Why a tainted past doesn’t have to define the present

It began with heart hammering, dry mouth, sickening dread and a turning away as feet chose to flee rather than face the path they should tread.

Days had passed when conscience, duty and a deep sense of commitment had pressed reluctance aside and forced me forward.

Days spent sink standing while bowls filled to overflowing as thoughts and any sense of time took flight.

Days drenched in sweat-panic, zombie-like trance of automatic responses, care-giving, making conversation of sorts, face and limb washing, giving the appearance of being present while stealing longing glances out the window. Let me escape this place.

For each pallid face and limb of the dead or near dying I washed was a stark reminder of another body laying cold on slab. Out of reach, out of sight, but never out of mind. Grief intruding rudely everywhere as if life is no respecter of it.

Voices giggling, whispering in the vicinity, or are they just in my head? Never mind which, I attend to my patients with all the dignity I can muster.

But I became lost to my surroundings as they pressed heavy with demands I could no longer fulfil.

I sought refuge. A coffee house, library, city centre. Hidden in plain sight. Yet plainly visible (had I been aware) in my nurse’s uniform as I often was after running away again.

Soon, my absences were noted. Soon, I would be unable to move out the front door. My room, my world; my head another world more real to me than any other.

Lost to loved ones. Unreachable. Just as dead as the person whose death sparked my breakdown. 

My abuser – a person I loved and trusted as well as hating the things he did – was no longer here to be held accountable and memories rose up to haunt my days and cause me to fall apart.

Months sped by in the real world, yet days stayed the same where I now dwelt in virtual catatonic state.

My beloved kept guard. Refused to allow the men in white coats to take me away. Compromising only in making sure I was seen as a day patient, duly sedated, medicated, assisted, counselled and advised.

For just a few short weeks beforehand we were happy honeymooners. Newly married with life and potential spanning out before us in a glorious vista on the horizon.

Now I was foetal-curled, withdrawn, shut into myself as a way to shut out a hostile world as fear held me tight in its tentacles. 

Our marriage clouded with distance and misunderstanding, coloured with pain, tainted for years to come as the stains of shame lingered on.

I remember little of those days. Just the searing shame and stink of failure that haunted thereafter when I began to recover. Confirmation of things I already felt deep down. Tainted already as damaged goods, unwanted and abused child. Tainted further by disgrace (as I perceived it then) of mental health collapse and failure.

God did not cast me off or forsake me. In His eyes, I was worth dying for.

But I forsook God. Stumbled under the weight of my own cross for years. Felt unworthy of love. Hugged the stain and reproach closer as it became my identity.

More years would pass before I could look at the woman in the mirror with anything less than contempt. The image repugnant. The reminder of all I despised, with ‘failure’ stamped indelibly on heart and mind.

The one who God saw as beautiful in His sight, the apple of His eye, dearly beloved – as He sees each and every one of us.

It would take much time, healing and renewal of my mind by Holy Spirit before I could begin to accept that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and He came to set me free from shame and disgrace.

My friend, you may have suffered (or are suffering) similarly with mental or physical health problems that have left you feeling stigmatised, less of a person in your own or society’s eyes.

A mind and a life can be overshadowed and purple-patched by pain. Yet when God’s light shines on it, like flowers pushing up to catch the sun’s rays, there is always hope of healing, new life to come as a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.

Where we see darkness and strangling weeds God sees light and new growth.

And there are no failures in His kingdom, only works in progress by His grace

Remembering that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…the weak things..to shame the strong…the lowly..and the despised things…so that no-one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

I’d love to share that my life has been one long success story since, but that’s not the case. I am being redeemed and renewed bit by bit, day by day – and some days more evidently than others.

It can take a lot of time, much grace, and the perseverance of saturating ourselves in God’s word for a mind to be transformed in its thinking. 

But I am living a life where the stains from my past that tainted mind and heart no longer get the final say in who I am and the same can be true for you too. 


Linking here with the lovely Ruth Povey as she hosts #concretewords over at sixinthesticks. We attempt to describe the abstract with a concrete word prompt. This week’s prompt is:’Tainted’ You are very welcome to join in.

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28 thoughts on “Why a tainted past doesn’t have to define the present”

  1. '..A mind and a life can be overshadowed and purple-patched by pain. Yet when God's light shines on it, like flowers pushing up to catch the sun's rays, there is always hope of healing, new life to come as a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour..' – Amazing, Joy! I'm so sorry all that you have experienced. Thank you for so bravely giving us a glimpse into this story of redemption and thank you for your raw and beautiful style, as ever.

    1. Yes, it is and continues to be a story of redemption. I like to echo Joyce Meyer's words, "God's not finished with me yet" as they reflect how I view my life to date! If we didn't experience dark and painful times we may not be so awed and amazed by God's saving grace to bring us through them. Thank you, Ruth, for this lovely encouragement. Xx

  2. Because we have had a raw past, it allows us to reach others struggling to free themselves from a not so perfect present. I'm so thankful the Lord found me and healed me. Although I'm free from the sin that ruled my life, the stains of the past like to raise its ugly head, every now and then. They are a humbling reminder of how our Adamic nature can ruin a life: a startling contrast to God's redemptive power.

