TALKING TO GOD ABOUT ABUSE THROUGH PSALM 22[1]

Sonya Curtis

 

Introduction

            The first poem I ever wrote was a prayer to God. I do not remember what it said or what it asked for, if anything. The only thing I remember is that I was sure that God heard it. I think that same assurance that God is listening is what makes the Book of Psalms so powerful. It shows the nature of a believer who is completely honest -- completely in despair, and completely in love with God Who is the embodiment of hope. The exercise of writing responses to psalms is so eye-opening because I am forced to dialogue with God. So often when I prayed, I would find myself just praying what I thought I was supposed to say and not what I needed to say. Writing along with the psalms taught me to say what had only been thought, and forced interaction between God and me. 

Below is a dialogue between me and God based upon Psalm 22 (KJV) about abuse I went through as a child. Before writing this dialogue, I had only written poetry about being abused. The difference between writing poetry and writing this dialogue is that in poetry the ÒIÓ never represented me. The ÒIÓ in poetry is not the same as in other forms of writing. There is a level of safety that I could always rest behind because of its ambiguity. In responding to this psalm -- or more accurately, to the presence of God in the text --  there was only vulnerability. However, achieving a closer relationship with God and having the opportunity to lift a burden off my conscience made being vulnerable worthwhile.

 

Dialogue

 

1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

So often, I would lie down and he would go from being cousin to being lover against my will because I was too young to give permission for something I couldnÕt understand. So God, now that IÕm older, I canÕt help but wonder where You were when I needed You so much. You know, when Cain killed Abel, AbelÕs blood cried out to You and You heard it. So I just believe that there was a part of me that cried out to You as it died in that bed. DidnÕt You hear it? WasnÕt I important enough? EverybodyÕs always preaching to me about how YouÕre always near me but my experience keeps showing me a different picture.  

 

3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.       

7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

            I was raised in the church. My grandfather was a pastor. My family trusted You and they taught me to trust You. I know that I could be wrong about every single thing in my life except You. I know that YouÕre real. ThatÕs why thinking that You werenÕt there hurts so much. God, donÕt You get it? IÕm only a statistic now. If You ask people, IÕm supposed to be somewhere in a ghetto raising kids as a single mother, selling my body, or dying of some sexual disease. And all I would have to say to justify myself is that I was abused as a child and everyone would just shake their head, as if they could possibly understand. People donÕt expect to You deliver me. But God, I did the right thing and there is pain I still need to be delivered from.     

 

9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

            God, if I hadnÕt been a thought in Your mind, I would have never been born. I was created for Your purpose and therefore I find myself looking towards You for protection and love. Therefore it is up to You to raise me up. There are things that my family would do for me or protect me from if they could, but they canÕt.  And when I have no one else and nothing else, then all I have is You. You are supposed to be more than enough. There was no one there to help me, only You. Trouble overwhelmed me and You seemed to disappear.

 

12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

            The thing I most appreciate about You, God, in spite of everything else is that I never have to come to You pretending like IÕm strong or that IÕm not hurting. I never have to play the part of the strong woman with the strong self-esteem who is invincible to the problems and situations around her. So God let me be as honest as a possibly can. Throughout my life, IÕve been molested, hit, choked, cursed and given up on by so many people that should have loved me. IÕm weakened and IÕm tired. IÕve realized that I cannot be the strength, the joy, or the peace I need to survive. What You wonÕt give me God, I will never have.

 

19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.                   

            God, itÕs not too late to save me. ItÕs not to late to prove that You didnÕt forsake me. I can still be delivered from my past and when I am delivered, the world will know. I will praise You and although I praise You now, the new praise will be worth so much more. I will declare to the world Your ability to deliver, to heal, to be my strength, my joy, my peace.  My life will be a testimony of Your presence in the lives of Your believers.

           

23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28 For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is the governor among the nations.
29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

            I may never understand why my childhood turned out like it did. However I can honestly say that I am not ashamed any more and the thoughts of my past do not bring the same overwhelming feelings of pain or despair. I hope that no one who hears my story has reason to doubt You. Everybody canÕt get pass the beginning of the psalm to the point where they realize that they should praise You. But the ending of this psalm is just as real as the beginning. The pain is just as real as the hope. You have heard my cry and You continue to hear my prayers. May the world worship and praise You for all that You do and all You have done.



[1] This interpretation has been submitted for publication.