“Know your story or your story will live you.” Gertrude Mueller Nelson
April is Child Abuse Prevention month and when Kim asked if I would be willing to share my story, this was a nudge from God telling me that it was time to share about my journey and how it ultimately led to forgiveness.
I am a survivor of child sexual abuse and I spent 8 years in intensive therapy healing my soul. It was a long and arduous journey and I could not have done my work without the support of my husband, Wes. I feel God placed him in my life knowing that I would need a strong man that could take on the role of support person, caregiver and cook (and he still is). I needed someone I could trust and who would never leave my side even through the darkest days of my journey. God knew that I needed to rebuild my relationship with people, but especially men. I first needed someone to place my trust in so I could learn to trust God again.
In my formative years, I formed a negative opinion that men couldn’t be trusted.
I was placed in situations of vulnerability and it was a perfect environment for perpetrators to take advantage of a young girl. I ended up emotionally broken and shame ran deep in my soul. To be very honest I was angry, but was very good at hiding it through the success of my running. I was a talented runner and spent many long years trying to achieve my ultimate dream of becoming an Olympian. It was my talent that my perpetrator used to his advantage to abuse my body physically, emotionally and sexually.
While healing my story, I began to recognize how God showed me opportunities and the ultimate gift of a healed story. As I look back now and understand my story, I know that God intervened and never left my side even though I was a runaway daughter. After 8 years of therapy I came to believe I was fully healed until someone asked me “have you forgiven your perpetrators?” That question stumped me, but also angered me. I thought I had worked hard and was done and now God wanted more. I was to learn God did want more, he wanted me to be fully healed.
It is not easy to forgive someone who murdered your soul or stole your dreams. It is easy to place blame and see yourself as guilty even though it wasn’t your fault. Forgiveness is about acknowledging the impact of the abuse and then going through the list of people who should have been protecting you, but for whatever reason they did not. I feel like forgiving those who sinned against me has been the toughest part of my journey. The human part of me wanted to stay angry, but I was called to forgive. I wanted to be an obedient daughter to her Father but it just wasn’t in me. I was still angry.
Finally I understood forgiveness was God’s gift TO ME!
If I was willing, I could call upon him for the power to forgive others for what they had done to me and I would be healed. My earthly father didn’t protect me, but my heavenly Father could heal me. Forgiveness is turning the burden we are carrying over to God, it is trusting God. He could bear all of the anger, hurt, betrayal and disappointment that was continuing to cripple me. Carrying the burden made me cold and it was as if God’s warm breath thawed my heart. Miraculously my anger was gone.
Forgiveness is a gift from God. Christ died on the cross for me. Forgiveness releases our burden. These are truths we believe, yet in our personal lives we struggle to forgive because someone hurt us and they don’t deserve it…they don’t deserve my forgiveness…they didn’t earn it. The final step in my healing was learning what a tremendous burden we let go when we forgive others. It is a gift for me. The ultimate gift of forgiveness has been the power to receive and give love. It opened my heart and has allowed me to hear other’s stories without judgment and with compassion.
My husband Wes and I have been married for 18 years. We have two wonderful kids: Maddi, 14 and Will, 11. We have attended Grace Chapel for the last 10 years. I feel blessed that I have taken a journey that has led me closer to Christ. I currently work for the West Linn-Wilsonville School District and serve as a board member for the Clackamas County Children’s Center.