: telling the truth, part one

I need you to know I’ve drafted and deleted this post at least twenty times in the past six months. The first ten drafts were written out of anger and revenge. The next ten were written out a mixture of sadness, frustration and loss. Now, I’m crossing my fingers for pure motives and writing out of broken joy mixed with a pinch of hopeful expectation. I’ve divided up this blog series (so official!) into four different parts. As a warning, the first one is by far the most depressing, but I promise it ends well because the plan of God can’t be stopped—his truth marches on in my life and your life and the lives of everyone across all time and history. This is a big step for me and I’m excited/grateful you’re sharing in it.

Living a secret life is incredibly difficult to keep up with, but many times we’re taught to be OK because everyone else is OK. Foolishly we walk around like storefront mannequins with colorful masks and costumes, completely ignoring the poison that ails our hearts. I’m not sure where the idea came from that Christians are called to look like robots that never struggle with anything because WE’RE COVERED BY THE BLOOD AND DON’T EVER HAVE PROBLEMS EVER… but it’s an artificial and mechanical way of living. It’s a lie, really. And I’m not trying to be dramatic or depressing or overly intense, but there’s the sweetest, most amazing freedom found in exposing the truth.

God exposed the truth, didn’t he? He didn’t sweep our sin under the rug and ignore the condition of our souls. Instead, he uncovered the darkness of humanity by sending Light to earth: “Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12). If God isn’t in the business of secret-keeping* I’m not going to be either. 

When I was eleven, I was sexually abused in the trunk of a car while my church’s softball team was winning a playoff game fifty yards away. He was a member of my extended family, and five years older than me, so I didn’t say a thing.** My entire family (extended and immediate) was very involved in ministry. We ate together every Sunday after church. We spent holidays and celebrated birthdays and baptisms and weddings year after year. Being in a ministry family often comes with the expectation of acting like storefront mannequins, though. There is a pressure to look perfect and have the right answers and be problem-free forever and always. In my experience, many tensions were ignored for the sake of ministry and many relationships suffered for the sake of sermons and songs. In the same way, my abuse was left completely unresolved. Sometimes it’s easier (and less disruptive) to act as if bad things never happened in the first place.

The sun kept rising and the world kept spinning, so I moved along and didn’t mention it again. Out of the eighty-seven million books I’ve read about childhood abuse in the past several months, almost all of them agree that this is when I went into survival mode. I know it’s kind of gloomy, but it really makes sense of why I acted the way I did, especially in high school. I was addicted to a number of things*** and stopped eating for a while and couldn’t carry on healthy relationships with anyone. Seriously, if you have time, read this article on adult victims of childhood abuse because I fit into a ton of those statistics. 

I didn’t like myself, didn’t like other people, and really didn’t like Jesus. But I never missed a Sunday at church, don’t you worry.
The next nine years of my life were spent “wandering from the fold of God.” I was coping and rebelling and harboring hatred in my heart while simultaneously wearing elaborate masks and costumes for the world to see. I won like… every single Bible drill and never cussed and didn’t sneak into any R-rated movies (except Sweeney Todd at age 16), but my soul was quickly withering away.

It’s kind of surreal to put everything into words, especially this part of my life. I just can’t believe Jesus pursued and saved me in my wandering. What a Savior.

This is a good stopping point, I think. The upward swing is coming.

*In this context, God isn’t in the business of secret keeping. Meaning, everything that is hidden will be exposed (Matthew 10, Mark 4). But there are certainly secrets God has (Deuteronomy 29:29) because he’s God and we’re not. So in some sense, God is both in the business and notin the business of secret keeping.
**I want to make it abundantly clear that my dad and brothers haven’t ever (ever ever ever) laid a hand on me. Except one time my brother farted in my face and covered me with a blanket to make me smell it.
***I’m not dancing around anything, I just want to be mindful of the ages and experience of people reading this.

6 thoughts on “: telling the truth, part one

  1. Wow, Sav. So cool that God is redeeming such a horrible situation. Love your words, always, and look forward to reading all four “official” parts of this. Admire your bravery!


  2. It takes an amazing amount of courage and strength to be able to open up about this, Savannah. I know I haven't seen you in a while but I am truly proud of you for sharing this story. Praying God continues to heal you from this experience.

    -Kristen Fales


  3. Dear Savannah,

    I put a comment in your high school yearbook some time ago and I called you a “Trail Blazer” and you are! I told you that you would brave “new frontiers”….and you have. You are a courageous young woman.

    I know something about sexual abuse, my sister exposed a family member over 15 years ago…it shattered my entire family. Forgiveness came, but life was never the same. It will always remain “different”.

    I wrote a book about this subject matter, which Emily read and liked. My sister was the inspiration behind it.

    Though my book has not been published yet (it IS close however). It now sits in the hands of a movie Director who is in the process of reading it for consideration of a motion picture script. NO KIDDING!!! It's surreal I know – I'm still pinching myself! This opportunity found me – I wasn't looking for it.

    I am sorry for all that has happened. I am sorry for the sadness it has caused you.

    Recently, I was asked to become a member of the Board of Directors for an organization called, Bridges: http://www.bridgesnh.org/ – which runs an outreach to woman who have been in a similar situation as yours.

    I know where you've been. I know the horrors when it's someone close – no one expects this. It makes it all the harder to take. God, I wish I were there to give you a hug!

    Know that I personally repent of any and all matters (I know you know what I mean…I pray Mom and Dad will too). I will pray for all of you. ALL of you.

    I will leave you with the poem I wrote. It served as the outline for my book by the same name. Though we know your “ending” is much brighter, the end of the poem (thankfully!) is very different from your own as this poem takes into account the characters’ endings in my book.

    God is merciful – when we think of what could have happened – it kind of makes you shudder doesn't it?? How good is our God!!! He saved me too…

    Let me know your thoughts when you have a moment. My email is:




    Pigtails and Potter's Field

    By Kathleen Urquhart

    When into existence we are conceived, and birthed to life anew,
    Life's playing fields are leveled for each helpless ingénue.
    Soon placed in arms that will bear our weight,
    And in time our sorrows too.

    Innocence, innately beautiful, radiates from virginal hearts.
    Soon toddlers that will run ahead, and on to youthful adventures embark.
    There are no cares for the future or plans to be made, for in this brief span of time, all in life is to play.
    And this is how life should be.

    Yet, for daughters of turpitude, another course is set.
    Where paper dolls and costume jewels in boxes are kept.
    Their lids conceal treasures and worlds of pretend.
    While tender hearts bear the scars violated by men.

    A child's trust

    Torn asunder,

    By perverse appetence.

    Adolescence is spent concealing depravity's mark.
    The resulting behavior, a promiscuous heart.
    Insecurity's role in her life will prevail,
    Unless lascivious truth is expressed and unveiled,
    And the deviant brought to justice for crimes that took place,
    So to transform images of intimacy long-thought debase.

    As a young woman, the struggle for “normalcy” cannot be willed.
    Anguished thoughts…habitually silenced by pharmaceuticals or spirits-distilled.
    Often depression and anger lead to crime and more strife,
    For the tormented one, long-hollowed, by the iniquity of life.

    What began in childlike wonder did debauchery steal.
    While those with knowledge feigned mute, letting evil prevail.
    When heads bend in remembrance and tears fall like scales,
    Knowing their silence fill the coffins now buried and sealed,
    Grieving hearts are left to ponder, of the bitter lives that spanned,

    From pigtails

    To potter's field.


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