Significance of Story
with Darby Strickland
Ann Maree: Hello and welcome to the Safe To Hope podcast. My name is Ann Maree and I’m the Executive Director for HelpHer and the host of this podcast. On the Safe to Hope, Hope Renewed in Light Of Eternity podcast, we help women tell their story with an eye for God’s redemptive purposes. All suffering is loss but God leaves nothing unused in His plans. We want to help women see His redemptive thread throughout their circumstances, and then look for opportunities to join with God in His transformational work.
Ann Maree: We're back talking with Darby Strickland about Story with a Safe To Hope podcast. And last time we talked about the importance of storytelling and the language we use to describe our circumstances. Darby mentioned last time we spoke that the Bible doesn't shy away from giving. But it doesn't do that just for the purpose of venting. Scripture shares stories for the benefit of self, for the benefit of others. Scripture shares stories in order to improve our relationship with the Lord. So the question we started to answer was, how can we share strategically for the good of community? We're going to pick up today where we left off and further our understanding of language in storytelling and how it actually helps shine a light on sin.
So expand a bit on this question about the appropriate language. Shining a light on sin, so gimme more, give me more meat to. . Yeah.
Darby: Oftentimes I work the majority of the time with women who are abused by their husbands, and one of the reasons - things that I have come to understand is so beneficial to them is them actually learning to tell their story like it is.
And so then their pastor's calling me up and saying, you know, Jane's abused by your husband. And that puts her as the subject of the sentence right there, right? It takes all the action away, um, from the abuser and it cloaks what's actually happening, right? And so when I'm counseling someone or when I'm working with a church, I work really hard to unpack so we have the right, subjects and the right verbs.
So another way to think about it is we can say, Susie was molested. Or we can say Tom, a 52 year old male, um, sexually violated Susie. Right? This has a different impact, but we can also say Susie. I mean Tom, a, a 52 year old male, sexually, violated, um, a six-year-old Susie by pulling down her underpants and then continuing to describe the act, right?
Even in the pit of our stomachs, we react to that very differently because we are telling it like it is, and that's really hard for a lot of victims to even do that, to grapple with what has actually been transgressed against them. There's a lot of shame in that. There's a lot of resistance sometimes from helpers from wanting to hear details, but we can't speak wisdom into situations if we don't know what's happening.
And victims can't cry out to the Lord unless they have language for what's happened to them. And so the goal is not to be graphic, but the goal is to be accurate. And it's really, it's a game changer for how people view themselves, right? If, if they're the passive receiver of something, it's really important that, no, this person is acting this way against me.
It's not, not that I'm abused, it's that my husband is abusing me. And that frame really does change how a victim begins to think about herself.
Ann Maree: Oh my goodness. We could just go on and on. There's so many just different ways we could take this, but I'm even thinking, going back to your subject verb, um, when you say something like, Jane is abused by her husband and perfect. I love grammar. , subject verb is in the wrong order. But my first question, and I think Jane has this question cuz I've heard Jane's ask this question is ‘what's wrong with me?’ You know what made me a kind of person? Deserves that type of abuse. And then also in the healing process. I get into trouble sometimes by saying this, but I'm, I'm telling the ladies to feel the feels. I want them to actually feel. The correlating emotion to those very descriptive, hard words, because if they don't, they don't grieve the loss, the suffering to the depth of what happened. So even, you know, years later, if you hear somebody telling their story and they saying, well, I was sexually abused as a child. You don't even see a tear in the room. Nobody's crying. Nobody's upset about that. Nobody's even mad about that. But what you just said, if it was described in detail, you know, he was this age, I was this age. It was in this room, it was this way. There's just so much there that has to be grieved. I lost protection. I lost security. I lost trust in men. I lost trust in fatherly figures. You know, just layer after layer.
Darby: Because the details invite compassion but they also show who's at fault.
Ann Maree: Yeah. Keeps the, yeah. Focus. The main thing. The main thing, right.
