In this post Cheryl shares her experience with sexual abuse. I pray that God may touch your heart through her experiences and that one day you might be able to share with us here your own experiences with God.
This is the story of who I am, where I’ve been…and where I’m going. Have you ever asked yourself those questions, “Who am I?” “What is the meaning of life, why is there so much suffering, what purpose is there in it all?” “Where am I going, what is in my future, what do I have to look forward to?” I have! I asked them many times and I kept asking them because I never seemed to be able to find any answers…none that really hit home anyway, that is until 1993, just after I’d turned 29. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me tell you a little bit about where I’ve been first. Then I’d like to share with you who I am and what is in my future. And thank you for taking the time to read my story. May God use it to touch your heart today.
I was born in 1964, the oldest of three children that my mother and father had. I don’t remember very much about my father, he wasn’t home for the most part. He worked out of town and had a weakness for women that kept him pretty busy. My mother was just 28 and I was eight when he was killed in an accident. My sister was seven and my brother four. We cried when mom told us, but I think it was more because she was crying….we hardly knew our dad. In all the TV shows, the kids dad’s played with them, talked to them….hugged them. After my dad died I noticed this even more and I began noticing the dads in our neighborhood….sometimes very jealous of the kids who had a dad.
My mom started seeing a man about a year after my father was killed. I began to fantasize about him being my new daddy–he was around a lot, I thought it would be great to just have a dad who was home every night. A couple months before my 10th birthday I got my wish, the two of them ran off and got married.
A lot of things happened in the years between then and my 17th birthday. The fantasy life I had dreamt about, and thought I had, turned out to be a mirage. My new dad was home a lot, but that was because he was an alcoholic and couldn’t seem to hold down a job. I loved and hated him at the same time, he was the only father I had ever really known and I was desperate for a daddy.
I could write a book about those years. But, I’ve since come to realize that an awful lot of people have already beat me to it. During that time, for almost eight years, I was sexually abused by my new “dad” while my mother knew and chose to turn the other way. I later learned that he had also abused my two sisters. (My youngest sister is really my half sister, mom was pregnant for her when she and my step-dad married). I got mixed up in alcohol and drugs, ended up pregnant at 14, fought my way through cancer and chemotherapy at 15, and attempted suicide a couple times. At 16 I was engaged, at 17 I was a child bride still in high school. There are many books out there that sound much the same aren’t there? Perhaps you know someone, or maybe even you yourself have a story similar to what I’ve written above.
Well, back to my story. When I left home at 17, I thought that my dreams were finally going to come true. My husband had also come from an alcoholic home, his family was very poor, but we were determined to make a better life for ourselves and the children we planned to have. We worked very hard at it. Several times the pressure built to the point where we talked about divorce. We threatened, yelled, screamed, slammed doors, packed bags, you name it but, we just couldn’t bear the thought of hearing people say ” I told you so, knew it wouldn’t last.” so, we stuck it out.
Our first son was born when I was two months shy of 20. He was beautiful and exactly what I had prayed for. I lost a baby and a fallopian tube to a tubal pregnancy prior to our son’s conception. The doctor wasn’t sure I would ever be able to conceive with the one remaining tube, it was badly damaged due to my bout with cancer. I really felt that our son was a miracle. My husband was so proud, and I just knew things were going to change for us, that we were going to be the perfect little happy family now that we had our baby boy.
But things didn’t get better, they got worse! When our son was 2, I went to work full time. He was sexually abused by the baby-sitters 10-yr. old son. My heart broke clean in two at that point. I never thought my child would experience what I had growing up, I thought I could protect him. Although our son was very small when he was abused, it affected him deeply for years. My husband would not accept what had happened to our little boy until our son was caught “experimenting” with a friend’s child, then he went off the deep end and couldn’t even look at him. Their relationship suffered for a long time.
7 years into the marriage my husband decided that he just didn’t want to be married any more and wanted to be by himself. For two weeks I begged and pleaded with him to stay and work it out but he refused and started making plans to leave us. My family was crumbling around me and I was desperate to save it but I didn’t know what to do. Then one night he came home and told me he had thought about it and changed his mind! I found out I was pregnant with our second son shortly after my husband and I patched things up. Our boys are almost 6 years apart.
When our baby was about 21 months old we bought a new home (the one with the pool) and tried to forget the past. My husband had an excellent job and we had decided that I wouldn’t work outside the home again until the baby started school. Things were pretty good for a while; the new home kept us busy. We remodeled several of the rooms and settled in.
One day I looked around at all I had, my family, friends, the house, pool, cars, everything, and a quiet panic came over me. I realized that I had reached my dream and discovered to my horror that I felt empty inside! There wasn’t any joy or peace in my life. There was no satisfaction! I knew that I should have been grateful, pleased with all that I had, and I was angry with myself because I wasn’t. There was a huge space inside me that wanted to be filled and yet I couldn’t seem to figure out with what!
