Pastor Healed from Painful Abuse Memories
By Shannon Woodland
The 700 Club
CBN.com -For most of his life, Gary Roe battled anxiety and was prone to panic attacks. When he was a teenager he found that competitive swimming helped him manage his condition.
Gary said, “All of that athletic activity going on, I think that kept me probably sane. You know, it kept my anxiety level down. It kept me very functional at school and very functional all the way around.”
For the most part it worked. But eventually it caught up with him. Now at 40 years old he was a husband, father of three and pastor of a thriving church. He worked nonstop. The anxiety was getting worse and the panic attacks were coming more often. “I think being on the treadmill of performance had about played itself out.”
But Gary would soon discover it was much more than a simple case of burnout. He started going to counseling where he talked about his anxiety and panic attacks. Eventually the conversations turned towards his memories of childhood and growing up with divorced parents. Then, one day, a memory flashed through his mind.
“I did not know what was going on,” explained Gary. “All of a sudden I was very small. I was age three to six, and I could feel that I was being drug by my arm toward a bedroom down the hallway, and that was it. I mean, it stopped right there.”
Gary told his counselor.
“He asked me, ‘what do you think this is?’ He never intimated anything,” Gary remarked. “And I said, "Well, here's what I think it is." And he said, ‘well, we'll watch it. If this is a flashback, it'll continue to play out. You'll have more of them.”
And he did. The flashbacks came at random; each time something new was revealed, until finally the entire scene played out. “It was a scene of pretty flagrant, over-the-top abuse, and I said, ‘Am I crazy? Am I crazy? Is this real? Do you think this really happened? I’m-I'm very confused,’" explained Gary.
“And he said, ‘I'll answer those in order. ‘No, you're not crazy. Two, yes, I think it did (happen). Three, it's absolutely consistent with everything you've shared with me about your background.’ He says, ‘I’ve just been waiting, really, for it to come out.’"
But that wasn’t the last of them. In fact, they started coming more frequently.
“There was a time period where (I thought), ‘No, this is not really happening.’ Then there was a time period where, ‘God can we please not let this happen?’ And then there was anger.”
“I got real good at punching my pillow. I got real good at pulling the car to the side of the road and screaming in the car.”
While Gary worked through the painful memories with his counselor, one question burned in his mind, “Where was Jesus?”
“The flashbacks were just taking over my life and my counselor said, ‘This week I want you to try something. You know Jesus was there, right?’ And I said, ‘y-y-yeah.’"
“He said, ‘I want you, when the flashback hits, I want you to say, 'come in, Jesus. Where are you?' Because Gary, I believe He will show you.’"
“So the next flashback hit and it was a while before I came to my senses and I said, ‘Jesus, where are you?’ And there He was in the midst of that horrific scene, with me, holding me with His hands around my heart.”
“And when that flashback was over, it changed everything for me. It changed everything. It made me actually look forward to the next flashback. From that point on it became a practice for me, every time I had a flashback, ‘Jesus where are you?’ And He was always there. He was always doing something. He was always at work. But the biggest message was the message from the first flashback. He always had His hands around my heart.”
While the flashbacks finally ended, the healing process continues in Gary’s life partly through his writing on sexual abuse. Every day he learns how to better manage his anxiety. And the panic attacks, well, they’re gone.
“Now there's just a lot more freedom with those things,” smiled Gary. “There's a lot more peace in my life. There's a lot more, you know, I really can take things as they come. God really is in charge. All of a sudden I was not alone. I was never alone. There was Someone who knew. There was Someone watching after me, protecting my heart and that changed everything.”
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