Shelter me

They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
    with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
They are like a lion hungry for prey,
    like a fierce lion crouching in cover.

Psalm 17:11-12 NIV

“Can you please change the station?”

“Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran was blasting on the radio, and I was staring off… remembering what it felt like to be hunted.

Stalked.

We were on our way to dinner, and one song threw me into a downward spiral. Memories were flashing and my heart was exploding. I suddenly felt vulnerable, scared, and sick.

“Can you please change the station?”  

I wanted to change the station myself, but I could not move. I was frozen. Again.

Taunted by the dark eyes. Those intense eyes followed me whether I was alone or in a room full of people. It didn’t matter. They were fearless.

I was terrified.

A new song started playing on the radio, but my heart was still racing.

Later that week, I shared with my counselor how one minute I was fine, and then that song came on and I fell apart!

It took me back again, and this time I was able to process the hot memory in a safe place.

Music would trigger me at times, but it also played a significant role in my healing.  That song was one of many that I would bring into a counseling session with me. Song lyrics and images from music videos helped me to express what my younger self was unable to say.

I was a child, and I was prey.

I was hunted, and it was not a game.

I desperately wanted to forget, but I could not stop remembering.

I was having recurring nightmares of being chased in the darkness. Always running. Always afraid.

Exhausted.

I just wanted to feel safe, and God was providing me shelter in the storm.

I realized He had all along.

I am crying aloud to You, O True God, for I long to know Your answer.
    Hear me, O God. Hear my plea. Hear my prayer for help.
Put Your marvelous love on display for all to see.
    Liberator of those who long for shelter beside You,
    set them safely away from their enemies, ever welcomed by grace.

Keep close watch over me as the apple of Your eye;
    shelter me in the shadow of Your wings.
Protect me from the wicked who are poised to attack,
    from the enemies swarming around me and closing in quickly.

Psalm 17:6-9 VOICE

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I thought it was me.

I thought it was me. 

Maybe there was something wrong with me that caused all of this. Was there a sign on my forehead that said “Abuse Me”?

Maybe something was wrong with my body, or maybe I smiled wrong or was too nice? Was it my clothes?

What was wrong with me?

These thoughts swirled around in my mind for years. My secret shame-filled worries constantly reminded me that I was deeply flawed, used and beyond repair.

I lived like the lie was true.

I had no voice.

I never said no.

I always froze.

Sometimes I just left in my mind and went away.

It was how I survived.

What happens to a young girl like me? She finds herself sometimes with people who make her uncomfortable and maybe they say or do things that are inappropriate.

They keep crossing the line to test her to see how she will respond. Will she yell? Will she run?

Nope. She does nothing because that’s all she knows. This isn’t her first rodeo.

Almost over.

Not much longer.

So much shame.

And finally, as I am sitting alone on the couch hunched over in a therapy session, the truth finally starts to sink in.

My counselor pulled out a big flip chart and grabbed Sharpies and she sat on the floor in front of me. We made a timeline. She was writing it all out as fast as I could say it.

My hidden secrets were all splattered on the clean white page.

And like dominoes falling, I saw how the harm from the abuse blazed a path of destruction throughout my life.

There was nothing wrong with me.

It wasn’t my fault.

It was never my fault.

And with tears falling, I wanted to hug the little girl inside of me. She wasn’t dirty and shameful to me anymore. I loved her.

She was resilient.

She was brave.

She survived.

She was loved.

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What if?

 I have a message from God in my heart

    concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:

There is no fear of God

    before their eyes.

In their own eyes they flatter themselves

  too much to detect or hate their sin.

 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;

    they fail to act wisely or do good.

 Even on their beds they plot evil;

    they commit themselves to a sinful course

    and do not reject what is wrong.

Psalm 36:1-4 NIV 

One day I walked into my counseling session with a poster (similar to the image above) that I had covered with Bible verses using a black Sharpie.

Turns out I could relate to a lot of these verses and they helped me to see that even though that picture was huge and my fear was enormous – God’s truth could cover it all.

