As February, the month that encourages us to scrutinize our love lives and emotional stability, comes to an end, I reflect on the various purity sermons I’ve heard over the years. We discuss healthy Christian relationships, how to avoid temptation and how “True Love Waits.” Growing up in the church, the message remains largely unchanged, and to be fully transparent, it’s easy to tune out. However, last Sunday, the sermon managed to cut through my indifference and offer a new outlook.
I am a sexual abuse survivor. I was abused by a close family friend for years. His actions defined many of my behaviors and perspectives on sexuality, intimacy and boundaries.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my due diligence. I forgave him at encounter day, I told my family about the abuse, I went to therapy. I was convinced those chapters of trauma and pain were over, but I failed to recognize the deep spiritual wound they caused. I noticed the side-effects as I struggled with relationships, trust, anger and even my weight and physical health.
On Sunday as Pastor read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20…
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
… I realized that the first time I experienced abuse I was robbed of my ability to identify with this verse; to believe that it even applied to me. I’d heard and read it so many times, but never connected it to my situation.
I didn’t believe I was my own, or the Lord’s. I believed I was just a body. My identity and worth were tied to the physical, which is why my struggle with my weight defined me for so long. I allowed what I saw in the mirror to determine what I ultimately thought I deserved from life and men.
Isn’t that what the devil intended all along? Satan came to steal, kill and destroy, but this beautiful verse is a powerful response. Satan can’t steal, kill, or destroy that which does not belong to him. I am not my own.
There is such power in knowing that I am not my own, because it identifies me with my creator, and I can see my true self in the reflection of His gaze. As a sexual abuse survivor, my abuser stole a multitude of things from me. Thankfully, the grace of God is greater than what he stole and things like my joy and peace can be recovered through his blood on the cross. I can rest in the confidence that I am not my own. I belong to my Creator, and what a beautiful thing that is.
To those of you who have gone through sexual abuse, I know that the healing process seems never-ending. I know that it is unbearable at times, and it’s hard to see a way out or a future without pain. Allow me to encourage you. You are not, and never will be, alone. It gets easier, but only if you allow it to.
Surviving means that you leave the pain behind, but you take your story with you. For me, that only happened when I allowed loving accountability into my life. People who will listen, understand and pray for you; friends who won’t allow you to be a victim and propel you to be survivor.
Finally, and most importantly, you must run to God because that is where you’ll find continuous healing. Abuse is inexcusable, but it does not have to define you. Allow God to fight for you to take back anything and everything your abuser stole and to heal those pieces of your heart. Hold on to His word for dear life. His word will drown out and begin to repair those thoughts that are rooted in trauma.
I know it’s easier said than done, but hang on, you’ll survive. I promise.
There’s beauty in the ashes of our pain..
Grace M. Torres Firpi