Stripped of Control

Some things are impossible to forget.

I can still hear the sound of his boots on the wood as he raced up the stairs after me.  I can hear the door slam.  But the loud beats of my heart nearly stopped when he grabbed me and I looked into his eyes.

They were the eyes of evil.

There are very few words to describe the horror that followed.  I was stripped of all dignity and control.   I couldn’t get away.  I was trapped.

In the semi-darkness, I instinctively cried out to the only One I, in my little girl heart, believed could rescue me.  To this day, I’m not sure if the words were audible or not, but my spirit cried, “Help me, Jesus! Help me!”

As my body was being ravished and my spirit broken, I begged Jesus to save me.

But He didn’t come.

I was completely alone.  Alone with evil.

For years, I didn’t have any words for the terror I felt.  I just knew I was scared.  Very, very, very scared.  I lived in fear – fear that that terrible feeling of terror would eat me alive…next time.

Recently, I was able to name it.  Its name is Powerlessness.

In those horrific minutes as a little girl on the cold, hard floor, I experienced complete loss of control.  I could not get away.  I could not make it stop.  I could not even control my body.  I was completely powerless.

And, to top it all off, I felt abandoned by God.  Because He didn’t answer my prayer in the way I was expecting, it felt like He too, was powerless against that kind of evil.

I blamed myself for years.  I deceived myself into thinking that everything bad that happens is my fault.  I knew in my head that what happened to me as a little girl wasn’t my fault, but I couldn’t seem to shake the blame and guilt I subjected myself to on a daily basis.

It got worse as the years went by.  I blamed myself for the wreck my family had when I was thirteen.  I blamed myself when the alarm clock failed to go off and my husband was late for work.  I blamed myself every time the children were disobedient.  I blamed myself for anything and everything.  I apologized frequently for the stupidest stuff.

Why?

Because if I could convince myself in powerless situations that “it is my fault”, I didn’t have to experience the awful feelings of terror that reminded me of the little girl at the hands of evil.  It was my self-defense against feeling powerless.

It wasn’t until I came face-to-face with the reality of the scope of the powerlessness I faced as a child that I was able to truly believe in my heart that the abuse was not my fault.

Does Jesus understand powerlessness?  Does He know what it feel like to be stripped of control?

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Yes.  He chose to experience powerlessness.  He wouldn’t have had to subject Himself to the limitations of a human body and allow His creation to crucify Him on the cross.  He could have stepped off of that cross at any point.  But He didn’t.

He loved you and I too much to do that.

It is not wrong to feel powerless.  It’s part of being created.  After all, we are, in and of ourselves, powerless.

God is in control; not you, not me.  Do I understand why He sometimes allows evil things to happen?  No, I don’t.  I can’t – because I’m not God.

But if Jesus loved me enough to choose powerlessness over powerfulness, then I believe I can trust Him with my life.  And I can rest in the fact that He is good, even when I don’t understand His ways.

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From Broken to Beautiful

Note: This article was written for the Winter Issue of Daughters of Promise (a magazine for Anabaptist women) and was published in December 2016.  Since the DOP Winter Issue 2016 is no longer available, I am sharing it here for those of you who’d like to read it.  The article is rather lengthy, but I hope it can be blessing to someone.  It contains a small part of my own story and though I feel quite vulnerable in publishing it here on my blog, it’s time to speak out and bless God for His continued healing in my life.  I am fully aware that part of my story contains a “taboo” subject in our conservative Anabaptist culture, hence the hestitation.  But I feel I’m stifling the glory of God by doing the “normal” thing and shutting up about the ugly stuff when there are so many hurting people who need to hear that there is hope and healing through Jesus Christ.  I may share more in the future as the Spirit leads.  May God receive all the glory, for this isn’t really “my story” – it’s His story.  A story of redemptive beauty emerging from brokenness and pain.

 

Pain.

We are familiar with that word.  Most of us have experienced it at one time or another in our lives.  There are many kinds of pain – physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional.  We talk about emotional pain like grief because we know what it’s like to lose someone close to us.

But I’d like to draw your attention to a different kind of pain.  Most of us know of people who’ve experienced it.  Some of us have experienced it first-hand.  But few people talk about it.  Few people know what to do with it. Most people don’t know how to find healing for themselves, or how to help someone else find healing. Sometimes, it isn’t even acknowledged as pain.

I’m talking about sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse is a full-blown epidemic in most Anabaptist communities across the globe.  The numbers of victims in our churches are not much different from the general population. According to statistics, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be abused by age eighteen. (These numbers are on the conservative side.  Most conservative counselors say the statistics are much higher in some communities.)

If you have experienced this kind of pain, you are not alone.  You are not crazy.  It was not your fault.  No matter what the voices in your head tell you, the truth is you are not trash. You are not ugly.  You are not worthless. You are not beyond hope.

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I once was a little girl who felt broken, ugly, worthless and dirty.  I felt like a rosebud that someone tried to pry open before it was time to bloom.  My innocent childhood was snatched away from me.  I wondered if I was normal.  I even asked my mom if I was a virgin.

Subconsciously, I knew something had happened to me.  But I had no memories of the abuse.  In fact, I remember very little of anything before I was ten years old.

When I was 21, I married a wonderful man who is better than my wildest dreams, Ben.  It was on our wedding night that I realized I had been raped years before.  It was physically impossible for me to have a sexual relationship.  I was devastated.  Hurt.  Here I was, a young bride who wanted to give everything to my husband, but I couldn’t.  My body was remembering the trauma, even though my mind had blocked the memories.

Ben and I contacted our premarital counselor who suggested that we see a doctor to make sure that I was physically healthy and able to have a sexual relationship.  A few days after our honeymoon, I was examined by a kind doctor. The invasiveness of the pelvic exam was like experiencing the rape all over again.  Everything inside of me screamed, “Stop!  Let me go! Why are you doing this?”   The pain was so unbearable I thought I would pass out. Then came the dreaded question, “Have you ever been raped?”  The doctor explained that I had vaginismus, which is when the body remembers trauma and causes muscles spasms to occur as a way to protect itself.

For nearly twelve weeks, I faithfully performed the exercises the doctor had prescribed.  I cried.  I prayed.  I was an emotional train wreck.  My husband never made me feel like I should just “brace up” or “get over it”.  One day, as I was reading the Bible, I came across the story of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.  Hmm, I mused. Jesus healed people instantly back then.  Maybe we should ask Him to heal me.

So I asked my dear husband if he thinks God cares about sex.

