Part two of this blog series comes from my wonderful, Norwegian, psychologist friend, Gry. Over the past two years of knowing this girl, seeing her at her worst and at her best, I can honestly say it’s been such a privilege to look into this topic together and brainstorm ideas with such a wonderful mind. I hope you enjoy her entry as much as I enjoyed working with her. I’m sure you’ll hear from her again in the future, if not on here then in some great book or something! Over to you Gry…
In part one, Sarah started the conversation about silence in church, and what might hold us back from being transparent about the issues that keep so many people enslaved. Today, I want to write about why we need this to change.
I want to share my story as an example of how God has worked in me to bring healing and freedom in my life. My hope is that my story will resonate with the heart of just one person who has struggled in silence, and maybe prompt them to start their own journey towards healing.
You see, I am a victim of online sexual abuse. I was never touched. I was never raped. I was simply taken advantage of online. Someone decided to take advantage of my lack of emotional maturity, and expose me to things I did not ask for, or was ready to experience or deal with. It created deep wounds of fear, trust issues, and an isolating shame. I fully believed that everything had been my own fault, and that I should have known better. I did not acknowledge that I was only 13; a child. I believed that if I was to ever tell anyone about the experience, then they would know what a disgusting person I really was. So I hid it.
For six long years I allowed my wounds to become infested, the lies to take root and form part of who I believed I was. Over time I developed depression, which forced me to take a deep look at myself and my past. Suddenly I felt God prompt me to share my story with someone, so I finally did. And I immediately felt relief. I was met in such a loving, kind way, and my suspicion was confirmed; I had been abused.
It was not my fault.
But the relief didn’t last long. I was launched into an emotional chaos only days after my confession, and I stayed there, on and off, for the following three years. My infested wound was out in the open – it is always going to be messy before it gets healed. Before, I was the only one who knew about my inner emotional turmoil. I could hide it, even from myself at times. I came across as someone who had it all together. Suddenly, the mess was out in the open for all to see, and it was painful.
I am not sure if I will ever be fully healed this side of heaven. But I know that if it hadn’t been for my story, I am not sure I would ever feel so passionately about working with victims of sexual trauma and sex trafficking. In a tiny way, I understand the soul-destroying shame that comes with sexual abuse. I understand what it looks like to be consumed by fear; trapped by memories of the past.
You see, I had felt ashamed, which is different than feeling guilty. Guilt is the knowledge that something you did was wrong. Shame on the other hand, is the belief that in order to be able to perform that action, there must be something fundamentally wrong with me. Shame cripples us as human beings, and separates us from what God tells us that we are. It compels us to live with a slave mindset, rather than as the royalty we become when Jesus died on the cross for us.
“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child;
and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir”
There is freedom when you bring shame and hurt into the light. God is stripping away the lies from me, one by one. I am not stuck in the past, I am walking towards the future. I know that God can use my past for His glory, and that makes me a little thankful for my experiences. And this is where the church comes in:
Church, we need to start talking about the issues that shame people into a silent prison, unable to move forward. To not talk about shame does not keep it stagnant, it increases it. Keeping silent legitimises the shame people feel, the voice that says “see, it’s even too shameful to be talked about in church”. We are a family – which means we cannot simply say “pray to God and sort things out on your own”.Yes, it looks messy, but the results are beautiful.
I fully believe that once we start allowing church to be a place of deep emotional healing, we will see people be launched into the beautiful future they were intended for. We will see people passionate to see others set free, just as they themselves have been set free. But first, we need to bring it all into the light. I can promise you that there are so many more in your churches that struggle with this than you know.
And to you who are struggling in silence:
Please tell someone you trust. The immediate emotional chaos might sound daunting, and it is. But I would rather share my emotional chaos, transparently with the people around me, than be consumed by shame on my own.
I now know it wasn’t my fault. I know I didn’t do anything wrong, and that there isn’t anything wrong with me. You might be held back by believing that what you experienced wasn’t dark enough, or that it was too dark. Every story of struggles and hardships are always going to be unique to the person it’s happened to. The way you react to your abuse depends on the circumstances in your life, your genes, past and future experiences, and probably a range of other factors. No one has the right to tell you how to react to your struggles.
What happened when I was 13 shattered my life. It turned my way of thinking upside down, and exposed me to things I was way too emotionally immature to be able to handle. But through Jesus I have victory over the struggles of my past. I am a Daughter of the King. And I know that God offers the same healing to you.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good
of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”