This is a story of a tremendous grace, and I hope with all I have that this grace is what you see in the end. It is a story I have not shared widely before because it was my story and I was sensitive to that. But over the years, I have come to an understanding that it is much more God’s story. It is what He has done in me. My testimony is like yours, a story of redemption. And it is a story I now share willingly.
If I may be bold as to hope it gives you some amount of encouragement or comfort, let me be that bold. What lies ahead is not my entire story, just the portion that has been most central in my understanding and acceptance of who God is.
I grew up attending the same church my mom and my grandfather grew up in. I am blessed to have that as part of my heritage. I was that kid. I went to youth group and choir and played handbells. I was on the church softball team in high school. I went to church camp for a week during several summers. I was on the leadership team of FCA in high school and Campus Crusade for Christ in college. I attended Bible studies, went on summer projects, and sang in the praise band. I have been involved in my church and various small groups since. These were all areas I was allowed to learn and grow, and I am so thankful.
However, I was never very thankful when we sat around a living room in small group, and I faced a smiling leader who said, “Ladies! Get ready for something special! We are going to share our testimonies tonight!” Or being told to partner with someone in a large or small group meeting and sharing our stories. Facing those moments would literally send me into a panic. I often would throw together some loose and not very felt moments of life and attribute God’s rescue of my life to whatever popped into my head that night.
I have shared a brief outline of my actual story several times and was either met with judgment and anger or little response. No one has known what to say. But that’s okay. I know who I am now. I know Who has made me and is continually in the process of remaking me.
And that is how I can share today.
My childhood bedroom was green and yellow with furniture my parents used when they were first married. My bedspread was lovingly made by my mom and grandmother, who thought embroidered prairie doll silhouettes were ideal for a little girl. The lamp on my nightstand had a green shade with punchouts to make a pineapple design. I slept with that lamp on nearly every night. The light streaming through the pineapple cutouts made funny shapes on my walls, but they were nothing in comparison to the dark and the other shadows made on the walls, only showing when cars passed by on the road, giving the room just a bit of light.
A dresser across the room would appear large and looming, as would ruffly curtains. Many nights I crept into my parents’ room and tugged my dad’s arm for permission to crawl between my parents and sleep there for the remainder of the night. You probably are picturing sweet little, white-blonde haired, pre-school Andrea in a nightgown scared of the dark. But I was still seeking refuge when I could write in cursive and recite multiplication tables. I never thought about my reasoning for leaving my bedroom door open and my lamp on. I could never explain why I needed to sleep between my parents.
I just knew that the shadows were too much to face.
I was sexually abused as a child. You need not know many of the details to follow my story but do know that my home was a safe place. My parents and brother were loving and caring. And they never knew. Though I was scared of the dark, it always took place in the daylight.
It does not have to be nighttime to be surrounded by darkness.
I somewhat knew what was happening then, as well as you could know those things when you are six or eight. I honestly do not recall my age. I do not recall how long the abuse lasted or how many incidents there were. I remember the first two vividly and the rest is lost in a fog.
I suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.
Though I had not completely forgotten what happened, I shoved it far away until I was about eleven. When I have told this story before, I said I had been six. This is partially due to not knowing and partially due to feeling less embarrassed or ashamed. My theory was that if I was younger in my story, I would be less blamed. I know for sure I was six or eight. Perhaps this is a reason I dislike even numbers. I have no idea, and really, we can’t blame everything that spilled over into my life onto this. I know this because my favorite number has always been seven. Over the last few years, I have narrowed down that I must have been eight because I now recall explaining my favorite number as seven because it was the best age and my favorite. All the while thinking that it was the last year I truly felt innocent. That was the last year I remembered really knowing beauty and peace…goodness.
And a life without shadows.
From Andrea: Hello friends of Sarah! I am so thrilled to be with you today! My name is Andrea, and I am a 30 year old single professional living in Virginia. My loving family raised me in North Carolina saying things like y’all and thank you. This year God has been pressing me to share how I have seen Him redeem, turn mourning into gladness, work all to His and my good. Often in the places we least expect it, God shines His glory. This post is the first in a series of ten of God’s goodness and tremendous grace. Thank you for joining me in the journey, y’all.