I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
I am still getting used to writing those words.
Admitting to my past and sharing my story has led to multiple moments of what I can only describe as tiny fracture breaks within what I thought was my semi stable reality. I thought I was doing okay. I saw no reason to reopen those old, pulsating wounds. I felt they had been stitched up adequately enough.
The ability to see beyond where I was and imagine where I could be was nearly impossible due to the inflicted abuse from my childhood. Survivors of trauma know this feeling well. There is a darkness that takes up residency. It becomes so much a part of us that we wouldn’t recognize ourselves without it. Maybe we don’t even want to. Who are we without this pain?
Sometimes the hurt from past experiences is so achingly unbearable it immobilizes us, rendering us powerless. So many people are locked deeply in the clutches of pain from past events or encounters. Agony and shame intermingled and running so deep in our veins we cannot fathom being able to fight it.
Recently I starting exploring the terrible, irresponsible and hurtful choices I was making as an adult. Choices I was making myself, not something that was being done to me or against my will like when I was a little girl.
I decided to take some accountability for my very real and incredibly fast fall from grace. I started to dig, unearth and attempt to reconcile with the actual reasons leading to my abysmal life choices. I started confronting the shame that lived inside of me. The things that are and always will be a part of who I have become today.
I decided to accept them.
Sometimes it is the very worst things that have happened to us in the past that can in fact be our most empowering tool of hope. How can we ever authentically relate to and make real, honest connections with those that need our voices the most if we don’t claim our most horrific moments? The ones we attempt to hide, forget, deny or numb away?
Understanding that your past actions do not and will not determine your legacy begins with not trying so strenuously to will them away. It begins with acknowledging that those pieces are a part of you and they should be nurtured, not dismissed.
John Newton and William Cowper are two voices from history who perfectly help convey the message I am trying to deliver. Newton, a reformed atheist turned Ordained Minister challenged Cowper, a crazy misunderstood Christianity loving wordsmith to a hymnal duel.
Write a new Hymn to a familiar tune in time for each Thursday’s bible study.
Newton and Cowper made change happen by owning who they were and sharing their pain with others. Easier said than done but it eventually led to penning Amazing Grace, a song undeniably powerful in the simplicity of its message and one most can readily identify with.
They were from different backgrounds but they lived with the same ghosts so many of us struggle with. Pain, loss, confusion, sorrow, anger and the desire for redemption to name a few. Through their salvation and their ability to forgive, they each felt a desire to grow from their past experiences and become better because of them.
I’m guessing that neither of them ever would have expected that a former atheist slave trader and a suicidal poet who had been institutionalized for insanity would someday be the ones to collaboratively write a world changing, soul reaching and universal identified with hymnal lyric.
Somehow that happened.
What better voices than those who have come from complete darkness to help others see the light that can be found within it?
As I struggle with my own past and attempt to make amends with the abuse I endured and survived as a child I am often overwhelmed by emotional ferocity of it. Facing these experiences and sharing them with others is terrifying.
I am grateful for each and every prayer I have been blessed with. I do believe in a higher power. A force larger than myself. I just don’t think that simply putting my trust in any given faith blindly will help me or any of us find the answers.
Step outside of what you think you know and listen to the people around you. No matter what you believe or who you pray to or what you have been told. Honor your personal truth while trying to embrace the truths of others. Explore ideas you may be less comfortable with and try to discover what is causing the aversion behind those thoughts.
Make change happen because of your experiences. Don’t stand around and wait for it to happen or place blame when it doesn’t happen the way you thought it would or use religion as a way to not see what is right in front of you.
Use your voice; however it feels right to you.
Shine your light.
Embrace your dark.
Tell your story.
Write your song.
Challenge your best buddy to a hymnal writing contest.
You never know what could happen…
This post was originally published on December 5, 2015