“Of course,” he replied.  “I think He does.”

“Do you think He cares enough to heal me?”  I asked timidly.

“Why don’t we ask Him?”

So we prayed.  It was just a simple prayer.  I didn’t “feel” any different, except I had peace.  But in that instant, God healed my vaginismus! It was gone!   (Thank you Jesus from the bottom of my heart!)

The next year was a difficult one for me.  Though I had experienced physical healing, emotionally my heart was an open wound.  I began to have flashbacks of the abuse.  My first flashback happened in a dingy cabin while we were camping with our church.

I had just laid down for a nap.  As I stared up at the rafters, I suddenly became a little girl again as I tried to distance myself from a man.  His eyes reminded me a vulture eyeing his prey.  I immediately curled myself into a fetal position and began to heave deep sobs that had never been released before.  I shook, moaned and writhed on the floor for a few minutes. My mind screamed with sheer horror at what had happened many years before.  The mental anguish was just as painful as the actual rape.  My husband held me as I wept.  I was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.  I felt like I had been run over by a train.  In a way, I had.

Flashbacks are hard to describe. Usually something triggers them. Sometimes they are more of a body memory than an actual mental memory.  They leave you weak and vulnerable.  In those moments, I felt like a little girl who needed someone to protect me.  I wanted to hide.  At first, it was hard for me to realize that I was having a flashback, simply because I couldn’t “feel” anything.  But Ben learned to read my eyes.  He’d say, “Ann, are you okay?”  And I would burst into terrified tears.

“So,” I hear you asking, “how did you find healing?”

In some ways, the answer is simple. Jesus.  In other ways, the answer is complicated. Healing is a journey that takes time.  Sometimes years.

First of all, we have to acknowledge and accept what happened. This is an important step.  You simply cannot find healing for pain you refuse to acknowledge.   Childhood sexual abuse involves much more than “just” rape.  It includes inappropriate touching over and under clothes, the exposure of a child’s body, exposure to porn or adult nakedness, using force or trickery to make a child to perform sexual acts, inappropriate sexual comments made to young children and any kind of vaginal, oral, or anal penetration.

In my case, my mind had blocked those memories as a way to survive the horror.  They simply didn’t re-surface until I was at a safe place in my life.  If you suspect that you have repressed memories of abuse in your past, I would strongly encourage you to commit it to God.  He doesn’t hide things from us that we would be better off knowing.  If He thinks you are ready to deal with things, you will remember enough to work through what happened.

Not everyone blocks memories.  Maybe you remember everything, but you don’t want to deal with it.  It is hard to face the pain.  It hurts.  But you really can’t have true joy or peace by stuffing pain. Pushing away pain only works for so long.  Eventually, it will stick its ugly head up and scream for your attention until you choose to deal with it.  It doesn’t go away on its own.

It isn’t fun to face pain.  But let me tell you: It’s worth it.  It’s worth every tear.  It’s worth every flashback.  Please don’t fight it any longer.

Grieve. Grieving is another step in the healing process.  After you acknowledge the pain, you will likely be very emotional.  After all, your innocence was stolen from you.  In some ways, grieving your innocence is like grieving a loved one who walked away from God.  Innocence can never be returned after it is gone.

Everyone responds differently to grief.  Some people need to talk about what happened.  Others need to write or journal.  You will have days that you do more crying than smiling.  You will feel really good one minute and the next you will burst into tears.  And sometimes you won’t even know why you’re crying.

During those time of intense grief, bring your pain to Jesus.  Climb up onto His lap.  Rest your head against His shoulder.  Tell Him exactly how you feel.  He wants to carry your pain.  Let Him do that for you.  Spend time in His Word.  Mediate on it.  Talk audibly with God.  Ask Him hard questions.  Read good, wholesome books.  Take walks.  Find someone you can trust who is willing to listen to your heart anytime of the day or night.  Your heart is an open wound, so give yourself a lot of grace during this time.  Take care of yourself.  And don’t rush the process.  Take time to grieve.

Renounce the Lies.  Women who have experienced sexual abuse often face many lies that are deeply rooted in their soul due to the abuse they experienced as children. Some common lies are: “I’m worthless.”  “I’m ugly.”  “It’s my fault.”  “God doesn’t love me.”  And so on.  Identify the lies you are believing.

Once you have identified these lies, renounce them.  Use the Word of God to fight them. There is great Power in the Word! (Hebrews 4:12).  Stand in front of the mirror and speak Truth to yourself.  The devil cannot stand the Truth.  Share your struggle to believe truth with people who will stand and fight with you.  Write the Truth (opposite of the lie) on a paper and stick it on your closet door where you will see it every day.  Or write the lie on the bottom of your socks, and then “tramp on that lie” all day long.  Visuals like this have helped me to break the bondage of lies in my life.

And now for the most important step in healing from sexual abuse: Forgiveness.  I have no idea what comes to your mind when you here this word, but I’d like to explain what forgiveness means to me.

I’m not talking about forgetting what happened to you.  I’m not talking about giving the person who abused you a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.  I’m not talking about trusting the person who broke your trust.

It makes me sad to hear of churches and individuals pushing “forgiveness” on the victim in order to protect and hide the sin of the perpetrator.  That is not true forgiveness.  I’m sorry if that kind of emotional and spiritual abuse is part of your experience.  You probably want to scream when you hear this word, and I don’t blame you.  But please, keep reading.

True forgiveness is something that is impossible without Jesus.  In order to forgive, you need to realize your own sinfulness and accept God’s love and forgiveness for you.  Without this, it is totally impossible to truly forgive your perpetrator. When you realize that your sin is really no less sinful in Gods eyes than theirs, it makes it easier to choose forgiveness.

Forgiveness means that I accept what happened.  It means I choose to deal with the consequences of my abuser’s sin with a cheerful heart.  It’s saying, “Ok God, I choose to be okay with the flashbacks.  I can’t help what happened to me, but I can choose my reaction to it.”

Another aspect of forgiveness is taking responsibility for my reaction to the pain.  Because we are human, we respond to pain by becoming selfish and bitter.  Forgiveness means that we repent of bitterness.  It means that we choose to say “Yes, what he/she did was terrible, but my bitterness is hurting others too; so I choose to repent of it.”

Forgiveness is not a one-time deal.  You may need to forgive your perpetrator 100 times a day.  That’s fine.  When Peter asked Jesus, “How often should I forgive my brother?”, Jesus said, “Until seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-35) Let me translate that in terms of working through sexual abuse.  Every time you think about what happened and you feel that familiar bitter spirit begin to rise within you, FORGIVE.  Don’t wait.  Do it right away.

