“Do I have a right to feel this way?” This is just one of the many questions that plagued me through my healing process. It was a difficult process of moving from a victim, to a survivor, to a thriving child of God.
I am a survivor of incest by my grandfather, date rape in high school by a good friend, and date rape in college by a beloved athlete. The healthy boundary of my ability to acknowledge the truth of hurts and fears were overridden at such a young age that it took my voice, my confidence and left me in constant self-doubt.
Survivors of abuse, all types of abuse — mental, physical, sexual, and emotional- are inundated with lies from the moment a critical word is said, a slap is felt, a boundary is crossed, especially when love and care are absent. I grew up with the believing that I just wasn’t good enough, at anything or for anyone and the more rejection and hurt piled up the more guilt and shame I took on. It didn’t matter if I had loving parents telling me otherwise. The lie had been embedded deep within me because of the abuse.
Interior darkness was my false comfort, it is all I had known and grown accustomed to. But this is not what God intended for us. He is light and we are to live as children of light.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. Eph. 5:8
God uses any opening, even the slightest crack, to come into our lives and awaken us to His truth. After the second rape in college I was at an all time low, unable to concentrate on my studies, I felt rejected, lost, and dirty. My mother couldn’t handle witnessing my self-destruction and forced me into counseling. At that point I didn’t care to hold it in any longer. I revealed all I was aware of, at the time incapable of comprehending what my grandfather had done to me at such a young age, so I told of the rapes. Getting it out in the open was like vomiting up poison that had been festering, killing my spirit slowly.
Speaking about the abuse freed my mother to come forward with what she had suffered at the hands of her father and created a domino affect in my life. My willingness to speak allowed others the comfort in having their voice as well.
Talking was the first step in healing. It freed me from being a victim and moved me forward to survive. Each session with my therapist revealed pain, self-doubt, lack of worth, and fear. However that fear was moved forward from the darkness and into the light. It no longer had a home to fester and corrupt my spirit.
Healing is a process, sometimes it can seem excruciatingly slow. But every step is essential to growing strong as a survivor and ultimately being able to thrive with a life that is no longer controlled by the past.
After many years of therapy, I came to the next crucial step — forgiveness. Forgiveness was a concept I steered clear from for many years because I couldn’t fathom allowing my abusers off with no retribution. However, the more I came to grow in relationship with God, the truth of forgiveness came clear. Forgiveness was a step in healing for me, not for the abuser. Forgiveness was acknowledging God was in control and learning to trust if God had me, He had them. The hardest step in forgiveness was forgiving myself. I had to acknowledge the decisions I made that were not on anyone else but me, and to accept that if I was a child of God able to receive His mercy and grace in being forgiven then my own abusers were children of God too, who were owed the same redemption.
After many years of clinging to a sense of control that allowed me to feel safe, I realized just how much control had been really been taken from me. I let go. In letting go and allowing God to lead I found that for the first time in my life I finally felt peace. God has me.
The final, and on-going step in my personal healing process has been recognizing and releasing the lies that were embedded so deeply in me and for so long. The enemy works hard to feeding us lies but when we are able to recognize the difference between a lie and the truth we are truly free to thrive. If it causes fear, self-doubt, anxiety or lack of worth it is not of God.
Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Eph. 5:8-9 Remember, God has you.
Shannon M. Deitz is the award-winning author of Redeemed, and Exposed: Inexcusable Me, Irreplaceable Him. Shannon also created the “I Have a Voice” project where survivors share their stories of abuse (domestic, sexual, incest, rape, neglect, emotional and verbal) through intensely personal and honest videos.
For more information about Shannon Deitz and Hopeful Hearts Ministry, please visit www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com