Between the ages of 10-12, I experienced a variety of sexual abuse. While I used to think this was a huge statement of who I am, a big secret to unveil, it’s no longer defining me and instead I’m finding peace. Washed clean by the purity of another child, I didn’t realize what bondage I was under until this last summer.
You might not take compassion on me if you saw me on the street. I walk up rightly and I can run with speed. There are no scars from what I’ve seen or what’s been done to me.
But if you might have examined what is in me – these are the things I’m convinced only Jesus can love me in spite of.
I used to think my innocence was stolen from me, but as I consider who I was becoming at that time, I can see that I was offering an invitation. While that’s not everyone’s story, its part of mine. And while that doesn’t make me responsible I know I cannot blame just one person. I would have liked to, however. I’m haunted often by guilty memories of my letters of vengeance and words of unforgiving hatred; once heavily burdened by the weight of responsibility for the discouraging direction their life went after. Those are things Jesus has helped me let go for many years now.
But, there were a lot of other consequences, a lot of other scars I wore and carried. A lot of distortions of who I saw myself as, my sexuality, my relationships with other people, and the intertwining of all of those things. I think as I started following Jesus in college, I tried covering up those distortions with my convictions I was building only as an effort to silence a few demon hounds. They sounded a lot like temptations I indulged in the past, but as soon as my convictions began to be challenged, those temptations met me right in the face by the small hands of purity and innocence.
After crossing the finish line of high school, possibly on my hands and knees, I was convinced of a few things: I decided I’d probably never get married, never have kids, and that I was asexual. It was very complicated. At the same time I also desired those things a lot, but convinced I was too dangerous to ever take part in them.
I’m not entirely sure how to communicate this next part except to just be blunt.
It was like every time I experienced pleasure from touch, I was convinced it was sexual. It had to be. That’s all I ever knew it as. Every pleasure was lust. Slowly I convinced myself I was a monster. A twisted sickness that I couldn’t escape. I was stuck with myself. Too afraid of what I might become, I put up walls; marinading in solitude. Stuck in a push and pull of curiosity and fear.
Coming to college, I was hit upside the head with a 2×4 to follow Jesus, to find healing and forgiveness. Not only that, but I found this place where brothers and sisters just hugged each other. People held hands and cried on each others’ lap.
But of course, those old temptations followed so I built convictions about not touching that protected me; probably hurting my brothers and sisters a long the way.
About a year ago, it became time to face it when I was babysitting. We were reading a book when the child began to pet my arm. It was so sweet and nice, but my blood pressure raised as I considered that I’d been enjoying this moment in all the wrong ways. I remember thinking, “Is this who I am?”.
A prison of shame.
I’d read verses that Paul wrote to Timothy like “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” and nod in empathy. I’d pray things like “create in me a pure heart and renew a right spirit within me,” utterly convinced nothing could ever make me pure in the inmost places of my heart and mind-too ashamed of these temptations.
At some point during the beginning of 2014 I had a revelation about temptation and sin. Romans 6 says specifically “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who was died has been freed from sin”.
Temptation became just that. Temptation. A mere, weasily word that can be resisted and is rewarded when done so (James 1:12). I suddenly squelched every opportunity for the tempter to have any power over me, and so put to death the power sin held in my life. The mortification of sin, as John Owen calls it. As I think of that time, I can see this was a good foundation God was laying for what lie ahead.
Fast forward to this past summer: same home, same child, same lap; a lonely heart and a courage to change. He laid there with his back up to me and I asked if could draw a picture with my finger for him to guess. This was exactly how it happened the first time for me, when I was abused all those years ago. But, I felt compelled to re-live this memory. He said yes, and so I began to draw letters; he giggled and guessed. As he laid there, this little boy of 4 years, in all enjoyment and peace, gave to me an example of pleasure in perfect purity.
The next morning as I was waking in my bed, he came in to lay down with me. I sat up and started humming and drumming on his back gently. As he lay there, eyes closed, it was the purity in his face came up and washed over me as I witnessed such pleasure of a touch. It was possible. It was pure, and it was good. Not all touch had to be sexualized. It was like opening a door from a world of brokenness to a world of hope.
After that I remember thinking… I’ve been missing this part of human connection my whole life???????? No wonder I was swallowed by doubt and loneliness; I’d been missing one of the main forms of human connection! And so, somehow, my heart is healed by Jesus working through a child. And so we are the hands and feet, eh?
As I reflect on 2014 and think about the things I’ve learned this year, that was by far the most impacting. And why share all these considerably intimate details in a public domain? Well, first to glorify God and to show his healing work, secondly to confess my own sin and prove God’s great grace in forgiveness, and thirdly that maybe someone out there might feel burdened by the same thing looking for compassion or empathy. Or maybe that you might have a friend or a sibling, a wife or a daughter or son who was or will be here. That maybe you are burdened by your guilt of sin and need a reminder that our Lord Jesus is mighty to save.
Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.
On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. At that time I will deal with all who opressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame.
At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the Lord.