Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”
You have no idea how badly I wanted to leave this chapter out. I don’t want to have to write it. I don’t want to have a reason to never know what I know about this subject. As you read, please keep in mind that you know someone that this chapter is about. You know someone who struggles with the words on its pages and the feelings it invokes. I know people who have gone through this same thing, and I’ve seen what happens to them because of it. I feel that pain because I lived through it myself. I wish I could tell you that God has taken the pain out of it. It still hurts and parts of it are still miserable. I’m still learning to give him this broken part of me.
I chose Proverbs 13:12 (or rather God did) as the beginning and I started to dissect it word by word. One of the amazing things about the Bible, and something I never realized before is the reason that it is called The Living Word. It is called the Living Word because stories that seem to have nothing to do with you or your individual situation all the sudden are all about you. God shows you your life, not the Bible character, inside the events that take place in a time that was foreign to you.
I looked at the first part and got stuck there. Hope. I use this word all the time, but when I say I have hope I don’t really focus on that part. I focus more on whatever it is that I have hope FOR. I hadn’t really looked into what exactly hope was. Hope is defined as: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a feeling of trust, grounds for believing that something good will happen, a person or a thing that may help or save somebody.
The next word, deferred, I had read as lost. Except, God poked at me to go deeper. Deferred is defined in accounting as: any account where the asset or liability is not realized until a future date. The dictionary says that deferred means suspended or withheld for until a stated time, postponed.
Hope deferred meant a feeling of trust that was postponed. Hope deferred meant that a thing that may help or save somebody was suspended. Hope deferred was an expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen was withheld. Hope deferred meant that grounds for believing that something good would happen was an asset that was not mature yet. That’s a lot of information in two little tiny words. I kept going. Hope deferred (the good thing that I trusted would happen would be delayed or postponed) makes the heart sick. If you know what a sick heart feels like, it feels like hopelessness. It feels lonely. It feels like you are never going to be able to trust anyone ever again. It feels like you are empty and that no promise of good will come because later doesn’t matter. We read that as hope lost because we can’t hang on to “later”.
When I started going back to the Heart Hospital to try to find something for my school kids, I learned that I couldn’t give them something I didn’t have. I didn’t have any answers as to how to get rid of my anger, so I started asking “why?”. I fully, and with everything I am, believe this is the best question you can ask. Why? It was the one question I was taught not to ask. I was taught not to ask God why, not to ask my parents why, and not to ask myself why through my experiences. God never told me to stop asking why. People did.
I started asking my Pastor Doctor why. He didn’t know most of the answers that I needed, but what he did know was who to ask and ways that I could find my own answers. He gave me the book “The Wounded Heart” by Dr. Dan Allender. I had just finished reading, “Woman, Thou Art Loosed” by TD Jakes. I found quite a few things in Jakes’ book that had stirred things in me I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to deal with. I just wanted to keep ignoring them and prayed that God wouldn’t make me look at them. It hurt and I was tired of hurting. God said, “I can’t take away your pain until you let go of it.” So, I basically just started giving him crumbs. That’s all I could manage at first. Somedays that is all I can manage still. God can only bless where you are, not where you pretend to be.
I didn’t feel bad when I read “Woman, Thou Art Loosed”. When I started the book from Dr. Allender, I got seven pages in and closed it. It was around 2 in the morning and I couldn’t handle the flood of pain that those pages opened up. I was absolutely positive that I was going to drive that book right back to where it came from. I wanted it out of my eyesight, out of my house, and away from anywhere I would ever be physically near to it. I started reading another book and couldn’t concentrate. I went to sleep frustrated and angry. I woke up the next morning and there it was. I scowled at it and then my text alert notification went off. It was Pastor Doctor. He said, “I’m praying for you as you read and listen to our Heavenly Father.” I told him that I wanted to drive him back his book and he said that he’d had to buy multiple copies of it because lending it out had caused others to rip it or throw it across the room. I don’t know if knowing that he was praying for me or knowing that he knew that it was painful or if it was timing or what, but it gave me just a little bit of strength to try it again. I hated that book. I was disgusted that I found so much of myself inside the struggles of the people that Dr. Allender was writing about. What I was not expecting was to read words that I had heard almost verbatim from my mother years and years before. Reading words, I’d heard her say was like getting struck by lightning. It felt that way because you don’t pick up a book on sexual abuse and how to heal from it for light, interesting reading. Nobody, who doesn’t need answers to the questions that sexual abuse causes a person to feel, reads a book like that.
