I was 19 years old the night a serial rapist crawled through my parents’ kitchen window and attacked me in my bed.
The perpetrator–a man named James–had raped more than forty women and been prosecuted seven times.
Each time, he was freed to rape again.
My parents were shocked. Unthinkable things like this didn’t happen in their world–certainly not to their children. My father instructed me not to talk about what had happened. He perceived my assault as shameful. Talking about it was simply beyond his reach.
My dad had Asberger’s (although I didn’t know it at the time). God was good–all the time (which he is). But to Dad, acknowledging anger, grief, questions, and doubt was an abandonment of faith, not an acknowledgment that God is there for us in our worst moments. Later, as my father grew into his senior years, he forgot my assault ever happened.
I never forgot. My memories had taken me hostage.
I struggled for two years–haunted by memories, flashbacks, fear, depression. The churches I attended viewed depression as either a sin or a mark of spiritual weakness. No one knew about trauma or PTSD. And Christians were overtly and subtly fed the message that they were supposed to be “in-right, out-right, up-right, down-right happy all the time.”
So I denied my anger and questions–for a while. Until I decided that I was only fooling myself. If God really was love, he had to care about me in the most painful times of my life. God must care about my anger and my questions and my
doubts–perhaps more than anything about me.
In my questions, I discover who I believe God really is and face my self-deceptions.
And like the psalmists who expressed pain and questions and doubt, God wants me to come to him in my suffering.
In his book To Be Told, Dan Allender tells us, “So take seriously the story that God has given you to live. It’s time to read your own life, because your story is the one that could set us all ablaze.”
Two years after my assault, God brought me face-to-face with my bitter, unforgiving heart toward the man who’d assaulted me and so many other women. God taught me what it meant to forgive our worst enemies and those who despitefully use us. God showed me my own murderous heart and that the ground is truly level at the foot of the cross.
As I discovered forgiveness and gratitude, I was overwhelmed with the desire to tell my story.
Not because my story is important–but because we are all connected at the soul level through our stories. When we see a glimpse of ourselves in someone else’s story, we begin to believe that their healing, their grace, their miracle is also possible for us.
We have the power to set the world ablaze as we share our stories of hope and healing.
And as we give to others, we receive–healing, renewal, and actual rewiring in our brains. “Stuck” parts of our stories are healed through the power of truth. They become integrated and appropriately filed into memory. And we experience the “renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:22)
Your life is a flickering flame…waiting to ignite hope in others. Tell your story.
Whose story has inspired your life? In what ways have they influenced you?