Trigger Warning: this post refers to sexual abuse. I share parts of my story, knowing my experience is (unfortunately) not unique. I hope that by reading my story, others will be encouraged to live their story.
I was disturbed. Pastor Dave was preaching a sermon that uncovered my ongoing struggle to accept that God had always been good to me. Even in the places where I had been deeply wounded.
The pastor based his message on the account of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). He pointed out that
- Jesus purposefully stayed away long enough to guarantee Lazarus’ death.
- When Jesus did arrive, He asked the mourners to take Him to Lazarus’ tomb, to that place that represented their deepest fears, loss and pain.
- He allowed their pain to remain long enough for them to experience their need for Him.
Pastor Dave concluded by challenging us to invite Jesus to the place of our deepest pain. To allow Him to open those wounds for healing.
My Place of Deepest Pain
As I listened, I questioned how a loving God could allow suffering and pain and then WAIT to bring comfort and healing. Something about that seemed cruel.
I also recognized a fear of surrendering control if I asked God into the place of my deepest pain. As I confessed this to God I was surprised by a further insight; fear that if God drew near to that place, I would be abandoned and betrayed. As I wrote about my fears in my journal, this thought summed them up;
“This feels like rape”.
Inviting God to come to that deepest place of pain seemed like I was making myself available to being violated.
To the Cemetery
My primary abuser is deceased. Memories about his exact role are fragmented. Details are vague. But there is no doubt that he hurt me in the deepest place. The place Jesus wanted to be invited into. The place I guarded.
It was time to visit the cemetery.
I stood observing the grave site. Dead weeds at the grave stone’s base gave evidence of a season long past. A young vine pushing up through those weeds offered hope of a new season’s approach. As I slipped into gardener mode and began pulling the weeds to make room for the vine, a deep compassion for my abuser filled my heart.
I’ve experienced this same compassion before, when I’ve faced the harshest truth about him. That is my deepest place of pain. That compassion does not come from my own strength. It’s given by God. And this time, experiencing it changed me.
I walked away from the grave knowing I had nothing to fear by inviting Jesus to my deepest place of pain. I knew He’d just met with me there. The grave holding the remains of the one who hurt me became the place where I accepted Christ’s compassion. What I felt for my abuser was actually a glimmer of Christ’s overwhelming compassion for me. And of His compassion for my abuser.
I don’t know how this particular “chapter” ends. I’m still living through it. But I do know this;
Welcoming Jesus into the place of deepest pain is far different than reliving the pain of the past.
Inviting Jesus to that place is trusting that He will be good and faithful to call new life from what has been death.
(Next, I take a “dare to hope” challenge.)