If you struggle with flashbacks, forgive the minute the flashback is over.  You don’t even have to remember who it was that abused you.  You can still forgive them.  Do it every time you remember.  I will be honest with you: Forgiveness is the only way to deal with flashbacks. They are horrible experiences.  But I have found so much healing in forgiveness.  The prayer I often pray is as follows:

“Jesus, today I choose to forgive (name) for the pain he/she caused me when he/she (what they did to you).  I choose to forgive him/her and release him/her.  I don’t want to hold this against him/her any longer.  Please have mercy on him/her!  I will accept the consequences of his/her sin. Will you forgive me, Jesus, for being so focused on myself and bitter toward him/her?”

If you want to find healing, but feel powerless to choose to forgive, ask God to help you.  He doesn’t want to see you stuck in bitterness.  He is more than willing to give you the power you need to make that hard, but important, choice.

No, forgiveness is not easy.  But it is necessary if you want to find healing and peace.

And finally, don’t waste your pain by keeping silent about the healing that God is doing in your shattered heart.  Tell someone.  Look for opportunities to help someone else find healing from sexual abuse.  Don’t forget how it felt to be the little girl with a battered, bleeding heart.  There are so many people who need to hear about the redemption Jesus brings to broken little girls and boys.

I have asked God, “Why?  Why me?”  I think it’s okay to ask questions.  But don’t demand an answer.  Job asked God “why” too.  But God never answered his question.  It’s not that God didn’t care or didn’t hear.  Believe me, He does!  He cares about what happened to you.  But because His ways are so much higher than ours, our minds cannot always grasp the plans He has for us. (Is. 55:9)

So do I know why I was raped and abused? No.  But there’s one thing I am choosing to believe: God has a purpose for everything.  Even for a little girl who was brutally abused by men who professed to know God.

Has the healing journey been easy?  No.  Is it worth the pain?  YES.  A thousand times, yes.

Dear sister, if you’ve experienced this type of pain, please don’t try to stuff it in or pretend it’s not there.  There is hope, healing and redemption in Jesus Christ.  You don’t need to stay a victim to your past.  Remember, He loves you.  He wants to carry your pain.  He specializes in giving “beauty for ashes”. (Is 61:3) “…And with His stripes, we are healed.” (Is 53:5)

 

*statistics are from “11 Facts about Child Abuse” by dosomething.org.

Innocence and “The Talk”

“I just want to keep my children innocent as long as possible,” she said.

We all do.  What kind of parent doesn’t want to protect their children?  But judging by the number of sexually abused children in our circles, I wonder if we really know how.

In years gone by, we’ve been taught to keep our children “innocent” by refraining from telling them the facts of life until they are well into their teens – or right before they get married.  It’s called “The Talk”.  Has it worked?  Is innocence the ignorance of all things sexual?

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We live in a world where sex is boldly proclaimed, and brazenly advertised and sold on a daily basis.  Pornography is easily accessible, thanks to the internet on our cell phones and the magazines in the checkout lines.  You don’t have to drive far to see plenty of billboards that are worse than the pictures published in the first porn magazines.

On top of all the junk floating around “out there,” we have a huge problem within the church – sexual abuse.  More and more children are being victimized every year, not by people from “out there” but by family members and church members within our circles.

Parents, it’s time we dig our heads out of the sand.  Our children are being exposed to sexual things long before they hit their teens.  There are children as young as two who are being raped and abused.  Boys are being shown pornography before they turn ten.  We have girls growing up who don’t remember ever feeling innocent.  I wish I could say that the situations I just mentioned are few and far between, but they aren’t.  It’s becoming far too “normal”.

It’s time to admit that our strategy isn’t working.  Judging by the epidemic of abuse in Anabaptist communities today, it is not a stretch to say that keeping our children ignorant about the facts of life has actually “fed” the abuse cycle.

Innocence is not ignorance.  Innocence has more to do with how a child finds out about the facts of life than with how much they know.  A child does not lose their innocence when we as parents explain sex and puberty in a pure, undefiled manner as God intended sex to be.  On the flip side, when abuse occurs and the child is conditioned to believe that sex is something dirty and shameful, innocence is definitely lost.  Untold damage to their view of God and their view of sex happens when a child is abused, whereas the facts of life, simply told in a safe and loving environment, and in an age appropriate way produces phenomenally different results.

There is nothing a perpetrator likes more than an ignorant child who has no sexual knowledge.  Why?  Because the child can be taught anything and everything about sex – the perpetrator’s way.  Abuse can go on for years when sexual things are introduced in this way.  The sexual deviations become “normalized” in the child’s mind because there is nothing to compare it to.  Furthermore, without a healthy view of their bodies and sex, children often hide the abuse from parents and caregivers because they don’t know any better.  Ignorance gives the perpetrator power while healthy, pure, facts of life from parental figures gives that power to children by helping them to say “NO” and helping them to distinguish between good touch and bad touch. 

Countless abuse survivors will tell you that they were not taught about good touch and bad touch.  Their parents tried to keep them innocent by ignorance and it didn’t work.  When the abuse started, they were confused.  It didn’t feel right, but “Uncle Jim says it’s okay and that this is what love is” so they accepted it as normal behavior.  On the other hand, I’ve talked to moms who’ve been open with their children about sexual things; they’ve told them what to do in a bad situation and answered their questions about the facts of life.  And many times, it’s those kinds of conversations that have saved children from abuse.

I do not want my children to find out about sex and their bodies from anyone other than my husband and I.  And in order to do that, it means starting before they are two.  It means teaching them the proper names for their private body parts in normal everyday life.  It means answering their many questions about where babies come from and why mama’s belly is so big. (Yes, I’m currently carrying our third child.)  It means explaining life to them and keeping the lines of communication open with our children.  It means listening to them and hearing their hearts.  It means reminding them that when God made their bodies, He said “It is very good.”

We all want to protect our children’s innocence.  None of us want to find out that our child knows far more than we told them because of a pervert in our circle of family or friends.  In this day and age, it means having “talks” instead of “the talk”.  Because innocence is not ignorance.

Let’s step up to the plate, parents.  And may God help us to protect the “little ones” He has so graciously given us to love.

 

Shattering a Culture of Silence

There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Silence is golden.”  But is it always?  Is there ever a time when silence is not a good option?

Silence may be golden in some cases.  But I question whether our silence on sexual abuse in our Anabaptist churches has done anything other than cultivate more abuse. Most of us would like to think that we are pretty good – that this kind of stuff doesn’t happen all that often.  Yet many of us personally know people who’ve either been abused or who have abused.

