It is one thing to tell the stories of how God brought redemption and the places where hope shone through. It’s another thing to share the struggle. The secret darkness that many, if not all abuse victims suffer through, trying to make sense of life, of God, of purpose and meaning.
When Murray shared with me his burden for abuse in the church, I felt a swelling of life and hope in me that made it all worth it. Even in those early days of acknowledging what had happened, I found comfort in that purpose. Murray was the first ‘testament’ to that purpose and the hope in me literally sent tingles through my body, all the way down to my toes, as I felt my heart would burst. In the wonder of that purpose a glorious ‘Hallelujah’ rose from the depth of pain, making it all seem not so bad to go through, after all.
But on those dark days, when it seemed no good had come, or would ever come, I did my best to hide my heart. A very lost and broken Hallelujah, if there was one at all, withdrew into a world of questioning and hopelessness.
Sitting in the middle of Alice’s kitchen, in the island area, as she confidently proclaimed, ‘The truth will set you free’, and me very boldly declaring I want the truth, was a very different scene than the one that followed in the struggle that ensued.
One night in early summer, several months after I moved in with Howard and Alice’s family, there was an evening when they were all gone. I was home alone for one of the first times, if not the first time, since the truth had been revealed. And that initial revelation had opened a floodgate of memories. Some perpetrators had faces and names. Others were faceless monsters. Some were male. Others were female. Little by little the memories returned.
How many memories had returned by that night, I don’t recall. Some memories rushed back on the heels of that initial revelation, others returned over the years and continue to this day.
Whatever had triggered it, that night a sense of loneliness overtook me. I was all alone. Just me and my memories. I went down to my room. Too secluded. I wandered out to the family room and seated myself in the middle of the room, my legs crossed. I had no particular plan, no goal.
As buried emotions rose to the surface, the tears started and would not stop. For the first time since that moment of acknowledgement, I felt completely overwhelmed. Dark thoughts raced through my mind. Thoughts I had not had in a long time.
The thoughts had started when I was only about 4 or 5, when I wished I would die and go to heaven. At around 7 or 8, the thoughts became a more conscious death wish. At age 11, or thereabouts, they had taken such deep root that I had tied something around my neck to see if I would have the courage to follow through. These thoughts had consumed me in my late teens, after losing my virginity.
Thank God the thoughts had disappeared when I accepted Jesus as my Saviour, at age 18, not as a fear-driven act of desperation, but out of a deep revelation of His love.
That night they returned, dark, relentless, accusing, hopeless thoughts. Life would never have meaning. My life was destined to be lonely. I was unlovable… who would ever want to be with me, knowing the awful truth of who I was, of what was done to me. Of the choices I had made…
So the lies consumed me, making me believe my life was over, that there was no meaning, no purpose to my existence.
Even now, twenty years after that night, I cringe to express the darkness that invaded my mind, driving me to near insanity. But it needs to be told because it is a very common part of the journey of working through abuse. It is not uncommon for victims of sexual abuse or violence to struggle with these thoughts.
If we never tell, how are those who never experience it to know what their loved ones go through in that journey? How are they to know how to support and encourage them? So I tell it, not because I want to, but in hopes that it will save a life. In hopes that if your son or daughter, your sister or brother, or perhaps a friend has gone through it, you will know to watch for the signs. And if you are that wounded child, now possibly an adult, hiding secret darkness, that you will have the courage to tell someone and reach out for help.
Too many lives are lost to the desperate act of suicide because no one knew or understood the pain and trauma. No one knew to watch for the signs and offer support.
What I needed at that moment was a lot of love and a healthy dose of gentle reality. I was deeply loved by friends and family. Howard & Alice had shown that they cared for me, but in my fragile state I had lost sight of that. I was precious to God. But even that truth had escaped my mind.
On that dark night God visited me and reminded me of all He had done for me. Before I knew Jesus, I was engaged to a man much older than me, who I would later discover was a paedophile. He had given me a loving family that was willing to walk through the pain with me. He had given His life, by visiting my world in the body of Jesus, and dying on the cross for that moment.
Yes, I needed to walk through the pain again as an adult, and revisit the childhood trauma to make sense of life.
I needed to ask the hard questions, to cry out to God and ask “Where were you then… Where are you now?” But in the middle of that, truth remained my grounding force, preventing me from those acts of desperation.
And in that place of pain and trauma, as God showed me how He was there for me, I lifted my hands. When it was all I had, I offered Him a broken tear-stained Hallelujah, trusting Him to heal my heart.
© Trudy Metzger
Return to 1st post in Sexual Abuse Series
Enter to win the August Book Draw