…so I thought I’d try something different and invite her to do a guest blog on the book. She agreed. But what I didn’t count on was that she’d go all gushy on me. So with some “aw shucks” embarrassment and fond affection back at her, here’s her post:
Mark Shea will always hold a special place in my heart, because he helped lead me into the Church. Eight years ago, when, as a recent Jewish convert to Evangelical Protestantism, I became curious about the Catholic faith, he answered my e-mailed questions with patience and grace. So it is an honor to be able to share on his blog about my new book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.
Five years ago, when I began giving talks and interviews about my first book, The Thrill of the Chaste, I was afraid to speak publicly about having suffered sexual abuse as a child. The fear came partly because I was only just beginning to come to terms with the enormity of what had been done to me. Memories of the abuse had always been with me, but, like many children, I had blamed myself for it—thinking that in some way I had brought it on. It was not until late 2007, when I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, that I started to realize I had been deeply touched by evil, with damaging effects that remained in me—affecting my sense of self as well as my relationships with others.
I was also afraid to admit to having been sexually abused in childhood because of what others might say—particularly in the blog world. On my blog, The Dawn Patrol, under the guise of defending Christian teachings on marriage and the sanctity of life, I had gained a wide readership from having picked fights with prominent feminist bloggers, calling them names and attacking them in personal terms. Now, granted, even if I had not used such charged language, my being a chastity advocate would have made me an easy target for those who mock Christian values. But I had basically dug myself a hole by making every dispute personal. As a result, I feared that if I came out and said I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, the enemies I had made for myself would say, “Aha! So that’s why she hates sex!” It would give them a simple psychological key for discounting all my arguments for why saving sex for marriage enabled singles to live and love more deeply.
As I promoted The Thrill of the Chaste, people began to approach me to share the struggles they faced as they tried to live out Church teachings on chastity. I discovered that many of those who struggled most intensely to practice self-control had childhood wounds like mine, caused by abuse or neglect. The abuse had left them with a hole in their heart that could not be filled. It was then that I started to give serious thought to writing for those who have been sexually wounded. With My Peace I Give You, I seek to help my fellow victims find healing in Christ through the lives and witnesses of saints who experienced wounds like theirs.
The saints have played an essential role in my own healing because they are, to borrow the delightful phrase of Pope Benedict, “‘translations’ [of Jesus] on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us.” In their suffering, they reveal that all suffering contains within it the opportunity to become more like the One who suffered on the Cross. As I write in My Peace I Give You:
“No matter what evil was done to us, if we, like the saints, offer our hearts to God, he will accept us as we are, with all our past experiences. Your heart right now contains all the raw material he needs to mold it so that, with his grace working over the course of time, it may become like his. This is true no matter how damaged you may feel. So long as our hearts long for union with Jesus’ Sacred Heart, our feelings about ourselves will not prevent such union, because God’s love is stronger than feelings. It is a presence.
“This loving presence is what the saints now enjoy, and what they want to bring to us, through their example and prayers. The stories of their lives—how they suffered, and how they emerged from their sufferings into greater holiness—show that God not only wants to heal our wounds: if we let him, he will heal us through our wounds, making everything we have endured serve to draw us nearer to him in love.”
There’s a world of sexual wounds out there, and there’s an immense amount of grace and love in the heart of God for healing those wounds (often wounds inflicted by believers). Check out Dawn’s books. She’s been there.