Darby: Yeah. And I think what you're saying, I wanna be careful as victims are listening to this, because so often I have women coming to me for the first, I wanna say, eight months to year and a half of counseling, and they are so brave in telling me what's happening to them, but they aren't able to connect to it emotionally. It's too much. , they tell their lives as if they're reading from a release report without emotion. That's what your body does. It's good and wise, right? And it's gonna take time for them to be connected to the emotional response and to be able to lament it. And so I think that's even just important for us to realize there's phases of storytelling.
And the first brave thing is to get the details. Right, and eventually want them, like you're saying, to be connected emotionally to their story. But it would be a high bar to ask someone, like you're saying, to feel the feels. . Right. A good helper knows when that's appropriate, but I just wanna be careful that victims don’t -,they're gonna recognize they're detached, but that's okay.
That's where they are in the, but by just by being brave and telling their story, that's heroic in itself. Eventually the Lord will allow you to be more emotionally and spiritually connected to your story.
Ann Maree: Yes. Thank you. I am, yeah. Thank you for that correction. Yes. We wanna hear, we want victims to hear this in, in the right context even. And you know what I was just saying. Be years down the road of feeling the feels. It's more when, when they happen as they happen, instead of, you know, reframing 'em back to the language that, that doesn't really identify what happened.
Darby: Right. Because we don't wanna sanitize what happened. Right. Like you're, so that is the goal, right? It's not our job to cover over sin. It's actually to expose it and to grieve it and to lament it. Yeah. Yeah. And that's exactly what you're getting at. So critical.
Ann Maree: I also appreciate that you used the word passive because, if that happens in, in the beginning of their - to storytelling, it tends to permeate the rest of their storytelling, meaning they respond passively to everything going forward.
So, instead of actively seeking God and seeking more of his wisdom in the scriptures, more of the categories to help for the description of the story as it starts to unfold in their own thinking, those are active things, whereas it, the tendency in our, I think, human nature as to passively receive suffering and just kind of, you know, ride the wave of it instead of actively involving ourselves with it.
Darby: Well, and abuse has taught you that, is that you don't have agency, right? Because anything that you do will make the abuse worse or intensify. So there's all sorts of ways that victims are resisting, but it usually is, does not have a good outcome. Right. And so that's one thing to remind them is that, and to teach them how to be active in their own stories.
Yeah. They have in time. Right. They can't choose what happened to them, but they have so many choices about how to respond to the suffering that they've been through. And it's excruciating to choose. It's not, they're not easy choices and they often, because they're so hard, they don't feel like real choices. Every choice is gonna involve pain. Mm. , but God has still given them dominion and interpretive, - wants them to interpret their world correctly. And that's, that's why I think, I enjoy working with victims because the, the length of time that it requires for someone to grow in that discernment. It's long, but I get to see these beautiful fruits of wrestling that out over a long period of time.
Ann Maree: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Yeah. It is a privilege, that's for sure to sit with the victims, and it's a privilege to hear their stories.
I'm going to end here with this quote from Dr. Diane Langberg in Suffering and the Heart of God, as we've been talking about using language to shine a light on sin, I am reminded of Diane's comments about entering into darkness. She wrote, ‘you cannot call or talk people out of suffering or trauma or addiction or of great grief. You must go to them and sit with them and listen and understand. And then little by little you can begin to walk with them toward a new and different place. You cannot help if you do not enter their darkness'.
Next time, Darby and I will be talking about God's word and God's heart for the abused in their suffering.
You can learn more about Darby's books and find a link to purchase in our show notes. For women wondering if what you are experiencing is domestic abuse. Darby's book, Is It Abuse? is incredibly helpful. Those who minister in the church will also find her work beneficial. Safe To Hope is a production of HelpHer.
Safe to Hope is a production of HelpHer. Our Executive Producer is Ann Maree Goudzwaard. Safe to Hope is written and mixed by Ann Maree and edited by Ann Maree and Helen Weigt. Music is Waterfall and is licensed by Pixabay. We hope you enjoyed this episode in the Safe To Hope podcast series.
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