When I left my parents’ house in Pennsylvania that afternoon danger was the furthest thought from my mind. A few girls on my basketball team invited me to a small party, and I was determined to go. After all, fitting in with the upperclassmen was important to me. I had been to parent-supervised parties back home, but they were tame compared to the scene I witnessed shortly after arriving. I was abandoned almost as soon as I stepped through the door. There were countless people pouring into the house, loud music booming. At this point, I think even the hostess of the party was beginning to feel a tinge of anxiety. My confidence over being invited to such an event quickly evaporated as I watched reckless behavior evolve.
I honestly considered heading back home, but feeling pressured to fit in, I shrugged it off and stayed. I mingled, trying to find familiar faces. I finally did, and was thankful to discover I wasn’t the only person abstaining from alcohol and other deviant behavior. Crammed into a corner and feeling suffocated from all the people around me, I began to feel thirsty. I made my way to the kitchen and asked the hostess where I could find something non-alcoholic to drink. She guided me to the refrigerator and told me to help myself. I found a Gatorade and quickly chugged the entire bottle in a matter of seconds. Having quenched my thirst, I re-entered the living room to find friends. But soon I began to feel strange, almost nauseated and sick feeling. My palms started to sweat; I could feel my heartbeat quickening. Thinking I was going to become sick, I asked where I could lie down for just a moment until the nausea faded. I was directed to a bedroom upstairs where I was told I wouldn’t be bothered. My concept of time ends here…
Have you ever felt so tired you can’t keep your eyes open to save your life? Your whole body seems to be “gone”? Dizziness, overwhelming fatigue, blackouts, moments of lucidity followed by blank spots, feeling as if in a dream, not hearing sounds-only voices with an echo as if they are far away, memory lapses, inability to cry out or even talk, paralysis of your entire body, difficulty breathing… Realizing what is happening to you, and not being able to do anything to make it stop; feeling the clothes being stripped from your body, and not having the physical strength to fight back; feeling your body being violated, fearing you are dying, that this person on top of you is going to kill you; feeling a force of intense pain, trying to stay awake to yell for help, trying to say stop, to muster a NO, trying to survive… I experienced all this, then proceeded to fall into a deep sleep.
When I finally woke up I felt foggy, scared, like I was experiencing the worst hangover ever. I had fallen victim to a drug that left me completely helpless. After the effects wore off, I was in a state of complete shock. I knew what had happened to me… I could feel the pain; honestly, I could hardly walk. Nevertheless, I walked right out of that house without saying a word to anyone, got in my car, and drove two hours back to my parents’ house. I got home, jumped in the shower, and went straight to bed without saying a thing. I looked at the bruising between my legs, the bleeding. I cried myself to sleep that night and woke up Christmas Eve morning to find that my whole body was sore. I felt like I had been hit by a bus, literally. I did everything I could to make sure nobody knew the pain I was feeling. I was embarrassed, ashamed, scared, I felt dirty, I didn’t want to get in trouble for going to a party. So I remained silent. I remained silent for a long time. But the silence was killing me.
I began making life-destroying decisions. I distanced myself from good friends and family. I wanted nothing to do with God, nothing to do with the only people who would love me no matter what. I began having inappropriate relationships with other females. I was drawn to the nurturing, the attention, feeling loved. I craved love and attention, yet I refused the love of my family, my church, my friends, and most importantly, God. For about three years I lived a life of debauchery. I found myself sitting in bars having drink after drink, trying so hard to fill this horrible emptiness I was feeling. I was at a very low point, I had even considered ending my life just to shut off the constant emotional and mental torment I was in. I had opened my life up to darkness, and darkness happily reigned in my soul.
