My life has taught me that there really isn’t an easy or correct way to share the kind of difficult story that I am about to share. No matter who you are, if you decide to open up your heart and share your past to people in a real, honest, and vulnerable way, there will always be someone who loves you for it, someone who resents (or even hates) you for it, and lots of someones in between. That’s just the way it is, and as far as I can tell its the way things have always been. So before I continue my story today, I think it’s necessary to warn you that it is not for everyone. I’ve greatly censored it and have withheld a large majority of the details, but the story of my life is still a heavy one. Heavy, dark, and filled with pain.
But it’s also a story of grace. It’s a story of beauty from pain, of lives saved, and the power of God’s love in a dark and broken world. And it’s a story of how, despite everything I’ve been through, God never left me to go through it alone.
And with that I will begin…
My story of thorns began when I was a little girl of just five or six years old. At such a young age I had no idea what physical, verbal, or mental abuse was, but that night I experienced them all for the first time at the hands of someone that most people consider to be the epitome of a godly woman. After that night she continued to abuse me in many different ways for nearly 20 more years.
I remember that first night clearly. It was my first memory of true fear. It was also the first time I saw the Bible twisted and used as a tool for manipulation, although I didn’t know it was being twisted at the time. I was a child…I believed what I was taught. And I was taught a lot of terrible things.
In the beginning, the abuse was mainly verbal and mental, but the older and stronger I became, the more physical things became. Things were asked of me physically that were impossible for my small, developing body to endure, and eventually my body began to slowly fall apart. It desperately needed a chance to recover from the abuse so that it could heal, but it was never given that chance…and just like that, the consequences of one woman’s abuse would affect my body for the rest of my life.
And now we come to my darkest moments…I was 12 years old when the love I had for my abuser finally turned to hate, and it was hate that almost ruined me. I hated her. I hated myself because no matter how hard I tried to be good and do right I always failed. I hated being mistreated, lied about, and lied to. I hated suffering. I hated everything.
I was angry, and for the first time in my life broken beyond repair. My childlike innocence had passed from me completely, and in its place was a depressed, suicidal, bitter, child-adult who was completely out of hope. But I lived in a world where weakness was punished, and often severely so, so I knew that the only way to survive through this was to hide everything I was feeling as best as I possibly could.
And I got away with it. I don’t think anyone around me had any idea how close I was to ending my own life. But I knew, and I knew that God knew. And even though I had some very wrong ideas about who God was because of the things I was taught from my abuser, I was right about one thing: He was the only One strong enough to help me now. And either He would come through and help me, or I’d give in to the darkness and pain that was inside of me. I was strong, but I knew I wouldn’t be strong enough forever. I knew that one day I would break.
And that’s what brought me, all those years ago, to my knees, crying out to God on my bathroom floor. I begged God to help me. I begged Him to make me better. Stronger. And if He didn’t, I begged Him to let me die.
I honestly don’t know what I expected God to do in response to my prayers. I guess I wanted Him to do something big to help me know that He was there. But that’s not what happened. There was no bright light and no still, small voice, but, as if instinctively, I suddenly knew that if I wanted God to save me I had to learn who He was. So I picked up a Bible and started to read. On a whim I started with the book of Proverbs and the book of Matthew, and every night after everyone went to sleep I’d lock myself in the bathroom and read them. I figured that God would be able to teach me something helpful about Himself in both of those books, but I had no idea that God was going to use them to literally save my life.