When I first spoke up about my childhood sexual abuse, I thought the hard part was over in telling the truth because telling the truth was the hardest thing I’d ever done. And in some sense I was right because I finally let go of a secret I’d held on to for over a decade. In another sense, though, the hard part had just begun. Abuse was the tip of a very deep iceberg that stretched from my childhood to my family to my church to my sexuality to my relationships. How deep the wounds ran, crashing into the icebergs of other people a thousand feet under history’s sea. Every step I took towards healing only illuminated ten more steps left to tread. Every time I uncovered a bit of truth, a hundred more people seemed to be as painfully connected to my story as I was to theirs. Would the madness ever stop? Was there an end? A beginning? Anything I could point to and say, that’s the core of the problem?
Competing with my confused sadness was anger. How did life get this messy? Why did God let it all happen? Why was he bringing everything to the surface at the same time?
Why couldn’t he leave the past in the past?
I moved on. Couldn’t he?
Despite the healing and growth I’ve experienced over the last two years, I still believe it is easier to ignore reality and sweep the pain under the rug. It is not easy to talk about how your childhood affected you. Nobody wants to bring up that random experience with your teacher or cousin or parent because it’s not a big deal and you’ve carried on. Why admit to past sins when they didn’t seem to do much harm? Why dig up old wounds when everything’s fine?
Thousands of years deep in human history, my story collides with the mammoth iceberg of a man named David. He had an affair with Bathsheba, she got pregnant, and he (naturally) ordered for her husband to be killed so nobody would find out. They got married, she bore a son and life turned out alright. The past was in the past. He moved on. She moved on. Everything was fine. One day, a prophet named Nathan came to David and uncovered the entire scandal: “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites” (2 Samuel 12:9).
In a single moment, everything was exposed. David couldn’t ignore the past anymore as it smashed into his future like an awful, tragic accident. He realized the magnitude of his sin, the depth of the iceberg. I wonder if he looked around and thought, How did life get this messy? Why did God bring everything to the surface? Why now? Falling to his knees in repentance, David found himself utterly dependent on the mercy of God, and in true God fashion, David was met with forgiveness.
Do you see the love in this? God did not uncover David’s past in order to drive David’s life into the ground. His plan was forgiveness all along. Exposing the past gave David the opportunity to turn from his sin, heal from his wounds, and depend on his Savior. God’s purpose was not condemnation, but mercy. It was not destruction, but restoration.
The process of healing was long and difficult, full of repentance and tears and prayer and death and new life. I’m sure there were moments in which David questioned whether or not living in the light was worth it, but God loved him with too much ferocity to let him hide in the dark.
God cares for you in the same way, too, drawing you into light until the iceberg is exposed from top to bottom. It is painful— sometimes excruciatingly painful— to face reality, but the honest-to-goodness truth brings freedom, repentance, and forgiveness. Truth is not an enemy to run from. It is a gateway to intimacy with God. It is an opportunity to heal. It gives you the space to let go.
I don’t have an amazing punchline that will convince you to face reality because I know it’s easier to hide. But would you take this moment to breathe in and think about your life? Are there truths you are hiding from? Dynamics you are ignoring? Hurts you are neglecting? Sins you are overlooking? God has a way of bringing everything to the surface— not because he wants to ruin your life but because he desires to heal you. Instead of resisting the exposure, be brave and run into the light. Face reality. Tell the truth. Take the next step. It will be messy and difficult and sometimes overbearingly painful, but the path always ends in forgiveness and freedom. His purpose for you is freedom.
And the one whom God sets free will be free indeed.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!