Excerpt from From Pain to Power: Overcoming Sexual Trauma & Reclaiming Your True Identity
Chapter 12 “Jesus is the Perfect Model for Love” (pp 144-146)
It requires bravery to defy the temptation to treat ourselves and others the way others have treated us. If I have been rejected, I will be tempted to reject myself, my needs and my priorities. If I have done this to myself enough, I might wish I didn’t reject others, but I will likely sour into someone who rejects the needs and priorities of others.
But when we turn to God, he says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). I assure that he redeems the lost years.
For years I was told that I was crazy and worthless.
God restored what was lost. He redeemed my life—all of it. Now my life is built on the total opposite of the years when significant people in my life kept negating me. I have to warn you, though, that as you heal, you will realign, change, and sometimes end past relationships. This came as a surprise and a disappointment to me. I had no idea that my healing would end so many relationships. However, there is cause for celebration, because all of my trauma bonds are gone, and God has more than restored my social structure with people who get me and trust that I have something of value to offer to others.
The redemptive work of God, even amid the losses that sometimes result, is brought home to your heart in his promises. I am here to convey that God’s promises are true. “I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs” (Isaiah 41: 18).
Think about Jesus’s conversation with the woman at the well in the gospel of John, chapter 4. She was a Samaritan, a woman who had many husbands and now was living with a man. She would venture alone to retrieve water because she was a public outcast in her “impunity.” Rabbis at that time would walk the long way around Samaria to avoid being defiled by the religious and racial half-breeds known as Samaritans. The story of Jesus asking the woman to draw some water for him is a layered story of forgiveness and redemption. It involves ethnic and religious shame and even the shame of a woman who had been alienated within Samaria.
And there is even more going on in this story. Jesus was also redeeming the story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah. Centuries earlier, Dinah was raped by the Canaanite prince Shechem (see Genesis 34: 1-2). As Jesus did a work of redemption in the life of the Samaritan woman, an outcast, he was offering redemption in the life of the Samaritan woman, an outcast, he was offering redemption to all women who have been silenced and shamed after they had their innocence taken without permission.
The Son of God stepped into the middle of the shame—every layer of it—and announced total freedom from guilt. This was not only for the Samaritan woman. Notice that she shared her story of redemption with an entire village at a time when women did not speak in public. J. Lee Grady makes this point, connecting Dinah, the Samaritan woman, and women living today:
Jesus answered Dinah’s cry. . .Jesus, our compassionate Savior, broke both cultural and religious rules to bring His miraculous healing to this forsaken place. He headed straight for the heart of the issue, stood on the ground where Dinah had suffered, and announced freedom. He found a woman who bore the same shame Dinah did. And there, sitting next to the well of Jacob, He poured out His miraculous healing into her heart and set her spirit free. Today, He will do the same for any woman who has been abused. (Fearless Daughters of the Bible: What You Can Learn from 22 Women Who Challenged Tradition, Fought Injustice and Dared to Lead; Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2012; 178-179).
My wounded heart needed evidence that God was paying attention to my pain and to my struggles. I found that God’s promises are trustworthy and they are healing. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49: 15). We are built as physical people needing tangible proof. Look below for ideas to generate the awareness of what and how God is redeeming you where you are today.
Consider these to do’s:
- Allow God to give you the vision to know what it is you need.
- Write down the things you need to see happen for you personally, professionally, among your family or social connections.
- Ask God for the special capacity to detect that he is at work.
- As a separate exercise: Note and write down whether you have experienced redemption in any other fashion in your life. Did you get the scholarship? The promotion? The opportunity to overcome a fear? Did you get the encouragement you needed when you were hopeless? Did you pray for insight or strength and he delivered on it? Making note of this can provide important data so you can remember your worth to God and continue to defy the lies often left behind from violation.
Mary Ellen Mann is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Denver (visit www.manncounselinggroup.com). After attending a Christian college, she did her graduate work at Columbia University. Recently she co-founded Last Battle, LLC and helped develop the first interactive website for survivors of sexual violation, www.lastbattle.org, to help survivors, family and friends of survivors, Christian leaders, and professionals who care about this population. Her book, From Pain to Power will be on the market September 22, 2015. Mary Ellen lives in Denver with her husband and their two sons.