Though abuse is often gossiped about in our communities, we hear very little about it over the pulpit.  Anabaptist periodicals rarely publish articles concerning it.  It’s almost like there’s an unspoken rule that claims we “shouldn’t talk about such things.”

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That sentence highlights a major part of the problem and also part of the solution.

By failing to bring sexual sin and abuse to light, we as Anabaptists have become bound in generational strongholds.  For the most part, the older generation thought it wrong to “talk about such things.”  But refusing to open up about the issues in their generation has only caused the sin and abuse to be passed on to their children and grandchildren.  Today, the younger generation faces an enormous epidemic of sexual abuse.

Thankfully, there are some people who are finally realizing that “not going there” has only multiplied the problem.  Our eyes are being opened by Jesus, Who loves children.

Of course, when anyone starts messing with the devil’s agenda to take back the ground that sexual abuse destroyed, they are in for some serious spiritual battles.  The people who are hiding behind the culture of secrets suddenly become wolves in sheep’s clothing.  People you thought highly of, suddenly “turn and rend you.”  All hell breaks loose, trying to distract you from the work God has given you to do – exposing the sin, helping the sinner, and bringing healing to the weak and hurting.

And yet, in the midst of the chaos and flying darts meant to forever shut you up, Jesus gives His blessing.  His Voice guides you through the battle.  He comforts.  He gives confirmation after confirmation.  His Hand in the battle to expose sexual sin in the conservative church is unmistakable.

Everywhere in His Word, I find His heart.  From Genesis to Revelation, His heart is the same.  He cares about the broken. (Ps. 147:3) His ear is tuned to the weak, the vulnerable, and the hurting.  (Ps. 10:17-18) He hears the cries of the children. (Gen. 21:17)  He defends the innocent.  (Ps. 82:3) He sets the captives free.  He binds up the brokenhearted.  He gives them beauty instead of ashes. (Isaiah 61:1-3)

If we are honest, we as Anabaptists have failed miserably when it comes to hearing the cries of the children.  Instead of listening, we have been “shutting them up.”  Instead of caring, we’ve been stomping out the last little bit of life they had.   And the sick thing is, we do in the name of “forgive and forget”.  We take Scripture out of context to “prove” that “talking about such things” is sin.  Sometimes we tell them to “get over it.”

Worse yet, we blame the hurting for leaving our church.  We talk about them behind their backs.  We think they are rebellious, not realizing that WE might be to blame for their distrust and disgust for God and His Word.

Judgement is coming.  God does not deal kindly with those who trample the weak and needy.  (Ps. 109:16) He has little mercy for people who claim to know Him and offend children. (Matt. 18:6) To God, this is serious stuff.

What should we do and where do we start? How can we shatter the silence and shed the Light on the sin?

I beg you to start by reading the Word of God with an open heart.  Put all your preconceived ideas aside and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what God’s Word means.  Ask God to show you what He thinks about sexual sin and sexual abuse.  Seek His face.  He has the answers.

About a year ago, my husband and I began to ask God those same questions.  We started studying His Word, specifically paying attention to passages that pertained to sexual sin and sexual abuse.  We prayed a lot, and asked Him to guide us into all Truth.  Our view and perspective on what God thinks of abuse and how we should deal with it changed dramatically.

I can talk and write all I want, but I cannot change the hearts of “my people”.  But I know Someone Who can.   In fact, He already is, and I believe He will continue to do so.

If each of us would seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, it would be the start of a great Revival in our communities and churches.  It starts with you.  It starts with me.  Together with God, we can change our children and grandchildren’s destiny, so that they can be free from the generational strongholds that have plagued us.

To My Dear Mother

Dear Mom,

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.  I wanted to get you a special card, or flowers, or something….anything to let you know how much you mean to me.  But honestly, flowers and cards really don’t express it well enough.  Since writing happens to be my gift, I decided that might be a better option.

Mom, thank you.  Thank you for carrying me for nine long months.  Thank you for laboring all day and birthing my little body.  Thank you for holding me in your arms and weeping as you thought about the responsibility of guiding my soul.  Thank you for all those sleepless nights, diaper changes, laundry, and baths.

mother and child

Thank you for singing to me, for sharing your love of music with me, and for taking me for piano lessons.  Thank you for letting me sing all the different parts while I “sang” soprano in my head.  Thank you for the good memories of reciting a Psalm before nap time, and for the afternoons on the porch swing eagerly waiting for Daddy to arrive home from work.

I remember one time when you had a picnic lunch with us under the pine trees.  Thank you for taking time out of your day to do that.  Thank you for giving me special care when I was sick.  Thank you for praying with me when I had nightmares.  Thank you for answering my many questions and listening to my many stories. Thank you for your patience with me.

Very faintly I remember that before I’d go to sleep, you and Dad would pray with me and the rest of the children.  Thank you.  Thank you for teaching me of Jesus by your word and example.  Thank you for your vibrant spirit and for showing me how to love my husband by the way you love Dad.

Mom, I’m so blessed to have you as my mom.  I admire how you mothered.  I want to memorize scripture with my children and pray with them.  I want to sing with them.  I want them to have memories of watching the road for their daddy to arrive home from work.  I want them to know without a shadow of doubt that “Mommy loves Daddy”, just like I knew when I was growing up.

I’ve taken you for granted so many times.  But I want to change that.  Now I’m the one with a toddler pulling at my skirt and a baby who needs nursed.  Now I have little voices who call me “Mommy.”  It’s my turn to deal with the messy diapers, mountains of dirty laundry and dishes, the fingerprints on the window panes, and the short nights.

And my desire is to do my part as a mama to plant seeds in my children’s hearts just like you did with me.  So that someday, they too will rise up and do the same for their children, for God’s glory alone.

Thank you Mom!  I’m so glad God choose you to be my mom.  May God bless you this Mother’s Day and always.

I love you,

Ann

*Written the day before Mother’s Day 2016

 

Cried Dry

Have you ever experienced the kind of gut-wrenching pain that leaves you completely breathless and weak?  You know what I mean –  when your heart literally feels like it is being cut into hundreds of pieces?

I have.  I’ve even wondered if I was going to physically survive the emotional pain.  Death looked like a welcome relief.

I was given the following poem by a friend of mine who is quite familiar with emotional pain.  I am still in awe at the beauty and simplicity of the words.  My friend so graciously granted me permission to share it with you.

