When we were kids and the month of October rolled around, there was always some excitement in the air. We knew at the end of the month we’d be putting on costumes and running around town with our friends to consume as much candy as possible. October was fun; fall beginning, Halloween, countdown to the holidays. Once I passed the age of (socially acceptable) trick-or-treating, I never imagined October would really be anything to me again. I mean, now that I’m working with kids, it’s pretty much a dreaded holiday (experience a party with 24 four-year-olds and candy and tell me how you feel). Now, at the age of 25 and married, October means more to me than I ever thought possible, and in a way I never expected.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I was graciously given a story to tell.
I don’t want this to be about me. I don’t want this to be about my abuser. I only want my story to be about how God works in our trials and struggles, even when we don’t feel like He’s there. I don’t tell this story to receive recognition. I tell this story because God gave it to me to share. In James 1:2-3 we are told, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” When we face trials, it builds our spiritual perseverance, and also produces a testimony to share God’s work and His grace with others. All I want to do is share that amazing grace and redemption with you.
In 2007 when I was 15, I began dating a boy. A few months later, this boy became my abuser. My abuser hurt me – mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, spiritually – for 3 long years. During those years I lost sight of God, friends, family, and myself. I became so completely broken in every way, and yet so good at hiding it.
Now, one thing you have to know about me: I like to fix things. I feel empathy, compassion, and sadness for broken people. I want them to be fixed, and I want to help do it. So, I sadly felt some sick obligation to try and change him. I knew what the Bible said about being together with unbelievers, but I thought I could help him. I don’t want to get graphic or too descriptive, so I’ll just tell you I had a bruised and marked body, as well as a broken and lost heart for those long years. As this cycle continued, I found myself falling harder and faster into a pit with no escape. Once the sexual abuse issues arose, I felt like I would be stuck in this relationship for my entire life.
I had completely forgotten who I was as a daughter of the God of the universe; the Creator that made me and knew everything about me before I was even born. Then, I remember hearing a song. This song is by Jonny Diaz and the line I could never forget was, “I can promise you there’s a man whose love is true and He’ll treat you like the jewel you are.” After hearing that line, I remembered how much Jesus loves me, I remembered who I was. With the help of my Savior and some good friends at my University, I got out.
Some people have asked me why I didn’t leave sooner or tell anyone when it first began. I, too, used to wonder the same things when I heard stories of abusive relationships – then these stories became my reality. Here is my answer to that question: You become a different person. It’s like you’re always floating above yourself watching it happen and telling yourself to get out, but you can’t move. You become too good at pretending you’re okay. You allow yourself to be distanced from everyone and everything. When you’re an insecure teenager, all of this is amplified. But, the biggest reason? SHAME.
Shame played the largest role in my struggle to get out. I didn’t think anyone else could want me. If someone had deemed me worthy of abuse, how could anyone think any better of me? Obviously I wasn’t worth much, right? I honestly had become so deceived that I felt like if I told anyone the truth about what was going on they would think I was stupid and weak.
I spent 3 years being borderline depressed, flirting with anorexia, anxious, suicidal, bullied, and fake. I could sit here and write page after page telling you all the details. Believe me when I tell you I struggled for years afterward, and still struggle with certain things today. But, I want to focus on God’s work, not my abuser’s. God led me to wonderful and supportive friendships that allowed me to share everything without feeling shame. He led me to my husband. He led me to stronger relationships with family. But, the biggest thing He led me to through this was a renewed and deeper relationship with my sweet Jesus. God has been so gracious in my struggles that stem from what that relationship did to my heart and mind. He was patient with me, and continued to let me know He never left me. God helped me to forgive and to love.
We are told over and over that God is with us always. He offers protection, love, and a shelter in His presence. One of my favorite verses, located in Psalm 91, says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Yes, He already knows our every thought, word, feeling, and action even before we do, but He wants us to talk to Him about everything – including our struggle – as if He doesn’t already know. Jesus wants a personal relationship with you. He wants you. When you make him Lord of your life, you are given a secure eternity and identity in him – not just a secure life; ETERNITY.
This story has caused many stumbles for me. I still struggle in my relationship, and I’m still pretty good at hiding my pain. But, it has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. I take joy in that painful experience. I was given wisdom, perseverance, strength, vulnerability, and a testimony to share. I found my identity in Christ again, and I want others to know that same identity in our Savior. Yes, it took me years after that relationship to truly come back to Jesus, but the best part is he was waiting for me to come back to him. He sought me out like a shepherd who loses his sheep. You are so precious to Him and in Him is your true identity. Nothing and no one can take away the love of God. How totally cool is that? Your worth was determined when God sent His only Son to die for you on the cross, and never let anyone or anything tell you differently. You mean more to Him than anything else. When you see yourself through the eyes of our Savior and Lord, everything changes. You see your identity and your beauty. I see my identity and my beauty. Whatever is going on in your life right now, run to Him and cling to His love. Jesus changes everything.
So, fast forward to 2014. I was 22 and working at my part-time college job and a 19-year-old boy walked in for his first day of work and, well…you’ll just have to stay tuned for that story 🙂
2 Corinthians 12:10 – “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Your sister in Christ – kayley jean, a wife redeemed
*The ribbon in the photo represents the colors of domestic violence awareness (purple) and sexual abuse awareness (teal)* https://ncadv.org/take-action