I felt dead inside! I realized that I had always felt like that. Oh, I had experienced a kind of joy or happiness, a peace at times in my life but it never lasted. It was like I tried to fill up that empty space inside me with a lot of different things and for a while some of them seemed to work. Then suddenly whatever I had filled the space with fell right through and the space got even bigger!
I had so many questions! Most of them started out with “why God?” I had been brought up to believe in God, went to church every Sunday, knew deep down that there was a God, I just didn’t know if I liked Him! He didn’t seem to know what He was doing, if He did, I didn’t think He was doing a very good job! I was angry with Him, then I’d feel guilty for being angry! Then I’d get angry again because I felt guilty. What did God want from me anyway!!
That was my life for 29 years. Now I’d like to share with you what has happened in my life since I was introduced to Jesus Christ in February 1993. Yes, I “met” Jesus! I had never known Him before although I was brought up hearing His name. I knew some information about Him, but I didn’t know Him at all. Like I know some information about the President, but I don’t really know the President. I went to church and religious instruction when I was a kid and continued to attend church during my adult life. To me Jesus had always been “the man nailed to the giant cross at the front of the church.” He was nothing more to me than a statue, a fairy tale. In church when they talked about Him rising from the dead, it sounded a little spooky to me, like a ghost story.
But around the time when that quiet panic set in that I mentioned before, God sent my brother to talk to me about Him. My brother was the last person I would have listened to and believed about anything! But God knew what it would take to soften my hard heart. It took my former drug addict, liar, thief, and con-artist convict brother who turned a born again Christian!
He started writing home about the Lord while in prison. My husband said sarcastically, “They all find God in jail.” I agreed with him, I’d heard about lots of people who got “religion” in jail. I remained skeptical for over a year, until my brother came home after being away for 4 years. When I saw Him I knew that something wonderful had happened to Him, but I wasn’t sure what. He stayed with us for 3 weeks and during that time He not only told me how Jesus had changed His life, changed him, He showed me also! My brother was a different person. Drug free, content, at peace with himself and life. That’s exactly what I wanted! He shared with me all that God had done for Him, how He had taken care of him, how He had given him this amazing peace, even in the middle of troubles.
I asked my brother many, many questions. I began to see God in a whole new way. I realized that Jesus was real, that He proved He was who He said He was, (God) when He rose from the dead 3 days after He was nailed to that cross! Death couldn’t hold Him! My brother encouraged me to get a Bible, (I had to go out and buy one) and start reading it. He told me all the answers I needed were in the Book God had provided for us so that we could know Him. I took his advice and bought one that was written in Modern English and easy to read and understand.
I have to tell you, I have never been so absorbed in a book before (and I love to read!) I couldn’t put this Bible down! Things began to make sense to me! I started to see God’s hand in everything! It was wonderful, glorious, I was totally absorbed in learning about my Creator! I was in love! A friend of mine described it to me once. Shortly after she surrendered to Jesus an overwhelming love and joy filled her heart so full that she had to pull her car over, she was driving home from my house at the time. She later told me on the phone that she wept and sobbed and the feeling she described was of falling in love for the first time but even MORE intense than that! When you truly realize the depths of God’s love for you, when you understand what was done for you, gratitude and love overflow in your heart and it can be a very intense experience.
So, God grabbed my heart and led me into a relationship with Him that is difficult, even now, for me to completely understand and believe. I trusted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior February 21, 1993.
Jesus carried me through some rough stuff over the next several months. Two deaths in the family, one was my step-dad. Before he was hospitalized I had come to despise him so much. One day after he had come for a visit I found myself sick to my stomach with hatred for him because of what he was doing to himself, what he had done to our family for so many years. I wanted to love my dad without feeling the hate at the same time, I asked Jesus to help me. He did, and I was able to forgive my dad for what he had done and love him totally! I saw him in that moment as hurting, dying and in need of the Savior instead of the monster I had come to look at him as. While lying in that hospital, dying a very painful death, he trusted Christ.
Dad was in I.C.U for 3 weeks and during that time my baby sister, Holly, and I spent most of our time there with him. It was the hardest thing I have ever been through. Watching someone you love suffer like that is agony. Watching those who love the one suffering is about as close to unbearable as it can get. But, my Bible was my constant companion and through God’s Word I was strengthened and comforted. And before dad pasted away, Holly too, came to know Jesus as her savior!
My two boys are now saved as well! The oldest accepted Christ shortly after I did, the youngest not long after his brother. This past year, 1995, my mother asked Christ to save her! My other sister has just started coming to church and is now reading the Bible, she is still confused about many things, but I know that God is working in her heart and that if she is truly seeking Him she will be saved. My husband has not yet placed his trust in Christ but I know God wants him to take the gift, he has to choose to accept it. Many from my new church family are praying for him. Our family life is 200% better. Life finally has meaning, God has blessed me by showing me what the really important things in life are.
