I’ve hesitated to write and post this blog for a while now because doing so opens the door to a room that I have long sought to forsake. It brings me to what I would consider to be the darkest recess of my heart. It causes me to acknowledge and admit things that I swore I would never make public knowledge. It makes a reality I have at times desperately denied more real. Having confessed that, I write with the hope of healing. I write with the belief that, the more I am willing to disclose the sin that enslaves me and the hurt that I have been held captive to, the less it will be able to keep me from God. I write knowing that others have endured such hurt and have sought healing and may still need to seek healing because it is a lifelong process in some sense. Ultimately, I write this to glorify God through the pain He has willed for me to experience in order to come to a deeper knowledge of His infinite love and grace. Our pain is a platform to proclaim His faithfulness in ways that prosperity and pleasure can never afford. To confound the world around you, praise the name of Jesus when a hurricane rages within and all about your soul. They may not come to belief in Him, but they will never be able to deny that they witnessed His glory and power through the testament of your life.
All of that being said, I will be pretty direct about the issue I’m going to address in this post. Primarily because I see no point in making vague references or ambiguous suggestions that leave people who read it thinking, “what is she talking about?” hah. For a very long time, I’ve purposefully spoken in such language because doing so seemed to answer the questions that were asked without being clear as to what I was actually saying. I have played a game with people, expecting them to decipher my cryptic language and comprehend the thoughts and words I’m not directly conveying, which has ultimately led me to feel as though I’m in control of what people do or don’t know about me. However, the Lord has continued to show me that my motives in doing this are unjustifiably wrong. I cannot attempt to play God by trying to manipulate people or circumstances to obtain the outcome I desire. I must submit to Him in obedience and allow people He has placed around me into my life, regardless of my desires to limit their knowledge of who I am and what my struggles are. I realize that pride has led me to believe that, in isolating myself and keeping my thoughts to myself, I was preserving myself and enabling myself to heal from hurt that has been inflicted in the past. Regardless of such efforts, He has not left me to myself. He has been faithful to penetrate through the walls I seek to build through the power of His Spirit, His Word, and His people. I have been a fool not to proclaim His goodness through this sooner, and I would be all the more foolish to continue clinging to something that has served to be detrimental to my mental, spiritual, and emotional health for so long. For anyone who reads this and is able to relate, please understand that I’m not saying I think every single person who has a similar story has to write about it or make it well known. I have just wrestled with this conviction for a while now and always hoped it would go away. It hasn’t. So I am seeking to let go of this and to let the Lord use it as He wills instead of making futile efforts to conceal it or expose it at my own choosing.
I was sexually abused at a pretty young age. Fortunately, it wasn’t abuse that was ongoing and my memories of it are pretty brief and vague. However, those moments feel eternal at times because they will play over and over again in my mind, dominating any other thought. As time goes on, I have become all the more convinced that sexual abuse (and sexual sin in general) mars the soul in a way that is nothing but evil. Satan loves to wield this weapon upon the world and he has been doing it effectively since the fall and will no doubt continue to use it until the Lord finally ends his reign in this age.
No other sin is so intimate, so intricately linked to the core of who we are. Sex impacts us in every way: body, mind, and soul. It is this intertwining, this involvement of the complete person, that makes this sin unique. No other sin is so encompassing. No other sin weighs so heavily on how we view ourselves. And no other sin tells a greater lie. Seduction whispers to us as if it were a friend sharing a valuable secret: the secret of soul satisfaction. We believe that indulgence of those momentary desires will bring long lasting pleasure. Yet we find that their fulfillment, as with the rest of the seen world, is temporary. However, the effects of these actions are eternal. God placed boundaries around this gift for very specific reasons. He knew the pain that would result, the agony that would be unleashed upon the heart and the mind of every man and woman, when it was misused. I think we see that more than ever now. I have consistently read/heard that 1 in every 4 girls is sexually abused while 1 in every 6 boys is sexually abused prior to their 18th birthday. If you skimmed the sentence I just wrote, reread it. Then read it again. Let it sink in that, combined, this means at least 20% of our children on average experience some sort of sexual encounter that was unwanted before they reach adulthood. That’s also considered a conservative estimate given the likelihood that many cases are never reported. That is a devastating tragedy. It is also a fact that I believe helps to explain the increase we’ve seen in mental illness and the general detachment and distrust that only continues to grow within our society’s youngest members.
I don’t know that any other sin is more convincing of the existence of evil. For those who believe in man’s inherent goodness, those who would say that children are ‘innocent,’ or those who think that children themselves are incapable of inflicting harm upon each other, I want to tell you this:
the boy who molested me was 9 years old.
