Tomorrow will be the 2 year mark of when I was raped. Perhaps one of the biggest struggles is having expectations of where I should be, or what should and shouldn’t bother me. So I took time to focus on what the differences are from this time last year to now. And the more I do so, the more I realize that I have made progress and that it isn’t about what I think “should be” but rather about the growth that has happened.
My ways of coping have changed drastically in a year. This time last year I was not making wise choices in how I managed the stress and thoughts. And turned to destructive options of drinking and self-injury. This year however, that has been practically eliminated from my coping strategies. That has been filled with writing, prayers, talking to friends, and other distractions. One of the best changes has been being able to recognize what I need at a time and do it even if I don’t want to. My first choice is to isolate and hide. But instead sharing what is going on has taught me it is okay to share, to vent and usually it provides an outlet and can help change my mindset. Other times I need to be alone, to have quiet, curl up with my blanket and then make a choice to fill my mind with positive thoughts and with the truth of what God has promised. It doesn’t always happen as easily, but it happens more and more. And when I mess up I know I have a loving God who is there gently telling me, that wasn’t quite right, he then helps me up and says, let’s try again.
This year I have grown in confidence in being able to have a voice about where I am at, about what happened, and how to use that voice. Sometimes there is a lot of doubt if I should be sharing, but each time that doubt sets in there is a message, a text, or comment that tells me that it isn’t about my thoughts about how it is being received. Each time I have shared there has been someone that has shared with me how they know they are not alone now. That was my goal, because that feeling of isolation and being alone is probably one of the most controlling lies I have ever experienced. As I have shared, I have learned I am not alone. And that God does have purpose as long as I am willing to be vulnerable and trust his ability to cover my inadequacies. He hasn’t let me down this far! I have learned that with passion and numbers an establishment, like the Daiquiri Factory, can become news (even in other countries) and people are willing to take a stand for right, sometimes they just need someone to share why it is important.
The biggest change has been learning to live freely in the grace of Christ. That despite how my flesh feels as far as guilt and shame goes, none of that is true. Because it was not a choice. That I am still going to be holy and pure in God’s eyes, in my family’s and friends’ eyes, and even in my future husband’s eyes. Because my heart was that of waiting until married to have sex. And what happened that night was not sex, it was not consensual, it does not change that I am waiting for my husband and that he will be the one who knows me intimately. In learning that the guilt and shame belongs to the guy who raped me, that he was the one in control that night, and that night is fully on him.
Forgiveness, this one is a tough one. I wish I could say I have learned how to fully forgive, but it is a daily process. There are some days where I am able to stay in a place of forgiveness and extend the blessing that I have received from Christ, then there are days where I am back to place where my heart is hardened, full of anger and hatred for the guy. But, that is okay. It is a process and the days of pure hatred get further and further apart, just like the flashbacks, the memories, and the emotional valleys. They all become further and further apart and happen less frequently. So each day I have a choice, and as I choose forgiveness more and more, the closer I get to truly forgiving the guy.
There is a song that asks the question “What if trials of this life are your blessings in disguise?” As I sit here and look at changes over the last year, there really have been so many blessings that have happened. Blessings that would not have come another way. I am able to see that God has had his hand of protection, provided me with peace and joy all when it doesn’t make sense. That is the beauty of this, it isn’t what people expect. It doesn’t fit the traditional mold of what people would consider to lead to blessings, but it has. I have grown closer to God in the moments of fear, hurt, and isolation. I have seen him cover those gaps, heal wounds, and experienced what it means to be loved by a gracious, merciful and loving God. I know that if I can say now: My God is alive, He has never forsaken me nor abandoned me. That there is nothing that will tear my from his hands.
My support system has grown. The people in my life have become filtered through the last 2 years. I now have some amazing people in my life who I know will be there for me no matter what. They have endured crazy highs and crazy lows. There have been times where I have no words and in my time with them I zone out, times where they have heard venting or seen some of the hurt that I have experienced. These people have all stayed by my side through it all. There has been no judgement from them, there has simply been empathy, grace, compassion and love. Never did anyone try to “fix” me or “save” me from where I was. It was simply a matter of coming alongside and enduring the journey with me, providing encouragement and truth along the way. In experiencing this love, it has only given me eyes for what it means to love like God, the kind of relationship Jesus must have had with the people he encountered and that is what I want give to others. A selfless, gracious, compassionate love that only encourages. There is too much darkness in this world to be anything but a light.
I may not be where I want to be but I am not where I was. That is enough to have a thankful heart that wants to praise God for what he has been faithful to do in my life. That is more than enough to sit here and say I have grown and this year is different than last year in all good ways. Looking here I can see that I have been successful on my journey from victim to conqueror and I know that each day I will become a stronger conqueror, with more confidence, a louder, stronger voice, and with a more defined purpose. I can use what the enemy intended to kill, steal and destroy my life to have and experience an abundant life.