When I started writing 3 years ago it was merely a way for me to process the things in my life. Something about writing and pouring my emotions and heart onto paper helped me sort through the details of my circumstances. With each post I wrote there became a new comfort and honesty unfold and I knew then that I may never write a bestselling book but I promised to be real and raw and be as transparent as possible to others, myself and God. I have shared posts about my health battles, my marriage, my daughter, my struggles and weaknesses and tried hard to be sensitive to the voice of God and be obedient to whatever direction He wanted me to share yes that is true EXCEPT that one area, that one place I have tucked deep down in my heart hidden from the world. I have said to God “use me God for Your glory, use my story as a testimony to Your goodness, I am Yours but don’t even think about asking me to uncover that one piece. No that piece of my journey isn’t for the world but only me, that area God is off limits.” Even this morning I let out a huge sigh when I felt God was asking me to write about this and I thought to myself “ugh are You sure God, can’t You pick something else.” Does this sound familiar to anyone? Those things that God wants to bring to light the enemy will continue to cover even deeper in the darkness of your heart. Instead of looking at that part of your story as a testimony to how far God has brought you and what He has brought you through you allow it to fester into shame, guilt and bitterness. Even when you think it doesn’t bother you anymore and it’s no big deal Satan knows how to dig his nails into that painful wound and pick and pick until the pain is unbearable once again.
I read a devotional this morning that was a reminder to me about some of those very areas that many people are facing, those areas they keep tucked away and hidden.
By: Stephanie Clayton"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
Numb to the pain, I sat in my counselor's office to talk about the rape that occurred 10 years prior. I wanted to share what happened but the words would not come. Even if they did, would I feel better? I hoped so, but doubted the process. This part of my life had been hidden for 10 years; surely another 10 wouldn't hurt, right?
Although I wanted desperately to run, I desired freedom more than escape.
Freedom from nightmares, uncontrollable mood swings, panic attacks, and the feeling of gasping for air. Freedom from unforgiveness. Hiding any longer from my pain would never help me move forward. So I stayed in counseling.
Uneasy, I described what happened. The sounds, sights, and smells returned as if it were yesterday. I was left wanting one thing.
Couldn't someone say they were sorry for what happened? Not a shallow apology, but one that would restore meaning to my life. One that would somehow return my loss of innocence. Surely an apology from the man who raped me would make a difference, right?
After 10 years, I knew I wanted freedom from the unforgiveness that seemed to enslave me. But how was I supposed to forgive when he never said, "I'm sorry"? I spent a lot of time praying and studying how to move forward when bitter and angry. How to forgive when an apology never comes. Along that journey, I learned a few things.
First of all, for forgiveness to bring freedom, I had to offer it freely, with no strings attached. Not because the person who hurt me earned it, but because it's Christ's gift. If you are a Christian, no one's sin, not even your own, has the right to hold you captive. That means you are free to forgive.
You may not feel like forgiving, but that is where you ask for God's strength. Ask Him daily for help until you are able to offer forgiveness freely to yourself and others.
Second, I had to release my shame. Often when someone hurts us, we blame ourselves. If we had been a better person, done something differently, or spoken more assertively we could have avoided what happened. Right? Wrong! Pressing shame and blame upon ourselves is not conducive to freedom and healing. Galatians 5:1 says, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
Shame is a yoke of slavery. Instead of accepting shame, choose to stand firm in Jesus' love. Stand firm in His freedom that releases you from shame. Because of His sacrifice on the cross you are free!
Third, I had to keep walking forward. To move past your past you must walk through it to move beyond it. This might involve time and professional help ... but here's the freeing part: your past does not define you, Christ does!
I never received an apology from the man who raped me. But I've come to realize that even if he were to apologize it would not make up for the hurt he caused. His apology could not and would not set me free.
Freedom is not contingent upon receiving an apology from those who have hurt us. Instead, forgiveness leads to freedom and is possible because Christ's death on the cross set us free.
Maybe you too have experienced some kind of abuse whether it be physical, emotional or sexual. Maybe you have been through a painful divorce, affair, addiction, or other traumatizing event. Like the author regardless of whether it was 10 years ago or 10 days ago it’s just as painful, it’s just as real and it hurts. You may feel alone, damaged, ashamed and bitter and although I can’t understand what you are personally feeling I know the power of Jesus is bigger than any darkness or pain of this world. The enemy may try to keep your story hidden but Jesus can break the chains of your infirmity and use every single moment of your suffering for His glory and purpose.