I’ve spent most of my life in the fear that I would turn out just like my mother. That is a fairly common fear that a lot of women have, even if they have a close, loving relationship with their mothers. Unfortunately, I don’t have one of those. In that fear, I found enough curiosity about my mom and her idiosyncrasies to keep reading.
In “Woman Thou Art Loosed” Jakes says that “many women who have been abused end up in tragic relationships in which they are revictimized. One factor involved in that choice is the unconscious commitment to find people who will guarantee loss, so that hope is never deeply stirred.” I didn’t really understand what his words meant only that they resonated very, very deep within me. I began to ask God to show me why that was.
I dated a boy in high school that was a senior when I was a freshman. He was really protective of me and I didn’t run to him with all of my problems with people. I could handle most things on my own. I already had been, and I didn’t want people thinking I was weak. In the post, Mean Girls I talk about the eight people who came to fight the girl who was threatening to kill me. Their leader that didn’t come, but sent his friends instead? That leader was my boyfriend. I didn’t know anything about most of the trouble he was in but he listened to my stories, laughed at my jokes, and had his friends keep an eye on me so that if I needed something and I asked for help they were there. I didn’t know I had to ask, so I didn’t. My friend Kelly asked for me the one time that I needed someone to be there. They came out of respect for my boyfriend, Mike, and not for any loyalty they owed me. My dad was not Mike’s biggest fan, in fact, he wasn’t a fan at all. For one thing, he was way too old for me. One weekend back before the days of Caller ID and Call Waiting, I was at Dad’s and Mike wanted to talk to me. I didn’t give out Dad’s number to hardly anyone since I was only there on the weekends. Mike didn’t drive so we didn’t hang out much unless it was right after school, but we talked on the phone a lot. Mike kept trying to call that night and was getting a busy signal. He had the operator patch through and say it was an emergency because he thought I was on the phone with one of my friends. I wasn’t. My dad was talking to my stepmom, who was his fiancé at the time. It was later than I was allowed to be on the phone. My dad could barely restrain his annoyance when he came to the room I shared with my sisters and told me that Mike somebody was on the phone for me. I got in trouble and that didn’t help my relationship with Dad at all.
Shortly after school ended my freshman year Mike and I broke up. He was so much older than I was, and I wasn’t ready for most of the stuff that he could do. He wasn’t mean when he broke up with me, but when he said that I was just too young, I took it to mean that he was ending it because I hadn’t had sex with him. I hadn’t done anything but let him kiss me. What he meant was I was immature and naïve and believed that things were still the way you believe they are when you are a little kid.
I didn’t date anyone after that until the boyfriend that cheated on me with his ex. I figured everybody thought that about me, so I became a little self-conscious of my age. Maybe that explained why I always felt like I didn’t know what everyone else knew. I had a friend that took me to work and we had a lot in common. We hung out a lot because he could drive, and he didn’t mind giving me rides. He would come over sometimes and watch movies or play games when my mom wasn’t home. Most of the time I had other people over at the same time as him, so it wasn’t like we were dating or anything.
One night we were watching a movie and I fell asleep. I was on the floor and my friends were on the couch. Someone else had been sitting behind me but I don’t remember who was there now. I remember waking up to a strange feeling on my neckbone. It was like pressure, but I couldn’t tell what it was from. I wasn’t all the way awake when I realized that wasn’t the only place something felt off. He had his hand inside my shirt, groping and feeling his way around. I woke all the way up, but kept my eyes closed because I had no idea what to do. I listened to see if I could hear anyone else in the room and I heard nothing but the TV and his breathing. I don’t know how long he’d been inside my shirt when I woke up. I remember swallowing back vomit at one point because he didn’t seem to mind the fact that he hadn’t asked if I was okay with what he was doing, and I was scared. My mom wasn’t home, and my brothers and sisters were at my dad’s. My friends that were there with us when the movie started had all disappeared. I had no idea what to do. I sat there with my heart hammering in my ears and his hands roaming, screaming at myself to hurry up and think. I pretended to roll over in my sleep, thinking that he would quit if he couldn’t reach what he was after. He stopped but I kept my eyes shut, hoping and praying that he would be bored with my “unconscious” state, but again I felt his hand slither its way into my shirt and under my bra. I decided to try rolling over again and waking up “naturally”. It worked and he quit. I told him he had to go, that I hadn’t realized how late it was and my mom would be home soon. I knew Mom wasn’t coming, but he didn’t know that. It seemed like years before he finally got out of my house.
