“What’s your story, Emily?”
My head snapped up, startled, toward the voice at the end of a table filled with friends.
All eyes turned to me. I scrambled to compile something coherent, but even as I opened my mouth, I knew I hadn’t. What is my story?
I grew up in a Christian family and prayed to receive Christ when I was five years old. My life before Christ featured me in diapers. My life after Christ was… everything else.
But from around age five to ten, I was sexually abused.
Though I knew I’d accepted Jesus and would spend eternity in heaven, what I experienced as a child instilled deep questions about God in me.
Yes, He had the power to give me eternal life, but could He protect me? Was He good? Was He even paying attention?
On the outside, I looked normal. But on the inside, I struggled. I felt safest when I was in control of my life, learning to regulate what emotions I allowed others to see. Internally, I used anger to insulate myself from feeling pain.
Ultimately, these methods of coping began letting me down. When situations arose that were outside my control, I felt abandoned. I was often anxious and afraid, and I felt angry with God for the things He allowed to happen. I attributed my abuse to His negligence. Surely if He’d cared, He wouldn’t have allowed it to happen. In my mind, the best-case scenario cast Him as indifferent to my pain, and the worst-case scenario showed Him to be the cause.
I hid what was going on internally for as long as I could—but eventually the truth got out. It always does.
I realized that I couldn’t fix myself. There were places inside me that were fundamentally broken, views of God I held that were deeply flawed, and too complex to repair on my own.
Through a mentor, God provided a safe place for me to share my story. She challenged me to consider letting God into my pain, and I began attending a recovery group for survivors of sexual abuse.
Day by day, it didn’t seem like much was changing. I cried a lot. I made many connections between the abuse I experienced in the past and its effects on the present. But one thing did change: instead of ignoring the anger I felt toward God as I had done for years, I began acknowledging it.
As I took baby steps forward in being honest with God, I discovered something I didn’t expect—His presence.
As I started pushing down the walls I’d built up around my heart and let the anger seep out, there was room for Him to come in and comfort me.
God wasn’t surprised that I was angry with Him over the painful parts of my story. He knew. He knew all of who I was, and He loved me anyway.
The only one surprised was me.
As it turns out, completely surrendering my life to God is an area I still wrestle. I’m still learning to trust God, to invite Him in when I’m experiencing fear and pain. I might surrender my life to Him one minute, and then snatch it back the next when circumstances feel unsettling.
But as my trust in God grows, I experience more joy and less fear. I know that I’m loved and safe with Jesus. I still struggle, but now, I’m honest about it with God. He’s proven that He can handle me at my worst. He wants to hear what’s going on inside of me, even if it’s ugly.
Today, I am open about my story. I’ve learned that only by allowing God access to my past and pain can it be redeemed. As I continue to surrender this piece of my story to Him, He’s able to create something beautiful out of it.
*The author’s name is pseudonym.