Monday, March 29, 2010

Finding freedom with a broken heart***

*** this is a transcript of my speech at the recent woman's retreat.

I 'met' Jesus when I was about 11 or 12. My dad was a new Christian and bringing the family to church. Everyone was always excited at church and the tears that flowed when someone received Christ - well, I wanted that. Yet, there was still a hole in my heart. I don't think I FULLY understood why it was there and how to fill it.

My teenage years were rough. I was very active in church & youth group. I even made my own purity pledge, yet I still craved the love of a man - mainly my earthly father.

I'll start my story at around age 14 (1987-ish). Sad, that I can’t remember the exact age, but maybe that’s just for the best.

I had begun attending a youth group in a nearby town. It started off small – maybe 5 kids & the youth pastor. We met in someone’s living room. But then it took off. Teens came from all over to be a part of this youth group. Eventually we grew out of that living room & started meeting in a local church. Our youth pastor was this amazing guy. Maybe 25 years old, just got back from seminary in Seattle. At least that’s what I remember. We would meet every Tuesday night… Monday nights were set aside for Christian Skate Night at a local roller rink. Youth group opened my eyes up to life beyond my small little town. I wasn’t the only Christian teen. I heard new music and went on adventures.

B*, our youth pastor, was this really charismatic guy. The kind of guy you wanted to be around. We flocked to him. What you didn’t get at home, you could get from him – love & acceptance. B took us everywhere. If you needed a ride to skating or group, he would pick you up in a huge van.

For a while, I had an interest in writing. I was always writing poems, plays & short stories. Because our youth group was SO large (we had up to 80 teens at one point), I started a newspaper/newsletter. Just about the goings on of group – trips, activities, etc. A few of the other girls from group helped me with it….

I didn’t drive – so B would pick me up & bring me to the church to use their typewriter & copier. It was always a group of us, but this one night, I was the only one who could make it. After finishing the typing on the newsletter, I was cutting out some clip art (yes, actual clip art from a book) to use. I was sitting at the church secretary’s desk working; B came up behind me and started massaging my shoulders. No big deal – right? I was feeling really uncomfortable. I remember getting up & walking around because I was that uncomfortable. It wasn’t just massaging. He would move my bra straps & try to peer down my shirt – but it was all very ‘innocent’. Yet something in my brain screamed at me. After that, I tried to never be alone with him again.

It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I figured out something was wrong. I knew that I was uncomfortable around B, but never really understood why.

I was walking home from work on a Sunday evening. It was spring, so it wasn’t that dark out. I had worked at a local ice cream place. I stopped by my friend’s house on the way home, but she wasn’t there. So I continued the walk home. You’ve got to realize, my town was TINY!!! 2 square miles – or was it 2 miles square. Either way – it was small. I was about a block from my house. It was darker now. Maybe the street lights were on. I was walking and there was someone else walking too. I think he might have crossed the street and came on my side. I don’t remember that well because it has been so long, plus it all happened so fast. He reached out & grabbed my breast. He made a rude comment. I pulled away & ran home. Police were called & about a week later an arrest was made. That incident opened up my eyes to what was going on with B. He was molesting me & MANY other girls in the youth group.

During this whole old man situation (the attack on the street), I also told my parents about B. They did the biblical thing; approached B with my accusations. He vehemently denied them – of course. My parents believed me, so they took the next step. Talk to the elders of the church. Eventually, I was asked to leave the church. Youth group was disbanded & had to stop meeting at the church they were using and I was an outcast. My Christian family deserted me.

I’ll be honest… I hated God. I couldn’t believe that all of that happened to me and I was the one who got tossed. These were God’s people… and they left me when I was hurting the most. They rallied around B – he had a history of abuse which made it “acceptable” to be an abuser. The worst part – I KNEW I wasn’t the only one. There were about 15 other girls who he was doing this to, but no one would come forward. In fact, those girls made my life miserable. They all blamed me for trying to ruin B’s life.

I looked everywhere for that love & acceptance, only to miss it. After being shunned by my church family, I grew angry with God. How could He let this happen to me? If I couldn't rely on my church family, who COULD I rely on? All the while, God was whispering to me yet I was TOO angry to hear Him.

Eventually, my self-respect went out the window. I let men treat me like garbage because I believed that I was garbage. My earthly father didn't love me, my church family didn't want me... obviously my Heavenly Father gave up on me.

I turned towards sex & alcohol to numb the pain. Let me tell you - they were only temporary fixes. The pain always came back worse than before. My mind was open for the Enemy.

I stopped attending church by then.. not just THAT church, but any church. I hated God. Just like that. Done.