In the days that followed, I started struggling to keep food down. I’d had a problem with food in middle school but never because of my body image or anything, always just because when I get stressed out, food is the last thing I want. The only thing that seemed to help the nausea was waiting to eat until I got to the point that my stomach felt like it was eating itself. I’d eat, even though I wasn’t hungry, but later my stomach would feel like I’d eaten a brick of lead. I started to make myself throw up. I figured I was still “eating” but I couldn’t handle the heaviness of the meal and would get rid of it almost immediately after I ate.
I struggled with this until a few months later, when my friend John died, something happened that would change my relationship with food for a long time. I didn’t connect the two or even that these were the beginning of eating disorders until much later. At the time that my lab partner John died, and I was missing so much school our house was a revolving door of sorts for people that shouldn’t have been there. My mom had weird friends and one night I woke up freezing because one of them had taken my comforter right off the top of me to use for themselves. I went to go look for it when I woke up and found two people having sex in our living room. I don’t know who they were or why they were doing that in that particular location, but I was rather disgusted. I couldn’t see much because of my poor eyesight (thank God for that) and it was dark in the house. I ran face first into the wall in the hallway on the way to my Mom’s room. She wasn’t in there. I knew it wasn’t her in the living room and I was not about to ask those people where my mom was. I didn’t even know who they were. I couldn’t find her, so I went back to my room and put another hoodie on and tried to go back to sleep. Somebody came in and put a moldy smelling sleeping bag over me while I was in and out of my sleep haze, but I don’t know who that was.
I don’t know how long after that first incident with my “friend” that this happened. As I explained before my memory is rather fuzzy due to all of the things that happened that year, and probably partly from my trying so hard over the next two decades to run away from the memories that these events brought. I never told my mom about the boy from high school. I never told anyone.
One night a bunch of people were hanging out at my house and one of the older guys there kept flirting with me. He was 22 and I was 15. I liked the attention even though it made me nervous. I didn’t trust people anymore, but there was something about the way he did things for me that caught my attention. He asked about the ring I always wore. It was one my Grandma had let me have from her jewelry box. I loved my Grandma and felt like Grandma was somehow my protector. I don’t know why I thought that. I just did. Grandma seemed to understand that I was a kid that had too many demands placed on me and she did little things that made me feel special. She had a lot of grandkids, but she would always have a 3 pack of plums in the refrigerator for me when she knew I was coming over. Plums were my favorite. She also taught me how to bake cookies. I have no idea why that was a big deal to me. It just made me happy. I told the guy about my Grandma and he seemed to understand what I meant. He said his mom was like that and I should come meet her sometime.
Over the next few weeks, he showed up a lot and always paid attention to me like I was one of the older people there. He didn’t really seem to notice my age. He asked me to give him a back massage one night and I did. Mom came home, saw us in the living room with the group of people, and called me to the bathroom. She told me that she didn’t like me doing that and she wanted me to promise her that I wouldn’t do it anymore. I was annoyed because I felt like she was just mad that someone was paying attention to me. I didn’t trust Mom anymore and Dad and I seemed to be a lost cause. But, I did listen and the next time that he asked, I told him my mom said she didn’t like it and she was worried about me hanging out with him and giving him back massages. I told him she said I had to stop. He said, “Sounds like she just jealous. Maybe you should give her one.” He didn’t ask again for a while and I felt like I was doing the right thing, but that Mom had somehow managed to take someone else away from me that might care about how broken I was. A couple of weeks went by and I don’t remember how or why but he ended up kissing me. I hadn’t kissed anybody since my first high school boyfriend and I wasn’t really experienced at it, but when he stopped, he complimented me. I don’t remember very much about any of this time, but at some point, a few weeks later he was laying on my bed in my room and we were talking. He asked me to give him a massage. He said that he had started to have feelings for me, and he didn’t think I was just a little kid. He started kissing me again and as I kissed him back, I felt his hands unbuttoning my clothes. I stopped kissing him and started pushing him away, but he kept coming. I didn’t say no but just kept pushing him away.
I don’t need to go through all the details, but he stole something from me that day. When he was finished, I laid there trying not to cry in front of him. He winked at me and said, “Don’t tell your mom. I’ll go to jail for statutory rape.” At some point, he ended up with my Grandma’s ring and my journal (which I later wondered if he took so he could prove he hadn’t done anything wrong. Like it was evidence that at first, I had liked him too.) I didn’t think I had been raped because I hadn’t really managed to say no, but later learned that this is how sex offenders get away with what they get away with.
I felt awful. I hadn’t listened to my mom and I thought I was grown, but something inside of me was very wrong. I had never had sex before, but I was pretty sure that what had just happened was not the way it was supposed to go. I felt stupid because I hadn’t said no. I felt like I’d been cheated out of something that belonged to me because I wasn’t smart enough to see that that was what he was after the whole time.