 

“It seems to me that sometime

The world must be

Cried dry.

 

That tears cannot flow forever

Even from humans

Like I.

 

But tears have a way of passing on-

Recycled by generations gone.

 

But someday God will wipe away

All the tears from

Our eyes.” *

 

cute-little-girl-crying
Photo credit: myria.com

 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for that day.

 

*The author wishes to be anonymous.  Please do not copy this poem without contacting me first so that I can get permission for you from the author.  Thank you for understanding.

Sometimes

Sometimes I wonder who I was

Before my heart was crushed

By selfish men who stole from me

And bade me to be hushed.

Sometimes I wonder how it’d feel

To remember growing up.

To have never felt like I’m no good

Or just a dirty cup.

sunset-midfulness

Sometimes I wonder why it happened –

Was I born “bad?”

Does Jesus really love me?

And did this make Him sad?

Sometimes I wonder if it’s safe to trust

ANYONE – how can I know for sure

That I will never again be

A little girl on a cold, hard floor?

Sometimes I wonder why I survived

The terror, pain, and grief

I tried hard to simply forget

But my soul found no relief.

Sometimes I wonder who I’d be today

If I had never known

How it feels to be powerless

And utterly alone.

Sometimes I wonder if they are

Still hurting girls today

I wish I really knew for sure

That everything’s okay.

Sometimes I wish that I could

Look them in the eye

And tell them “I forgive; Please –

Repent before you die.”

Sometimes I wish that I would

Have never been abused.

But then I remember-

My pain, by God, is being used.

                                                                                                       Written by Ann Detweiler

                                                                                          January 24, 2017

* This poem is dedicated to all the little girls and boys who can relate first-hand to the inner turmoil and conflicting emotions that abuse brings.  May God heal you and give you a purpose for your pain.

A Biblical Response to Sexual Abuse in the Anabaptist Church – Part 2

Relating to Victims

This is Part 2 in a series of posts on a Biblical Response to Sexual Abuse in Anabaptist Communities.  Please take time to read Part 1 here.

So now that we have established a biblical response to the perpetrators of sexual abuse, let’s think about how we should be relating to the victims.

Statistics tell us that 20.5%* of the people in our churches are sexual abuse survivors.  If you have a church of 200 people, approximately 41 of those people are struggling to heal from sexual abuse.

That is over 1 in 5 church members.  Yet, we hear almost nothing about sexual abuse.  We don’t talk about “such things.”  Often, we don’t even know who the victims are or how to help them.  And sometimes, if we do know the victims, we shame them instead of believing them.  We betray their trust instead of helping them heal.

And then, we wonder why “some people” suddenly want nothing to do with church or God.  We wonder why there is rebellion among youth.  We wonder why people leave.

If we understood abuse, these things would suddenly make sense.

That’s why I will continue to speak up.  I will not be silent.  We need to start digging into this mess, because many lives are at stake.

Victims of sexual abuse are some of “least of these.”  They’ve been torn apart by “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Not only have their hearts been ripped apart by “good” church members who’ve abused them, they’ve also been ripped apart by church members who believe the perpetrators.

I believe that the Anabaptist church has the potential to be a good place to heal from sexual abuse.  But first, we need admit that we have a problem.  We need to understand what sexual abuse does to a victim, and what we should be doing for that victim.

What the church needs to understand about the effects of sexual abuse:

  1. Sexual abuse affects a person spiritually.

When God created us, He made us sexual beings.  God designed the sexual relationship to be a beautiful picture of how He loves us, His bride.  He wanted it to be in the context of marriage only. But the enemy loves to distort that beautiful image.  His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy.

Sexual abuse does just that – it steals a person’s innocence, kills their spirit, and has the potential to completely destroy a person if not dealt with properly.  As a result, the victim’s view of God is severely damaged, particularly if the abuse happened by someone they trusted or someone who claims to be a Christian.  Sexual abuse opens the door for all kinds of spiritual bondage.  Countless lies and addictions stem from abuse.

Sexual abuse has the potential to turn a Christian into an atheist.  I believe that sexual abuse is one of the ways the devil is snatching the souls of our children. Whether we realize it or not, we are in a battle for their souls.  And we need to start fighting instead of pretending there isn’t a problem.

crying-girl

  1. Sexual abuse affects a person emotionally.

When a person becomes a victim of sexual abuse, a part of them “dies” inside.  They may laugh a lot or be the class clown but if you were to see inside their heart, you’d be staring at a bloody mess.  Some victims “stuff the pain” as a way to survive.  It looks good on the outside, but sooner or later, it will come out.  They may hardly ever cry or show emotion.  Others cry all the time and have trouble functioning in daily life.  Either way, the abuse they experienced is affecting them, and they need help.

Anxiety and depression are very common among victims.  They fear everything and everyone.  They don’t trust anyone, even safe people.  They view themselves as dirty, ugly, and worthless.  They don’t think they are worth your time or love. They push love away because to them, love hurts.

  1. Sexual abuse affects a person physically.

It should be no surprise to us that emotional and spiritual problems sometimes affect people in physical ways.  This is very true in sexual abuse victims.

The constant fear and anxiety that victims live in sometimes produce unexplainable headaches, back aches, and stomach aches.  Bowel and bladder issues and frequent UTIs are common. Nightmares and vivid dreams of entrapment are part of life for many victims.

There is so much more that could be said about the effects of sexual abuse.  I only skimmed the surface to help us realize how it wrecks relationships in the lives of its victims – relationships with God, the church, their family and their friends.

So, what should the church’s response be to the victims of sexual abuse?

  1. Believe them instead of blaming them.

Besides helping a victim find healing in Jesus Christ, this is, hands down, the most important thing we must do for victims.

When a victim discloses sexual abuse, believe them.  I am horrified by some of the things that are said about victims in some of our Anabaptist churches.  “They are just making that up because they want attention. Besides, abuse doesn’t happen to Christians!”  Worse yet, sometimes similar statements are made to the victim’s face.

And then, to top it all off, we blame them. “Why didn’t you yell?” we ask the victim incredulously.  Or “You should’ve tried to fight!”  To a victim, these kinds of responses shout one thing: “It’s all your fault.”  The problem is, we don’t talk about abuse.  Therefore, we don’t teach people what to do in a bad situation.  How are they suppose to know what to do if we don’t talk about it?

Be assured of one thing:  Responses like the ones I mentioned above do serious damage to an already wounded heart, to the point of suicide in some cases.

