Although raised in a non-Chrisitan home, I loved my family very deeply. I have fond memories of my mom playing the ‘button game’ with my brothers and sisters and I, as well as memories of all of the children dancing like wild imps while my dad played the accordion in the front parlor. And although my parents were not Christians, they both wanted us to have the benefit of going to church. So as a girl, I attended Vacation Bible and Sunday School programs at a local neighborhood church.
With fondness, I remember the sweet older people who invested in my life week after week and year after year. (I also remember the free donuts and milk after Sunday school.) Eventually, I became very involved with the youth ministry program of the church, and through my involvement in these youth ministries, I professed a desire that (when I died) I would be saved from hell and go to heaven to be with Jesus.
From Desire to Disillusionment
As a result of this professed desire, a trusted male youth leader led me in what Christians commonly call “the sinner’s prayer” (This is a prayer of confession of one’s sins and profession of one’s faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.) Shortly after this event, the same youth leader began to have one‐on‐one Bible study and counseling sessions with me, and within months of my profession of faith, he began to abuse me sexually.
After several years of the abuse, I walked away from the Church of Jesus Christ. I then intentionally dove into a pit of sin, rebellion, and self‐destruction. After barely graduating from high school, I had very few viable life options. I was eighteen years old, and yet my life was already a train-wreck. I was a shell of a person. Angry, disillusioned, and ashamed of the abuse and equally ashamed of all that I had done after the abuse. I felt used – washed up and hopeless.
But as the Sovereign Lord would have it, on a whim, I enlisted in the United States Army Reserve.
The Power of the Word of God
Before leaving for basic training, I was given a pocket New Testament by the Gideons. Interestingly, I only accepted it because it was free. (What can I say? I’m Scottish.) However, because I wasn’t allowed to keep anything from my civilian life during basic training except a Bible – I decided I would keep it with me. I carried the little green soldier New Testament in the cargo pants of my BDUs (basic duty uniform) and began reading it whenever I was bored.
In no time at all, I was reading it all the time. And, I found that it brought me peace when I felt upset or distressed. The words on the pages seemed to keep me company when I felt lonely. Somehow the message of that little book gave me comfort when I remembered my ugly past. Looking back, I realize that I spent every free moment reading it.
Eventually, I started praying when I would read it. These were not elaborate prayers – more like the prayers of a gambler before making a bet. About halfway into basic training, I began to play Bible-Bingo. Whenever I felt stressed, I’d shoot up a quick prayer to whoever I imagined was listening tome asking for a verse that would make me feel better. Little did know that God was listening to me and that the day was fast approaching that He would show me a verse that would change me forever.
On the day that my platoon had to qualify on our M-16s, I was quite distressed. For whatever reason, I didn’t have a very steady hand – which made hitting the required number of targets challenging. SO I asked God for a verse that would calm me down. And I flipped through the pages of the New Testament like I had many times before.
At first, I opened to a passage in Galatians, “Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” (Galatians 4:25-27 ESV) I remember thinking when I read that; I want to be free. It was as if that passage sparked something locked-up deep inside of me that I no longer knew existed. But, it didn’t make me feel calm enough to fire my rifle, so I kept flipping the pages.
That is when I read something that changed me forever. I read, “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). As I read that verse, I thought to myself, ‘Well, Iʹm a sinner ‐ that means that Christ died for more. ʹ It was then that I realized that Jesus Christ had died specifically for me. So there I was standing all alone in a training field in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and I came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
A New Day
After I came to Christ, my life was radically different than it had been. For example, I went from having the foulest mouth of any recruit that ever enlisted in the army to constantly praying, confessing my sinful thoughts, words, and deeds to God. I went from specializing in being the meanest woman who constantly demeaned and belittled others to intentionally encouraging and strengthening those around me. Instead of criticizing everyone and everything, I would consider the best way to serve others and help the unit accomplish its goals as a team. From that point on, I lived in obedience to whatever I read in the Bible.
I reasoned that since Jesus was my Savior ‐ He was, therefore, my LORD as well. And as for the abuse of the past, I figured the right thing to do was just to forgive and forget. So, after attending basic and technical training, I went home, found a solid Bible-believing church, met my husband, got married, and began having a family.
In no small measure, I was greatly blessed by God. I had a husband who loved the Lord and honored me with his love, provision, and faithfulness. I had one amazing child after another. All my physical and emotional needs were provided for, and I even had ample opportunities for serving the Lord in my home church. Still, something was wrong with my life, and it had been wrong all along ‐ I just couldnʹt put my finger on what it was.
Something Was Wrong
I knew that something was ‘off’ in my soul, primarily because of the descriptions of the normal Christian life outlined in Scripture. Statements like the ones that Jesus made in the Gospel of John: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Another verse read, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 7:38, 10:10). It was from reading verses like these and from a growing awareness of my inability to emotionally connect with the Lord and with other believers that I knew something wasn’t as it should be in my relationship with Christ. I was not living the fruitful Christian life that Jesus had promised to give His followers. No doubt, I was blessed by God, but something seemed to be blocking the flow of the living streams in my soul. In short, I was not experiencing the abundant life that Christ had died to give me ‐ and I had no idea why.
As the years passed, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with this situation. I kept praying for and waiting to experience the abundance, joy, peace, and love that the Bible promised. But to me, it seemed as though with time, I was becoming angrier, more anxious, and growing increasingly depressed. I was trying to do everything that I knew a woman who professed Christ as Lord should be doing. I was daily in the Word and prayer. I was living in submission to God, my husband, and my church leaders. I was raising my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I was caring for my home and serving God in the church. Nonetheless, I felt as though I was becoming emotionally numb, and I was becoming more and more disappointed by the lack of joy, peace, and abundance in my walk with Christ.