I stopped throwing up all the time and just quit eating. I didn’t tell anyone until I was asked to give a testimony at a church retreat. I knew that whole thing was making me sick inside, but when I gave my written copy of my testimony to the youth group leaders, they said that the girl that was going before me had been raped and they didn’t want to throw too much sex stuff into what was supposed to be a God weekend, so they asked me to take that part out.
The morning before I gave my testimony, I got a “pep talk” letter from my mom. I cried as I read how much she loved me and how hard it was for her to show me. She said she knew that we had problems but that she was trying. She said she didn’t have much else to give me, but she was trying. I didn’t want to hurt her anymore after the pain I heard behind her letter, so I didn’t tell her until I was dating the Boyfriend Mom Hated a year and a half later.
I knew that something important had been stolen from me, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. Even after I realized what it was that had been stolen, I didn’t understand the full effect of everything it had taken. I didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t want to try to heal. It was my fault that it had happened to begin with. I didn’t want to be a victim and I didn’t want for people to look at me and how stupid I was for believing that someone cared about me. When a person is sexually abused, it isn’t just their body that is taken, it is their future. The future I had in my head of what I was supposed to be had already been ruined and I had no visible hope left before this happened to me. It wasn’t just my future.
What hurt the most was that those two people took what little hope I had left. I did not have any hope in people, in myself, or in God. I also thought that I was bad now for having sex, because the Church had vehemently argued that we weren’t supposed to. There was no way I’d be good enough for God now. I’d had that going for me at least before, but after this happened, there was no way God would accept who I was.
The amazing thing about God is that he had enough hope for both of us. I just wouldn’t allow myself to believe in it until many years later. Those two events stole my hope and they stole my future, but God knows how to put it back.
The verses about healing didn’t mean much to me until I started reading about the effects of sexual abuse. And because the Bible is the Living Word and God uses it to speak to who we are as individuals I have a better understanding of them now.
Proverbs 13:12 said “Hope deferred.” Not hope lost. My hope wasn’t lost. It was just delayed. Maybe if I had stopped and asked for help or felt like I could ask someone for help than Dr. Allender’s next revelation into my brokenness wouldn’t have hurt so much.
“Longings and shame were wed to her sense of being a woman whose only worth was in being used for someone else’s pleasure.” I didn’t feel like I was worth anything before this happened, so I had no chance after this of being worth something to anyone. Things that are valued don’t get abused. I was just not valuable.
I did not want to write this chapter. I begged God not to make me. But, as with most things that God asks us to do that we don’t want to do, I realize that the only way that my story will ever be used for his glory is if I give it to him and do what he says with it. I know that girls, even younger than I was, are being hurt by people in the same way, in more violent ways, in more evil ways. They are being taken advantage of and they do it in silence and isolation. One of the ways that the Devil likes to make women suffer is to make us feel like we are “less than” when things like this happen. So, when God told me I was the Storm and I could defeat Satan, I had no choice but to believe him and let God have this pain too. I have to give it up so that he can use my pain to help other people. I have to give it up so that he can heal me. Even if we don’t have anything but a crumb of hope and a molecule of faith, he can restore us.
I want to leave you with this promise from TD Jakes that made me ask God for hope. He said, “You will recover what you lost at the hands of your abuser. You will get back everything stolen from you. God will rebuild your self esteem and restore the woman you could have been.” If I believe in nothing else, I believe in this truth.
I stated in an earlier blog that I don’t have anyone’s answers but my own. Sometimes, I don’t even have that. What I do know is that these kinds of things and many others are happening and if we don’t start talking about them and giving people someone they can talk to, we are perpetuating the cycles of abuse. I had no idea if what happened to me was rape, I didn’t even know what statutory meant, and all I knew was that I felt lost and alone and had nobody to talk to about it. If I had, maybe I’d have gotten some kind of help that would have changed the trajectory of my future. Instead, I suffered in silence. Many of our young girls are suffering in silence also because they don’t want to have to go through a firing range of questions just to be judged on the events of a situation, instead of how they feel about it. We have got to start opening the doors, our hearts, and our ears to people and their pain or it will keep perpetuating itself onto others. Trauma is like a bad rash. It spreads before you know you even know what kind you have. And like rashes, trauma like this will never go away unless it is identified.
Jeremiah 30:17 “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,” says the Lord. “For you are called an outcast- Jerusalem- for whom no one cares.”
Isaiah 61:7 “Instead of shame and dishonor, you will receive a double share of honor. You will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”