This is my testimony of growing up in the church, enduring abuse, and eventually healing through Christ. I know this topic is controversial due to the subject matter of both child abuse as well as
the deep relation it has to my spiritual past, as I believe God truly healed me. Please be respectful. Prayers to all who relate and thank you for your time.

At birth, the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck and cut off circulation to my brain. Over 10% of my brain died and the doctors let my mom know that I might not be able to walk or talk. I immediately went into convulsations and spent a while in ICU. The spot in my brain, called a lesion, is still there and without divine intervention will always be there. The hardest part about this in the long run was my memory. I was watched closely for the first three years of my life and they determined that the lesion was no longer affecting my abilities and I started using all of my motor skills and succeeded in ways that were unexpected, or at least were only hoped for. I was raised in the church and was blessed enough to have a mother and father who were in love, who taught me about Jesus and who loved (protected) me unconditionally. At nine, my family started going to church together for the first time and we became very intimately involved in the church. My father was in the band, mom made the logo my brother did the sound and I did the slide show. The sound board was up in the attic and there a man who over the course of four years earned my trust and slowly began molesting me at church and later, anywhere. I was flabbergasted that no one saw me or him do anything and that it kept happening. After people found out, no one looked me in the eye no one prayed for me or my family. I was invisible while getting molested and years afterwards. So I became hyperactive, intense, overwhelming. I just wanted someone to notice and love me. But the pastor ignored my family and I the whole time. I always associated that church with pain and self worthlessness.
At 19, I was misdiagnosed as epileptic and for 5 years I tried to operate successfully with this condition without energy, resources, or knowledge to really make a difference. In March of 2016, I was in an accident and totaled my truck; it was devastating and I couldn’t see why God threw away the only accomplishment (purchasing the truck) I had made in the year I lived at my mom and dad’s. I was constantly worried and easily overwhelmed and angry at almost all that my life was throwing at me. After the accident, I went through some rough depression and was furious that I had to start over on these “accomplishments”. On a walk one day to calm myself down, I saw a picture on social media of the man who molested me. I began to cry hysterically, hyperventilate and have thoughts of suicide. I was all by myself in a neighborhood and felt extremely alone. The next few months during bus rides to and between two jobs, I began to journal and go to therapy for my childhood abuse. I had big epiphanies: how what he did to me affected me, what he did to me, putting words to something I previously barely had a picture to. John 8:32 says The Truth shall set you free. And in verse 36, it says “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” I learned that it wasn’t my fault, that’s the truth, which was the most important thing at that point I’d ever learned. Nothing I could have said, done thought, or even my tainted understandings could’ve made what he did okay or justifiable. My desire to have him back was something I battled for 12 years and I felt guilty on top of that because deep down I knew that I wished I could be been with him more and I couldn’t ever say that because suddenly it would be my fault that I was molested. So when I realized that no child can ever ask for that deliberately or otherwise, I gained a sense of security knowing that the way I thought and felt and understood the world couldn’t be wrong or bad, it was altered because of someone else’s decisions and I couldn’t and wouldn’t be held responsible for him anymore nor could I bear the weight of his choices anymore. So I went to therapy with my pastor for 2 months or so. I learned the as humans, our emotions are neither right nor wrong and we have every right to feel them to their full healthy extent. But our actions are always right and wrong. So I began to accept my feelings of anger and fear and disgust and everything that came along with these new surfacing memories from 15 years ago. I journaled all of the incidences from my childhood and how they affected me then and now and how I felt about them. John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
There is a time for everything (Ecc. 3:1). Once I had my time to feel whatever feelings came my way, I felt freer than ever before. However, I knew that wasn’t the end. The most important thing was that this man and these incidences no longer had a hold on me. In order for that to happen I had to forgive him, which was an interesting experience to say the least. I had to learn the difference between forgiving and forgetting. I spent 15 years thinking that I had forgiven him when I had really forgotten him. How do I avoid doing that again? So I read a lot about what it meant for God to forgive us. I knew that God had forgiven this man for his actions toward me and in order to be more like God, I had to do the same and be set free. Forgiveness doesn’t mean the pain never happened or that it doesn’t matter anymore but forgiveness means that you no longer hold that person accountable toward their actions, especially when they should be. Eph 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
It’s easy to forgive my brother when he is awful to me or my mom who has failed me but to forgive someone I felt like “ didn’t deserve it” taught me how little I deserved God’s forgiveness. In doing this, I set myself free from him, when I thought it would be more like the other way around. What a crazy feeling the next few days were. I had only lived 9 years without this monkey on my back and I literally forgot or had no memory of what life was like without this man in my life.  A pastor once said to me “Forgiveness doesn’t require a response, it’s solely for you.” Matthew 5:44 says “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you.”
