Dark times in our life sometimes come without warning. Sometimes they come after a series of bad choices. Sometimes dark times come because, let’s face it, there are bad people in this world. And sometimes in the darkness all of these different things combine and create the darkest experience of our life. My story takes place in the midst of all the above. Bad choices, bad people, no warning, and the deepest hurt of my life. January 4th, 2009 would be the day that shifted my life and perspective forever. I was 22 years old and had just finished my first year youth pastoring. I would like to say I was in the wrong place at the wrong time but that wouldn’t be the whole story. The truth was that I should have not even been in the area. The truth is that there was so much of that night I wish I could have changed and done differently. For so long I was haunted by the “I should haves” and the “I shouldn’t haves.” No matter how many times I played the different scenarios in my head it wouldn’t change the fact of what happened. It wouldn’t change the fact that a man pulled me into his grip and raped me until, by the grace of God, I was able to get away.
To have someone force themselves on you, touch you, and violate you is one of the most degrading things a person can ever go through. What were only minutes felt like a life time and like a bad dream that was impossible to wake up from. To come to terms in seconds that no matter how hard you fight it, it was happening. No matter how hard you yell, no one is hearing you. No matter how loud you cry out to God, you are still being raped. These are just some of the thoughts that were running through my mind. Other thoughts consisted of wondering if he was going to kill me and if I would ever see my parents again.
Thankfully I didn’t lose my life that day but I still experienced great loss. I remember laying in the hospital bed as the nurse performed the rape kit. Just when you think the violation has ended you have to be swabbed and poked for evidence. They have to run a black light over every inch of your body so they can collect the evidence needed. To be told that you have severe tearing but they can give you medication for the pain is something you can’t even start to wrap your mind around let alone your heart.
I wish I could say I understood what was happening. I wish I could say that in that moment my trust was in God. I wish I could say that I instantly knew God would turn all this around. If I told you these things it would be a lie. Instead all I felt was pain and a deep anger. I was mad at myself and I was even more upset with God. You better believe that the questions poured out!
How could you let this happen to me?
I have always loved you! I have always done my best to serve you! So, why?
Why would you let this happen to me?
I asked the same questions over and over again.
Some people think it’s wrong to question God. However, if you have never had a question for God chances are you are not going very deep into your faith. I had a professor in bible college tell me, “It’s ok to question God. Just make sure you stick around long enough for him to give you an answer.”
The sticking around part is a lot easier said than done. Everything in me wanted to run and give up. I wanted to ask my questions and assume that God had no answer for me. I felt like no one could know my pain. No one could know the effect that it was having on me daily. No one knew I would wake up in terror from the flash backs. No one knew that I was always looking over my shoulder and never wanted to be alone. I felt so alone in everything I was feeling. I didn’t know how to move forward. I didn’t know how to heal from something that I didn’t even understand. I felt like some people just wanted me to get over it. That the best way to heal was just to stay busy in ministry. This only led to much more pain later down the road.
I remember sitting with my pastor’s wife and I was able to talk with her. She had been in a similar experience in her past. She told me that the healing I needed had to start in my heart and flow out to every other part of me. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but it makes so much sense to me now. My heart was so damaged. It wasn’t so much the rape itself, it was the reality that it even happened. I think I made myself appear healed a lot quicker than it actually took for me to heal. Healing doesn’t happen in a day but rather day by day. Some days were good days and some days were bad days. Some days I was only making matters worse. Some days my actions were dripping with the pain I was feeling. Some days I was in a good place and taking active steps to overcome what had happened to me. It was not an easy process at all. It took so much time, hurt, and tears. The pain I felt from this dripped out into so many areas of my life. Fears, insecurities, worth, standards, morals, identity, ministry, all these things took a huge blow. At times I didn’t even know who I was any more. I struggled with who I even wanted to be. I never walked away from ministry, but I can say I had a season of walking away internally from God. I was going through the motions and my heart felt too damaged.
When would I get some relief? When would I finally find healing? At what point would some good come out of this? Some people knew what I had been through and others had not. I was asked to share my testimony at a camp one year. I didn’t want to say yes but I did. I didn’t even prepare what I was going to say. I just went up there and decided I was going to share from my battered heart. It was real, it was raw, and it was so liberating. Even with all the questions and all the fear the Holy spirit just began to flow and cover me. It was like every word was soothing my hurting heart. That night so many young people came to the altar. So many of them had gone through what I had gone through. There was a young girl there that came to me and thanked me for sharing. She said, “if you can make it through this so can I”. It was in her response that I found my answer from God. If I went through my experience just so that girl and many other young people could see that there is hope after pain, then it is well within my soul. If the Lord can take what the enemy meant for bad and turn it around for good, then that is where I will find peace and understanding.
My healing took a long time. It looked smooth in the eyes of those around me, but man.. it was a process. Only the Lord knows your pains and wounds. Only He knows those big questions you have been asking. But I invite you to stick around. Don’t give up on God, don’t give up on yourself. Things do get better, I promise they will. Maybe it will take months, maybe it will take years, but don’t give up. You are not damaged goods, you are a son or daughter of a King!
If you know someone who is acting different or going against God don’t be so quick to condemn them! You never know the deep wounds they are fighting to heal from. They are not going to heal on the timeline you want for them, but don’t give up on them. Trust me, they need you now more than ever. Pray for them, encourage them, and fight for them.I thank God every day for the people in my life who did that for me. Let us create an open space for others to rise from the ashes. I pray that my wounds would help bring healing. I pray even more that by the wounds Jesus endured on the cross you would find healing. There is power and healing in your story!