Love until it hurts

I spread my life out on the table. My editor and I sifted through the pictures, newspaper clippings, poems I’d written as a child. We were looking for the stories, the driving questions, the point of conflict, the resolution.

And we found it.

But not before I curled up in a chair and broke down, weeping. My editor fetched a tissue. I pulled my knees into my chest.

I wept because he’d asked me a question that pierced my very soul. He asked: “In the book you seem so detached from your babies. Why is that?

I couldn’t answer for several minutes because my whole body was shaking.

He’d asked the hard question, the horrifying question, the good question.

It broke me, but I told the truth.

The truth is: yes, I experienced childhood trauma. Yes, bad things were done to me in the name of God. But the truth is that I also perpetuated the pain because I believed this was what God wanted me to do.

The only way I, as a mother, could implement the child-training methods was by detaching myself from the natural mother-child bond.  I detached myself from my children. I went cold. I went numb.

God, forgive me.

The utter shame of this swept over me in the conference room and I could hardly breathe.

I did the horrible thing. I participated in the evil system. 

I didn’t tell this story in the first draft of my book because we got out of the cult before my children were old enough to remember any of it. I didn’t tell this story because I eventually rejected the child-training methods of Mike & Debi Pearl.

But still. Initially, I participated. I missed the early bonding with my first two babies. The saving mercy is that I DID STOP. I have to keep telling myself this or else I will simply collapse under the weight of shame. I did stop. I finally stopped the cycle of abuse.

My third child was born free.

I bonded with my third baby. I held him. I nursed him whenever he wanted. I let him sleep in my bed. I poured all of me into him. I was free to love him. And it was a Revelation.

And I rebuilt the bond with my older children. Today, my oldest children have scant memory of those early years. They are assured of my love. I have asked their forgiveness and God has restored the stolen years. He is still restoring.

I am loving them and loving YOU by telling the truth of my story–telling the truth until it hurts.

Because I know there are mothers out there who bear the quiet, shameful secrets of spanking their children in the name of God. I know there are mothers wondering if the bonds broken by religious abuse can be restored. I know there are mothers wondering if a broken will and broken heart can be mended and made whole again.

I’m telling my whole story now because I want you to know I’ve been there, too. I’ve done that. I weep for the lost years, too.

And yes, restoration is possible. Reconciliation is possible. It’s never too late. Even when it seems like it’s too late, it’s not. Restoration may look differently than you expected–it might look messy and patched-up, cobbled-together.

It may look like you simply forgiving others because they knew not what they did. And you forgiving yourself because you didn’t know what you were doing either.

But the answer is yes. YES. Yes, you will be healed. Yes, you will be made new. Yes, the God of love makes all things beautiful in His time.

I am rewriting my book now.

I’ll be disappearing for a bit.

I’m prepping for a long, deep dive back into the book. This time, I am telling the whole story. I am telling the whole truth, so help me God. I am loving until it hurts.

I have six weeks to complete this deep dive.

Pray for me in this silence? And pray that I remember to come back up for air.

Pray that I love and that I write until it hurts.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts
there can be no more hurt, only more love. –Mother Teresa

  • Preston Yancey

    Oh Elizabeth, I can’t wait to hold your book.

  • Alise Wright

    Truth sucks. And is awesome.

    I cannot wait to hold these truths in my hand. Thank you for sharing them. Much love.

  • HopefulLeigh

    You can do it, sweet friend. I believe in you and the power of your story. I’ll be praying as you dive back in.

  • TheresaEH

    And the truth will set you (and many others) free!!!!
    I will pray that your book will be the RUIN of Mike & Debi Pearls misguided, incorrect, ABUSIVE so called ministry………

  • Kelley Nikondeha

    I will miss you, but so bless you in the deep dive ahead. I will light a vigil candle for you and pray alongside you as you write, weep and heal. You are a woman of valor, and I await your return.

  • Abby Stanger

    Looking forward to your book and thank you for your honesty!!!!

  • Sue Cramer

    Yes! Write it and big hugs to you for your bravery! Can’t wait to read it.

  • Anonymous

    This book of yours is going to be something huge. Both for you and for at least one other person who will be blessed by it. But I am sure it will bless more than just one!

    Prayers for you during this time.

  • Grandmother

    If coming “back up for air” in this process would ever involve lunch, please let me know! But I completely understand if it doesn’t. Feeling a weight in my chest just thinking about what you’re about to embark on. May both the journey and the product be healing for you and for your readers. Thinking of you and praying.

  • Judy Webb

    Sweet friend, God continues to lay you on my heart. I will keep on praying so long as God has me remembering you. Tonight I will thank Him for making you brave enough to tell a truth that will bring healing to thousands. For tomorrow, I pray that inspiration will flow from your fingertips as if God himself were breathing the words. And Lord, protect my dear sister from the enemy and his lies that would lead her down a path of shame. Let her walk in light, with grace, and peace, in light.

  • Patricia

    I think your analogy to scuba diving really fits here. Scuba divers are warned not to dive deeper than they can handle, to never dive alone, to not panic while under water, to have the proper preparation and equipment, to ascend slowly, and to seek medical attention right away if they encounter pain or illness after a dive. So my expression of care to you: Don’t go too deep totally alone. Continue receiving Communion, going to Confession, and going to therapy. Continue taking care of your body. And come back up slowly. Blessings on your journey!

  • Dani Kelley

    Sending you so much love, dear lady. I wish I had the words to tell you how much good your words have done for my life. And I can’t wait to read your story in printed form.