So I took this journal and I knew that if I held onto it, instead of dwelling on my healing I would probably only read the parts about the pain over and over and I wouldn’t let it go. And when you hold something in your heart for 12 years and you finally have grown up words for these grown up feelings and experiences, there’s a certain power you feel when you can put it into words and express yourself. My experiences, feelings, reactions, and thoughts were finally understandable, graspable and now I had to throw all of that away. And that was a hard concept for me. But I also never wanted to live the way I had been living anymore. So while I know a lot of people would burn it or throw it away or rip it up. My human-ness wanted to cuddle this journal and never let it go. One of the biggest things I ever did was to say good bye and IT IS FINISHED, as it says in John 19:30 to this awful yet addicting chapter of my life that seemed to never end. I asked the Lord how do I throw this away, keep the healing but leave the pain. How can I make sure I don’t throw away my growth with this pain? Then, I had a great idea. I wanted throw the journal away in the dumpster of the church in which most of the pain happened.
My best friend drove me after church one Sunday and I wanted to be all alone with her and to have a sovereign moment to chuck this journal and everything it represented in their trash, where it belonged. However, Jesus wanted that to go a little differently. The Sunday I chose to go to old church I went to as a child, there was some kind of festival going on in their parking lot. So I waited hours for it to be over but when you don’t have your own car, you don’t have your own schedule and I knew I’d kept my friend for a while. My plan was to silently and covertly throw the journal away while they held their festivities and be on my way. When I threw it away, I immediately broke down because I realized that it is finished. He has done it. It didn’t own me. Matter of factly: I owned it and I never felt so free and empowered. So in the perspective of these wonderful churchgoers enjoying a nice summer afternoon, here comes a crazy lady using their dumpster and crying. So I’m standing in the parking spot that this man would park in and touch me every Sunday holding all the power and now I’m the one with power. The wonderful people of this church came over to me and asked if I was okay. I began to share part of my testimony and for the first time ever, someone at that church, even though it’s a different owner and church-goers, loved and saw me. The laid hands on my and prayed for me. For the first time ever, someone at that church prayed for this little broken girl awkwardly trying to be a woman. I felt loved and seen and blessed and it was as if everything that I had been denied as a child from that church, these God-seeking people were replenishing me unknowingly. And I finally had a memory at that place where I wasn’t the victim, where I was the hero.
Fast forward to THE NEXT DAY, I was on the way to work and BECAUSE I TAKE THE BUS I was there early. I was listening to worship music and for the first time ever I was worshiping God not as a scarred child but as a healed free unchained woman of God and I can’t describe the weight I felt lifted or the joy I never knew I had the strength to possess. And while waiting for work to start, along comes the youth pastor’s wife from my last church. Any other day, I would have hit her, not because she hurt me but because represented the people who hurt me or neglected to keep me safe. But God didn’t do that on any other day, because He’s smart. So I haven’t seen this woman in half my life, I had been working a block from her house for months now and never caught sight of her, throughout all the therapy and all the anger and all the fear, I didn’t see her until 12 hours after I was truly healed. So I didn’t hit her. She welcomed me to her home to catch up as it had been well over ten years since I had last seen her. I knew I had to go that it was extremely important and we made a lunch date. Oh by the way, I didn’t even have work that day, so I wasn’t supposed to be in that neighborhood.
