There are so many parts of my life that have changed since the day that I had my encounter with Jesus 5 years ago. First of all, I really should make it clear that I knew who Jesus was since I was 8 years old. The people at the First Baptist Church told me who He was. They told me all about how God loved me and I answered many altar calls in my time there. If I didn’t understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with Him was, it wasn’t for their lacking of teaching it. The part that I don’t think they were ever ready to tell me about is what part suffering played in the life of a Christian. It was my assumption that if you gave your life to Jesus, there wouldn’t be any more suffering. He would redeem you, you wouldn’t do the things that you knew were sins, you wouldn’t enjoy sex, smoke cigarettes, drink, listen to rap music and you would hear birds chirping all around you for all the rest of your days, like Snow White. You could name your happiness and claim it in the name of Jesus. Yeah, that doesn’t really work for people who live in the house with the man who molested and raped you when you were 5.
There’s part of being sexually abused that most people don’t talk about. The part where you liked it and your abuser wasn’t a big bad wolf. 5 year olds don’t know how to verbalize what is happening and when they turn 13 they still don’t, but they know that they hate everything except having boys touch them.
I knew that I hated my house and everyone who lived in it, especially my mom, but I didn’t know why. I knew that I liked kissing boys and having their attention when I was naked in front of them, but I didn’t know why. I wanted to be loved but I had no idea what love was. Saying things like “God is love” to me while preaching to me about the sin of sex outside of marriage did nothing for me.
It wasn’t until last Thursday when I walked into my parish during our Jesus is Lord class’s prayer session in front of the Blessed Sacrament that I could finally bring myself to ask God where He was when that man raped me. I didn’t even realize that I was still angry at Him for allowing it to happen to me. I have walked around for the last four years afraid to bring it up because I thought if I did, I would be saying He is a jerk. I used to be ok with calling God a jerk, but I’m not ok with it anymore, and I did not want to offend Him. Not after everything He has done for me.
Last week I went on a Catholic writing retreat and it was there that I finally started writing about what happened to me as a child and as the words came out I realized that I did want to know where God was when that happened to me. Allowing myself to ask Him finally in Adoration wasn’t me being angry with Him, it was me letting Him in to my deepest wounds.
As I prayed I looked up through my tears and looked at the Crucifix and what I saw were Jesus’s wounds.
“Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus asked that question and there I was asking it for the first time as His child. A child who knows Him, know His love and knows that He died for me.
Sin. That is why that happened to me. Another’s sin is what hurt me. Not God. God gives us all free will and sometimes that means that our sins hurt others. They don’t just affect us, they affect others around us. When we refuse to see them as sins, to ask for forgiveness for them and we refuse to resolve to sin no more, then we let them become powerful enough to harm those around us. We reap suffering everywhere we go.
The man who raped me as a child allowed his sins to become so big that they allowed him to do the unspeakable to a child. Just like our sins put Jesus on that cross. Whether or not we intended them to. Regardless if we ever acknowledge it. But by acknowledging that we are sinners we can accept His redemption. He suffered because of our choices.
He can also redeem our wounds from other people’s sins. He can turn our suffering into something that can heal us, that is redemption.
He has redeemed plenty of my sins. I used to be a drunk. My problem was not drinking or smoking. Those were symptoms of my wounds and sins festering. When I handed Him my life, He redeemed them and now a glass of wine can be just that, a glass of wine instead of medicine to my wounds. He has redeemed my twisted view of sex. When I saw it as the only way to be loved and when I saw it as something dirty to not be enjoyed. He has untwisted everything that was twisted in my mind about the beauty of what sex between two people in a blessed Sacramental Marriage. And it is beautiful to give myself to my husband in a way that is only for him.
I can drink a glass of wine and be joyful instead of drowning my pain away. Instead, I take my pain to confession and He heals me a little bit at a time. I allow Him in my wounds and I bind them to the pain that Jesus felt hanging on that cross.
I can listen to rap music and see the beauty of Jesus, I can smoke a cigarette outside an airport and talk about Jesus with the lady who lets me borrow a light and I can feel the love of God even though I wonder where He was in my darkest moments.
I can hand Him my pain, because He knows pain. He knows the pain that comes from being hurt by the sins of others when He had no part in them. Jesus also knows the pain of feeling forsaken.
Jesus was innocent, yet he was beaten and hung on a cross. I was innocent, yet I was molested. God the Father has redeemed us through the Blood shed on that Cross. There is no redemption without death and pain. If there was then Jesus would not have had to hang on that cross.
God loves us enough to give us free will and to redeem the wounds caused by the sins of others. I only pray that He has redeemed all the of the wounds that my sins have caused others especially the wounds that I caused my children.