    1. I like how you phrase this, Shelley. Yes, our raw past definitely allows us "to reach others struggling to free themselves from a not so perfect present". Scars and stains persist even when wounds have been healed and life is brighter with hope of redemption. They are deep reminders of a fallen world and nature. Thank you very much for your insightful comments.

  3. Beautiful post, Joy. What you experienced wasn't beautiful, but the fact that you're allowing the Lord to renew your mind and use your trials to minister to others is beautiful. God bless you as you continue to heal and pass along hope and joy to your readers.

    1. There is beauty from ashes and joy even in the midst of pain as God redeems what is stolen or lost. He is in the business of restoring "the years the locust has eaten" and that alone is reason to rejoice! It is my dearest hope, prayer and intention to minister to others out of my weakness and brokenness. Thank you for your hope-filled comment, Maria.

  4. I feel you offered us a privilege in allowing us to read about this very broken time of your life. Life can be so tricky when we are shattered and triggers can so easily send us to pieces. I love your words, "But I am living a life where the stains from my past that tainted mind and heart no longer get the final say in who I am and the same can be true for you too." This is a powerful statement that is beautifully encouraging. Thank you for offering hope to others of us who are in various stages of bringing the broken pieces to the Lord.

    1. Karin, these words just flooded out in response to the prompt:'Tainted'. It felt like they came from a deep place yet were near the surface waiitng to spill forth. We are all works in progress and need to connect to one another in a real and encouraging way so that we can support each other on the journey of life and faith. I'm really pleased you found a blessing here. Thanks very much for stopping by!

  5. I believe we are ALL healed bit by bit Joy. We cannot determine or control how or when the Lord will work in our lives. Our journeys teach us to trust that God is faithful…to His Word and toward us. I too can relate to the incremental, slow-paced healing of deep wounds from my childhood that had led to a complete physical (and emotional) break-down. Thank you for sharing with transparency and HOPE!

    1. Absolutely, Caryn, though it doesn't preclude a miracle of instantaneous healing should God desire to give it, thankfully! However, the faith walk usually means waiting for healing to arrive in stages. When we feel able to face up to these issues from our past and deal with them bit by bit, we can become ready to move to the next level of recovery. I am so sorry to hear you have suffered similarly. My heart goes out to you. Do remember that there is ALWAYS hope of seeing change, however slow it may be in coming. Bless you :)xx

  6. Joy I always find something new in your posts; always something for me to take away and ponder but this has broken new ground. Your words are heavy with significance and you tell your story with such economy yet such power. And what a story. How terrible your experience – my heart breaks for you when I read of the journey you've had to get where you are, and yet how wonderful that you can share it all with such honesty and hope.
    One of your best posts. It will touch a lot of people.

    1. Thank you, Helen. I am deeply moved by your words of encouragement. The journey has been long and painful, but it has yielded such faith in God's power to renew and restore a life. Sharing is less painful than it would have been a few short years ago when I hadn't had emotional healing. Now, wounds may open temporarily in the telling but the overall feeling is one of gratitude that I have emerged from it all as a survivor who can share her story to hopefully bless and encourage others in their journey. I really appreciate your kind comments. They mean a lot, especially as I wrote this and pressed 'publish' with shaking hands!

    2. I'm back to read it again. Joy, you have such a great gift. I am convinced that your story will help so many. Maybe the hands shake in proportion to the importance of what you're writing… or perhaps they'll slowly stop shaking as healing nears its completion. I hope so. God bless you for your faithfulness. The angels are singing!

  7. Joy thanks for being so brave, their is such a stigma with mental health, yet it effects many people, my sister fights the battle of depression every day, she is my hero, my brother lost his battle. Hold your head high your words will fill many hearts with hope and I thank you for sharing them with me today.

    1. Indeed there is, Kath. I am so sorry to hear how depression has affected your family so drastically. It is no respecter of persons and can tear a life apart for years. Thanks very much for encouraging me to stay strong in the fight against stigma and the desire to help others find healing.

  8. My friend,

    I want to thank you for sharing your journey into our Healer's arms. I could relate to a lot that you shared. I wanted to bring you a cup of tea and sit with you a while, as we let His light shine deeply into our broken places. I loved where you said – 'And there are no failures in His kingdom, only works in progress by His grace'. I will be writing that in my journal today, Thank you. May you know our Lord's love encircle you, with His abundant grace and peace.

    1. Anita, I dearly hope that we can meet up one day to share tea and sympathy, tears and prayers. Wouldn't that be great? I am truly grateful for the opportunities that we do have to share the work God is doing in our lives. We may be works in progress but we have the reassurance that we are moving forward nevertheless. And as God's light shines "deeply into our broken places" they are being healed little by little as we become transformed from glory to glory by His grace.

  9. Joy – beautiful words shared with an honest heart about a ragged journey. Hugs sweet writer friend for the honesty in which you offer you story.

    Each word written is an offering of strength.


    1. Hugs returned, Nancy. It has (and remains) a ragged journey toward healing – as our painful experiences always are. To see these words shared as "an offering of strength" is a beautiful and encouraging thing. Thank you for offering me that perspective. Blessings 🙂 xx

    1. Oh, Christa, I do hope those were healing tears. We need to release them if so. I feared publishing this but I'm so glad I did if it helps bring healing to others by sharing my story. Thank you so much for your lovely supportive comment!

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