“But people sometimes lie about sexual abuse, don’t they?” you ask.  Yes, it happens.  But it’s actually not as much as we think.  Most sources agree that the percentage of false allegations is around 2-8%** of reported abuse.  There are people who feel it’s much lower than that in our Anabaptist circles due to two things: (1.) The 2-8% was based on reported abuse; studies indicate that only 40% of rapes and abuse are reported.  Thus, the 2-8% is not a very accurate number. (2). Anabaptist people are taught from little up to be honest and tell the truth.  Therefore, the true number of false allegations in our churches is probably less than 2%.

Another reason why we struggle to believe victims is because their stories are vague and the details “change.”  Instead of writing them off as liars, we need to understand what trauma does to the brain.

All abuse is traumatic.  But the younger a child is when abuse happens, and the worse the abuse is, the more a victim will tend to disassociate from the experience.  They may not remember what happened to them for years.  They may remember a little but not many details.  They might know something happened, but have no idea who abused them.

Have you ever been in a traumatic car accident?  Do you remember all the details of the accident?  Do you remember the car coming toward you and the crashing sound of the metal?  In the case of a very bad car accident, a person sometimes doesn’t remember anything for a few hours, days, or weeks surrounding the accident.  It is much the same way with abuse.  Just because a person can’t tell you exactly where they were at, who abused them, the severity of the abuse, or how many times they were abused, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. 

There was a rather sickening study where a perpetrator filmed his abuse encounters with children.  The authorities confiscated the abuse videos and asked each of the victims to tell them what the perpetrator had done to them.  They were amazed at the response of these children.  The majority of them downplayed the severity of the abuse.

Often, when abuse allegations surface, the preachers or the child’s parents go to the perpetrator and ask them if they abused the victim.  Sometimes, the abuse is confessed. (I admire those people!) But too often, the perpetrator says, “No.  I would never do something like that!” And so, the matter is dropped.

Let me ask you this:  What else is the perpetrator supposed to say?  Folks, if he/she has the ability to somehow defy their conscience and abuse an innocent person, then they definitely can lie about it too.

I say all that to say this: When someone (child or adult) admits that they were abused, believe them.  There is a 2% chance or less that the allegations are false.  If you do have any qualms about believing a person’s story, seek the face of God and ask Him to bring the truth to light.

  1. Protect them.

After we believe them, we must do everything we can to protect them.  Remember, their world is no longer a safe place.  The incident must be reported. (See Romans 13:1-5; Eph. 5:11, 1 Peter 2:13-15).

But protect them in little ways too.  People who’ve been victimized once walk around with a “target on their back”.  They often are victimized again.

I’ve seen far too many victims leaving the church because the church is not a safe place for them.  The perpetrator still sits in the pew, Sunday after Sunday.  Maybe he/she even teaches Sunday school.  Or maybe the perpetrator is one of the preachers.  At any rate, being in the presence of one’s abuser is not a “safe place” to a victim.

I know of no place that is more safe than the lap of Jesus Himself.  If we are going to be the hands and feet of Jesus, then church is going to have to be a safe place.

  1. Grieve with them.

Take time to grieve with the victim.  Grieving is hard.  No one should have to grieve alone.  A sexual abuse victim often grieves alone simply because abuse tends to be such a “hush hush” subject in our circles.

Grieving the loss of innocence is a little like grieving for a loved one who walked away from God.  Once it is gone, it’s gone forever.

Think about the things that you wish someone would do for you if you were grieving.  Maybe they just need a card or a journal, or a listening ear.  Maybe they need a few hours of silence at a coffee shop, or a weekend get-away.  There is so much we can do for people who are grieving.

      4. Love and affirm them.

Sexual abuse victims need someone to show them what true love looks like.  They need to be showered with affirmation.

They need to hear things such as “I believe you.” “What happened to you was not your fault.”  “You are loved.”  “You are clean and pure.”  “I will walk with you.”  “I will protect you.”  “I will do everything I can to help you heal.”  “You are brave and full of courage.”

When someone in church has a bad car accident or has an extensive surgery of some kind, we do very well at caring for their physical needs.  We take a meal, babysit their children, help them financially, visit them, etc.  We all “pitch in” and help them in their physical affliction.

How much more we should be doing this for sexual abuse victims.  Think about it: They may be “fine” physically, but emotionally they are bruised and broken. We need to be doing all we can to make their load easier.  We need to care for them and their families.  We need to love them well.

      5.  Help them find healing.

But how?  Is there hope?

YES!  A thousand times yes!

Jesus is the Master Healer. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Is. 53:5)

In my own journey, I’ve found that forgiveness is the key to healing. (Read more about my journey here.)

Now please, I beg you to keep reading.  Please, victims, “don’t write me off” yet.  And the rest of you, please don’t “run away” with “forgiveness.”  Let me explain what I mean.

Forgiveness is not forgetting.  Forgiveness is not trust.  Forgiveness is not forcing the victim to “forgive” so that there are no legal consequences for the perpetrator.  Forgiveness is not “shutting the victim up” to protect a family, church, or business image.

That is not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is making a conscious choice to be okay with the struggles I have today because the of the abuse.  Forgiveness is choosing to take responsibility for my reaction to the abuse.  Forgiveness is choosing to forgive every time I feel bitterness rising in my heart when I think about the abuse or the person who abused me.

That, brothers and sisters, is forgiveness.

Healing and forgiveness are so intertwined in the healing process that it is hard to separate them.  You cannot forgive without some measure of healing.  And yet, you cannot heal without forgiveness. They go hand-in-hand.

Though I am of the firm belief that healing comes when we forgive, I believe that every victim needs to make that decision for themselves: “Am I going to continue being a victim or am I going to let God make something beautiful out the ashes?”

God doesn’t force us to do anything.  He doesn’t force us forgive.  We shouldn’t force anyone else to forgive either.

       6.  Remember that healing is a journey. 

We tend to forget that.  Healing from sexual abuse takes time.  Years.  Sometimes even decades.  Some people may never fully recover.  This doesn’t mean they didn’t forgive or that they haven’t found true healing.

Some people never fully recover from car accidents either.  Does that mean they haven’t healed? No.

If you feel incompetent of leading someone to Jesus and helping them forgive, there are Biblical Christian counselors who lead people to Jesus every day in their offices.***

In conclusion, the consequences of doing little or nothing to help sexual abuse victims are huge.  Victims who haven’t dealt with their abuse often end up becoming perpetrators.  They sometimes become atheists.  They have a much higher chance of becoming prostitutes.  They are at risk for committing suicide.