My parents tried everything they could. They loved me unconditionally and prayed without ceasing that the Lord would take hold of my life. I had begun seeing a therapist, but it became a waste of time and money because I wasn’t willing to be truthful or open to change. Out of pure desperation, my dad ordered Healed and Set Free in an attempt to reach me. I loved to read, and I knew they were just grasping at straws. I agreed to give it a try. I would have fleeting intentions of wanting to get my life back. I would read, but my heart was so hard nothing was truly penetrating. I decided to leave my parents’ house, to walk out of their lives for good so I could continue living the dark life I had become so accustomed to. I was a prodigal, and had left my parents no choice but to give my life over to the Father; it was out of their hands.
After three years of living a chaotic, out-of-control life, not speaking with my family for months, God graciously and miraculously put His people into my life. I had reached a breaking point, stripped of everything, and God in His perfect timing set everything in place so I couldn’t deny His loving presence. I cried out to Him, I couldn’t take this burden I had been carrying anymore. I needed His love, His grace, and His comfort. But most of all, I needed His forgiveness; I needed repentance. I remember calling my mother; I was afraid to talk to her after literally putting my family through hell, but to my surprise I was greeted with kindness and love. I cried, and it was at that point that I made the commitment to give my life back to Christ, to restore the years I had lost to sin and silence.
I was making all the right moves, yet I still had a lot of work to do. I knew it was imperative that I see my therapist again. I was ready to get my life back, the life Christ had for me. I had a lot of skeletons in my closet to reveal-to bring every secret, every hurt, every shame into the light. I began to unravel the tangled mess I had allowed to reside within me.
Healed and Set Free became a crucial tool in my healing process. Reading it this time was different: Every page, every word began to penetrate my heart. The clear gospel message of the book began to illuminate all the disgrace I had felt and its effects. By reading [the study] I learned that God is strong even when I am weak, and He is close to the brokenhearted. There is such powerful, clear hope there. I felt God using Healed and Set Free to give me grace from Jesus that ran deeper than the wounds I had experienced. Reading this book was a huge tool that God used to change my life. That sounds cliche, but it is so true. Healed and Set Free is dripping with divine knowledge; it is overwhelmingly full of the evidence of God’s grace, promises of restoration, and the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Here are just a few of the many truths I took from Healed and Set Free:
God cares about what you went through. His own Son, although He didn’t experience violence in a sexual form, was a victim of violent assault. No matter how awful your attack, no matter how long and slow your recovery, God is your Redeemer. He is able to redeem terrible wrongs and make them right. Psalm 147:3 tells us, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Face your reactions to what happened. You must be willing to let God enter into your reactions-to feel what you feel. A violation makes you feel violated. When something overpowers you, you feel weak and overwhelmed. You need to be able to enter into your grief, hurt, confusion, fear, and anger. Tell God all about your anguish as the psalmist does: “My heart is in anguish within me” (Psalm 55:4).
Don’t try to face what happened and deal with your reactions by yourself. Invite Jesus into your struggle. Take hold of His promise of good: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).
You are walking in deep waters; God will walk with you. You are walking through fire; God will not let the flames consume you. Turn to Him every day, take His promises to heart each day. Every time you remember, every time you struggle, every time you feel your heart breaking under the weight of what happened to you, ask Him to help you. Say His promises out loud. Speak them back to the One who is your hope. Having faith in Jesus is not something you do just once. He’s the person toward whom you reach, toward whom you cry, toward whom you bring your pain, confusion, anger, and fear. He is the direction in which you face. He’s the direction in which you live. He can bear the weight of your trouble and heartache. He also suffered at the hands of evil people. He knows what a broken heart feels like.
Another crucial step in your healing is forgiveness. What happened to you was a great evil, so forgiveness won’t come easily or in a moment. It will be a journey of many small steps. True forgiveness for a true evil is only possible because of God’s forgiveness of you. Paul explains it like this, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
I am a huge advocate for Healed and Set Free and its ministry, and I will be forever blessed by it. As I celebrate year one of being healed and set free, I have committed my life to being a nameless servant of Christ. Praise be to Him. December 23, 2008