Lysa TerKeurst’s newest book title pretty much sums it up. I haven’t even read the book yet, but I know I will love it and that it will deeply resonate with me. Just the few times I’ve listened to her story on how this book came about, I know that she understands the pain and grief that war against our faith in a Good God.
It’s 11:30pm and I couldn’t sleep because I was shaking with anxiety, feeling like I couldn’t breathe, tossing and turning, ugly crying in desperation, “why?” and “how much more?”. It’s not supposed to be this way.
Sleep has been eluding me lately as it seems every night new memories are pushing their way to the surface as I wrestle against them, willing them to stay locked away and let me be, though I’m powerless to stop them. I can’t stop them from coming, I can’t stop the triggers that reveal them, the physical pain my body goes through after they come, the emotional turmoil that’s finally released after being hidden so long. It’s not supposed to be this way.
It’s been four years. 110 memories. Multiple abusers, starting from age 3 through 17. Four years of wondering when this nightmare will end. Four years of trying to live my life as normal as possible while recounting, remembering, and reliving a past more traumatic than anything I ever thought possible. It’s not supposed to be this way.
Two uncle’s. An aunt. Her “friends”. An extended family member. A friend’s dad. A guy from the gym my parents worked out at. “Friend’s” of the family, including one from church. A seventh grade science teacher. Camp counselors. Boys I went to school with. Isn’t pedophilia “supposed” to be rare? How is it actually possible that so many different people could hurt me in the same unthinkable and evil manner? Memories so incredibly disturbing, perverse, and shameful I could never write them online. Not even just the acts themselves, but the psychological brainwashing, manipulation, and confusion that ensued to keep me quiet, which wasn’t even necessary because I dissociated every.single.trauma anyway. It’s not supposed to be this way.
I’m still here, sometimes so overwhelmed by the fact that I’ve even survived the memories, let alone it happening in the first place. I’m still clinging to my faith, still hoping, still believing, still declaring He is good…even though it’s not supposed to be this way.
And I can only hope that somehow, someway, someone out there will see all that Jesus has healed me from. How most people with a past like mine are not living a blessed life like I am. That even though it’s been incredibly difficult, HE has brought me through… strengthening me, putting my pieces back together, reconciling my soul back to Him. That though SO many people in my life failed me, hurt me, abused me, tortured me, took advantage of me…He has never let me go. Every single memory I’ve faced, He’s been there, holding me, comforting me, catching every tear. It’s really not supposed to be this way. But maybe, the beauty from this devastation is that I know Him more fully. My roots have been planted so deep that NOTHING can pull them up. My house has been built on the solid rock, my faith on the firm foundation.
But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
Dissociation is a very common coping mechanism for young children who experience trauma. While it protects our minds in that moment, allowing an escape for what is too overwhelming for our little souls to bear, it results in what’s known as fragmentation. I think this concept is widely misunderstood or unknown, so I’ve included a few links I think describe it well.
In the spring of 2018 I had been on my healing journey for a little over a year. With two traumatic memories revealed and processed, I was hopeful the worst was behind me. At this same time, my mentor and great friend that knows many of the intimate details surrounding my traumatic past and has journeyed with me through the darkest parts of healing, started a weekly bible study/prayer group. As a homeschooling mom of four who’d been going through a rather intense season, I was so excited about this and looked forward to getting together with my “faith sisters” every week.
One afternoon that May, I was nursing my 6 month old baby, getting him down for a nap. As I was starting to doze off, I heard the Holy Spirit loud and clear, “you were raped seven times”. At the exact same time as the Lord said this, He showed me a picture of myself in a cheerleading uniform from when I was in high school. I was stunned and perplexed, while the image I saw I remembered clearly, the words didn’t make sense. I was 15 in that picture. Raped seven times? How could that be possible? I would remember that. While I felt quite certain that what I had just seen and heard was really from the Lord, I just couldn’t make sense of it, and besides, it seemed rather frightening and left me pretty freaked out. So I did what I did the first time the Holy Spirit told me something I didn’t want to hear; I ignored it.
A couple weeks later something strange happened. The exact same picture I was shown while laying down was posted to my Facebook by a family member, the very family member that actually took the original picture several years before. I knew this was significant and that Jesus was trying to get my attention, but I still didn’t understand. I didn’t yet realize that had nothing to do with how old I was in the picture, but everything to do with who took the picture. It was about a month later at one of my weekly get-together’s with my “faith sisters” that things got a little intense as my Heavenly Father started to reveal a significant piece to this mind boggling puzzle. Now, these meetings weren’t your run of the mill, ‘cookie and coffee’ bible studies; rather they included intense warfare, inner healing, and deliverance. As my friend was ministering to me, the number 7 kept popping up, over and over from the Holy Spirit. I said I didn’t know what that meant, and my friend said the Lord was saying I wasn’t ready to know. Yikes.
