I am excited to welcome a dear and close friend of mine to Casual Conversations. Robin was an absolute rock for me and my family in some of our darkest and troubling days. Robin was our "Director of Chaos" during our landslide nightmare. She was our link to the media, church, and community. She was a steady hand, our rational thinker and our sounding board for almost two years. In that time, my family became close to Robin and I was inspired by her. She became part of our family. She is courageous and one of the smartest people I know. I love her laugh, it makes me laugh. Please welcome my friend, Robin, to Casual Conversations. (For privacy, if you like to share Robin's story and know her, please do not tag her on Facebook or use her last name. Thank you.)
No one is more surprised by my work and dedication to the church than I am. But to understand why, you have to understand my past.
I told no one about my abuse as a young child. Like most sexual abuse victims, I grew up telling myself my life was normal, and I pretended it didn't matter. No one, including me, could understand the problems that were developing as a result of my abuse and the maladaptive coping strategies that were becoming part of my lifestyle.
I attended church regularly and found safety and enjoyment in various programs, but I still didn't deal with my past and continued to remain silent about all that had happened to me.
But my past caught up with me.
I was living away from home and desperately needed help to undo the damage done. Talking after years of silence seemed like torture. At the time I didn’t even know what was wrong with me, let alone have the words to explain what had happened. Finally, out of desperation I turned to the one place that had always been safe for me. I went to my church to talk to my pastor.
In what still seems completely unfair to me, that pastor ended up sexually abusing me, and I was thrown into another round of abuse that not only added to the emotional damage I already carried, but completely stripped me of my love, faith and trust in God. Being abused by the one person, who represented the only safe haven I had in the world, devastated me. Eventually I was able to confide in a second pastor who was able to end the abuse, but was unable to help me deal with what had happened.
I felt abandoned by the church, by the pastors and by God. There was no justice done, no guidance and no support. Not only was I left physically and emotionally scarred, but the spiritual damage cut deeper than I could ever imagine.
I gave up on church and I gave up on God.
For more than 15 years, I lived apart from God—hurt and angry with Him for allowing this to happen. Using the unhealthy coping strategies I had learned as a child, I continued to pretend nothing was wrong. I managed to succeed outwardly in my professional life, but inwardly I lived a life of isolation. Being at church scared me; being near pastors terrified me. I never allowed myself to get connected.
I wished I could have become an atheist, but I was too busy hating God to stop believing in Him.
I knew something was missing in my life and despite the pain the church had caused me, I felt the source of healing was there. I wanted help, but I struggled to trust anyone, including God. Then I joined Ebenezer Church.
I joined Ebenezer with an, “If this doesn't work, I’m giving up on God” attitude. I don’t suppose you should actually give God an ultimatum, but I felt like I did. However, I also realized if God was going to help me, I would need to do some work too. I started attending services, reading my Bible, going to a Bible study, and, little by little, started listening to God in my life. Eventually I made the courageous and terrifying decision to talk about my past with another pastor. But trying to break the silence again created incredible guilt, shame and embarrassment, but I managed to keep going.
I truly believe Ebenezer is a place where Jesus Christ changes lives. I am an example of that transformation. Through God’s love and the church, I started to understand how my past had damaged my ability to trust, feel my emotions, open myself up to true relationships and depend on others. I've started learning how to re-frame my thinking and my behavior to break out of the walls I had built around myself so I can better lead the life God wants for me.
Slowly, guilt, shame and embarrassment are being replaced by my knowledge that I have worth as a child of God. I also started to understand God has blessed me with several gifts and talents, many of which could be used in service to the church.
I find myself now in a leadership position in church, working alongside pastors. While I don’t think I’ll ever understand why God didn't stop the things that happened to me, I have come to the conclusion that God didn't cause them. And I believe He suffered with me the whole time; He wept for my pain, and He deeply cared what was happening to me. I also think He will use my pain for good if I let Him.
It is a reflection of my gratitude and a response to God’s love that causes me to want to serve Him. I am thankful to Ebenezer for teaching me Jesus wants a relationship with me, the sins of my past are forgiven, and I am, first and foremost, a child of loving Father who cares about me.
It’s amazing to me that the place of my very deepest hurt has become the place of my greatest healing.