I am the first grandchild in our family. As a child, my grandmother doted on me and my grandfather was the very special man in my life. We would go to the park to play on the slide and swings, to the movies, to the local university’s basketball games and to the grocery store. He would take me for ice cream cones, which is still my way of treating or rewarding myself.
My grandfather was there when my dad wasn’t. My dad was in the military for 26 years and was gone most of my young life. Consequently, my relationship with my grandfather filled the void and was very important to me. Later, as an adult, I would be flooded with memories that my grandfather was my sexual abuser. When I was alone with him, he molested me.
When I lived with my grandparents, we attended church every Sunday. At the front of the church, behind the beautiful altar, there was a huge statue of Jesus hanging on the cross. It was this statue that gave me hope in the midst of my secret pain and abuse. Throughout the entire service, I would focus on this statue. I knew Jesus understood my suffering, as his suffering was displayed for all to see. Unlike mine, which was borne in darkness and hidden from the world.
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Jesus became the only male figure in my life whom I could trust. He alone was my confidante, my consoler, my everything. I told him all my fears and dreams. I knew he always heard me, because the sermons and Sunday school lessons told me so. I believed it all.
Into my adult years, my relationship with God the Father was another story. In my mind, he was unapproachable. Distant. Judgmental. Punishing. Someone to be feared. I used to mentally beat myself up for not praying to Father God, for leaving him out of my heart.
During a time in prayer, I sensed Jesus leading me to the Father. I sensed his love for me, but I didn’t trust it. Something inside me said, “I have been down this road before. Here is a father figure saying he loves me, only to abuse and neglect me.”
As I continued to pray over the next year, Jesus remained beside me, silently watching over me. His presence gave me the courage to go through the process of learning that God the Father is trustworthy. That he loves me, too. That he won’t abandon or neglect me anymore than Jesus would. I came to know Father God as compassionate and full of mercy. He became Someone who I respected, but didn’t have to fear. I learned that Jesus is the mirror image of the Father. Now I trust both of them equally.
My heart had been locked up due to the abuse I received as a child. But when the time was right, God gave me freedom through his unconditional love, compassion, and healing. I lived the first 40 years of my life keeping the secret silent. I didn’t begin my healing process until after my abuser’s death.
Since that time, my journey has been full of answers to the many questions I have carried inside myself. And the answers didn’t come without pain and tears. For with the truth came the horrible images that at times filled my mind and broke my heart. There were times when the emotional pain was so overwhelming, I wished I had never begun the process of healing. But I have to tell you, in looking back on this journey, the joys have outweighed the sorrows! The wounds of abuse are still there, but most of them are now only scars, thanks to the support of the compassionate God, my husband John, my Christian therapist, and my survivor friends.
There are times I still feel alone in the dark abyss of my pain, but soon I’m reminded by God that he is there with me. Jesus felt the sting of rejection, of abuse, of unjust, violent actions in spite of his innocence and of silence in the face of his accusers. He alone deeply understands me and truly feels my pain. He comforts my aching heart as it breaks over every flashback and memory of the violence done to my little body and soul.
Leaning on God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is now a daily way of life for me. I know that whatever I experience in this world, good or bad, God is right beside me. Holding me in his loving arms of compassion. Nothing can separate me from his love. Just as the Scripture says, “For neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
Are you secure in God’s love for you? Have you been able to see through your pain to experience God’s plan for your healing and your ministry to others who suffer?
God offers to empower us to feel better about ourselves, more excited about our future, more grateful for those we love, and more enthusiastic about our faith.