telling the truth, part three

(This post will only make sense within the context of Part One and Part Two)

I spent the summer of 2012 in northeast England, living and ministering with these awesome people. At this point, I had only shared the story of my abuse (and addictions and rebellion that ensued) with three different friends. Upon arriving in England, though, God clearly spoke to me and said I was there to share my testimony. I literally (out loud) said, “NO THANKS,” but within a week God got his way and half of England knew my story. It was strangely liberating to share the worst things about myself with a room full of strangers, but with an understanding of God’s sovereignty and unconditional love, I was able to point to the darkest, most wicked areas of my heart and confidently claim that Jesus was greater.
It was helpful for me to verbally process my testimony because I hadn’t yet recognized that the sexual and spiritual abuses were intertwined with my addictions and insecurities. It’s odd that something as awful as abuse can turn into a haze after being ignored for long enough. While it was always there, I often asked myself, “Did that even happen?” But every time I shared my story, God revealed another connection to another dot. I left England with an assurance that God was doing a great, redeeming work in my life, but I also knew it was time to share the truth. Everyone thought they knew me, but I was really just a stranger.
I told everyone in my family separately. This was in an effort to share the necessary details and nothing more. Nobody knows everything except me and him* and God, of course, but I’ve shared enough that it doesn’t feel like secret anymore. My parents and siblings experienced a million different emotions after I told the truth. There was guilt and anger and sadness and loss mixed with a joy of knowing that God had both spared my life and would redeem it. Those first days were special and the presence of God was tangible.
The next five months are undeniably the hardest to write about. I seriously cried like seven times a day because I felt so confused and broken. Night after night, I questioned whether I should’ve said anything in the first place. And I want to be really careful with my words here because it’s still a sensitive situation… but this is part of the truth and I’m so sick of keeping secrets it’s not even funny.
When I came back from England, my entire family (extended and immediate) was still in ministry together. Because the person who abused me is a relative, though, everything was bound to get messy when I told the truth. I only want to share details that prove to be valuable, so I will simply leave it at this: After more than thirty years of functioning in a specific way, my entire family structure fell apart.Some thought it best to remain storefront mannequins for the sake of ministry and blood loyalty. I don’t think anything was done maliciously, but it seemed as if I blew the whistle to call a foul and everyone continued to play the game like nothing was wrong.
I wish I could talk to you in person and explain the implications of this. The entirety of my life revolved around ministry. Loyalty to the cause was of primary importance, and within a few weeks, the foundations shook and everything fell apart. The relationships I had with my extended family—people I had seen every week for twenty-one years—were severed. Of course I felt guilty, too, because everyone else was affected by the truth. I saw my mom and dad and sisters and brothers lose relationships with their uncles and aunts and cousins and grandparents. Everything changed.
When the walls around you begin to collapse, you’re forced to discover what you really believe about God and what you thought you believed about God. I particularly questioned his goodness and sovereignty.** Being obedient to him immediately resulted in a broken, angry family and like 20239 days of crying. Why would a good and sovereign Father let this happen, right? Even still, I learned to reconcile my circumstances under the umbrella of God’s character. This was the only way I could maintain sanity. If my circumstances dictated the character of God, he would constantly be changing from good to bad to kind to mean to loving to hateful. If the character of God determined my circumstances, though, even the worst of situations could be a foundation for joy—knowing that all things work together for my good and his glory, and in suffering I am being molded into his likeness. I’ve found myself planted between these tensions:
God is absolutely good, absolutely sovereign, and absolutely loves me.
Also, my family is absolutely broken, I was absolutely abused, and my face has absolutely aged prematurely due to the stress of it all.
It’s not pretty, but it’s true.
This feels like the most scattered post to me, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because everything’s not wrapped in a sparkly pink bow yet. My therapist*** thinks I’ve not fully processed through my bitterness and rejection issues and frustration towards the “family ministry” mentality. And that’s probably true, too.
Gentlemen?
*The boy who abused me. I tried to structure that sentence in a hundred different ways but it still sounds ugly. Sorry.
**The past few years, magnified in these last months, have taught me that God is big enough to handle my questions. If I hadn’t ever questioned or doubted or struggled with God, there’s no way I would’ve gotten to the point of telling the truth. Instead, I would’ve continued to mindlessly play the game of lifeless religion. God isn’t intimidated by me or my questions. That being said, I’ve also learned to shut my mouth and raise my hands. I’m not as good at this (SURPRISE) but I’m growing.
***You need one, too.

4 thoughts on “telling the truth, part three

  1. I am sorry my beautiful, clean, pure, holy, accepted, complete, healed, living testimony (a living book) of the redemption brought to us all through the tender mercy, compassion and grace of God purchased by our Savior Jesus. We live in an evil and fallen world and sometimes we get splattered with its muck and mire, like a truck hitting a giant mud puddle while walking down the road minding our own business we get blasted and made a mess of. And I HATE that this happened to you BUT I am so happy with what God is doing in and through you sweet sister. (Sorry that this falls so short in attempting to lift you up while putting down the real enemy of our souls.) Love your blogs, your honesty and your smile Savannah!

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