Written by Abi Humber Tuesday, 22 February 2011 17:02
Those of you who have read my column since last spring may recall the April submission about my experience with sexual abuse. I was attacked around this time in February 2010, so I’ve spent much of the past week in reflection—looking backward and seeing how far my feet have brought me as I’ve wandered down the road to recovery.
Actually, scratch that. My feet haven’t gotten me anywhere. I fully believe God has carried me this entire year, or has at least been pushing me in a wheelbarrow or shopping cart or something. All I know is, I couldn’t be in the healthy, transformed place that I am now if it weren’t for God’s redemption in my life.
Throughout the past 12 months, I’ve experienced moments (or even weeks) overwhelmed with sadness, confusion, numbness, indifference, frustration, depression and anger. Some days I’ve felt so low that I seriously wondered if I was going be broken forever. I felt like a shadow of myself, like I was watching myself go through the motions from somewhere outside my body.
Music is a big emotional trigger for me, and the song “Awakening” by The Glorious Unseen has more than 100 plays on my iTunes. No doubt each of those plays was spent in tears, helplessly crying out the words in anger, frustration and questioning to God, wondering when he’d scoop me into his arms and heal me.
Here’s a sample of the words: “Have you turned your face from us?/Do you still look down in love?/Is your grace still strong enough?//God, we would ask that your kingdom would come and be poured out on earth as we stand here in awe/God, hear our cry for awakening here/Will you take away pain?/Will you take away fear, Lord?”
Just when it seemed like I was becoming an island drifting further away from everything concrete, I’d experience a breakthrough of sorts. Sometimes, I’d be by myself, just laying on my bed listening to music. An emotional song would drift through my speakers and break me down, but by the end of my crying session I felt comforted, light, hopeful.
The Glorious Unseen’s album “Cries of the Broken” has been the soundtrack to my healing… fitting, I suppose.
Other times, I’d be with a friend who was suddenly inclined to grab my hand or tell me something beautiful and truthful. These moments always came at the perfect time, and I know that it’s evidence of the Holy Sprit at work in my life.
Phone calls with my parents were painful because they couldn’t “fix” my hurt and I was so far away, but I always hung up with a small sense of peace knowing we shared a deep connection and they were in constant prayer for me.
These small moments seemed to pale in comparison to the sheer volume of moments in which I felt completely hopeless and lost, but they were enough to help me get through the day. An interesting thing I’ve found is that I still have these glimpses of sudden clear vision, comfort and direction. I had one of them just last week, actually.
I consider myself pretty well healed. I mean, I understand that at each new stage of my life I will unpack different parts of the attack’s lingering effect, but I was really not expecting such an intense moment of cleansing and healing—and especially not during class.
I’m taking a senior-level Conflict Transformation class with the single most amazing woman I’ve personally known (aside from my mother, of course). This professor is the same woman who aided immensely in my immediate healing after the attack by providing me with resources, compassion and a safe place to process.
In class, she asks tough questions, is brutally honest, and asks us to search for truths deep within ourselves. Last Monday, she asked us to gather our chairs in a tight circle and share our stories of violence, whether we were on the giving or receiving end.
As all 27 of us scooted our chairs together, I thought to myself, “Oh, no big deal. I’ll totally share my story.” You see, in general, I feel completely fine talking about this on a daily basis. I can speak with very little emotion and give facts, much like I’m reading a report that someone else has written.
Sometimes, though, as was the case this particular Monday, a wave of emotion will hit me suddenly and knock me down. As other people shared their (heartbreaking) stories, I found myself completely freaking out.
I could feel my body turning red and splotchy, my breath got quick and shallow and I got goose bumps. My heart was pounding, my throat got tight and tears welled in my eyes. I started thinking a mile-a-minute about when I was going to speak up, IF I even should, how I was going to tell the story, for how long I was going to talk….
All of a sudden, a voice in my head interrupted my crazed thoughts and said, “Speak now.”
So I did.
I don’t actually remember what I ended up telling my class. I know I focused more on the redemption aspect—that is, how my experience now influences my justice work and desire for peace and reconciliation within relationships. I remember talking a lot about “beauty for ashes,” which has been the theme of my recovery.
The day after the attack, when I called my dad and told him what had happened, the first thing he said to me was, “What Satan intended for evil, God intends for good. And I know we’re going to find you beauty for ashes.”
My mind immediately went to a song from my childhood, “Beauty for Ashes” by Crystal Lewis. My favorite lyrics are: “Though I was bound I’ve been set free…. He gives beauty for ashes; strength for fear; gladness for mourning; peace for despair.”
After I finished talking to my class, I felt the strangest sense of peace and relief. I had never told the story to that many people at once, and definitely not to a group of complete strangers much older than me.
I still felt shaken and uneasy, but the same voice echoed again in my mind. This time it said, “You were faithful.”
I fully believe this was the Holy Spirit moving in my life, and I am so grateful for His presence throughout my recovery. God was there every time I needed a glimpse of hope and light, and he’s still here now, knowing exactly what I need, even when I think I’m completely fine.