Jesus didn’t take away all my problems, I still have rough days, He just carries me now when I get tired of them. And those feelings that I spoke of earlier, well, they come and go, just as in any relationship. It takes commitment to keep that relationship up! God does His part all of the time, but I tend to slack off. But I can tell you this, even when I didn’t FEEL joyful and full of love inside for my Lord, I NEVER doubted that He was near me, that He loves me, that He was caring for me…not for a minute, no matter how I “felt”. God is always faithful and His faithfulness does not depend on mine or on how I feel or anything else! He is faithful and loving because He is God! It has to do with who He is, not who I am! That is so reassuring to me, because if I had to be worthy of His love and mercy, if I somehow had to earn it there would be no hope for me.
Jesus also made it possible for me to forgive my dad and mom and my son’s abuser, not excuse them, but forgive so that I was no longer a slave to the hate and anger that had eaten away at me. Jesus healed me and I became whole! For the first time I realized what love truly is.
Christ loved us so much He left heaven, became human, died for what we all did, and rose from the dead so that we could have eternal life with Him! No matter how much I love it can never compare to that! He has given me peace, a peace that doesn’t come from what is going on around me, but from what is going on within me. The space is filled with Him now. Nothing else could have ever filled it because it was shaped exactly like Him. God created each one of us that way, unsatisfied until He fills us and Has a relationship with us.
I don’t understand all that God does or why He does it, and anyone who says they do is either lying or fooling themselves. We can get to know God very well by reading His Word (the Bible) but He is so far above us we cannot comprehend all of God. But I know that He really does have it all under control. He is God, He created everything, He alone knows how it’s all supposed to fit together. He wants me to trust Him with that. Because He saved me I can do nothing else. I love Him because He first loved me!
Where am I going? What do I have to look forward to in the future? The list is practically endless! I now see so many blessings, so many opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives, a difference that REALLY counts and REALLY lasts! An opportunity to REALLY love people and tell them about Jesus no matter what it costs. Jesus did that. He came to love us and he gave His life for us. Loving us cost Jesus everything…and we GAINED everything! Truth and love go hand in hand. God is love…but love is not God, as some believe. A Chevy is an automobile, but not all automobiles are Chevy’s. God is a personal being who LOVES us all! He loves you! He wants you to be with Him forever! He wants to give you hope! He wants to bless you! He wants a personal relationship with you! He wants you to know that you can be forgiven for ANYTHING that you have ever done! Would it be loving to know this and keep it from others? No! And that’s why I tell people about Jesus. My life has changed and my future is so bright! Theirs can be too!
There is joy now in just being a wife and mother, true joy knowing that God has given me the privilege of bringing two children up to know, honor and praise Him! I no longer think that I have to be something else to be valuable and significant. I am all of that just because God created me. Everything in my life means so much to me now; everything is a precious treasure, a gift that God has given to me! And if I should take my last breath tonight, I KNOW for certain that I will be immediately in His presence, I will be forever with the God who loves me so much! I will be with my Lord and Savior Jesus in heaven, a place where there is never a tear or any sorrow or pain. He has said so, and although it is difficult for me to comprehend what that will be like…I believe it because He said it would be so.
My life is rich and full and wonderful! It was only God’s grace and mercy that kept me going through all of those years without Him as Lord of my life. There is no longer any void in my life, and each struggle, each new trial and difficulty is another opportunity to stand in awe of God as I witness Him take care of me and get me through each one. But I am so glad that I don’t ever have to try and work anything out all by myself anymore. So glad that he is always with me, working everything, even the rough stuff, for good.
In August 1993, God called me to an evangelistic outreach here on-line. It wasn’t something I wanted to do because I had other plans for how God was going to use me <grin>. I’m so glad that He is patient…I’m so glad that I’M not God!! God has blessed me with artistic abilities and I love to draw and paint. I didn’t realize at the time that He was calling me to “color” people’s lives with His love:) He sure takes some messes and turns them into masterpieces! Anyway…after submitting to His will in it all He blessed me greatly. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply it effects me to see people come to the Lord and I am astounded that He chooses to work through me to accomplish this. I am nothing without my Lord and yet there are still times when I get it into my head that I can somehow get more accomplished on a grander scale if I do it my way! I am VERY hard headed:) But God is good, and gracious, and ever so loving. May all glory, honor, and praise be His…forever and ever!
For me, seeing someone come to Christ is the most wonderful experience next to my own relationship with Him. To share with others what He has done, for me, and for them, is why I am here on the Internet, and on this earth.
Thank you again for taking the time to read my story. May God bless you!
UPDATE: In July 1997, a very dear friend of ours, who did not know the Lord, had a massive heart attack and left this earth, a wife and 2 children, for a Christless eternity. He was 39 years old, just 3 years older than my husband, and his death hit my husband hard. His health began to suffer and he was faced with the fact of his own immortality. We sorrow over the loss of our friend, but God has used it for good. On September 2 1997 my husband trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Lord! Oh how I praise God! Our whole house now serves the Lord!! We continue to pray for those we know who still have not come to Christ and that the Lord would give us opportunities to share with them the unspeakable gift of love that God has provided for us in His Son, Jesus Christ.