I asked Laura Haines to tell her story here because it so beautifully represents redemption and how much Jesus can heal us. I pray it blesses you.
“God can’t use a redemptive story that you’re not willing to tell.” ~ Kaci Calvaresi
I happened upon these words recently. They struck me and have stuck with me. And, ever since, I’ve wondered,
“Do I have one?”
“Am I willing?”
And then the quiet withdrawal, “But my story is hard.”
My earliest memories are of abuse. I remember my mother being slammed against the wall just outside my bedroom door and tiny me trying to protect her. I remember hating my father, not understanding my mother’s love of him. Like Mary, my parents were of the 70’s. I played with the pot in the rolled up baggies on our coffee table. I remember the soothing bubbly sound of a bong. I saw adults behaving strangely; stoned to incapacitation. And I was unprotected.
I played outside as much as I could. Either my mother didn’t mind it or she encouraged it. Either way she had no idea how far afield her five year old was wandering. When I was lured into the woods by a neighborhood teen and sexually assaulted, the experience shattered me in ways too difficult to even try to explain. And I returned home that way. Shattered, shell-shocked, and silent.
We moved. But the nightmares followed. Mom divorced my dad and then promptly remarried a raging alcoholic. He did not abuse her though; just her children.
With new neighborhoods to explore and apparently no one concerned for my safety, at nine I found myself again in a situation I was helpless to extract myself from. Like Mary attests in her book Not Marked, my previous abuse had marked me, making me a target for more of the same, and the unsafe seas I swam in made me easy to lure and net. A never-should-have-happened sleepover with strangers turned into a long and sickening night for me and another little girl. I went home the next day shell-shocked. Again. But not so noticeably so. Apparently.
It was step-monster who introduced our family to a sect. Salvation, we were taught by the men-in-black-and-white-suits, was in no other. One would have to remain faithful to the church to the end. Overcome. There I was taken in and groomed by two more abusers. Both father figures to me. Both needed by some desperate, daddy-starved parts of me. A teen when it started, confused and yet unfortunately accustomed, I just dealt the way I’d always dealt. Or tried to. My parents had stopped attending and were clueless; busy spinning in their own little circles. But I was devoted. God was in the church, and the church was God, and I needed God, so I remained faithful. Hopelessly indoctrinated, bullied and silenced by church leadership, I could only bury myself and comply.
I was married and a parent before I realized the doctrine I’d been spoon-fed every Wednesday and twice on Sundays since I was eight was a well-crafted lie. I did leave, but not until God had firmly instilled in me the truth about Him: The truth about Jesus. It was only when I could say with any assurance that I was leaving a lie and taking truth, taking Christ, with me that I could.
Maybe that’s what God’s been up to all this time. I think I can see it now in how He used the truth about Himself to free me. And still uses it. I know I feel it in my relationships with my loving husband, my blessedly protected children, and close friends who have come alongside me on my journey toward healing. Maybe this journey, the ferreting and facing of long-used defense mechanisms, even the remembering and retelling of painful memories, is part of God’s redemptive process.
But I’ll be honest with you. It hasn’t felt very redemptive. It’s been excruciating. It’s been consuming. And I’ve had a few well-meaning but unequipped friends take several long-legged, painful steps back and away from me because of it all, nearly devastating me.
“There are simply things you learn about Him when everything else gives way that you cannot learn in easy places.” ~ Jerri Kelly Phillips
Maybe part of God’s redemptive work is what you learn in the hard places.
You learn He can keep you going when you don’t think you can anymore. You learn He can raise up comforters and helpers for you when others pull back and away; ones you would not have seen coming. You learn you can trust Him to provide for you in your lack, in your pain, in your pit, and lead you on when you thought you were at your end.
You learn, as Oswald Chambers once said, “It is in the midst of anguish and terror that we realize who God is and the marvel of what He can do.” You learn that though He may not stop the rape of children, nor prevent the indoctrination of lies, nor bring back to you those you’ve lost, or those who in their weakness have backed away, He can redeem you, redeem your story, and do it for His glory.
Despite the devils dancing and all the enemy’s attempts to shame the truth into silence, God does deserve to get the glory.
But God can’t use a redemptive story I’m not willing to tell.