When I Grow Up…

I shared a post recently with some thoughts on a song from Matilda the Musical. There’s another song in the musical that moves me every time I hear it: When I Grow Up.

It begins with children singing about all the things they plan to do when they grow up. They will be tall enough to climb all the trees they want to climb, and they plan to eat sweets on the way to work and watch cartoons all day. It is full of joy and optimism.

But then the song cuts to Miss Honey, the children’s teacher, who sings much more wistfully:

“When I grow up,
I will be brave enough to fight the creatures
That you have to fight beneath the bed each night
To be a grown-up.”

While Miss Honey is a grown-up, she has never managed to move on from the abuse and ill-treatment she has experienced as a child, and it continues to affect her whole life. Tragically, that is also the case for so many people around us.

This week is Sexual Abuse And Sexual Violence Awareness Week in the UK, so I want to use this post to highlight the issue.

It’s something that is not often talked about because, let’s be honest, it’s not a pleasant topic. We’d rather pretend that things like this don’t happen, but the truth is they do – more frequently than many of us realise. The taboo nature of the subject means that it is hard to find accurate statistics of the numbers impacted, but it is believed to be around 1 in 10 people.

That is a huge amount of people in our churches and our communities. Many of them are people who, like Miss Honey, appear to be pleasant, successful and functional on the surface but who are actually carrying a heavy burden of pain and trauma. Many have never found a way to fight the creatures lurking beneath the bed, and the impact of this keeps them bound and prevents them from truly living.

However, as passionate as I am about raising awareness of the problem, I am even more passionate about raising awareness of the hope there is for healing.

In the musical, Matilda, also struggling with a difficult and abusive childhood, comes to realise that:

“Just because I find myself in this story,
It doesn’t mean that everything is written for me.
If I think the ending is fixed already,
I might as well be saying I think that it’s ok,
And that’s not right.”

She finds the courage and determination to rise above her circumstances and, in doing so, encourages Miss Honey to do the same. However, I don’t believe that the hope for overcoming childhood abuse (or any other difficult circumstance) is found in our own courage and determination, in us being brave enough to fight the creatures hiding under our beds.

I believe that, no matter how our stories began, we do have choices to make about how they continue, but I believe the hope for that is found in Jesus.

Jesus stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favour has come.” (Luke 4:18-19 NLT)

Then as he returned the scroll to the attendant, he declared, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day.” (Luke 4:21 NLT)

Jesus came to bring hope and freedom. He came to be a light to those walking in darkness. The passage in Isaiah gives more detail of what that looks like: “comfort for the brokenhearted,” “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive praise instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61:1,3 NLT)

As Christians, we have amazing hope to offer to those struggling with the effects of abuse. Not a quick-fix solution, but real hope, and I’ve seen and experienced the difference it can make.

I love how Isaiah 61:4 points out that when people experience this healing and restoration, it is not just for themselves, but it enables them and empowers them to help others: “They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations.”

Over the last three years (minus about fifteen months of COVID restrictions) I have been involved in mentoring people through a programme called Journey to Heal, and it has been wonderful to play a small part in that restoration. Honestly, every time I have done it I have felt like I am simply sitting back watching God work. All I do is make space and listen, but maybe that’s enough. Too many people have held their pain and secrets inside for too long. It can make a huge difference to have a safe place to let it out, and that’s what I would love the church to be.

I truly believe that we have an important part to play in helping people fight those creatures underneath the bed and helping them find freedom and life in all its fullness and that it’s a responsibility we should take seriously.

Here are some resources I’d recommend checking out on this topic:

Journey To Heal by Crystal Sutherland (there is a book as well as one-to-one mentoring and small support groups offered in-person (in certain areas) or online)

We Too by Mary DeMuth (a book with accompanying resoures looking at how the church can stand alongside and support survivors of abuse)

Church Cares (a book and video curriculum training churches to become “a church that cares well for the abused”)


18 thoughts on “When I Grow Up…

  1. Thank you so much, Lesley, for continuing to speak up for those whose voice was stolen. Also for educating others on the truth of those “like Miss Honey, appear to be pleasant, successful and functional on the surface but who are actually carrying a heavy burden of pain and trauma.” Love and blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lesley, thank you for sharing this post. You’re right. This is an uncomfortable topic. Over the past few years, a few close friends have shared their abuse stories with me. It was hard to sit in that painful place as they shared. But I was honored that they trusted me. And I know better how to pray for them. It’s beautiful how God is using you to comfort and encourage others as they seek healing from their past.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jeanne! And thank you for listening to your friends as they shared their stories. It is a huge mark of trust that they chose to do that with you and I’m sure you’re a great encouragement to them.


  3. Leslie, God bless you. I love that you make space and listen! Sometimes it can be a first step in the journey to healing.

    So heartbreaking to think 1 in 10 have went through this!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.