While I was curious about what all of these things meant, to be honest I was mostly just afraid. I had already been through so much, what now? For a few weeks I tried to ignore it all but deep down I knew that just like the other things had to come to the light, so this would too at some point. So I decided that if Father was with me throughout everything else, so too would He be with me in this. I could trust Him. Though I didn’t want to face it, I had been through enough to know that ultimately the only reason He had to reveal it was so He could heal it. That there was yet another piece of my soul somehow damaged by trauma and letting Him into that place that had me in bondage was the only way to get free.
As I once again mustered up the quiet courage and trust to say, “okay Lord, show me” I was shown several images over the next week that slowly put everything into place and made sense. While at my dad’s, whom I went to see every other weekend, my aunt was asked to babysit while my dad went out with his at-the-time fiance. Oh, that must be why the Lord showed me an image of her being handed cash, babysitting money. It was when he lived in the trailer, I was 7. My aunt, at time time 19, decided to invite a couple guys over.
I remembered a specific beer bottle with a red X, but could’t figure out what it was. A quick google search revealed it was something called “Dos Equis”, the image on the page was the same as what was in my head. Glimpses of me parading around the house in my dad’s fiance’s lingerie, sitting on a guy’s lap being told how pretty I was, and eventually, being given NyQuil came back to me. The tears came as I could see myself lying on the kitchen floor unconscious, while they not only sexually abused, but sadistically tortured, my seven year old body. I could foggily see their laughing faces, not just the men, but my aunt too. I could faintly hear one of the men saying, “how long do you think until she wakes up?”
As I pondered all the ways the Lord had slowly revealed this memory, I struggled with the word “rape.” Can’t that term only be referring to sexual intercourse? Then I found the actual definition on dictionary.com: “unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.”
When I counted the various household objects I saw in the memory, and it came to seven, just as the Lord had spoken months before, I wept. I felt dirty. And terribly betrayed as I realized there was yet another family member, on the other side of my family, who violated me in such a disturbing way. Why is it that the very people who had been entrusted with my care seemed to have absolutely no regard for my life? But I think the worst part of healing from this particular memory was the body memories, which is thoroughly and fascinatingly explained in Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score. Several times my nipples would burn severely as I remembered one of the men holding a lighter to one of my most sensitive areas.
I can now remember what one of the men looked like, though it took several more months for his pale pudgy skin, short black dreads, baggy jeans, and dog collar choker to be seen clearly. As for my aunt, well, it all kind of made sense. She had always been troubled and it was one of those things, like the situation with my uncle, that was a surprise, but yet not really that surprising. The way she started acting extremely suspicious with tons of questions when I came out about having abuse in my past a year before, always commenting strange things on my posts when I would try to share anything about it, and suddenly trying to be “besties” with my dad, well it all clicked now.
When I calmly but firmly confronted her, she freaked out. She apologized but claimed she didn’t remember, and then she blocked me. I hope she knows that because what Jesus did for me will always be greater than what she did to me, I forgive her. And I hope she doesn’t hang out with people like those men anymore. But mostly I hope she seeks forgiveness. Not from me, but from the only One who can heal her of the shame and fear she’s been living in.
It’s been a whole month since I last wrote, and while I wanted to continue documenting my story, I faced a few of the most difficult weeks I’ve had since this healing journey first started. Another memory surfaced and the emotions and stress that came out of it really took a toll on me, I was in bed for the majority of two weeks straight. An inability to cope with stress, my body shaking and trembling, sheer exhaustion, anxiety, lot’s of unpleasant things were going on. It isn’t just the memory that is “frozen in time” but also so many trapped emotions and physical responses to trauma that are stored right along with it, and I have to say when they are released it’s bittersweet. Very difficult in the moment but I know in the long run it’s so good these things are getting out and no longer stored in my body. During this time I was asking my husband if this nightmare would ever be over, and he encouraged me to write a letter to my uncle. I thought this letter would be just for me, for my own healing, but I felt very strongly that the Holy Spirit was leading me to make this my next post, as opposed to just the next chapter of my story I was planning to write. So this is a little interruption in the timeline of how things have transpired, but I pray it brings healing to others who maybe haven’t been able to find the words to match their experience.
