I am the survivor of childhood abuse. I was born to a fifteen year old, mentally ill little girl. She brought me into a world that was full of corruption and fear and she did not have the capacity to protect me from the very evil that destroyed her childhood.
I remember sitting at a church service, as an adult, and responding to an altar call to ‘just spend time in the presence of God.’ The front was full and people filled the aisles, so I sat in the walkway next to the pew. In my imagination I was sitting next to Jesus, who came and kneeled beside me. I looked up at him and unzipped myself from my head to my toes and I laid flat on my back so he could see every maggot of my experiences that threatened to kill me from the inside out.
I didn’t say a word as he looked at the child being sexually abused, beat with fists and threatened with the barrel of a gun. I let him see my cigarette burns, and the holes where the man tortured me with needles. I let him see me being pinned down and suffocated within an inch of my consciousness. He watched as the lice crawled my scalp and the dirt dug into my flesh. He heard the stomach of a starving child growl and then subside with resignation. He watched my eyes sink in and my breath become shallow. He watched as I lay alone in my pee stained bed at night and cry for my mommy.
He watched it all and while he watched, he showed me how he was there with me, too.
I sat in that aisle for a while and cried the tears of a little girl who was abandoned and forgotten, abused and tortured, starved and ignored.
And then in my mind, I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Daddy, it hurts.’
My mind raced through every part of my memory and found a place where that little girl sat in a church singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and felt his lap beneath my bruised little legs.
He met my eyes and without an apology or pity, but just a deep understanding he said, “I know.”
And I know he did.
The experience of having the depths of my pain witnessed had an enormous healing effect. Just being seen and validated in my pain was enough to move me to the next phase of healing. Nobody can go back and take it away, but having my agony witnessed gave me the sense that I could move forward.
I have wondered why God allows evil to touch one of his little girls. I could choose to be angry and demand better treatment. But, I’ve learned that there is purpose in everything.
Something that I want more than to be a ‘normal’ person with a ‘normal’ life is that I want to be a person that God can use.
I find my purpose when I make myself available to those who need to tell their story. The pain and torment that people face in a world where evil has a say rivets the souls of God’s little lambs. If healing can come by bearing witness, then I am one who has a set of eyes that can meet the pain in theirs.
I find my purpose and sometimes the only way my purpose is displayed is when I get to be the one who looks at those bloodshot eyes and says, with everything in me, ‘I know.’
Serena Woods writes books, teach Bible studies, dances with her daughters, paints pictures, make her husband laugh, wears three inch heels and doesn’t drink enough water.
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