I have wrestled with this for as long as I can remember. There are still days when I try to convince myself that what happened wasn’t abuse or that it isn’t legitimate because he was too young to understand what he was doing. I’ve cried more times than I can count because I want to believe that it was nothing and move on. But then I read a verse like Jeremiah 17:9. Or Psalm 51, when David said that he was born in sin (granted, some would argue that he is saying he was conceived illegitimately, but given the rest of the verses that address man’s natural condition, I feel confident saying he was acknowledging his innate brokenness). Verses like these only affirm what I already know from first hand experience: we come into the world desperately broken because we are deeply in love with depravity. We long to do evil. We inflict it upon each other willingly as long as we believe that it will benefit us individually. We are selfish. So selfish that we will harm others in unimaginable ways so long as we fulfill our own desires. We will steal from or manipulate others unapologetically to further ourselves; we belittle one another’s worth and humanity for our own gain.
I hate to admit that, as much as I have harbored resentment and anger toward the person who hurt me, I have objectified others and fantasized in immoral ways within my mind.
I’ve always held anger toward him because I feel like he took a piece of me. He made himself part of my life in a way I never wanted or chose, but I can’t undo it. He took something that I didn’t give him but that I can’t take back. Many times, I have struggled with feeling as though he owns me in some sense because I know that his impact on my life has been so much greater than my impact on his. I am confident that he hasn’t felt the hurt of what happened the way I have. I have hated him for so long because of that. However, a recent sermon brought a realization of truth to my life in this sense… no one owns me but Christ. I am enslaved to no one but Christ. Though the touch of others may have been betrayal, His is tender and loving and only for my good. Marriage won’t heal this wound. No memories can erase or replace those of the past. But the blood of Jesus, spread wholly and abundantly over the gaping wound of sexual abuse/sin is the only salve that can preserve and make whole again. By His wounds, we are healed. Your completion, your worth, all that you feel was taken from you, it is all found in Christ. You are hidden in Him. God does not look upon you as a victim. He looks upon you as His child, made new and holy by the blood of the Lamb. No one can take that from you. Satan can only rule over your mind in this matter so long as you give him the ability to do so. He will seek to kill and steal and to destroy. He prowls about like a lion. He wants to devour you. He will own you in this so long as you believe that he can.
But Christ sings a different song over our sorrow. Christ speaks to healing that is impossible apart from Him. For the longest time, I have believed that I could never be completely healed in this realm while remaining single. In all honesty, that has played a huge role in my discontentment with this stage of life. However, the Spirit has spoken a greater word over this: He can heal no matter what the circumstance may be. I could be single for the rest of my life, but if that’s the case, I trust that He will bring renewal and restoration to my heart and my mind in this realm over time. He has already done that in some sense simply in bringing me to a place where I’m at least willing to write about it for potentially anyone to see. Maybe some reading this don’t think that’s a big deal. Anyone who knows me knows that sharing any aspect of my life with people other than family and close friends is at the bottom of the list of my preferences/priorities, so again, this should speak to the glory of God. That He can pierce a heart as hardened and prideful as my own, a heart so convinced that it owes no one an explanation and is not in need of help from another. This is my condition apart from Christ. This is the lie I choose to believe when I turn from His truth.
I have believed it for far too long. Sin hidden in secret can never be reconciled. I believe one of the greatest lies victims of abuse face is believing that keeping what happened a secret will somehow restore you. At its deepest root, I believe it is an attempt to regain control that you know you lost in those moments. Could I suggest that, in clinging to such dark memories and refusing to make anyone else aware that they exist, you are actually enabling your offender to hurt you more? You are locking yourself inside a room where those memories will play on repeat and no one else will be able to speak through them to remind you of truth. You are perpetuating the cycle of pain and prolonging it indefinitely. If you’re like me, maybe you default to the ‘so what?’ mentality… Many times, I have recognized how unhealthy it is to allow this wound to fester, but have stubbornly made up my mind to refuse help regardless… As if to say, “I know this is going to destroy me and I don’t care.” Rarely could I honestly say I didn’t care. I just believed that by saying I didn’t care, I could shield myself from acknowledging the reality and the depth of the hurt that actually indicated that I cared very much. If you find yourself in a place of genuine apathy, I would encourage you to pray fervently for the Lord to change your heart instead of succumbing to the temptation to give it over to more hardening. The more you seek to numb the pain or resolve the situation on your own, the more you will find yourself frustrated because you will find in the end that the wound is still just as wide and deep as it was to begin with. You will never make yourself whole. Healing can only occur in the bright light of Christ’s glorious truths. And light can only enter once the door has been opened.
