Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In Which I Tell the Part Untold {And Hope You See Redemption Too}

*Let me first advice this is a tough one—it's been months in the writing and revisions have been plentiful. Some content is for mature readers only. I hope you will have grace with me in these words, as they are part of my story that's yet to be told. I know I am one in every four and I hope these words offer hope for us all. 

I was not quite to puberty and I stayed with him on the weekends. He hid the VO under the kitchen sink as if it was a secret yet to be revealed. I guess passing out on the couch by seven or eight didn't give it away though. Neither did the slurry attempt at English or the flipping over the kitchen table after he tried to sit on it once, twice. Anger and sorrow filled the room most nights, though, heavy and thick hanging in the air. Combined with the smoke, I remember suffocating.

His stenchy breath carried across the mattress and I knew his attention was all mine now.

I still remember the big fish tank he bought me and the food. He let me eat junk--and lots of it. All the carbs you can get, right here, he could have had a sign. Ice cream and chocolate chip cookies always plentiful to wash down my heapfuls of pasta and meat and garlic bread. The stuff mom never let me touch. I think I binged even back then and I just didn't get it yet, I didn't know about the hole deep down I was trying to fill and I didn't know how to fill it. I didn't know how big it would grow or how much it would hurt. There was a lot I didn't know. I was a little girl.

But I did know that food made me feel safe when the gunshots rattled the windows and when my dad sexually abused me in the bed late at night.

It lasted a few years, on and off and I lost my voice somewhere in the process. Maybe because I was too busy stuffing it with food or running for miles on end. Maybe because the suffocation nearly drowned me. Maybe because the hole was growing quicker then I could fill it and my attempts seemed futile. And maybe I just wanted him to love me—even if I had to give my body to get it? One day mom stopped making me spend my weekends with him so it stopped and I stopped thinking.

In fact, I didn't think about it at all for the next five or six years because I had no memory of it. They call it "repression" and I call it God's unfathomable grace. Either way, nearly half a decade later all the memories plummeted into recall as I listened to two dads talk about protecting their young daughters from the neighbors boys' on a car ride to Chicago.

There were three who abused like that and one was a neighbor boy.

I thought I was crazy, truly. How could I just 'not remember' all those years and then suddenly...

Until a close friend points out, if it had come up even days before it did, I would have ended my life—successfully I think. Grace.

I might have been spared the memories for a season, but there always was this underlying darkness that enveloped me and I never could explain it {or break out of it}. I had spent much of those years in and out of hospitals and treatment programs for bulimia, depression, sexual sin, self-harm, and suicide attempts. I had a whole lot of daddy issues too. Just six months prior to remembering the abuse I had graduated from a biblically based treatment program for young women with life-controlling issues called Mercy Ministries. I fell in love with Jesus there and my life was impacted greatly.

When the abuse surfaced, my world did a 180 and I had no control over any of it. At least that's how it felt. I felt so dirty and no matter how hot the water, I could never get clean. I hated him so much. And yet I longed for his approval and his love, even still?! The darkness of the night gave way for me to relive this nightmare night after night after night. I remember staying awake for days at a time because I just couldn't see his face again that night. I couldn't watch it all happen. I couldn't save that little girl. For years, I would wake up in the middle of the night and find myself huddled under a desk or in a corner. I couldn't stop the pain. I saw no way out.

For awhile, it was my fault. I tried to pay for the way he hurt me by hurting myself. My bouts of depression and bulimia raged once again and I flailed aimlessly beneath the weight of it all and some days I begged for the waves to just draw me under already.

What I would give to have my innocence back. I think I still grieve the little girl lost, even today.

But not everyday--there are glimpses as of late, moments where I see her redeemed living fully.

I don't really remember when, but one day I saw a glimmer of light. It started to grow slowly and a path began to form before me. Eventually I began to follow, through the thickets and mud, pressing on towards the light. I am still not there but my world isn't so dark anymore. Everyday, I choose life and relationship with Christ provides a steadfastness in the ups and downs of this path {life}.

Sometimes, our pain just cannot be broken down into 12-step programs or quieted with a drug, though there were days I wished for both. The flip of the calendar has truly been my saving grace, though.

For the past several years I haven't had much a voice but those who knew have held me up and I have spent months swimming in pools of grace. It seems my swims are more regular these days, as the ashes continue to float away from me.

