These life experiences are some of God’s most powerful tools in my life and in offering compassion to other women. Get to know me through my tragedy.
Introducing Melinda: Blog #8
When my school photos arrived, my mother insisted they be retaken. With greasy, stringy hair, I stared glumly out of the shot. I wore a dingy shirt and a scruffy poncho. For photo day, I had made no attempt at grooming. Acne had overtaken my face. This was not the norm. For that year’s photo, I was not myself. I had quit bathing. I didn’t understand why. At age thirteen, I couldn’t articulate this alteration.
Now, as a biblically trained counselor and prison ministry teacher, I can explain it in clinical detail. This should have been a warning sign. But in the early 1970s, no one talked about these things. Of course, in hindsight, the adults see. But, this isn’t about them. This is about the goodness of God.
Jesus had tugged at my heart since my earliest memories. I had always loved him. That fall, responding to his call, I had asked him to be my Lord and Savior. I came shooting out of that encounter like a rocket, reading my bible every day, sharing the gospel with my junior high classmates, meeting with other believers at school, and discerning that God had gifted and called me to write. I was on fire!
Then the world cracked and tilted sideways. Human degradation changed the course of my life.
A horrific harm assaulted me, robbing me of my innocence. At thirteen, I couldn’t speak what had happened. I had no words for sexual harm. In my mind, I went from sweet, innocent, and forgiven to worthless, dirty, and used. I now saw myself as a bad girl. I took the crushing blame of someone else’s sin upon myself, and it destroyed me.
Worse yet, it planted a cold kernel of distrust in my heart, a wariness about the God who had allowed it. This response wasn’t intentional. I couldn’t have voiced that it had occurred. Until that point, I had viewed God as the cherisher of children. But, slowly, I faded away. The rest is my history.
Enter the goodness of God.
If I had been allowed to choose my life-shaping events so that I could learn to adore the Savior, I would not have chosen the events of 1972-73. But they have been my shaper. Nothing is wasted.
A child who is harmed sexually loses the ability to trust God, because within that child is a human nature. Can we trust God when the worst—whatever it is—befalls us and crushes us flat? No! However, no matter what happens, it is sin to distrust God. Even if we don’t lose faith intentionally, even if it is the human default, even if we don’t comprehend that we no longer trust him.
In fact, that’s the point. This is why we need a Savior. We cannot save ourselves.
Some of us don’t recognize our need until the worst has happened. Then we see our broken humanity clearly for the first time. Human sin shapes all our responses. We can’t help it.
Confused and broken, I ran screaming away.
All the while, Jesus grasped hold of me and pursued me relentlessly. He knew what it would do to me. He knew I would run hard and fast, harming myself in the process. Hovering near, he waited and shielded, shaping even my bad choices for my ultimate good.
In a deep and personal way, I can relate to a Savior who was crucified naked and degraded before a mob, suffering the indignities of shame, despising it, yet setting his face like flint to die for me. For me, broken girl that I am! My High Priest took on all my sins, even the sins that occurred merely because I am human.
His wounds show us his tender heart. His willing scars reveal his unjust and undeserved abuse. He has become like us. He knows our pain. All of us come to him through our own wounds and scars. This is how we are most useful for healing the wounds of others, just like he does.
Bit by bit, he still puts me back together. Step by step, he peels back the layers of pain and inaccurate self-image. Day by day, he heals, causing me to recognize how he cherishes me. Patiently, he teaches me to trust him. Jesus sees everything. He is the just Judge. He will judge. He doesn’t need my help to do that. He is thorough.
This knowledge allows me to release it to him and to teach others to do the same. Over 80% of the women in prison have experienced the same trauma and worse, at least 25% of women in the general population. Someone needs to be there to demonstrate that God can indeed orchestrate even this harm for good. Yes, even this.
Year after year, he allows me to minister the same healing to other hurt women. I couldn’t help them if I hadn’t been hurt. It was necessary. I yield. God makes it beautiful.
How do Christ’s wounds show you his heart? How do his wounds heal you?
Biblical help for recovery: The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender
Click here for the final post in my introductory series.