We come to share our story
We come to break our bread
We come to know our rising from the dead
Song of the Body of Christ
The lines above come from a beautiful song by David Haas, Song of the Body of Christ. When I listen to the song, I hear it say:
We are called to share our story
We are called to break the bread
We are called to know our rising from the dead
We are called to be open and vulnerable and share our most protected stories. We are called into community with others to break open the dark, hidden parts of our lives and make connections. Through our sharing and communion, we are called to know our rising from the dead. I am going to say that again. We are called to know our rising from the dead! We are called by God to know His rising from the dead is in each one of us. He is alive in each one of us. We are His beloved. God calls all of us all from darkness into light, and we cannot do this alone.
And because we cannot do this alone, I feel called to share my story.
I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I experienced sexual abuse in my childhood and as a teenager. You might gasp and wonder why I would share this for anyone to read.
My answer...I met a woman who was vulnerable and brave enough to share her story, not only with me but for all, in her book, Awakening the Light: A Survivors to Thrivers Going Forward Story by Tambry Harris. Tambry told me she was touched by all the hands raised during the #metoo movement but wondered - now what? She questioned if survivors lived with limiting beliefs and unhealthy patterns as she had done for years. Tambry tried to encourage survivors to move forward and thrive through her work as a life coach and retreat leader. However, she found that survivors' secrecy, silence, and shame kept them in the shadows. So she decided to write a book about hope and healing that explains how thriving is possible.
When Tambry and I spoke, she said to me, “it is in the knowing.” Yes, I knew. Not to make light of the situation, but it reminded me of an Instagram my daughter posted with the hashtag #iykyk. Of course, I needed an interpretation, "If you know, you know!" If you have experienced sexual abuse, then you know. You know that it is a secret you keep. It is a dark and shame-filled place. Years ago, a dear friend told me about their experience of sexual abuse. They went out on a limb because, intuitively, they believed that I might have experienced something similar. Before me, they had only shared this story with their spouse. There is great relief in unloading a weight we have carried with us for such a long time.
I carried the weight of my secret for as long as I can remember. That's a long time. When I was in college (the first time around), I felt so much guilt that I went to confession as if I had done something wrong. Fortunately, the priest assured me that neither instance in my childhood or teenage years was my fault. Of course, I didn't believe him. When I was first married, I saw a therapist and confided in her. It helped a little, but it did not resolve my issues. I carried on.
I carried on until I was 48 years old. I returned to school to finish my degree in Human Development and Human Studies at Auburn University. Two required courses would forever change my life: Marriage and Family in a Global Context and Human Sexuality. As I sat in these classes, I listened to lectures on topics that opened a flood of memories I could not stop. They poured out one after the other. On my first day of class in Human Sexuality, the professor described her background as a therapist working with sexually abused children and specializing in trauma therapy. It was a God moment, and I knew healing was around the bend. I realized that in the past, I had worked on my painful experiences rather than through them. I had taken memories, thoughts, feelings, and emotions surrounding my abuse and its effect, put them in a box, and buried them deep in my "closet."
After I was no longer her student, I was able to work with my professor in trauma therapy. I wrote out my experience in full detail. Not only the details but the feelings connected to every detail. Next, I read out loud what I had written to my therapist. She then told me the next step was to share my story with the person closest to me, who I trusted the most - my husband. Difficult is an understatement. However, I am fortunate to have a kind and loving husband who has seen me through it all. I found the process of trauma therapy incredibly healing. As I wrote my story, I realized that I had never connected my feelings to the experience. I truly felt shame for the first time. As much as I had read about shame from my favorite author, Brene Brown, it was only a word to me. In these moments of expressing my feelings, I recognized the shame I had been carrying for so many years. And it was in acknowledging the shame that I could let it go. Circling back to the priest who said, this is not your fault. I believe him now.
Whatever weight you might be carrying, do not be afraid to share your story. I always think to myself if one person's burden is lighter because I shared mine, then it is worth the vulnerability.
I will leave you with this lovely quote from Elizabeth Lesser, "May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding, and leads you to freedom."
Blessings for hope, healing, and sharing!
Walking the Journey with You,
*Tambry mentions in her book that one in three women and one in six men are victims of sexual abuse. That is a staggering number, so please feel free to share this post. Song of the Body of Christ By Marty Haugen, David Haas, Joe Camacho, and Ror