A journey often leads to unexpected places, as did my time attending Living Waters. One evening a man shared his story; while I listened I grew increasingly uncomfortable, fidgeting and becoming agitated. The violation he experienced seemed rather small to me, and I didn’t quite get how his reaction corresponded to his experience. “At least he was fully clothed,” I thought. “What happened to me was worse than that.”
As he concluded his story and the team called people forward for prayer, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I don’t even know what I said to the team member, except that I justified and excused the actions of my offender. The team member listened and prayed that I would feel the pain and the anger.
God answered those prayers. Light had dawned on a deeply buried lie, and within a matter of hours a whole web of beliefs about myself, the perpetrator, and my family’s response crumbled.
As a very young child, I had been molested by my brother’s best friend. As soon as he was gone, I had immediately broken the promise of secrecy he demanded and told my parents. My siblings remember me crying, and were grilled by my parents.
But nothing happened. I don’t remember being comforted. I do remember bringing it up the next morning to my mom and sister; there was no response from my mom – an emotional flat line. The mix of my personality (I was very compliant and eager to please), combined with her emotional cues: the abuse became a non-event that was boxed up and swept away.
Now I had to face not only the decades old buried pain of the incident and grieve, but I had to face the pain of my parents’, especially my mother’s, betrayal. As understanding dawned and my perspective changed, I felt like a stranger inside my own skin.
On the flip side, the lens for viewing my life had suddenly come into focus. I understood why I had so often felt less than – inferior and damaged. I had internalized the shame and hushed my voice. For the first time, I really understood why I had wandered into an unhealthy same-sex relationship in my twenties. I had ached for feminine comfort, searching for someone to comfort, care for, and vindicate my responses.
In the midst of turmoil, the Lord’s presence with me was palpable. I knew this was no surprise to Him, for He knew me better than I know myself. He began to guide me, step by step, to a more whole self. First, He asked me if I wanted to release the pain, to open my hands and let it go. My yes was not immediate. My identity and story was changing. Did I want to exchange it? The answer was not immediate.
One evening, I read the following passages from Strength in Weakness:
“As in the healing of all our wounds, the beginning of that healing occurs with the naming of one’s wound and the placing of it into Christ’s wounds.” (p. 171), and “Our sufferings are bound up into the wounds of Christ when we entrust our perpetrators to him.” (p. 136)
The invitation for healing I read in these words was so sweet I could not resist. After so long, I had a name for my wound, and I was ready to place it into His hands. I felt a gut-level urgency to pray and release this wound to Him. I called to my husband, asking if he could join me.
As we prayed, I saw the wounded hands of Jesus before me, open and waiting: to receive my wounds, my sinful responses to them, and to receive the person who had violated me. The very roots of the whole event came up as we prayed; as it surfaced, I physically pressed each part– the sin, the boy, the betrayal, my responses – into His hands.
That evening, Isaiah 53:5 became reality for me: “By His wounds we are healed.” I had never understood the power of those wounded Hands to heal the deepest places of my heart.
I remembered one of the first things I had heard at the start of this journey – would I open my hands? Now God had brought it full circle; I had discovered His open hands, waiting and ready to receive, as I opened mine.
I don’t know why the timing of my story happened as it did. I had participated in healing courses before; I don’t know why things remain locked up. I believe, however, that the time commitment of the Living Waters team members served as a significant catalyst in my journey. The weekly time offering helped my heart feel safe and loved, and the lock was sprung.
After my experience in Living Waters, I was able to discuss this incident with my siblings for the first time in 40-some years. I discovered some wonderful things. My brother and sister, ages 10 & 11, had confronted my parents and begged them to talk to the boy’s parents. My brother never let me be alone with him again; after confronting the boy, he was unable to continue the friendship.
The beauty of this Divine Exchange awes me. He receives the darkness and pain and releases peace and forgiveness. I have accepted His magnificent invitation and continue on this journey of healing. As I walk on this path, restoration and transformation continues.