When I was in my early teens I was molested. Decades later I still have a hard time saying that word. How could such a small word, with such a simple meaning, take away all that is sacred and pure? Though the wounds have healed, I still carry deep scars. That little word changed my life forever.
For most of my childhood, our family lived at Christian camps. You know, the camps you go to with your church for a week in the middle of nowhere. I loved it! Each summer I would apply for a new position. I washed dishes & cooked (for 100's of people at a time). I was also a trail & tubing guide, camp nurse, administrative assistant, and lifeguard. Each summer brought new adventures! But one of my favorite things about summer was living in staff housing. Bunk beds, late night hikes, sneaking into the kitchen for midnight snacks, and the pranks . . . oh how I loved the pranks! (I admit, I filled a shower head or two with powdered Jello and covered a few toilets in plastic wrap!) My parents trusted me, as well as the staff they hand picked, so it was not unusual for me to live away from home for the summer, even at a young age. But my second summer away from home I met a man who was nothing short of wolf in sheep's clothing.
My wolf came in the form of blond hair, blue eyes, and a mouth full of Scripture. He was much older than I. I was shocked, yet flattered, that someone like him would pay attention to me. His advances were innocent at first. Yet through the flirting I knew this whole situation was wrong. But, a part of me loved being noticed . . . admired perhaps? And I felt like I could trust him. He was older and wiser, and he loved the Lord, or so he said. He quoted Scripture and would often tell me Hebrews 13:5, saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” No, I was not admired. I was preyed upon by a selfish, godless wolf.
I remember his first touch. He was playful and charming even when I said “no”. I recall thinking in my head, “My daddy is going to kill you. Just wait until my daddy finds out.” But, my daddy never found out. I kept it a secret. Every place he took me to was secluded, in the dark. I don't know when exactly I finally gave in. I was so sleep deprived that summer. He would get frustrated with me because I fell asleep a lot. I physically could not work all day and stay up all night, every night.
There were many signs that summer that I chose to ignore. (1) He was much older than me. Obviously, I should have sought counsel instead of falling for his flattery. (2) He always made me walk behind him. Always. He insisted I do this because his “love” for me could not be known to anyone. It was a secret that only we shared. (3) He had no concern for me. He was using me for his sake. I did not see this at the time. I blamed myself for years that I allowed this to happen. Perhaps if I had gotten more sleep, I would have seen him for who he was? I don't know. It happened.
After summer ended, he left. I never heard from him again. My body was sick with grief and shame. I had mono for the first month of school. I slept and slept. I tried to wrap my mind around the events that took place that summer. At first I was hurt that he left me. He left a huge hole in my heart. Then, as I gained strength and clarity, I saw him for who he really was . . . a wolf. How in the world did this happen? I allowed a wolf to take away my innocence and purity. Shame covered me as thick as the darkness of night. How could God forgive me?
I carried this dreadful secret for months. By God's grace, a dear friend whom I had opened up to, urged me to tell my parents what had happened. I was terrified. I thought this was my fault. Eight months after he left, I finally revealed my secret. My walls fell down and God began to bring healing. This certainly did not happen overnight. But little by little God began to pour out His grace.
During high school, I found myself yearning for someone to fill the hole that the wolf had left in my heart. I am not proud of the fact that I dated many guys. I was looking for acceptance, worth, and fulfillment in all the wrong places. Looking back now, I see that the hole he left was a sacred hole, only intended for marriage. That hole is the unique oneness that happens in marriage. God blesses that kind of oneness. I see now that He created us to be fulfilled in Him alone and that marriage, and the sexual union of man and wife, is a gift that is sacred and holy.
Did you hear me, friend? Sex and intimacy are a gift. They are intended for marriage alone. God will not bless sin. I see so many people that are searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places. Just like me. Once you taste that intimacy, you crave it. Nothing quenches it outside of marriage.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
John Piper says,
“O, what an offensive word to our rebel human nature. The body in which you dwell is not yours to do with simply as you please. God bought your body from the curse of sin by the payment of his own Son, and now your body should serve one all-encompassing purpose: 'Glorify, God in your body.' . . . In marriage God has designed a unique and stable and lasting relation for our most intimate expression of love. I believe experience confirms that something good and beautiful is lost from our sexual intimacy in marriage if we gave ourselves away outside that union. God can forgive that sin, but the scar he does not remove. The act will never be the same again. There is an inexpressible deepening of the union of marriage, which God intended, when a husband and wife can lie beside each other in perfect peace and freedom and say, 'What I have just given you I have never given to another.'”
