My best friend came to visit in August. During the three days she stayed, we engaged in about twenty solid hours of face-to-face one-on-one dialogue. We share the common experience of sexual abuse as teens. In prison ministry and shepherding women, we have ministered to others who have suffered the same. Until she moved away, we served side by side.
God has used our life-shattering events to form us into compassionate women. While she was here, we discussed how this harm still affects us today and what it has shown us about the fallen nature of humanity.
This is essential to comprehend: The natural human fallback will inevitably be to pull away from God, to lose our sense of trust in Him, and to determine that He does not love us. This happens subconsciously. It is universal, and we don’t even know we do it.
Let me explain. Six weeks after I accepted Christ as my Savior, I was sexually assaulted several times. I was only thirteen. It broke all my relationships. It changed my self image. It altered the trajectory of my life. But I had no idea any of those things had occurred.
At thirteen I couldn’t even articulate what had happened to me. I had no words. I simply felt that I was now a “bad girl.” I wrongly took on the shame my perpetrator should have felt. I can now pick this apart from the distance of decades, but couldn’t have articulated any of it at the time, nor was I even aware that these results had happened.
Being only thirteen, I didn’t realize that these events had placed me at a fork in the road. I didn’t have the maturity or anyone alongside me (remember, I couldn’t articulate it) to help me take the road that turned to Jesus or to cry out to Him for comfort, justice, help, truth, cleansing of false guilt, etc.
And so, being human and unaware, I chose the wrong path: I hid it away.
I had no idea I was even choosing a path. I was oblivious.
My response is the human fallback. It is a broken and universal reaction.
Hiding our true and naked selves from God began in the Garden. Because I buried my pain, my inner landscape altered. I had loved Jesus. Now my love grew cold, but I couldn’t have told you that had happened, for I still read my Bible, and I still attended church.
When I realized my first love had died, I felt guilty and imposed rules upon myself to read the Word daily. It was no longer done out of love for Him. I didn’t notice this shift from grace to legalism. I didn’t even know what legalism was.
But there was outward evidence of the hidden pain. That first year, I quit bathing. My hair grew greasy. No adults asked questions or noticed the signs, so the downward slide continued. My religion became increasingly outward. My Bible reading diminished and then ceased. The pornographic images I had been exposed to between ages eight and ten snared me. My boundaries were broken, so I allowed guys to cross the lines that had been breached. I didn’t know I could say no, or how to, and eventually I didn’t want to. At seventeen I was pregnant.
Somewhere during that slide this inner change occurred: I no longer believed that God loved me. I no longer trusted Him. When we feel that God doesn’t love us, all of our theology unravels, for the love of God is the absolute bedrock of all He does.
I didn’t reason this out willfully. It was as if I had no control. I was passive. To doubt God’s love is the human fallback to which we automatically go. This is the obstacle most broken people must overcome.
Now here’s the cool part.
God, of course, is actually the God of unsurpassable love. Even though I naturally slid into the human fallback, He was already patiently wooing me back, for He knew more clearly than I did that I was merely human.
He saw me stumble away. He saw me make choices that I didn’t even understand and which He knew would hurt me. He watched as my heart hardened, I lost my love for Him, and I quit trusting Him implicitly.
It was in this state that He died for me. He pre-knew me in this condition. He didn’t cross His arms and frown disapprovingly. Rather, He chose to enter into my pain by becoming a man, living in a broken world, experiencing pain Himself, and taking on my brokenness on the cross.
In my most broken place, He loved me as He died.
He grieved for what had been done to me. He grieved for the pain my fallback choices inflicted. He grieved for the pain that caused my perpetrator to harm me in the first place. And He died for all of that, for him and for me, too. All of it.
He also used it for my good. We live in a fallen world. Awful things happen to children. He gave me the ability to forgive. He empowers me to help other women overcome this same pain. He is the answer. His compassion and His sacrificial love cement me to Him. He restores my sense of self, using His words about my great worth as His child.
God is kind and gracious. He orchestrated this plan to send His Son to save us from our broken selves and to heal us. He weaves together the threads of our lives to make us strong and useful to help others, giving us a sense of purpose in even this.
The Lord Himself is always good medicine.
For help in finding safe community for healing and restoration, click HERE. My best friend is a certified life coach helping sexually abused women to recover, and this link is to her post.