Jesus has some sobering words for us in Mark 9 verse 42: “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”

I can’t think of a better way to offend a child than to (1) sexually abuse them and (2) to refuse to believe and protect them.  It is serious stuff, brothers and sisters.  God does not deal kindly with those who hurt the innocent and vulnerable.

The church doesn’t have a very good track record when it comes to dealing with sexual abuse – both on a perpetrator level and victim level.   I shudder when I think of what God must think of the stories I hear nearly every week about the church’s response to victims.

We, as the body of Christ, have a responsibility to help the lambs whose spirits have been murdered by “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  After all, we are His hands and feet.

And if we truly know Jesus, we will reach out to sexual abuse victims. We will believe them.  We will love them.  We will care for their broken hearts and spirits.

May God give us wisdom and courage to relate to them the way He would.

 

*https://lmpgnetwork.wistia.com/medias/nu6djwfyob

**Statistics from http://www.nationalreview.com

***Freedom Hills Ministries (Ohio), Grace Haven Ministries (Indiana), LIFE Ministries (Pennsylvania), Door of Hope Ministries (North Carolina).

A Biblical Response to Sexual Abuse in the Anabaptist Church – Part 1

Relating to Perpetrators

I am shocked at the manner in which many Anabaptist churches are dealing with sexual abuse and the perpetrators.

I do not wish to point fingers at any particular church or church group.  I do not wish to stir up strife.  I do not wish to see divisions among people and church groups.  I do not wish to make people angry at God or the church.

But I am saddened and concerned.  Very concerned. Concerned enough to write this.

We need to start paying attention to what is actually going on in our churches.  We need to understand what sexual abuse is, and then act on Biblical principles with a compassionate and loving spirit.

What the church needs to understand about sexual abuse:

  1. Sexual abuse is a sin.

This is obvious to most people.  Yet, some churches aren’t calling it that.  Why do I say that?  Because they aren’t dealing with it on a sin level.  In the case of sexual sin, excommunication is commanded (1 Corinthians 5:11-13).   How churches and their leaders can somehow get around this explicit command is something I simply do not understand.

There is something terribly wrong when a church cares more about what color of cars they drive or whether or not the beard is worn than it does about sexual sin in the lives of its members.  Even the world calls sexual abuse evil and wicked.  Why can’t we?

  1. Sexual abuse is, in most cases, an addiction.

Most people don’t realize that a perpetrator rarely stops with “just one” victim.  Often, it becomes a lifelong spiral of sin and shame that starts because of pornography or childhood abuse that was never dealt with.  If the church would realize that sexual abuse often stems from sexual addiction, it would change the way abuse is dealt with.

Too many times, the perpetrator is told to “apologize” for their sin.  Supposedly, an apology is all that is needed to redeem the situation.  It is supposed to “take care of it.”

rope-bondage-hands
Photo: http://www.goodfon.su

Think about it:  It’s like telling an alcoholic to stand up in church and apologize for drinking.  Do you really think that man won’t touch another drink again?  Probably not.  Not unless he has had a true heart change and has been healed from his addiction by Jesus.

What the alcoholic really needs is a community of people to rise up and help him work through whatever is driving his addiction.  He needs time away from alcohol.  He needs Jesus.

In the same way, sexual addicts who abuse children need to be away from children.  If they are raping women, they need to be away from women. If they are abusing boys, they need to be away from boys.  They need time to work through the pain that is driving their addiction.  I’m sorry; but an apology for sexual abuse is not the only thing that is needed.  Sexual addicts need Jesus and a community of believers who want to help them overcome by the power of Jesus Christ.

  1. Sexual abuse is a crime.

Yes, it is.  Sexual abuse is a violent crime, and it needs to be treated as such.  If a person we loved was murdered, we would report it in a heartbeat.  But if a person’s spirit is murdered (and yes, it really is that serious), we somehow think it doesn’t call for such drastic measures.

I don’t know of any place in the Bible that indicates that we are not supposed to report evil such as sexual abuse. According to 1 Corinthians 6, suing and taking our brother to court is unscriptural. But the Bible is clear: a brother or sister in Christ will not be sexual predator (Eph. 5:5).  True, they might be a “brother or sister in the church” but they are not a brother or sister in the Church of Jesus Christ.

Repeatedly throughout the New Testament, we are told to obey the government. They’re actually called “ministers of God”.  Their calling is to execute judgement on the evildoers (Romans 13:1-5 and 1 Peter 2:13-15).  If we do evil, we are to expect judgement.

Ephesians 5 gives us instruction concerning sexual abuse: “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God…Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.  Don’t participate in the things these people do. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.” (vs.3, 5-7, and 11) NLT

Some people use Matthew 18 as an excuse to “hide” sexual abuse from the authorities.  They say, “I can’t report abuse because I believe in forgiveness.”  Or, worse yet, sometimes “forgiveness” gets pushed on the victims by the church or perpetrator in order to keep the abuse hidden.  “You just need to forgive,” they say.

I’m all for forgiveness.  Seriously.  I know of no other way to heal from sexual abuse.  

But forgiveness does not erase physical consequences for sin.  The Bible is clear: we reap what we sow.

Think about David, the man after God’s own heart.  He committed sexual sin, and though God forgave him, he still paid dearly for it.  The child that was born to David and Bathsheba died.  And his sons became involved in all kinds of immorality including rape and incest.

Another example to think about is the thief who was crucified beside Jesus.  Jesus forgave him, but Jesus’ forgiveness didn’t erase the consequences of the thief’s sin.  The thief still died for his crimes.  When Jesus forgave him, the eternal consequences were forgiven, but not the physical consequences.

I believe that you can forgive and still report abuse.  I don’t think it’s a contradiction at all. But, reporting sexual abuse should NEVER be done as a way to get revenge.  Rather, it should be done because (1) the Bible commands us to obey the government and (2) to protect the vulnerable and innocent among us.  

So what should the church’s response be to sexual abuse?

  1. Excommunication

The Bible is very clear that no sexual sin will enter the kingdom of heaven (Eph. 5:5, Heb. 13:4, Rev. 21:8). Excommunication for sexual sin is commanded in 1 Corinthians 5.  In a sense, when a person commits sexual sin, they are “excommunicating” themselves from the fellowship of the church and of God.  Why?  Because sin separates us from God.

Excommunication should be carried out with the purpose of saving the person’s soul from eternal punishment.  The goal of excommunication is restoration to Christ and the church.  Therefore, it must be done with love.