For those reading who can relate to this, let me share these truths with you:
It’s not your fault. Each person is a sinner and in need of salvation, but you are not accountable for this sin if someone has committed it against you. Often times, especially for those who endured abuse at a young age, there really is nothing you could have done differently. There’s a reason people take advantage of children; they know that children are typically too young and naive to understand that what happened to them was wrong until long after it occurred. Again, having endured abuse at the hands of another child, this is something I’ve struggled with. Without getting into the context of the situations I remember, through counseling and several conversations about what happened, I think he knew enough to know that it was wrong. I have to continually make a conscious effort to remember that those events are in the past, I can’t change them, and I don’t have to own the fault for them. Christ can redeem even the most broken instances of our past, so we can proclaim victory over such sin with the hope of glorifying His power and extending healing and grace to others who need to hear it for this specific struggle.
You’re not ruined. As I said before, you are complete and hidden in Christ. His life is your life. He redeems all of your sins and even the sins of those against you. If you continue to let this offense define you, you will always believe that you are lacking in some way. You will always feel hurt by others. You will project and misplace so many negative emotions onto people who genuinely care about you, people who really want to help you. In doing so, I know you think you’re preserving what’s left and preventing anyone from being able to hurt you so deeply again, but the only thing worse than living through those events once is having to relive them a thousand times alone. What happened didn’t make you less lovable. Christ loves you just the same. And one day, you will be transformed into His image– His beautiful, perfect, glorious image- and every wound will be gone as the pain of this life is replaced with everlasting joy.
Healing is possible. This is the truth that I struggle the most to believe. Some days, I’m fine and I hardly think about anything from the past. Some days, it feels like all I did was dwell in it. You must preach the Gospel to yourself. You must speak the power of Jesus over the deepest ache that seems to be embedded in every fiber of your being. You must make a conscious effort to stop looking at the past and focus on the moments you get to live now. You don’t have to remain stuck in the darkness of such memories. If he can, satan will keep you trapped in them for the rest of your life. He knows how much this kind of injury captivates us and occupies every faculty we have when we indulge it. You are not at fault for what happened, but you are at fault if you let what happened become a stronghold for sin in your life. That sin can be a lot of things: anger, bitterness, promiscuity, self-gratification, drinking, and the list goes on. He’ll help you to struggle with one or all of these. Whatever he can get you to indulge, he will. But what you’ll find afterward is that the pain is still just as raw and just as real and nothing you can do will make it go away. He may even lead you to believe that you can do away with the pain through good things such as exercise or writing about it or spending lots of time exploring nature, but as long as the bed of the wound is left untouched, it will never get better. At best, it may stay the same, but it will likely get worse. As it grows, it will become systemic, potentially debilitating you in ways you never thought it could. No amount of good you can do will make it right. Sounds hopeless, right? It is so long as the healing depends on you.
I haven’t lived very long (I don’t think), but I think I’ve lived long enough to be able to say that I’ve learned some valuable life lessons. One of them being that I am not a self-sufficient being. I tend to forget that as much as I can, but am just as often reminded that I was not made to live my life alone. The most pervasive lie the devil leads us to believe when dealing with abuse/sin is that it is best dealt with on our own. He loves this lie because there aren’t any others that so effectively rob us of the life we were meant to live in Christ. He is the father of lies. Forcing yourself to suffer in silence with sexual brokenness from your past is equivalent to locking yourself in a cell and only giving the devil a key. What can you expect to come from that but sheer torture? I’ve tried to be very real about the intensity of the grief that comes with this kind of sin because I so badly desire to disarm him from having such a stronghold in my life and in the lives of others. We are not able to free ourselves from such despair, but Christ is. And He does. Because he bore our shame and the weight of such sin on His cross. He bled out every drop of blood to cover us and to cover every soul who cries out to Him for salvation. Consider that such truth could apply to your offender as well. Do you desire to see that person in heaven? Do you desire for his/her heart to be reconciled to God so that their sins may be forgiven and forgotten and that they too may be clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Your answer may be no. But consider this: “God demonstrates His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” Picture yourself standing there as a soldier or pharisee or friend, beholding the Lamb of God dying upon His cross because of your sins to reconcile you to Him. Picture yourself as Paul, walking down the road to Damascus, breathing out threats and hatred toward followers of the Way, when all of the sudden, glory strikes you, and the scales fall off, and you see life as never before… This is the kind of love and grace we have been shown. No matter how greatly someone has offended you, they will never have offended you as greatly as you have offended God. But He loved you even when you hated Him. And so we are called to love, even those who we would only love to hate. Christ gives a better promise. Healing is found not in holding on, but in letting go, believing that all of the enemy’s greatest accusations or falsehoods are shattered in the shadow of the cross. The darkest stains are made white as snow once washed by the crimson flow. In Him, you have the hope of a heart made whole once again.