My dad is in a half-way house now, about seven months sober, a first in these past fifty years or so. I haven't seen him in a year but maybe one day I will. He will never be the dad I long for and it is making me all the more dependent on my heavenly one. Oh grace.

And God has used this last year mightily. He's restoring my trust of man through an adopted dad and mom who moved me into their family for a season and it has been a journey worth the pain and I see healing. He is redeeming so much that was stolen through this family. But more then that He's restoring my ability to trust Him as the Perfect Father, something my dad never was and never can be.

My fear does drive me to shame and fig leaves when I let it.

But one day I will choose to joyfully submit to my husband because it is what He intended in the beginning and abuse does not negate me from His plans. In fact, it draws me all the more tightly to the hope and the future He promises because life apart from Him seems all the more messed up.

I remember suffocating in the bed after it was all over, under all the smoke and secrets and shame. I remember closing my eyes and teleporting to a beach with an ocean and I remember breathing easier listening to the waves and sucking up that warm ocean breeze. That was my way out, my light in the darkness as I curled up tight.

One day years later God would provide relationship with my grown siblings {my dad's kids}. One way or another they would actually take me to the beach on vacation with them. Sitting on the sand gazing out over those waves and soaking up the warmth and their love--none of which I deserved--I would first realize my need for and confess my belief in God. Over the next year those siblings would play a pivotal role in my salvation. They simply loved the heck outa' me like no one ever had.

Ya'll, do you see the redemption?! Oh such mercy makes me weep buckets remembering. I deserve none of it, yet He made a way in the wilderness, streams in the wasteland. It makes me trust no matter how messed up this world. He is bigger and none of your pain is in vain--ultimately He will glorify Himself through it and the way that He uses us--that is simply grace.

And I know it's nothing shy of divine that brought me to that place in my own little world, as I lay sprawled across that mattress. Those moments brought a foretaste of what was to come, of what is coming still.

It took a long time and I don't feel so dirty anymore.

Redemption is evident with each of flip of the calendar and today, today remembering is overcoming because of the blood of the Lamb and word of my testimony. I am redeemed.

Do you see it? The chain of redemption shaping your story, the way telling is overcoming?

Let's hear it. Let's hear your story.

And for the other one in fours who have hidden away, there is hope. I only know one thing for sure--in Christ there is life everlasting and hope abundant. It's there for you too.

*Child sexual abuse is not rare. Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.1 However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported.


  1. It is no small thing to give voice to your story and to share yourself like this. Thank you. Redemption. Yes, I see it. :)

    1. Deidra, thank you for your encouragement!! Redemption is a beautiful thing.

  2. You are amazing. Telling your story in a very real way - desperate to help others know the grace that you have received. I am thankful for the words that you let escape your heart. God can redeem all things. So glad you have come to be a part of SDG.

    1. Thanks Jen. So excited for the opportunity to process life and grace with you ladies.

  3. I wept reading this. What an amazing story - a story needed to be told and one drenched with God's love and redemption. You used the word shame; I hear vulnerability. Have you read any of the work by Brene Brown? She writes lots about shame and vulnerability. Has some TED talks in youtube about it if it would help you.

    Thank you for your honest sharing. Will keep you in my prayers. Coming over from SDG and glad I found you today.

    1. Jean, I haven't read anything by Brown, but another friend actually sent me a link to a video to watch about shame & vulnerability that is from her work. I will have to take a look at those!! Thanks for the prayers and encouragement. You are a blessing.

  4. Courtney--there is only healing in letting the darkness be snuffed out when it is brought to the light. "Nothing shy of divine..." you wrote--yes! God's merciful hand was on you from the beginning and I am confident he will use your story to encourage others to be set free.

    You are a brave one, girl. Keep on telling the story.

    1. That's it isn't it...light exposing darkness for in the light darkness has no authority. And so onward we go, proclaiming what God spoke in the light as we trudge through the dark. He is faithful.

      Thanks for your kind words.

  5. I grieve with you, Courtney, for that little girl. And I rejoice with you, at the redemption that you are finding. Thank you for telling your story, for finding your voice.


    1. Glenda, Thank you for meeting me here in this place—to grieve and rejoice and proclaim that He is Lord and the faithful one!

  6. Courtney,
    I held my breath while I read this. Holding it for the little girl you were and the honesty and bravery it takes to share your story.