This is my story. The uncut, unedited version. The raw, “I wish my story were different”, story. But it’s not. I share it simply as a testament of God’s redemption and unending grace that God has intended for me. He wants this for you too.
I had a pretty uneventful childhood. I had to walk to school uphill both ways in the snow and my family of six lived happily in the suburbs. There was no picket fence, but there may as well have been one. We attended church regularly and spoke often of our faith. It was more of a thing, than a feeling; more of a task, than a relationship. I do remember feeling joy when I was young. A lot. Until I didn’t.
When I was ten years old, I learned that not everything is joyous or comfortable. On a seemingly average day, while in the presence of a friend’s father, a trusted adult, I was molested. And while at the seasoned age of ten, I wasn’t quite sure what he was doing, I knew I felt “yucky”. And uncomfortable. And dirty. And violated. So I told my mom. Throughout the course of the next several months, a prosecutor and my parents took me in and out of courtrooms, in an effort to bring justice to our situation. However, after many long hours, the court determined that it was “his word against mine”, and since I was a child, accusing an esteemed and wealthy adult, my version was deemed the inaccurate and invaluable one.
When I was twelve years old, my parents inverted my previously stable world. Happy as I knew it, was no longer. Unbeknownst to me, “happy” wasn’t at all what I thought it looked like. I didn’t recognize the pain and the hurt that lay underneath the facades and masking that my parents upheld. So much had happened around me and I simply had no idea. Lies told, needs unmet, emotions withheld. Under the surface of “happily ever after”, my mom sought solace and companionship outside of her marriage to my dad. This “fairytale” ended in a full blown affair that lead to the end of my parent’s marriage. Where is God in this? I can recall the moment they told me what was happening to our family and why. My dad forewarned me that “they had to talk to me”. We were sitting in our dimly lit, dark family room, my mom sitting on one couch, my dad on the other. My mom sat sullen in the corner and my dad stiff, stoic and cold. Too naive to read their demeanor, I sat unknowingly in my red rocker, awaiting “big” news. “We’re getting divorced.” I was shaken. To the core. I couldn’t have been more blindsided. I restrained the tears, I stopped hearing the words coming out of their mouths, and my heart raced as the walls felt as though they were closing in on me. Details rolled in and specifics were disclosed, and in disbelief of the reality set before me, the emotions could no longer be suppressed. I wept. I retreated to my room, rocking myself as I stared at the blank wall. A blank wall. I felt as though everything I had know was wiped away. My family, my foundation, my security, obliterated in a single, broken decision. I felt empty; the blank wall accurately reflected that. My perception of the circumstances were skewed and my anger, by default, was directed at my mom. I was given enough information for me to justify blaming my mom for the devolution of our family. I was soon given the option to choose which parent with whom I wanted to live. As the anger brewed intensely towards my mom for selecting this path, I decided to live with my dad. Our relationship is different because of our time spent together, grieving and taking care of one another. I witnessed my dad cry for the first time in my life. He showed emotions I didn’t realize he was capable of feeling. I watched him fall into a deep pit of depression and desperately tried to pull him out. He learned to cook and shared his new hobby with me. He was thoroughly invested in my life and activities, in a way he had previously been absent. I transitioned into “womanhood” during this time. While it had to have been uncomfortable for any father to discuss such girlish topics with their teen daughter, he willingly embraced them. Albeit with blushed cheeks, he never once turned his back to me. I will forever be grateful for the bond that was formed during the time I lived with him. I was the only child still left at home, as my older siblings had all moved away. I needed him and he needed me. As I look back, it brought my dad and me closer together. I was forced to grow up quickly and took on responsibility for caring for my depressed dad, that, in retrospect, was not healthy. I was still a child yet assuming an adult role.
As a freshman in high school, I had a mad crush on the typically popular, all-star athlete. He was a senior and I never thought my girlish crush would be anything more than a fantasy. Until one day, he called and asked if he could come over. Of course, I obliged. I was shocked that he actually wanted to spend time with me. I was beside myself, all giddy, with the fluttery butterflies every girl seems to only dream about. He arrived, and quickly suggested we go upstairs to my room. The naive, inexperienced girl in me, let him lead the way. Before I knew what was happening, he had stripped my clothes off, held my head against the floor, forced himself on and inside of me, in spite of my multiple requests for him to stop. And there I was, a virgin at age 15, being forcibly raped by my high school crush. It’s hard to tell whether the evident blood was from the damage he had done or from my current period. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to have sex under such circumstances but he had a mission to accomplish, and that seemed to have no effect. After he achieved what he wanted to do, he left as quickly as he came. He told his friends how he had conquered me. I told only one friend, and she questioned the validity of my experience. I didn’t tell my mom for another six months, and I made her promise not to tell my dad. I was not willing to risk another scenario of someone not believing me. I have long since forgiven that high school guy, after all, I had to, for me. He lives not far from my home. I see him regularly, as he confidently presents himself in various social situations. While I no longer feel the pain and hurt that I did before, his presence is a subtle reminder of the innocence and worth of which he so viciously tried to rob me.
