Warning: This post may contain emotional content for some. I know it’s long but I’m putting it out here on the chance that it provides help to someone who might be struggling.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. —Martin Luther King Jr.
I had just finished giving a presentation of my life story to a group of ladies. As I packed up my notes and props I noticed a girl whose face was covered in a stream of tears.
Oh no, was it something I said?? Way to go Alicia…My self-conscious way of thinking began to prod away.
Slowly the melancholy faced girl made her way toward me while the noise of music quietly played in the background.
My heart raced forward as I thought about what words may come out of her mouth…would I be prepared with a response or an answer..I’m just a woman who loves Jesus and wants others to know about Him….what if she needs help and I don’t know what to say…God you know I’m a writer, not a talker…
I felt incredibly unprepared for this moment. I hadn’t considered I’d be doing more than simply sharing my testimony, so the thought of anything beyond that certainly overwhelmed me. I quickly pleaded with God in my mind..I did my part God, I shared my story in front of these women, I’m not prepared to further speak—much less counsel someone if this is what’s about to happen…
She now stood right before me. My eyes met hers and I could see there was hurt deep within…she had my full attention…
“How did you do it?” she pushed the words through trembling lips without hesitation….How did you do it??? The words echoed throughout me. I paused long enough to collect my thoughts…
“How did I do what?” I asked with an empathetic whisper.
After-all I had just shared the disarrayed story of my life—starting with the responsibility I felt being raised by an epileptic mother, to experiencing life with a loving but drug and alcohol addicted father; and not failing to include childhood stories of a homicide in front of our California home, sexual abuse, and my own substance abuse as a teen and young adult and the poor choices I made in all of that. I had shared the pain I felt with my dad’s death and then how I finally had my come to Jesus moment in my late twenties.
I had covered many life lessons and emotions just moments before as I gave my testimony in front of this group of women so to pinpoint the one thing she was searching an answer for, would be a challenge in itself.
But it was the sexual abuse that she was referring to…“how did you get past the sexual abuse?” she managed to bravely stutter the words out.
Ok this is an easy topic for me to sort out…but for her it may not be, she’s her own person with her own feelings, I rationalized in my mind. It’s not up to me to fix her, but God can use me to speak His truth.
“Have you told someone, someone you trust, have you shared this with them?” I asked…surely with a faint panic behind my voice.
And she had. Praise God!
She admitted it was guilt, shame, and anger that drove her long-time struggle though…
Solemnly I spoke to the young lady in front of me about forgiveness—and my advice went something like this…
It’s so hard and it is a big deal, BUT you HAVE to forgive! NOT with the mentality that nothing ever happened, but by forgiveness that mimics the grace and mercy God has shown each of us. You must forgive the offender…and yourself for the guilt you carry. Consider Romans 3:23, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Not a one of us is without sin, so who am I to judge another. But God in all of His love sent His Son as the perfect offering for ALL our sin…It’s not for us to hold onto someone else’s faults when we have our own mess of them…Yet even then none of us have to hold on to any of those sins because Christ has already righteously paid the price for us.
Little by little her chin raised, the tears dissipated, and she seemed to gain insight as she listened to these words of encouragement.
***KNOW this—I’m not trying to downplay sexual abuse by stating forgiveness is all it takes to combat the repercussions of this horrendous act. (I definitely recommend professional advice, counseling, or mentoring from a wise and trusted source as well). But one great big part of moving on from its firm grip truly is in seeking forgiveness because (the bottom line is) grudges take a lot of maintenance anyway…
Forgiving isn’t forgetting—BUT IT IS understanding, utilizing, and mimicking the mercy and grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s allowing Him to pick up the shattered pieces of our being, molding them together in a way that His light can shine through any brokenness. We radiate His perfect brilliance when we allow Him to remain in us, especially when His glory and light pierces through the cracks within us. It’s showing that even though we’ve endured tough times God’s light is the source of our hope and future. Any imperfection we may feel, from our own wrongdoing or someone else’s fault, is a chance for us to draw closer to the Holy One, whom referred to Himself as the Light of the World. (John 8:12)
I continued to pour truth into this broken-hearted girl who had been believing (for far too long) that she was not enough…tormented by the lies of Satan. I hoped she would very soon see that there really is hope beyond the hurt.
Once we begin fueling our lives with God’s word, we see that sin and Satan’s lies have nothing on us. We’re free from the bondage, whatever it might be. The blood Jesus shed from His wounds was for OUR own sin-filled wounds that He heals by that very blood.
We must understand that Jesus’ suffering was necessary. His blood is the only Perfect offering to cover our pain and suffering in a sin-sick world. We’re righteously healed only by Jesus’ work of mercy and grace on the cross.
(Read Hebrews 9 to better understand and study God’s sacrificial love, it’s explained way better than I could ever put into words. Seriously, please read it and read Hebrews 10 while your there..such good stuff!!)
To be honest I had always felt unmindfully numb to the sexual abuse that happened to me numerous times as a child, completely oblivious and naive to the degree of danger unfolding around me. Before I turned eleven I’d already been inappropriately touched by more than a handful of people, ranging from family members to friends of our family.
When I finally told my mom and dad they had anger towards my perpetrators, so-much that it outweighed the need to show compassion to their daughter. Therefore the whole thing was dealt with in a shallow manner on my end. And although they cared immensely, my parents were just not equipped mentally nor emotionally to handle this type of loathsome news.
After I told them, however, I then realized how important it was that I distance myself from boys and men. I managed well for a few years; meanwhile my friends were already involved in unhealthy relationships and all I desperately wanted was to fit in—eventually I got lost in the mix of meaningless, immature “romances” as well…
Here I am now years later—happily married, a matured Jesus freak with children of my own, and I recognize the responsibility we parents have in safeguarding our sons and daughters.
I’m aware of the reality of the dangerous world we live in, realizing that any form of physical contact, any touch-encounter that doesn’t sit well in our minds is completely unacceptable.
We must call these acts of wrongdoing out immediately.
Sexual abuse doesn’t define me. It doesn’t label me. It’s not who I am and never will it be.
However the after effects still exist as much as I want to think they don’t. I’m a nut about my daughters and making sure they’re always safe. I want them protected from the dangers of sexual predators to the point that I don’t care if they’re having friends over, or if it’s a sleepover at a cousin’s house, or grandparents’ I’m crazy-paranoid. I have to intentionally pray through those moments asking for God’s peace and His hand of safekeeping over my girls and even my boy as well.
I don’t hide the truth of potential danger from my children. They need to know why it might seem like I overreact about a simple sleepover. We live in a fallen world where sin runs heavy and where nothing really should ever catch us by surprise.
But in dealing with overcoming sexual abuse, I firmly believe that I am healed from its restraints as far as hatred or grudges toward any person is concerned. And I know it’s because I’ve trusted and practiced the power of forgiveness. I can honestly wholeheartedly say I have no bitterness toward the offenders. Praise to Jesus alone!
If you struggle with hurt or hate toward someone might I suggest you hand it over to Jesus, the One who offers unconditional, genuine forgiveness and then mirror His heart-image and see what happens…
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”—John 8:12
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.—Ephesians 4:31-32