Where do I begin? There are no words in existence to describe the evil that was done to me by your hands. Not just the things done, but also the words said, the lies that took root in my soul. Did you really think you could get away with it forever? That I would remain silent all these years? The innocent, powerless, helpless, little girl is now a grown woman with the light of Jesus Christ shining brightly in her, and the Holy Spirit that is in me will not back down, but stand for righteousness, justice, and truth. Because that little girl deserves it. I deserve it.
I was just a baby, three years old, when you first began to torment me for your own sick desires. I was innocent, full of light and joy, and you did all that you could to kill everything that was good about me. At times in this journey it’d seem you almost succeeded; that darkness had won. But the redeemer of my soul spared no expense to win me back to Him, including bloodying Himself on a cross so that I would know the depth of His love for me. While I rejoice that the evil grip of sexual and psychological abuse will not have the last say in my life, I cannot ignore, minimize, or deny the catastrophic damage that was left in my soul by your choices.
When a child is very young their personality has not been fully formed, so any trauma that takes place in those early years greatly impacts their sense of safety and security in this world, along with their sense of identity. Because most of the times you molested and abused me I was only three and four years old, the confusion, fear, and despair that set in rocked me to the core of my being and set me on a trajectory far different that what my parents had in mind for my life. The subconscious messages of never being good enough, of my body being bad, of only having one purpose in life – to fulfill men’s sexual desires, and of being of absolutely no value unless I was performing sexual acts, would replay over and over; echoing in my soul and causing me to seek out situations further expounding upon the damage you started.
Do you remember the first time you decided to act out your evil, twisted, perverse desires against me? We were at a family pool party, and I had just turned three a few months before. As I went upstairs to change out of my bathing suit and lay down for a nap, you followed me with your video camera. I did everything you told me to do, but you left yelling at me, telling me you’d tell my mom what a bad girl I was if I didn’t hurry up and lay down for my nap. I laid in that pastel daybed feeling more alone and confused any child that age ever should. Utter abandonment is the only way to describe it.
Or how about the many times you took your son and I out to do something like feed the ducks or ride the horses, and you’d send him back to the house for something you “forgot” so you could have a few moments alone with me? That sweet, precious child was violated in the most disturbing ways, and sheer rage at what you did followed me along, bubbling to the surface at inconvenient times. What about the time we had another family pool party, only this time I was a little older. I didn’t want whatever was being grilled that day, I was a picky eater, which infuriated you. When my Mom got me a McDonald’s Happy Meal but told me not to let the other kids see me eating it, it was just too much for you. I had to be punished. So you came into room where I was hiding out and did the unthinkable. I’ll never look at happy meal the same.
The deep shame that set in would take miracles to shake free. I could go on and on about all the times you took advantage of my innocence, gender, age, size, and body. I’ve had over 20 memories surface over the past three years. When we were decorating Christmas cookies, when you bought me lip gloss and gave it to me on the tractor ride, when you promised me candy. When what you did frightened me so badly, I lost control of my bowels and had an accident, which really wrecked the mood for what you were doing, and you berated me, dragging me back to the house by my arm, telling me how disgusting I was. No, I had a very normal physical reaction to severe trauma, YOU are the only one guilty of anything disgusting that day. But each time left something similar, something too big for me to process then. Intense feelings of fear, confusion, shame, anger, and despair. All trapped in a teeny tiny body, buried so deep it would take years of establishing safety before I could begin to feel secure enough to let them out.
While processing through this the little girl that was hurting so badly would come to the forefront of my personality, and I would feel everything she felt. Through counseling and prayer these fragmented pieces would begin to heal, but throughout this process there were times that the hurt little girl would be able to talk, about the memory and how she felt. Not me in present age, but actually the part of me that was broken because of you. Do you know what the three year old little girl said when working through just one of these terrible memories? She said she wanted to die.You caused a three year old little girl to want to die. If there is anyone who should be wrestling with fear, shame, and despair, it’s you.
I can only imagine the things that were done to you in your childhood to cause you to become such a monster. While the saying “hurt people hurt people” can be true, at the end of the day we all have a choice. And you chose multiple times over the worst case scenario your sick mind could come up with. I’ve seen my parents wrestle through guilt during this journey, wondering how they could’ve not known. But the truth is they loved me to the best of their ability, and when I was with them I felt safe, valued, loved, and secure. I too often wondered why didn’t I try to stop you or say anything? The truth is that I was the epitome of powerless and helpless, being still very much a baby that was paralyzed by the fear you instilled. Intimidation is your greatest weapon and you used it well.
