Merry Christmas Eve! I had the opportunity to share my testimony in the local paper this month, and it was such an honour to share the ways that God has changed my life so radically! I thought I would post the article here for you all to enjoy as well. I hope it encourages your heart.
Also, here’s a picture of somewhere sunny, just in case you forgot what it feels like to be warm. 😉
It was supposed to stay a secret. It wasn’t a big deal, really, I tried to tell myself.The world slowly spun around me as I confessed my past to a friend on a sticky, warm summer evening. The street lights burned yellow as I told him of the suppressed memories, years of sexual abuse that I still believed at 19 years old were my fault. This was the first I had spoken of it, feeling shame burn hot in my cheeks as I tried to play it down. I didn’t want to talk about it, but I was desperate for someone to know; it had affected so many areas of my life and become a burden I knew I could no longer carry on my own.
I grew up in the Midwest in a Christian family; church-going, homeschooled, carefully watched over, and what some may describe as “sheltered.” My parents are amazing, loving people and did the best they could to protect us and love us with their all, but sometimes life happens, and an extended family member has the chance to take advantage of a small, vulnerable girl. Because of these years of abuse, I had very skewed ideas about myself, what it meant to be beautiful, how to catch the attention of men, and my identity as a woman but also as a Christian, a daughter of God. I held this secret shame until I couldn’t stand it, then shared it with a few close friends. At this point in my life, I felt no connection to the values I was raised with, fed up with Christians who seemed to say one thing and live out another. I felt I couldn’t share with people who constantly pretended to have their lives together, a shiny veneer on top of whatever was really going on inside them. I have a very clear memory of sitting at my university, talking to God and telling Him I was done; done trying to be a perfect, fake version of myself so I could fit in with others who were also faking it. I was just done. In that stillness that came after I had ranted and cried and given up, I heard God speak to me. He gently brought to mind the ways I could help others, who have less, but also, the ways I could help others with their pasts because of the past I had. I wasn’t sure how I could help people, but that evening I signed up to go to Guatemala with a group that was going to build a hospital for a village. Then a couple months later, I went to Mexico to help build a school for a small town. During these times, I was still wrestling with how my past had anything to do with these people, and though I could offer a helping hand, I still wasn’t sure how my past could affect them.
A few months later, after struggling and figuring out why I believed what I believed, I decided to sign up for a six month Discipleship Training School through Youth With A Mission. Three months of lectures and training in Maui, three months of outreach in Southeast Asia. During these lectures I expected to deal with cross-cultural communication, introduction to the language, and what sort of outreach we would be doing in each village. While we did cover that, we mainly studied through the Bible, learning more about the goodness of God, His holiness, His love, and His Father heart towards us all, as well as our purpose here on earth: to know Him, make Him known to others, and to bring Him glory in all we do. As I studied and grew closer to God, I felt my past creeping in, and the uncertainty of how to believe that something like this could happen to me and believe in the goodness and love of God, believing that He is good all the time. I confided in some of the staff and continued to believe that I was there for some kind of purpose.
During one of the weeks of teachings, we focused on our past hurts and the ways our hearts have been wounded, or ways we have been scarred. We were encouraged to move through the hurts, forgive, and release it, letting go of the baggage we had been carrying on our own. The abuse shot to the front of my mind and clouded everything. Let it go? How was I to do that? It had changed the way I thought about myself, about everything, and I couldn’t just ignore it because what kind of injustice would that be? I cried through gritted teeth as I prayed, telling God that I had to take care of this, I had to be the one to search for justice, because I didn’t trust anyone else to do it for me. I couldn’t let it go because I didn’t believe that I would actually be taken care of if I released it. Hot, angry tears continued to come, and I clenched my fists in refusal. But God, in His faithfulness when I was stubborn, gave me the words from Isaiah 41:10:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
This was a promise. I was scared out of my mind, having believed I was alone in this for years. I didn’t believe that I could ever work through this and be restored, but here was a promise from God that He would be with me. He wasn’t going to let me flounder and figure this out on my own, but He would strengthen me, help me, and uphold me. With Him and through Him, there was a wholeness I hadn’t imagined was possible. He would be with me as I searched and sifted through the lies I had believed about myself, and He would be there to speak His Truth into my heart, reminding me of who I was in Him, as His beloved daughter.
Since that moment ten years ago, God has worked in my heart and in my life so greatly, and I am thankful every day. There are different seasons, times of growing, stretching, and learning more about how to trust and be who I was created to be, and times of rest when I am able to bask in His intense love. It is a journey of healing, and I am now able to see how my past can help others. There are many who may have experienced similar abuse and are lost, feeling shamed and broken, but there is wholeness that can be found in Christ alone. I am forever grateful for His love and the way He changed my life.
Merry Christmas Eve, all. xo