  • Kim Van Brunt

    If anyone can do this, you can, friend. You inspired me (and continue to!) in your session at Allume, and I believe you will follow your own advice. My favorite? “If you’re not risking, you’re not writing.” I don’t even have to dig out my notes to remember that one. Love you. xo

  • Lara

    I love you.

  • Ashleigh Baker

    Cannot wait to read it, love. You can do this.

  • Lucie

    This extra, difficult work for you will no doubt yield extra blessings in the lives of others.

  • Evelyn

    I love you. We’ve never met and I doubt we ever will, but I love you and your courage and your love and your freedom. You are a treasure.

  • Kara @ The Chuppies

    Will pray that He gives you both wisdom and freedom as you write…that it will be a time of healing…and hope.
    Will pray for His reconciliation and restoration…because it is real and thorough…
    Not a cover-up, but a covering– of God’s love and forgiveness that is capable of true transformation…making all things new.

    I read this last night…
    “Such are the children of the kingdom of God–all are missing arms or limbs, all cracked vessels…out of such raw material God is pleased to build His kingdom, the better to show the power is from Him.” ~andree seu peterson

  • Victoria Davidson

    Bless you, Elizabeth. You are a strong woman and I feel your book will be a blessing to many.

  • Margaret

    proud of you for taking such a huge step!

  • Katharine McKinney

    I could have written this.

  • Anonymous

    *sniffle* Your courage and honesty are one of the most beautiful creations God has made. When you share the hurt parts like this, I see the face of Jesus shining through tears, and I love him all the more. Thank you for living your life and letting us peek inside through this blog.

  • gooddaysunshine

    I love you so much, Elizabeth. You are everything I want to be. Open, honest, and loving. You are a wonderful person and you are going to kick this book’s ass! Go get it, sister.

  • Grandmother

    “Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” by Rainer Maria Rilke
    Quiet friend who has come so far,
    feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
    Let this darkness be a bell tower
    and you the bell. As you ring,

    what batters you becomes your strength.
    Move back and forth into the change.
    What is it like, such intensity of pain?
    If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

    In this uncontainable night,
    be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
    the meaning discovered there.

    And if the world has ceased to hear you,
    say to the silent earth: I flow.
    To the rushing water, speak: I am.

  • Anonymous

    Elizabeth, I am crying with you. I am so thankful for your honesty and cannot wait to hold that true story in my hands! Praying for you to go deep into His love as you dive into dark waters.

  • Scott Morizot

    I’ve thought of what I could say. Fundamentalism is not my heritage and I never knew or embraced the Pearl style of parenting. I did ‘spank’ my oldest two when they were young in the sense of a mild swat on the diaper at times that most people mean. I learned better when my older son was seriously abused by his biological mother.

    Still, although I’ve always wanted to be the best father that I could, I have to confess I made lots of mistakes with my older children and continue to pay the price. I had very little to draw on from my childhood experience and I screwed up a lot.

    But I shared some of that with my youngest daughter after we saw ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’. And she told me that she couldn’t imagine having a better father.

    I hope that’s her honest sentiment, but no matter what it took a lot to get to that point.

    It’s not about how you were raised. It’s not about the mistakes you made — however bad they might be. It’s about what you’ve done since and what you do now.

    Grace and peace.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you, Scott. My mom called recently in tears asking for forgiveness for some of the ways in which she raised us and asked me to share any bitterness that I may have held because of it. It took me only a moment to answer that there was nothing because I knew then, and believe more firmly know as a parent myself, that she did her best with what she knew and that she was in constant pursuit of my heart rather than making attempts to conform my behavior. I know now that even the best intentioned parent still struggles with knowing just what to do, even on the best of days, and I know that what matters most for me is what I do now as a parent and that I seek forgiveness (daily if necessary) from my children when I fail.

      Elizabeth, I know that you know that you are not what you may have done in the past, but I wanted to whisper it again to you loaded with grace. There are new mercies and you are dancing through them with clarity and joy and liberating others in the process. And as this healing continues, you will only continue to emerge more radiant and free than ever before. Thank you for the reminder that it never is too late! hugs, d

  • Verity3

    Thank you, EE. I will be praying.

  • Anonymous

    Praying for you and cheering you on, Elizabeth!!

  • Handsfull

    Praying for you.

  • Megan

    Your honesty is so beautiful it brings me to tears. The fact that you are brave enough to be so open and vulnerable is just incredible and I pray that this brings a few more parents away from the dangerous teachings of the Pearls. Your children are truly blessed to call you their mother. Cannot wait for the book.

  • Aprille

    I cannot wait to read your book…and I’m so glad that you are re-writing and adding this heart-wrenching part of your story. May God bless you in your time away to write. Your story NEEDS to be heard.

  • Erin Adams

    I praise God for your powerful, restorative love, Elizabeth. This book is going to bless many!

  • Kreine

    As another mama who perpetuated the abuse, thank you for having the courage to do the rewrite.

    Thank you for loving until it hurts.

  • Julie

    Oh goodness, thank you for not leaving me alone in my shame. I see you as less accountable than we are though. You were raised like that, we weren’t. We chose ~ as adults ~ a fundamentalist church and the Pearls’ “training” methods for our oldest daughter. Something horrible happened and we did leave and left before we could do the same to our younger three. Leaving was the best thing that ever happened to us. We are free now and have been for over 7 years. The way we missed her early years because of our horrible parenting are my deepest, darkest regrets and at times, even still, my suffocating shame. There isn’t a day that goes by when I am not grateful beyond measure to be GONE and to know she was young enough when we left not to have been entirely broken.

    Can’t wait to read your entire story and again, thank you.