We had a clearly defined relationship, one with uncomplicated spoken and unspoken rules. There were straightforward roles, obvious boundaries — he the superior, I the subordinate. Around twice my age, he held a position of respected authority, trusted by others and expected to operate within the boundaries of that position.
Except that he didn’t.
You see, when I was younger, in those blurry teen years of already-but-not-yet-an-adult, a married man violated the sacred covenant with his wife and attempted to take from me that which was not his.
Leading up to my experience, there was a trail of evidence, things he said or did which, in hindsight…after it happened…I would later look back on with a slap to my forehead and a surging sense of remorse. How could I not have seen the obvious? Why did I trust him? But when you’re in the thick of a situation like the one I’m describing, it’s often hard to separate the occasional overstepping of boundaries with the mostly normal interactions.
Everyone’s story is unique, but some more basic elements are always there…betrayal…human depravity…abuse of power. Probably the most violating aspect of my experience was that my betrayer was a Christian, a trusted leader in the church, even.
He broke the rules, colored outside the lines.
By the grace of God, “nothing” happened, at least in one sense of the word. But in another sense, a much deeper sense, everything happened.
I’ve learned the things in life we most desperately try to conceal are usually the things we most desperately need to talk about, at least with trusted family, friends, and counselors. Betrayals — all betrayals, no matter what form they may take — find their power in secrecy. They grow stronger in the darkness, and when we acquiesce to their demands for silence, we allow them to hold unnatural power over our lives.
Recently, a childhood friend’s Facebook status caught my eye. It simply said #MeToo. Curious, I clicked the comments, and in them, I read the copied phrase: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” A string of other women commented on her status, only spelling out the hashtag.
Immediately, I knew some of the horrifying darkness this friend was inconspicuously revealing. At such a young age, I lacked understanding about what was happening to her. But I saw the curtains drawn, the doors closed. I heard the whispers in her eyes, the secrets in their walls. Even in my youthful innocence, I knew something wasn’t right in that home. I put two and two together when I was older, when it was far too late to help my friend.
Fueled by a Hollywood scandal that has shaken the entertainment industry to its core, the #MeToo campaign has called for women (and men) to share their stories to show how big this problem is, along with giving victims a sense of courage to speak out. Over the course of the week, I saw others join the movement, some, I’m sure, daring for the first time in their lives to barely even whisper about the monsters of their past.
And in the midst of so many coming forward, I know there are many others who tremble in silence, unable to find the strength to speak up. They cannot imagine disclosing the details of their experiences, let alone sharing the truth that something like this has happened to them. Healing and freedom, to them, don’t seem to be possible. They are shackled to silence, enslaved to a betrayal that continues to rob them of peace to this day.
I know this about them because it was once me. Without my consent, a traumatic, violating experience was forcibly woven into the fabric of my story, assaulting my identity. Who was I? I didn’t know anymore.
I never planned to write about what happened to me, at least not telling about this experience specifically. Some parts of our lives just aren’t meant for the ears of others, and I have always considered this to be one of mine. I was already planning to become a professional counselor when this betrayal happened. My experience bolstered my ability to empathize with others when guiding them through their own healing journeys, and I have seen God use my experience to help others, without ever needing to explicitly share my story.
Yet my heart has been moved with compassion for those who suffer in silence, so I tell you my story today…without telling you my story. Those who need to know the details of my story, including the appropriate authorities, were informed a long time ago. Very few are privy to the exact details of what happened, and I don’t plan to change that.
My purpose is not to provide you with a mystery to solve, but a backdrop against which you can see the intricate handiwork of the Great Physician. I’ve watched the #MeToo movement unfold, and I realize there are many out there who are wondering, “What now?” I never intend to publicly “out” the one who did this to me, but I do hope to shine a spotlight for others on finding the right way “out.”