  1. The incident must be reported.

The Bible commands obedience to the laws the government has set up (Romans 13:1-5 and 1 Peter 2:13-15).  Reporting abuse is the law of the country in which we live. According to Romans 13:1-2, disobedience to the government laws results in damnation. That is strong language.  God does not deal kindly with those who “cover” sexual abuse.  Refusing to report evil is taking part in that evil (Eph. 5:11).

The epidemic that we are facing today, is, in part, a result of refusing to admit and report for the sake of business, church, or family image.  I ask you to honestly check your motives for refusing to expose evil.  Most of the time it is because we care more about “looking good” than we do about obeying God.

  1. Rally around the perpetrator and the perpetrator’s family.

What do I mean by this?  Don’t let the perpetrator “rot” in jail.  Visit them often.  Make sure their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs are being met.  They need time to process life.  They need a counselor or someone who is willingly to lead them to Jesus.  They need accountability in prison.  They need people who will care about their heart.  They need to know that they is loved in spite of their actions.

The perpetrator’s family also needs the same kind of loving care.  We must not “leave them in the dust.”  Likely, they’ll need financial help.  Be involved in their lives.  Take the little boys fishing or hunting.  Make them “family.”  Don’t push them away because of their family member’s sin.  Speak life to them.  Genuinely care about the spouse that is “caught in the middle.”  Tell them it’s okay to miss their spouse.  Don’t let the situation change your friendship. Take the family to visit their loved one in prison.  Be there for them.  Be Jesus to them.

  1. The focus needs to be on repentance and restoration of relationship with God.

Excommunication without love will do no good.  Reporting crimes without compassion for a perpetrator’s soul will do no good.

We must remember: the goal is repentance and healing in Jesus Christ – repentance for sin and healing from sexual addiction and the pain that is driving it.  Any other goal will not be successful in helping reduce the abuse rates in our circles and protecting the vulnerable and innocent.

A community who is the hands and feet of Jesus is key to these sticky situations.  A community of believers who, like Jesus, is passionate about caring for the hearts of the hurting.

What if the church would operate like this?  What if sexual abuse would be dealt with on a sin level?  What if it would be dealt with on an addiction level?  What if it would be dealt with on a crime level?  What if, in all of this, the perpetrator would experience the love of God through the response of the church community? 

Do you want to know what I think?

I think it would change everything.

I think we’d have people knocking on our doors, wanting freedom from the sexual bondage that is driving them to abuse children.  I think they’d even turn themselves in to the police.  Why? Because they would know they’d be loved in spite of what they did.

Pushing abuse “under the rug” as many Anabaptist churches have been doing for the past century is anything but love.  Love doesn’t refuse to help someone find freedom and healing from sin and shame.  Love doesn’t refuse to expose sin because of an image or reputation it wants to protect.  Love doesn’t stand around and let a person go to hell.

What scares me the most about all of this is that there are “good” church members who are going straight to hell because of other “good” church members refusing to love them enough to excommunicate, report, and help them find healing. 

I ask you: Is the blood of the perpetrators and the victims on our hands?

Only God knows.

But one thing I am sure of.  Jesus is the answer to this mess. 

And you and I are His hands and feet.  Let’s start working.  Because we have a lot of work to do.

 

 

The Question That Changed My Life

I remember it like yesterday.

It was the day I “spilled the beans.”

There I sat in the gazebo.  It was late afternoon.  The warm sunshine brightened the landscape around me.  The birds were singing cheerfully.  But I didn’t notice.

I was dead on the inside.  I had died years before.

How I got to this place in my life where I wanted freedom is still a mystery to me.  But, in God’s time, I saw a ray of hope.  I clung to it.  I wanted to be free so badly.  I realized that I needed to tell someone.  Someone who could help me.  Mysteriously, a loving Father steered this broken little girl to people who pointed her to Him.

I proceeded to rid myself of everything I could think of that made me feel dirty, unlovable and used.  Though there was much about the abuse that I didn’t remember at that point, there was still plenty of junk that needed to be released.  Things that had been done to me.  Things that I had done.

There was no emotion as I hauntingly told of the fantasies and masturbation.  The magazines.  The cursing.  The pictures I took.  The attention men had given me that I both hated and craved.  I couldn’t make eye contact with my dorm mom.  I tried, but it was impossible.  I was too ashamed.

It wasn’t pretty.  Rather, the things I disclosed that day were ugly, evil, and vile.  I felt like I wasn’t worth fighting for.  In a way, this was my last hope.

The dorm mom listened with rapt attention.

Finally, all the ugly was out.  Out of the dark and into the Light.

There was a moment of silence.

And then came the question that changed my life: “Ann, do you believe that God loves you?”

My mind instantly kicked in.  “Of course!  I was taught that before I went to Sunday School!”, I was about to say.  But I stopped.

Did I?  Did I really believe that Jesus loves me?

Suddenly, the realization swept over me.

“No,” I managed to stammer shamefully.

How could He?  I was ugly. Dirty.  Worthless.  Besides, I had done terrible things!

A wave of emotion caught me off guard.  I began to weep in earnest.

In that moment, I met Jesus.

jesus-hug

I felt His arms go around me.  I saw His tears mingle with mine.  I heard the compassion and love in His voice as He gently whispered, “Ann, it doesn’t matter.  I love you.  I always have, and I always will.”

I’ve never been the same since.

Instead of pushing God’s love away, I began to choose to receive it.  What a difference it made!  It changed everything for me.

Oh, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs.  I still do. (Just ask my husband!)  It hasn’t been an easy road.  But the answer to that important question marks the beginning of my journey to freedom and healing from sexual abuse.

I don’t know where you’re at in your life.  Maybe you too, feel emotionally dead.  Maybe you are the little girl or the little boy who feels worthless and dirty.  Or maybe you feel like you’ve done too much evil and that there’s no hope for you.

Let me tell you:  There is hope in Jesus Christ.  Not only hope, but also healing.   He loves you more than you know.  He loves you no matter what you’ve done or what others have done to you.  I beg you to believe that with all your heart.

It’s safe to come to Him.  He won’t turn you away.  He does not despise a broken, contrite heart.  Tell Him everything.  Spill it all.  Get rid of all the filth.

Maybe you want to meet Jesus, but you feel incapable of coming to Jesus.  If so, find someone whom you trust who knows Jesus and has experienced His love in a personal way.  Then, spill the dirt and grime.  Don’t hold anything back from the Light.  Choose to begin your journey of healing today.

And so, I ask you: “Do you really believe that Jesus loves you?”

Your answer to this question could change everything for you.  Just as it did for me.