But I am no longer a little girl, and I refuse to be silenced. I’m sure there are many in the family who would love nothing more than for me to keep quiet. In many ways it looks like I have torn apart our family. But that is once again a lie as there is only one person responsible for what has happened and that is you and you alone. Those who wish I’d keep quiet need to check their hearts and recognize the evil they’re trying to conceal and know that while this has been an extremely painful journey, I am without a doubt doing he right thing. Painful, difficult truth is always better than a comfortable, convenient lie.
You can continue to deny, I wouldn’t expect anything else. But all anyone needs to do is look at your character, and mine. Jesus says that a person will be known by the fruit they produce, and while I’m far from perfect, the evidence of good fruit in my life is clear; while you continue to live in pride and not many people can come up with anything nice to say about you. You can keep running and hiding from who you really are and what you’ve really done but you can be sure your sin will find you out. What’s hidden in the dark always comes to light eventually and it’s only a matter of time before others start speaking up. I know I’m not alone in this, just the first to have the courage to speak the truth. I can’t imagine living my life that way, always pretending.
I pray you fall to your face in repentance and admit to what you’ve done and accept the consequences. You should WEEP over the destruction you’ve caused. What you have done is nothing short of despicable. I pray you humble yourself before it’s too late as none of us is guaranteed tomorrow, and I wouldn’t want to face the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in your condition. Your only option is repentance, but I question whether you’re capable of feeling remorse, cold as you are.
One thing is for sure, you shattered me to pieces. The journey to become whole again has been the absolute most difficult thing I’ve ever had to face in my life. But as I have allowed Jesus to shine His light on every hidden and terrified corner of my heart, I can confidently say that every piece belongs to Him. And I pray you find Him too, before it’s too late.
In the fall of 2016 I was practically living my dream as long awaited prayers to be a stay at home mom and begin homeschooling my kids were answered. This was a very exciting time for me and I felt closer to the Lord than ever before. I could tell that I really had changed so much, and was loving who I was becoming and all the work the Holy Spirit had done in my heart. I was experiencing what it was like to be in an intimate relationship with Jesus, and loving every minute of the time I spent daily in His presence; I just couldn’t get enough!
This is also the time I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, and if you know anything about how this works you also understand that darkness and light cannot co-exist; anything hidden in the dark will be exposed by the light as Jesus begins to occupy more of our hearts.
During this time I began having tons of dreams with my aunt and uncle in them, but I never knew why. I also kept having this strange occurrence where every time I would lay down and close my eyes, I would see myself in their house, but it was so specific. I remember this! I remember being on the couch with my cousin, watching TV before bed. I remember how as a little girl my pajamas were often nothing more than an over-sized baggy t-shirt and underwear. I remember being on the stairs and turning to say goodnight as I headed up to bed, for some reason before everyone else. I remember my aunt in the chair rocking the baby, I think maybe she was nursing.
“Lord, why do I keep seeing this? Are you trying to tell me something? Why does it feel so strange? There’s such an eerie feeling about it.” I would ask each time, but not receive an answer. I really didn’t think too much of it, or even the dreams for that matter. As a first time homeschooler of three kids, I had enough on my mind to keep me occupied.
One night that fall stands out in particular. My husband was on third shift at the time, and I had just sent my older two kids to bed as my three year old laid passed out in my bed after falling asleep to Frozen. I felt peaceful as I laid down next to her and started to drift off to sleep, but that was quickly interrupted. I heard a voice very clearly, “your uncle molested you when you were four.”
My eyes popped wide open as I took in the words I just heard. Knowing what I do about spiritual warfare, I immediately thought this was the enemy trying to scare me and was all, “get behind me Satan”, rebuking this monstrosity of an idea and declaring that I had a great childhood. I would not even for a moment consider this could possibly be true. I was absolutely sure the devil was just trying to mess with me and never thought about it for a second more after that night.
As the New Year came, I began really pressing into prayer for the promises I was believing the Lord had given me for our family. As my prayers grew bolder and bolder, I started to grow impatient waiting for these promises. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper clearly, “whatever I give you, trust Me.” I naively giggled a little at that, thinking “of course I will! That’s easy!” I thought I had so much faith, but I had no idea what was coming.