It took me a year before I finally clawed my way out of the gripping silence, only because I was suffocating in it. Driven by sheer desperation, I brought my mom into the knowledge of this betrayal. She guided me in my grief, weeping with me and walking with me as I navigated the shattered glass of betrayal, glass which continuously re-wounded my heart for years to come. I sought help from a counselor, and I also brought my dad into the fold of knowledge-bearers. I told my husband Trey about it when we first started dating.
I was already a Christ-follower when this experience occurred, but for the life of me, I had so much difficulty believing Christ really would free me from this betrayal. Those who knew of what happened fought for my heart, reassuring me I was not responsible for my betrayer’s actions. Yet I still struggled to pull my head above water and to believe what they were saying.
Over time, I put much of it to rest, but elements from this experience remained unresolved in my heart for years. In order to move on to the best of my ability, I compartmentalized this experience from my past, shoving it inside a locked room within my heart. The infection was contained, I thought, but I was wrong. It was festering within the depths of my soul. Self-condemnation drove a wedge between what I knew and what I felt, and shame cloaked me like a garment on a foggy day, confusing my steps.
But then, finally, a day came when I knew I couldn’t go on like that anymore. With my family’s help, along with a trusted counselor, we forged the rocky path toward healing. We braved the painful operation, blasting down the door and vigorously attacking the infection inside. It wasn’t easy, but the painful healing was worth it. There’s a difference, you see, between the excruciating pain of untouched trauma and the all-encompassing pain of working through it all. One pain is toxic, while the other is cleansing.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the squeezing grip from the lies I believed began to weaken. They no longer invaded my sleep at random or interrupted my thoughts uninvited. I finally understood there was no room for the shame I wore, and with the help of others, I put to rest the unresolved heartache.
Without even realizing the shift had occurred, this experience no longer defined me — Christ erased the definition I had written about myself. He wrote a new one upon my heart. The Lord scrubbed away those false labels I had stamped upon my forehead. He blanketed me with new labels…His labels. Pure. Whole. Loved. Redeemed.
I moved knowledge from my head to my heart, embracing the eternal wisdom of the Gospel and allowing it to invade my entire being. Jesus reclaims what the world has stolen; He remakes what sin has broken. No one is too polluted by sin for Him to redeem.
The cross of Christ exposes the truth about us all, no matter our stories: we are unworthy of His love, condemned by the sin which shackles us, and battered by a world ruled by wickedness. But the empty tomb, the victory of Christ, reveals the truth about the God of the Universe— He is unafraid of our past. He is not intimidated by our sins, and He will not turn away anyone who approaches Him in brokenness. Always, no matter what has happened to us or what we have done, His love and His power are greater.
Jesus comforts those who mourn and frees the captives. Upon unworthy heads He places a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, and He declares us worthy. He anoints us, His children, with an oil of gladness, clothing us in praise instead of brokenness. He calls us righteous, we who once dwelt in the bottom of the pit (Isaiah 61:1-3).
So to you, the one still cowering in the pit because deeds of darkness hold you captive — whether or not you were a willing participant — know that Jesus already forged the path toward healing when He took upon Himself all of our sins and shame. That battle has already been fought, and His victory is forever determined. He marked the way toward healing through the spilling of His own blood.
To you, the one who walks around with #MeToo echoing in the secret chambers of your heart, know that Jesus Christ can and will do a miraculous, powerful work in your life…all of your life, if only you will let Him. Often, the radical healing of Christ begins where we are most vulnerable. It requires that we expose the darkness completely, telling our stories to trusted, godly people who can help us decipher the truth of scripture from the lies of betrayal. We were not made to walk these journeys alone.
No matter what your story, Jesus Christ can radically redefine who you are. He longs to wipe away that #MeToo stamped on your forehead and to write a new story for you, one that has already been written. It goes like this:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” (1 Corinthians 5:17-18, emphasis mine)
Have you tasted the goodness of the Lord? Are you redefined, remade, redeemed?
**Many times, authorities may need to be notified in cases of abuse, assault, and even harassment. Every situation is unique, but a professional counselor can offer guidance on steps that might need to be taken if you are unsure in your situation.