run by On Becoming Esther.

To aid in the process of sinking into God, I've joined a contemplative prayer group, started doing a bible study written by Aimee Walker of On Becoming Esther, and bought myself a ticket to SISTAS conference for my birthday. I'm looking forward to spending a solid 48 hours soaking up God's presence.

All that said, please pray for me. I have hope, but I also have doubt. The patterns are so ingrained inside of me, it's going to take a miracle to unravel them.

Emma xx


  1. Praying for you today Emma. A place of vulnerability and dependence on God is not an easy place to be but it is a good place. It is also not always easy to walk through it in His timing. May you, like David, have peace and confidence that, "The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;the Lord accepts my prayer." Ps 6:9

    1. I do have confidence in the fact God will bring everything about to its good conclusion. It's not easy in the interim though, but I'm learning to lean into him more through the dark times. Thank you for your prayers, Ruth. I definitely need them. xx

  2. Wow! Emma! How vulnerable and how incredibly articulate you are.The things we don't know about people! Sending love.

  3. Emma, you are a brave and admirable woman for writing this post. I think this kind of honesty is what people need to hear more of. We all have a raft of ‘issues’ we are dealing with and you are amazing for sharing yours and starting down the path to freedom in this area. I have struggled for decades with fear of failure. God is still working with me on this, but I applaud you for your transparency and will certainly be praying for you.
    Remember, our hearts are like onions - they have layers. I pray God helps you deal with the first layer, undoing some of this stuff. He’s got you, and he’s not going anywhere.
    So much love, Aimee

    1. I would never have guessed that about you, Aimee. You always come across as so competent and put together. You're so right that we are all carrying around our brokenness in different ways. I pray God will reveal his grace to you in this area, and thank you for your prayers for me. Love Emma xx

  4. Thank you Emma.. I am in my 60s and reading your blog post today, I identified with your experience and suddenly understood more about my own behaviour over the years. Praying for both of us! K

    1. That's amazing! I hope God's will work good things in your heart and mine. Bless you! Emma

  5. God loves you Emma and his love will never let go or become exhausted, or frazzled, or disinterested. He is keenly interested in you and your welfare. I have no doubt that he has placed gifts inside you ready for you to bring forth in due time. The conference sounds great I hope you have a wonderful time. I see that Bobbi Houston is one of the guest speakers, I read her book The Sisterhood earlier this year, it was very interesting.

    1. Thank you Sherri! I'm looking forward to SISTAS, even though I don't know anything about any of the speakers. It sounds like I need to track down that book! I really just want to soak into God a bit and let him fill my heart.

      I actually bought a bracelet at the last SISTAS conference that I wear all the time. It says, "Never will I leave or forsake you" and I wear it to remind myself that God has always held me in the palm of his hand, and he always will. Thank you for your encouraging words today. Bless you. Emma

  6. Emma, I just wanted to say Thank you for being vulnerable and honest with this post. I feel privileged that you let me in to this part of your heart and really pray that letting it out is healing for you. I can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed and falling short in so many areas. This is what I reckon: God is lifting the veil for you, in areas long buried. It feels awful, painful and overwhelming. Looking at the fullness of our brokenness and sin, whether its things done against us or by us, is not nice and it looks impossible to fix. But, I really want to encourage you, that it is time for restoration and healing. God has been preparing you and getting you strong enough to have this blight exposed, and you are rising to the challenge of acknowledging it, then giving it back to him so He can deal to it. I LOVE the scripture from Joel 2.25 that God 'will restore (repay) the years the locust have eaten..." That has been so encouraging to me and I have declared it over my life many times as I have addressed the years ravaged by disappointment and betrayal.

    I also want to encourage you: you are pioneering a new way to do family. That is a HARD road. You are changing the tide from curses into blessings for your children and the generations that come after you. You're creating a legacy in the Lord that your children will pick up and build on. Everything you deal with now means your children will not have to. That is so exciting! You are strong, you are mighty, you are brave...and our God is the God of the breakthrough, God of the impossible, God of Abundant life, God of restoration, God who is able to immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine! Keep blessing those who have hurt you.

    You are truly inspirational.
    Love, Megan

    1. Oh Megan! There is so much wisdom and encouragement in what you've written. I love it. I want to print it out and stick it on my prayer wall. In fact, I think I'll do just that. Thank you! What a beautiful way of looking at the situation. You are so right. God is good. God IS able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. I'm finally starting to understand that truth for myself and it's like a light bulb has switched on for me. xxxxx


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