It is easy to glorify God with your mouth, but do we glorify Him with our body? I did not glorify God with my body that summer. Though I knew in my heart that I would only give myself to my husband, somehow I failed. My fault or not, I failed. Could God forgive me?
Fast forward to my first year in college . . .
The fall of my freshman year we had a pastor come in and speak on forgiveness. I was mesmerized as I listened to him explain what the Bible says about our need for forgiveness. I will never forget the words of Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
The Holy Spirit pricked my heart. I had sought God's forgiveness, but had I forgiven the wolf? No, I had not. I hated him. The thought of him made me want to vomit. I blamed him for taking away my innocence and I wanted nothing but hardship to come his way. He was evil. I had every right to hate him. But God . . .
Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, "Forgive each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
Thomas Watson answers the question of when should we forgive others:
“When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them . . . We are not bound to trust an enemy; but we are bound to forgive him.”
God, by His Spirit and through the preached Word, opened my heart to see truth and freedom for the first time. Truth – God forgives us of our offenses over and over and over again. His grace runs deep and His love is everlasting. Who am I to judge and hold on to unforgiveness when I am but a sinner in need of a Savior too? God called me that night to let go. And I did. I felt like I needed to come to a place in my life where I could forgive my wolf and pray for his salvation because an eternity apart from our gracious God is horrific. When I let go, I prayed for him and that is where I found freedom. Hallelujah! I was no longer a prisoner of unforgiveness. You see, unforgiveness kills the soul. In fact, it can even kill the body. David spoke of this in Psalm 34. God never intended for us to live in that sort of darkness. He calls us out and into His glorious light . . . where there are springs of love, grace, and joy! Oh how I needed the cool waters of His grace. It was sweet balm for a weary soul.
After I began practicing forgiveness in all areas of my life, God began to bless many of my relationships. (I could write pages on what the Lord has done!) I am thankful for His kindness and patience with me even when I made a mess of things (on countless occasions). But most importantly, God blessed my marriage. I was able to give all that I had to my husband, and God honored that. The scars from the wounds inflicted by the wolf are still there. I fight hard to cover them in grace and truth. It is not always easy, but it keeps me running to Christ. Anything that keeps us humble and dependent on Christ is always a good thing. So, I accept these scars as grace. I have nights where I am that young teenager all over again. If I am awaken from a deep sleep (if BJ rolls over or the kids awaken me) I run to a place in the house and hide, fearing that the wolf is after me. But, besides those nights, which are getting less the older I get, I have truly found freedom. I have not seen my wolf since that summer. I have no idea what became of him. But I pray that I would speak of Jesus and His grace if we ever cross paths.
I have been wanting to write my story for many years now. I don't seek accolades for being brave (in sharing my story) nor do I want pity over what happened. Life happens. Bad things happen to all of us. We will "face trials of many kinds" in this life (James 1:2-4). Often we begin identifying ourselves by these trials. We become a victim. But that is not God's kind intention. The Westminster Catechism says that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Leave the judgment, wrath, and debt to God. How can we enjoy Him forever when we are entangled in a web of fear and hatred. Life is hard. But we must make the choice to obey God's Word and glorify Him in all things, in all areas, for all eternity! We obviously cannot do this apart from Christ. We need new hearts that love the things God loves. Our "heart is deceitful" (Jeremiah 17:9). We need hearts that no longer deceive but live for a life that is yet to come. We need hearts like that of Christ who emptied Himself, taking the form of a mere servant, and became obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2). We need THAT kind of heart. I needed THAT kind of heart.
I love what Peter said in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
We all need grace. We are imperfect people who need a precious, perfect Savior.
As I said before, being molested changed my life forever. How? Because God opened my heart in radical ways to see my need for forgiveness. My life is forever changed not by a selfish act of sin, but by God's grace. Jesus forgives sinners and we should want to be like Jesus.