One day in my frustration, I exclaimed, “Lord, You must be angry with me!” With that heart’s cry, I felt a startling impression in my soul ‐ the Lord was not angry with me; I was the one that was angry with the Lord. The thought that I was angry with the Lord frightened me. And, it didnʹt make any sense at all to me… ‘Why would I be angry with the Lord?’ But, not long after this, the Lord led me to read Psalm 51:6, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” This verse applied to my situation, but how?
I began to pray over this verse and ask the LORD how it applied to my life ‐ why I had felt a prompting from the Spirit when I read it. And, in His time, God answered me. In the way that only the Lord can speak to the soul, He began to show me that I was angry because I had never allowed Him to take the venom of the past abuse out of me after I turned towards the Lord in repentance for salvation. The Lord showed me that I had refused to acknowledge that the sexual abuse, which had endured as a girl, had any effect on me. God began to reveal to me the truth that I had been living in willful denial.
Dealing With The Denial
My denial was nothing but self‐deceit and God wanted me to allow the truth about the effects of the abuse to be acknowledged. He wanted me to admit that part of me was broken so that I could experience His healing grace. My denial had been a cloak that I had been using in an attempt to cover over the anger, disappointment, and hurt, which I felt as a result of the abuse. In short, I needed to acknowledge the truth that I was angry about what had happened in the past; that I was angry about the abuse.
Part of the truth that I needed to acknowledge about the abuse was that I was angry because of my incorrect understanding of Godʹs seeming indifference towards the injustice. The Lord began to show me that I wrongly viewed God as an indifferent sovereign bystander and silent witness to the abuse. Because of this wrong perspective, I had allowed my denial, my self‐deception, to lead me down the dangerous path of infringing on the integrity of God. I couldn’t understand how God could have allowed the abuse to happen in the church. I didn’t even know how to ask the questions that come with such an awful reality. So, instead of going to God with a humble heart, asking Him for understanding and healing, I just tried to forget about what had happened.
The truth was I needed to admit that I didn’t understand. To do that, though, I would need to let go of my perceived control and repent of any pretensions of self‐ sufficiency. Eventually, I asked God to forgive my sins of pride, presumption, and bitterness. (The sins which had resulted from not understanding that my Heavenly Father is all‐knowing and perfectly wise in bestowing all of life’s providences ‐ even the painful ones.) But before I could do that, I needed to ‐ with vulnerable faith ‐ place my brokenness in His sovereign hands.
As I did this, I felt out of control and overwhelmed with emotions. There are no words to describe what this process is like for a person. It would be impossible for me to explain the depths of the sorrow and confusion that I felt at that time in my life. I kept asking myself,
‘What can I do with my past?’ ‘Where can I go with my anger, disappointment, and hurt?’ ‘Why am I dealing with this now?’ ‘Will, any of this, ever make sense?’ ‘Can any of this ever make sense?ʹ Ultimately, the Lord showed me that it was at the cross of Christ (and only here) that these questions could be answered. The cross was where my past, my brokenness, and God’s sovereignty made any sense at all to me. As I brought my brokenness and messed up past to the cross of Christ, I began to see not just the cross of Christ, but I began to see the Christ of the cross.
Union with Christ
I began to understand (emotionally and experientially, not just in an abstract theological way) the magnitude of what Christ did in His incarnation and atoning work on my behalf. I started to grasp the weight of the truth that Jesus, of His own volition, had identified Himself with my frailty through the incarnation, and then had willfully identified Himself with my brokenness on the cross.
As a result of this more profound understanding of the Lord’s cross‐work, I found that Christ was not the indifferent sovereign bystander that I had wrongly imagined Him to be. Instead, I found that He was the voluntary sovereign substitute, who had identified Himself with my shame through His cross. I discovered that He was not at all the silent witness to those dark deeds of the past but that He was the silent lamb, who had been slaughtered for them. I began to experience in real-time, as it were, the powerful truth that Christ bore my grief and carried my sorrow.
Furthermore, I began to understand how it was that ‘…by His stripes…” I would be healed (Isaiah 53:5).
Understanding that the Lord willfully identified Himself with me in my frailty and sin‐induced brokenness through His cross gave me the divinely empowered courage, which I needed, to entrust my brokenness and hurt to Him. In practical terms, I did this by learning how to identify my sufferings with Him in His cross‐ suffering. In doing this, I acknowledged the abuse, and I learned to trust God with my hurt and shame.
In identifying with the Lord Jesus Christ in the burial, I learned to accept my past. I learned to trust God with the corpse of my childhood soul – the consequences of having been abused as a child. Ultimately, I learned to bury the seed of my past in the borrowed tomb with Christ. I did this in the hope that God would redeem my brokenness from the grave in resurrection new life. By faith, I entrusted myself to the promise of Scripture: “Truly, truly unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies ‐ it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
I didn’t know it at the time, but identifying with Jesus in His death and burial was the beginning of experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection. It was then that God began to resurrect what had died in the past by transforming me in the present. I began to experience the powerful reality of my union with Christ.
It Was My Red Sea Experience
In all of this, I came to understand in a very personal way, the massive and life‐changing reality of the sovereign power and deep love of God. The remarkable truth that God is most certainly and most absolutely sovereign over all things in life ‐ working them all to the end for my good and His glory‐ became an experiential reality for me. For, the Lord began to show me that the abuse that I had endured was my own personal Red Sea experience. This life-changing providence led me to a desperate need to experience the awesome power of God in the resurrection. The abuse was just one example of Godʹs perfect ordering of my life. It was only one of the many severe mercies of my life that the Lord had ordained to the end that I would turn to Christ in saving faith, experience the mighty redemption of the cross, and know the depth of the love of God more intimately through my union with Christ.