I coasted through high school with a string of broken hearts. Graduated, went off to college, came back & went to community college. At 19, I was working at The Gap and having fun. I met up with an ex-boyfriend from high school and we went out. I had to go home because I needed to watch my foster sibling (I can’t remember which one we had at the time). I do remember it being toward the end of April. My parents were out & my Grandmother went home. It was just me & D*. A lot had changed at my house since we dated, so I showed him around. My room was moved up to the attic, so we went up there. We started kissing. He told me that he knew that I had had sex with someone & was upset that I wouldn’t have sex with him when we were dating. He wanted to be my first. He said that I belonged to him. Right there in my room, he laid me on my bed & undressed me. I cried. There was no penetration, but I still had to fight him off. Then he left.

A few days later, watching ‘The Accused’ on TV, I started to realize what had happened that night. I had been sexually assaulted. I sunk into a depression. I managed to tell my mother what happened, who in turn told my father. Eventually, I did reach out to a local rape crisis center.

A year later, I was dating a guy named N*. He was a nice guy. I had been friends with him for a bit before dating and we always had a great time. We were hanging out at his mother’s house with his friend, W*; just watching some TV in his room. His mom & brother were in the living room, right next door. At some point, N got up, shut his bedroom door & put a weight in front it. I didn’t think anything of it. The next thing I remember, N & W taking turns raping me. Right now, you’re probably thinking – if N’s mom & brother were in the next room, why didn’t you scream? Trust me, I screamed as loud as I could. They also took turns holding a pillow over my face so I couldn’t be heard.

If I wasn’t angry with God before!! In the course of 6 years, I had been sexually attacked by 5 different guys. There must have been something wrong with me. God must have really hated me. I wouldn’t leave my room, I couldn’t sleep. Things got bad. I was drinking like a fish & giving myself to just about any guy I knew; friends with benefits. If I was worthless, I might as well enjoy myself, right?

God's whispers began getting a little louder in 1993 when He answered a simple prayer. I was looking at some old pictures. I came across a picture of me & a guy, Craig, from when we dated years before (we were 15). Something inside of me told me that he was who I was supposed to be with. I was going to call him, but chickened out. What if he didn’t remember me? What if he remembered me, but hated me? What if he was married? I did something that night – still not sure why – that I hadn’t done in years. I prayed. I prayed that if I ever had a 2nd chance with Craig, I would make it work.

A few days later, I was on the phone with a friend. Something happened & we got disconnected. I hung up the phone & it rang immediately. Figuring it was her calling back, I answered with some rude comment. But it wasn’t her. There was a guy on the other line….. guess who? Craig! He was on winter break from college and had been thinking about me. He finally got the courage up to call me & got in touch with my dad. My dad then gave him my number. As you could imagine, I was dumbfounded. I just sat there saying ‘Oh my God’ repeatedly.

We went out the next night. I told him all that had happened to me. He needed to know what he was getting himself into. Craig loved me IN SPITE of what happened – just like God loves us in spite of what we do!!! We’ve been together ever since.

What brought me back to God? An answered prayer. I’ve learned that God didn’t desert me through all of it…. He LOVED me. It broke his heart each time I was abused. Yet through my anger, He still loved me. That was the beginning of my road to becoming a SURVIVOR. That doesn't mean that healing was immediate. I had hardened my heart to God - but slowly He was softening it.

Over the years, He continued to pursue me. He blessed me with a godly husband, 2 beautiful children, a home; He has reunited & repaired family relationships. He still pursues me - He pursues you too.

There are still days where the Enemy tries to find a foothold. Most days he's unsuccessful. God has taken those 'tragedies' of my life and brought good out of them. He took my broken heart & bound it back together so that I can love Him and love myself.

I am not a rape victim. I am a rape survivor. Those things that happened, yes, they initially broke me. But I am a MUCH stronger person for it. I don't wish any of it on my worst enemy, but I know how good can come out of something SO bad.

So, why am I telling you my story? This story of heartbreak & tragedy? Because it is not just MY story – it's a part of God's story.

We can look at the rough times in our lives and say “Why” or we can look at them and say “How can I use this to glorify you”. It's not easy, but it's worth it. And it is SO freeing.

By asking God to show me how to glorify Him, He has freed me from those events. Allowing me to forgive – truly forgive – those who hurt me. Recently, I was able to write & send a letter to my former youth pastor telling him that I had indeed forgiven him. What freedom!!! And without God, I know I could not have ever put those words on paper.

The beauty of freedom in God is that He can and will free us from anything. All we need to do is ask Him. You are dear to Him and He only wants your happiness.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalms 147:3

Many blessings,


Barbie said...

WOW Allison, that you so much for sharing this. I am so sorry this happened to you, and deeply hurt that God-fearing Christians would turn their back on you in disbelief. I am so very thankful that God has restored you and brought you back into that loving relationship with Him. I wanted to share something with you that ministered to me deeply. Although I do not have the same hurt you and this wonderful friend of mine experienced, I own some of the same, deeply rooted pain, and through this God has been speaking to me about my still fragmented life. I pray you will be blessed and share it with others. This gal is a worship leader at my church and this interview was done with her on CBN.

Anonymous said...

may the blessing be always with you!! ........................................