My parents briefly remarried. The “honeymoon” phase wore off rather quickly. The struggles they had before, remained. The behaviors they had tried to change, resurfaced. The joy of reconciliation, faded. They divorced again my sophomore year in high school. This time, it was a relief. I wanted it over. Not because I ever wished my parents to be divorced. I wanted the agony that came with the facade to be over. It was hard to watch them try to be someone other than who they were, in hopes of achieving love. This time, I chose to live with my mom. We spent time and invested energy in mending our strained relationship. I grew to have a better understanding of my mom’s heart and character in a way I had previously overlooked, in the shadow of brokenness. I maintained a vital relationship with my dad, visiting him often. I watched my dad surrender his life to God and witnessed tremendous growth in his faith. I would still not wish divorce upon them, but it initiated a change in them both for the better and for that I am grateful.
I began to see a trend in my life of broken trust and unfulfilled promises. Was it my naiveté? Was it the people around me? Was it me? I was created in a way that leads me to seek understanding, wrestle with reason and gain wisdom from experiences. Much of what I was trying to make sense of, doesn’t make sense. In my young and immature mind, I reasoned that it had to be me. I was responsible for these events happening. I landed on this illogical conclusion. I blamed myself for much of what I had experienced. I had a warped perception of my purpose on earth. It seemed I was to be used and abused and taken advantage of. I deemed myself damaged goods. Who would want me? Who could love me? This was the birth of my broken identity. Unworthy of loving.
I decided not to go away to college, but moved out on my own and attended college locally. I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from home. Before my sophomore year, I decided to move to Indianapolis to experience some adulthood and freedom. My faith was wavering at best and I began finding solace in all the wrong places. I had a series of disastrous and abusive relationships with the men I chose; one was insecure, another one jealous, and the last one possessive with a heavy hand. I was hired at a restaurant by John*, a charming young man. Very, very, charming. So charming, that a few weeks later when he invited me to go camping with some co-workers, I agreed. Only most of the co-workers didn’t show up. But one that did, told me John was a great guy, he really liked me, he wanted to get to know me; and he wouldn’t tell John’s wife about me. What? His wife? Over the course of the next few months, John convinced me that he was unhappy and had plans to leave his wife, it would just take some time. By this time, I enjoyed his company and decided that he may be worth the wait. So I waited. And waited. And waited. When the stress and pressure of keeping our relationship hidden became too much to bear, I decided to sever the ties; take what was left of my dignity and leave. I felt I deserved more than that, so I told him not to contact me anymore. Not a week later, I found myself painstakingly reading a positive pregnancy test on the floor of my bathroom. In a pool of tears and fear, I sat in disbelief. How could this have happened? What was I going to do? After some painfully honest conversations with my parents, I decided to move to Milwaukee to live with my mom. I reassured John that I did not want or need him to be involved and that I would discontinue further contact.
The two years following the birth of my daughter, Skylar, John and his wife would make my life a living hell, as they attempted to take Skylar away. In that time, I had reunited with a high school crush, Chris, and he and I were married a year later. Loving Skylar as his own, with desires to make our family whole, Chris asked John for his permission to adopt Skylar. He agreed that was the best thing for her. On March 6th of 2007, Chris officially became Skylar’s dad.
The guilt of some of my choices and experiences couldn’t be undone. It was a chain I couldn’t seem to break no matter how hard I cried. Or how hard I shook. And while I am confident that God has forgiven me, I couldn’t seem to forgive myself. Amidst my faith walk, I began sharing my story, as a step towards healing, towards accepting the grace that God has extended to me, and knowing that God has redeemed my sin, in the hopes of living free from bondage.
When our secrets are brought into light, God can cover them with Truth and grace. The enemy loses his power over us as we release the heavy burdens that we were not intended to carry. We can experience freedom from the exhaustion that comes from hiding. The shame dissipates and we can bask in the glow of His masterful refinement as He molds us to be more like Him. We can walk daily in the Truth of who He created us to be, unshackled from the lies we previously believed.
I am human and flawed. I have a story. These are the ugly parts of my story. The ones I’d rather rip out. The ones I wish weren’t there. But they’re the ones that have, at least in part, shaped who I am. The parts that made it hard for me to trust, and challenging for me to forgive. They’re the parts that made me feel unworthy of being loved. The ones that made me doubt redemption. I know God is bigger than all my messes. I know He is using these parts to shape me to look more like Him. Today, I am in a different place than all those years ago, with a renewed mind in my identity in Christ and the Truth He gives. Though, I must remind myself of this many times a day. As I openly accept His grace and mercy, I trust more freely, forgive more quickly, and love more fully than I have before.
You have a story too. While your chapters may appear differently and the details of your circumstances will vary, one thing remains constant-we have a God that is bigger than all the demands of our trials. In my flesh, I am challenged to wait on healing, or redemption or clear answers. I become tired of not seeing the purpose in the pain. I even complain about the circumstances, and selfishly believe that my plan is better than the One who goes before me. I fall into a pattern of believing lies that the enemy and the world suggest. But as the Spirit that lives and breathes inside of me, I can rest in knowing that my identity in Christ supersedes any earthly label. I am worthy. I am enough. I am loved. I believe that God will show up, that there is purpose in my stories and there is purpose in yours too. I pray that you will allow God to cover the hurt, shame and lies with healing, grace and truth. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace”~Ephesians 1:7
*name changed to protect identity