How can one possibly give thanks for years of molestation as a child or for enduring nearly two decades of domestic violence? Granted, it may sound a bit strange. Some may even think I’ve lost what little bit of a mind I may have. So, I explain myself.
Between the ages of 7 and 15 my self-esteem was stripped from me as molestation visited on a regular basis. My perpetrator robbed me of what should have been some of the most valuable times of my young life. I was wracked in fear of “getting caught,” even though I was the victim and a young innocent; fear of major upheaval in the family if I should speak out; fear of all the pervert had threatened me with over the years. So, I remained silent, living a double life. As I grew into a teen, the exterior “me” put forth a persona of “all is well” – the happy-go-lucky Merry Sunshine my classmates and friends knew. But, in the solitude of my bedroom, trying to deal with what was going on, I hid, sitting in the middle of my bed, poring over my Bible to find a scripture for some sort of solace or magic answer. It did bring me an intimate relationship with God, at least. I learned I could lean on Him, depend on and speak with Him about the evil wrought against me.
Having been well trained to keep things hidden, it was not difficult to conceal what began only a couple of years later. What was I thinking? At the age of 17, I began dating an alcoholic who would shortly begin to demean me, control me, demand that I “obey” him. The night he proposed marriage to me, the romantic words rolled out of his mouth like fingernails grating across a chalkboard: “You better say ‘yes,’ because nobody else is going to want you!” The victim mentality kicked back in. I figured anyone was better than no one, so I married the wrong one! The years that followed were filled with “Stupid, ignorant, GD B%^@#,” constant threats of breaking some part of my body, injuring or killing the family pet or taking my children away. After the nervous breakdown, he reassured me I’d never see my babies again once the judge found out I was “a crazy nut case.” It would take most of my adult life to find a place of recovery and healing, but come they did, in time.
So, here we are with the explanation of giving thanks for years of abuse. I had been devastated emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically, void of a reason why I might think I had any value. But, once again, in a desperate effort to find some peace, I turned to my Bible and to God. The church had not given me resolutions and answers I needed, only telling me, “Divorce is a sin. You can’t get a divorce.” I could not believe the God I knew would possibly expect me to put not only my own life, but the lives of my precious children at risk. So, I figured it was easier to ask forgiveness for divorce than for my children to remain in their circumstances.
There in red letters I saw, “To be forgiven, you must first forgive, for as you forgive, you shall be forgiven.” Wow. I was being expected to forgive these monsters? There was no way I would willingly do that. But, I wanted to be forgiven. I wanted to hear God say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” So, I cut a deal with God. Yeah, sounds like a stretch, huh? But, He met me right where I was. No scepter swung up against my head, no long arm extended with the pointy gnarled Spirit of Christmas Future finger pointing at me. Rather, I said, “Okay, here’s the deal. We both know I am not going into this all happy-happy joy-joy, so I give you permission (how ludicrous was that, thinking I could give GOD permission?) to plant a seed of forgiveness in my heart and cause it to grow.” I prayed that prayer multiple times a day – for months. One day I found myself praying love over the perpetrators. WOW! What a freedom! I had actually learned the most valuable lesson of all – forgiveness was much more for my benefit than theirs. Forgiving someone is saying, “I release you from the power and control you have over me. I release you from my mind, emotions and heart, and release you into God’s hands.” I got it! I mean, I really truly GOT IT!
And, once I got it, I found myself standing in the middle of my living room, arms extended over my head waving like Old Glory, and laughter coming up from my belly, as I shouted, “Thank you! Thank you for all the bad things you entrusted me to go through with You.” You see, the greatest blessing of all was the full realization and understanding that I had come through all the junk, all the evil wickedness. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn’t a train. I now clearly see that life has been a journey, a process, and the building blocks and mortar that seemed to be meant only for evil have been turned to good. Because I experienced the molestation, I can give firsthand help to others battling to survive what they were put through in their younger days. Because I made it through the years of degradation, insults, fear and domestic violence, I am a fellow traveler for others trying to break out and find their own freedom. I can be a living example of hope and faith for restoration and life worth living. It is said what does not kill us makes us stronger. I pray that my experiences that put me on this path as an advocate for abuse/domestic violence victims may serve as a vehicle to save lives so others may live to be empowered and truly set free to live the life they were created and purposed to experience.
Yes, I give thanks this year for the crappy stuff. Had it not been, I would not be here today, enabled to help others.
Carolyn is a published author, was selected as 1 of 5 women in the nation by Verizon as a survivor representative to the International Annual Conference of the Family Justice Center Alliance in April 2010. She is Co-Chair of the VOICES Committee of the Family Justice Center Hillsborough County, has been involved with the ABC Action News team on their Emmy award winning prime time special, “Taking Action Against Domestic Violence,” and will be joining the Sexual Violence Task Force of Hillsborough County, working with their Speakers Bureau. For more information about her work, and to see pictures of the various events where she has shared her inspirational stories, visit her website at http://www.orangeblossomwishes.com.