That week, I took a lot of time to pray about what would transpire as I met with people from my old church for the first time since leaving. When I went to her house, I had no idea what to expect but before I even knew it we were talking about my abuse. My former youth pastor explained a side of the story coming from an adult standpoint and got a new perspective on what happened. The pastor was only 30 years old and was coming out of a mental breakdown. Now he has some 13 year old kid who told him that she got touched right under his nose. My heart grew heavy for my old pastor and I had even less anger for him than before and began to pray for him and felt love for him that I never really felt before. And inside of an hour, I healed from 4 years of abuse and I got something no little girl gets; I got an apology. I’m sorry you were touched, I should’ve helped and didn’t. I was young and didn’t know what to do and just listened to other young man who didn’t know what to do. We were both wrong and I’m sorry. Who gets that? Who am I to deserve to hear an apology, which is never required for forgiveness! The next few weeks were overflowed with me trying to even wrap my head around that experience. I thought about it every day and played that conversation on repeat and prayed every day. 
After about a month, I took a Sunday off to go to my old church and make some new memories there. I wanted to walk through those doors just once and not have to wonder if I was going to get hurt. When I went there, the pastor remembered me and thankfully didn’t call me crying dumpster girl. He welcomed me, called me sister, and gave me the warmest welcome ever. The worship leader even called me by name and said how happy she was that I had come and how much she loved me. Everyone said hello to me and remembered my name and loved on me. It was everything my last church didn’t give me.  The pastor spoke on “What Not to Wear” (The pastor said clothe yourselves in grace, wrap yourself in gratitude) and to “wear your God given ID”; how we should let go of the things and people who hurt us and not let them define us. I am chosen; I am not left out! I learned I was not this man’s “play toy”; that wasn’t my worth. I am daughter of God and therein lay my identity. My mouth was agape the service as if there’s a God who said hey let’s make sure she goes on this particular Sunday and  I never had a sermon speak so directly to me in my entire life and I cried for a while. After the service was over, they allowed me to go into the attic, where most of the stuff this man did happened. And I went up the stairs and was overrun by emotion seeing this church from this angle, remembering my fear and disgust and how I would never ever have to feel that way ever again. And I felt happier leaving that church than I had ever felt in my whole life. The pastor had talked about how self destructive behavior is rooted in resentments and how forgiveness is for the forgiver. It gets rid of those resentments and helps us heal instead of become destroyed. He quoted Collosions 3:9-10 which says 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
So here I am free, happy, no longer a little molested girl which is how I had lived for 15 years but a strong, mature, safe, loved woman of God. And I felt for the first time ever that maybe I could do this whole life thing. Shortly after, I got on health insurance and saw the doctor for the first time in years and I got on medicine that helps me more than anything I had tried in the past two decades and have been re-diagnosed with something that actually suits my eccentricities. Once this pain went away I felt like I got my childhood back and in doing that could actually live an adult life, so I got that back too. It took not too long to limit my job down to only one and I got my old job as a teacher in a daycare back. They noticed right away the growth that I had obviously been through and I have succeeded in it more than ever before. 
I always have a hard time wrapping things up/summing things up. So I have to ask myself: what do I want to leave the congregation with? What was the most powerful and important things that my heart feels the NEED to share? You can’t be too broken for God. If you’re hurt, it’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility. The truth shall set you free. Forgiveness brings you closer to God because you are mirroring Him.  Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers (relationship menders) for they shall be called the children of God (Because we are forgiving we are mirroring God’s personality as a child mirror’s their Father’s)That’s God’s verse for my life and one I encourage you to dwell on : “How can I be a peacemaker and mirror God’s personality?” 

Submitted: May 04, 2018

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