There are things in life that happen that as hard as you try simply cannot be explained. (examples – the mystery of missing socks in the wash, how people spontaneously visit you when your house is dirty etc.) Well, the event that took place in July of 1983 fit into that category. I discovered that our family conference was an annual christian retreat held on the campus at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. Week long, all day activities for children, teens & adults that ended on Friday evening. Our family would eat breakfast together and then my brother, sister and I would split up and join our groups for the day. I’d walk them to their class, give my safety instructions along with “don’t buy into this brainwashing” and then head to the youth (teen) area.
I sat alone in a room with many other young people listening to speakers talk about how Jesus desired a relationship with us. I grew up in the Catholic church and believed in Jesus, but felt so disconnected from him. I prayed to him all the time regarding my family and abuse and truly believed only HE could change things. Would that ever happen? I didn’t know.
As an introvert and a person with deep trust issues – it was a very lonely week. The hundreds of other teens seemed to be having a great time with each other and the fun activities. I on the other hand sat back and watched from a distance. By the middle of the week a girl approached me and asked if she could sit with me. In a way it was such a relief as I was beginning to feel like such a loser sitting by myself. We got to know each other and it felt good to make a friend – it helped the time go by easier and faster.
Sometime during the week my sister told me “I asked Jesus to live in my heart!” She was so excited and shared the details of her decision. I wasn’t happy. I remember thinking – oh no, they got to her and I will have to fix that later. The next day I told my brother not to fall into the same trap as our sister. He agreed. So imagine my surprised when he tells me that very evening “I asked Jesus to live in my heart too!” Needless to say I had enough. Who were these people filling their heads with promises that might not be true? I mean the things about God and Jesus could NOT be proven, so why take a chance? Why set yourself up to be let down? It just didn’t make any sense to me.
Friday had finally arrived and I was so happy it was almost over. I just had one more day of this conference and we would head back to our summer residence. As much as I was irritated with my brother and sister for not listening to me – I was also happy that they seemed happy. I knew I had to burst their bubble but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it – yet.
The day seemed to fly by and it was time for our last evening gathering. I walked in a large room with over 100 teenagers and sat in the back. There was a band in the front playing lively music as everyone sang and clapped along. After a while the music slowed down and the speaker came forward and gave a heart wrenching but encouraging story about his life. It was a beautiful. As he began to wrap up the band began to pray soft, reflective music as he spoke. As every other day prior he also gave an invitation to accept Jesus as a savior and a friend. By this time I knew the routine:
- Give the invitation
- Wait for people to come forward
- Walk them through the prayer
- End the service
In my head I thought Only a few more minutes and this thing will be over. In my heart it was a completely other story. As the speaker shared his heart and encouraged a personal relationship with Christ – my heart beat so very hard and loud – I thought others could hear it around me – and tears filled my eyes. I desperately wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe that Jesus loved me and wanted me. I wanted to believe that my life could be different. But I just couldn’t.
I was at war with myself. My heart and soul wanted to run to the front of the room, but my feet refused to move. I told myself if I later found out what I had been told was a lie it would push me over the edge. I knew I couldn’t handle one more disappointment in my life. I was afraid to once again trust the wrong person, and believe in something that didn’t make any sense.
There were people who had already gone forward and I knew at any moment they would proceed to step 3. As tears streamed down my face my heart sunk and I thought I missed my chance. I closed my eyes and tried to console myself for not having the courage to walk to the front of that room.
As the music continued the play I heard the speaker say something I will never forget. After what seemed a long period of time he said “typically I would move on right now but the Holy Spirit told me there is a young girl in this room who is struggling. She wants to come forward but she’s afraid. Jesus loves you and will wait for you.”
I absolutely couldn’t believe it.
In all the things in life that couldn’t be explained – in that moment all of my fears and doubts vanished. I opened my heart just wide enough to believe that Jesus wanted me enough to wait for me. He had just made a personal invitation just for me and did it in a way that eased my trepidation and anxiety. I was like an abused puppy dog afraid of human touch – you desire it but are afraid to be hurt. Jesus knew exactly how to reach me in that moment and I will forever be grateful.
In an instant things for me were different – the burden I carried felt lighter. Did that mean my life was fixed and perfect? No. I just was no longer alone and learned where to turn when I was in trouble and afraid. I cannot put into words how my relationship with Jesus has changed my life. But he has. I won’t attempt to try to convince anyone that God truly exists – or did Jesus really come to earth to die for us – or can you have a relationship with him – or can he really save you? That’s for him to do. I just sincerely desire to share my life story and you can maybe decide for yourself.
What I can tell you is from the age of five to thirteen I was physically, sexually and emotionally abused. I was sexually abused by four relatives throughout that time, physically abused by one, and consistently emotionally abused by two others. After my decision to accept Jesus as my savior I was never physically or sexually abused again. The emotional abuse continued throughout my adulthood and until recently has finally now come to an end.
There is not one day I have ever regretted my spiritual decision and I’m encouraged by the scripture that says “Jesus said unto him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.” Mark 9:23
It is because of this belief that I know one day I will walk on this earth completely healed and whole. I believe I will experience life the way it was always intended to be (without any mark of the abuse or neglect), and live it to the fullest. As crazy as it may sound I also desire my final three abusers to experience the same.
This is just a snapshot version of how the Summer of 1983 was the Beginning of the End of my abuse. Sometimes it’s hard to accept it was 33 years ago because in some ways it feels like yesterday. Surviving eight years of abuse is an accomplishment in itself – overcoming the resulting deep wounds and scars is an entirely different story…