It helped me to see something very important: Sexual Abuse is pure evil and it operates in complete darkness. It wreaks havoc on the mind, body, and soul. The shame keeps everyone quiet. The domino effect from any disclosure or acknowledgement is far-reaching.

This massive fear keeps everyone in silent denial.  

I was incredibly afraid, so I took my fear and blew it up poster size and I covered it with Truth.

The Truth helped me to see that it was not my fault, and that God was bigger than my fears. When I let His light shine into the darkest places of my abuse, my fears were replaced with His hope, strength and courage.

This verse reminded me that sexual abuse doesn’t just happen.  It is premeditated, and the abuse is repeated over and over and over.  

I couldn’t help but wonder and cry out to God:  What if?

What if we talked about Sexual Abuse in Church?  If His light brings healing how will His light reach the hurting if we don’t let the light in?

What if I grew up hearing about the sin of Sexual Abuse in church? I heard about many sins in church, but not this one.

What if the church helped me as a young girl to understand that I was not bad, but what was happening to me was bad?

What if the church helped him understood how destructive his actions were? What if he realized that all five of my senses would remember, forever?

What if it never happened?

What if it stopped sooner?

What if?

I found myself pleading with God for someone in church to speak up! God, HELP!

He is faithful to hear my cries, and His Word is my guide.

My prayer is that you will search the scriptures in your own journey.  His Word is alive and it will speak to you in powerful ways.  Let His light shine into the darkness and may His truth set you free.

It was never your fault. 

Your strong love, O True God, is precious.
    All people run for shelter under the shadow of Your wings.
 In Your house, they eat and are full at Your table.
    They drink from the river of Your overflowing kindness.
You have the fountain of life that quenches our thirst.
    Your light has opened our eyes and awakened our souls.

Psalm 36:7-9 VOICE

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The Purple Chair

All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace. Isaiah 54:13

“You are a bad Mom.”

It was a loud voice in my head that would occasionally put me in tears. Maybe it was because I missed something special because of work. Or because I didn’t want to put on a bathing suit. Or because they didn’t like my spaghetti. Or because I didn’t want to take them shopping with me unless I had my husband or an extra set of eyes with me.

It didn’t take much and it never made sense, but it always hurt and sometimes I believed it.

“Maybe I am a bad Mom?”

That was a lie that spilled out in therapy. I felt so inadequate and I felt guilty for crying around my children so much. How can I be a good mom when I am so broken and terrified of them getting hurt?

Their frozen and strong mom was melting in tears.

Maybe it wasn’t so bad. With each tear, I assured them that God was with me and helping me. He was healing me. He was teaching me to trust Him.

As they began to ask more questions, I would sometimes just freeze and stare off praying, “God, please help me!”

I found a shabby chic purple chair on Craigslist for $50 for our bedroom. It started out as a cozy space in the corner for me to read and write.

It has become a safe haven for my children, and a place where they can say anything.

All is fair in the purple chair. 

When they sit in that chair, we get our hearts and minds ready – realizing we want them to feel safe enough to come to us, and to ask us anything.

There is no shame or fear in the purple chair.  

If they ask us questions about their body or something that would take us by surprise we say, “That is a great question for the purple chair – let’s talk about it tonight.”

With the purple chair, no question is off-limits and they can tell us anything. It gives us time to pray and think about our response.

Purple chair conversations led us to purchase age appropriate body books for them to refer to as needed. Sometimes, we just talk about our day. If we need to apologize, we do.

We have very uncomfortable but necessary discussions in the purple chair. We talk to our kids about sexual abuse in age appropriate ways. We want them to understand their bodies and to understand boundaries. We want them to know that some secrets are bad, and they can tell us anything, anytime. God helped us create a safe place for our kids to share. He equipped us in those moments to respond in truth and love.

Our room is gray now, but we are keeping the purple chair.  The work that God started with me in that chair is being passed on to my kids, and hopefully one day their kids.

He will equip. He will teach. He is peace.  

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Deuteronomy 11:18-19

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