Christianity -- Christian Living/Abusive Adopted Christian mother


I was adopted by my blood uncle and his wife at age eight years of age out of a hospital where I had been a patient for two years. My original family abandoned me due to their own pressing situation and being overwhelmed with my many physical issues.
The uncle and aunt that adopted me were christian and childless after several miscarriages so my pediatric doctor felt they were the best choices for me as I would require considerable medical overseeing once discharged from the hospital. I of course was an emotional basket case and desperately wanted my original family only. However, my doctor had already severed their legal rights to me and I was Ward of the State of Ohio and destined for a orphanage.
There are been severe abuse by my birth father which necessitated my never being returned. However, once the shine was off the knob so to speak and I was still acclimating into my adoptive home, my adoptive mother began to secretly abuse me physically and mentally. To compound an already sensitive situation, my new adopted parents were ministers and very respected by the community. The adoption was yet another feather in their cap but that couldn't be further from the truth.
By the time I was nine years old I was sporting bruises the size of melons on my back. My adopted mother swore me to secrecy about it with threats of increased abuse and promises of total abandonment. I lived in a state of constant emotional terror and increased physical pain from the beatings. This went on until quite by accident two family members saw the bruises and a girl in my gym class saw them as well and reported them to the teacher who reported them to the Principal of my school. I was around 12 by then. The fur hit the fan so to speak but even still were much too hush-hushed and all the attention went to helping my mother rather than me. This was back in the late 60's. Sadly, it was swept under the rug and life went on. But not for me. I was even more messed up internally from severe physical and mental abuse by my natural father and adoptive mother and neither were ever dealt with! I survived emotionally by running away into a mental NEVER NEVER LAND scenario. 50 plus years later I am still finding pockets of rage and hurt toward my childhood abusers, both of whom are now dead. I have done alot of work on my own to forgiving and resolving the tangled ball of yarn for decades. But it never seems to end.
My question is: What kind of condition did my adoptive mother have to drive her to act Holier than thou for people but abuse a handicapped child in private like that? She was truly a Jekyll Hyde! The scarring seems to be just too deep to ever truly fully get over as hard as I have tried.

I am writing a book about my childhood and life and feel badly about including how she abused me but it is a significant part of my life. It's as if even from the grave she continues to have a hold on me. I don't want to bring shame on her but simply want to speak the truth.

I appreciate your help in this.


Hi Debra, first of all please know that my heart goes out to you for the cruelty you've experienced in life at the hands of others...especially those who claim the Christian faith.  There was no excuse for her behavior toward you.  

There is a label for it: sin.

Jesus grieves alongside you and the wounds she inflicted upon you, she also inflicted upon Christ who died to pay for her mistreatment of you (in addition to the sins of the rest of mankind).  God hates behaviors that harm the life and love and hope of others, especially when these behaviors are done to children.  Behaviors like that are the stuff of Satan.  

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.

To the extent that they harmed your coming to faith in Christ or seeing God's love for you, they are held accountable for that.  If they were truly Christian, God has forgiven the sin, but their accountability comes in the form of seeing how much their sin added to the burden of Christ at the Cross. If they were Christian, seeing that will be a source of great sorrow.

If she was a Jekyll and Hyde situation, it may be from her having been abused when she was younger.  While I don't believe in "generational sins" per se, I do believe that one cannot ignore the powerful impact of one's own upbringing on how one learns to treat others.  It's not an excuse, but it may help you to find freedom from the control that abuse can have over your happiness and your future.

Do not feel bad about including what is truthful about your life story.  Have you ever noticed how candid the Bible is about things?  Tamar was raped ( 2 Samuel 13 ) . King David committed adultery and murder ( 2 Samuel 11 ) .  In Judges 19, we read about a Levite ( religious man ) who had a concubine and she was sent out to be assaulted all night long to avoid his being involved in homosexuality.  The concubine dies after a night of being assaulted and is dismembered.  The Bible does not whitewash sin even though our culture passes it off as less than the grievous situation it is in the eyes of God.

If it's an important part of something good, like your coming to faith in Christ or for some redemptive purpose and not just a tell-all as vindication, then perhaps someone needs to read how you've made progress in overcoming abuse.  Maybe someone needs to know that abuse they're considering will have a lasting and harmful impact on someone and it will act as a deterrent.

The "pockets of rage" or those deep wounds may need professional help.  Some people's wounds are not as easily self-healed as others.  Yes, Jesus' love can cover over a multitude of sins, but sometimes it takes the wisdom God has given to a good Christian counselor ( and there are plenty who follow Jesus as I do and would never dream of being like the aunt/uncle) .

I can tell you that the love Jesus has for you is deep and He desires to see you living in the fullness of His love.  He blesses our attempts at forgiving others with the power to forgive fully.  He carries your wounds.   He carries your past and your future and eagerly desires to redeem it.  To redeem it all!

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

Jesus quoted that passage from Isaiah as he began His teachings in earnest.  There is freedom and comfort for you.  The crown of beauty and gladness and praise are yet to come.  Jesus will bestow that when He returns.  Until then, to hold you steady in waiting, He gives you love and He gives you hope.  Be sustained.  Let His love pour over you.  He is the Good Shepherd  ( John 10 ) and He cares for you ( 1 Peter 5:7) .

I will be praying for you to know His complete healing--whether through His professionals in the counseling field or through His Word and His Church coming around you with a ministry of hope.  Abuse is a difficult and horrible thing.  You can be in such a good place of hope and love and forgiveness, that it can be reduced to just a mist of a memory...sadness you experienced to draw you to God, the only One who can redeem it and restore you to the full beauty of the child of God you are.

Be blessed tonight.  I hope this helps.  If there's a way I can answer more specifically, please let me know.  Sincerely in Christ, your friend Barbara <><

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Barbara Shafer


Barbara Shafer (Seminary Gal now also at ) I am an Evangelical Christian who is willing to answer faith questions in a thoughtful, researched manner. In particular, my heart`s desire is to assist those who need answers regarding suffering and those seeking to reconcile the Christian faith with the field of science.


I have a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I particularly enjoy apologetics (defense and explanation of the Christian faith) and systematic theology (understanding how the Bible itself supports various aspects of Christian doctrine). Both of these play a vital role in the "nuts and bolts" of evangelism... but the heart of Christian evangelism is love and compassion. A turning point for me was when I experienced the loss of my daughter Julia. Since then, my heart has been to help people who struggle to understand the Christian faith (and those who may be questioning the goodness of God) in light of the problem of evil and suffering. I've been informally answering Bible questions via other Internet avenues for over 10 years- to skeptics and believers alike. Thank you for blessing me with these opportunities.

Master of Divinity, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

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