I am a 37-year-old female and a married mother. I am a follower of Christ, and my heart belongs to Him, though the world does try to steal my affections at times. I participate in various activities in our church when needed, including singing on the worship team and serving in the nursery, children's church, and ladies activities. Spiritually, I have been been on mountaintops and valleys over the past few years. The Lord has graciously never let go of me and has proven that though I am not always steady or consistent, He NEVER changes. I rest in the fact that my circumstances may change, but He will not, and that is where my hope must stay.
I am sharing my story at this time because I am finally at a place where I can share it from a heart that is no longer wounded. The wounds have been healed by the Lord my Healer, and there are only scars that remind me of His mercy, grace, and forgiveness. It has taken almost eight years to get to this place. I did not get here on my own. It has taken time, tears, pain, therapy, and lots of prayer from trusted family and friends, and most importantly, a true understanding of the gospel and the completed work of Christ on my behalf. I still struggle with anxiety, paranoia, distrust of people and places, and a truly valid fear of "what if it happens again?" But I have come a long way through the power of the Holy Spirit working in my heart and mind, and so now it is time to share this story.
Our story began 8 years ago. I was 29 years old at the time and four months pregnant with my second child. I was going to clean the bathroom in my master bedroom and went to move a curtain out of the way to open a window for some air flow, when a small device fell from the top of the curtain rod. I picked up the device and realized that it was, in fact, a small camera. Heart racing, I immediately called my husband, hoping that perhaps HE had put it there for some security purpose. He seemed completely confused and concerned when I was talking to him.
He came home as quickly as he could. He opened the device and realized that there was a memory chip in it. He opened the files, and though he begged me not to watch the videos on there for my own sake, I could not resist it. I didn't know how long the camera had been there, or what might be on it, and I NEEDED to know. After going through the files, we found a file that had the perpetrator in it, standing in the shower in my bathroom, adjusting something he had dropped after he had placed the camera from the spot where it was recording. It was aimed at my shower, and when I saw who it was, my heart shattered. It was A YOUNG MAN FROM OUR CHURCH--someone we trusted to be in our home, around us, and around our daughter. I had known him since he was just five years old. He was family to me. We had literally grown up together.
The shock, tears, pain, and sorrow were immediate, and came all at once. I was inconsolable. Questions were racing through my mind. How much had he seen? How long had it been there? Was it streaming live? WHEN? HOW? WHAT else has he done? How often? It was unreal. My world collapsed in a single moment. Everything I knew about the people I trusted in my life was broken in one painful experience. The violation of my personal privacy, that of my family, the violation of my body and my mind, and the hurt of being betrayed by someone I would have trusted with my life was too much to bear.
My husband is a calm man, and he very rarely loses his temper. He was eerily quiet. There was an anger in him that I had never seen or heard before. While I sobbed uncontrollably, he called this young man, whom we had loved as one of our own, and told him that he needed to speak to him in person immediately. The young man tried to make excuses, and I will never forget my husband's firm and calm words to him. "Here is how this is going to go...you are either going to come to my house and talk to me, or I am going to come to you, to where your family is, and we will talk about it there."
He agreed to come to us. He sat on our couch, and as I cried and asked him how he could do something like this, he began to tell us of an addiction to pornography that started when he was 13 and had continued and progressed into the "sickness" that it was until that day. He was, at that point, about 22 years old. We asked him if there had been anything else he had done or if he had done anything to anyone else. He told us that he had also stolen some of my intimate clothing from my drawers the day he had put the camera in, and another time TWO YEARS BEFORE THAT. My heart sank. I knew exactly when it had happened. The memory flooded back of a time when I could not find an article of clothing, and I had told my husband that I felt as though someone had been through my clothes. It was an eerie, uncomfortable feeling that I couldn't shake, but we both explained it away at the time as just clothes likely getting lost behind the dresser or getting stuck under drawers.
But I had been right. He had been through my clothes two years before and had taken things. I could barely look at him or maintain my composure. My heart would not stop pounding. The tears just kept flowing and the pain felt like heavy weights on my chest. I remember telling him that I felt like someone dear to me had just died. I remember thinking, "This must be what it feels like when you suddenly lose someone you love without rhyme or reason." It brings tears to my eyes even now, thinking about the pain of knowing someone I trusted so much had been able to do something so sinister and evil and hurtful and sick. I was sickened by the fact that he could still hug me and my husband, be in our home, pretend that he loved us, and that we were the greatest of friends. What a fraud. What lies. What horrific evil had turned our friend into an enemy of the worst kind--the kind that loves you to your face, while stabbing you in the back. I cried everyday for two weeks straight. I had never shed so many painful tears before that day, nor have I since.
Our first thought was to call some dear friends, married couples whom we trusted and knew could provide comfort and counsel after the incident. Our friends, believers who loved us, came and prayed and cried with us. They encouraged us strongly to call the police and press charges. We really did not know what to do. We had also called the elders from the church. We asked them to come over, and they came after a Friday night Bible study. It had been two days since it had happened. As we explained the situation, they almost seemed to be in disbelief. I could not tell if they just didn't understand what we had told them, or if they just couldn't believe it.
They promptly decided that the young man be removed from any service in the church, such as teaching (which he was doing at the time) and participation in other church activities that he might be involved in leading. They asked us not to share what had happened with anyone, including the young man's family, as they were worried that it would upset his family too much, and urged us NOT to call the authorities. There wasn't much discussion about the elders actually doing anything or saying anything to the young man, but rather that he should just not participate anymore, and that we shouldn't tell anyone.
My husband basically took it upon himself, along with two or three other youth leaders in the church, to confront the sin and hold him accountable for his actions. We did not call the authorities for fear of ruining this young man's family. For the next few weeks, I tried to avoid church. I went reluctantly, knowing he would be there. I put on my smile, and tried to act as normal as possible with everyone else. What could we do? We couldn't just leave our church, and he wasn't going to either. So we stayed. Thankfully, and also sadly, the Lord had already planned for us to move away to another part of the state, and that happened just a few weeks later. I thought that would be the end of dealing with this horrific pain.
There was one other event that happened when I was just 14 years old that very few people know about, and I will not address here. It involved an older man in the church, and in all honesty, I don't think most people would believe me if I told them.
The consequences--where to begin? Though we moved away from the place where this happened, started going to a new church, and separated ourselves from the situation, there was no escaping the effects of the crime that had been committed against us. I lived in constant fear that someone was watching me. I could not go into public bathrooms or fitting rooms without worrying that someone was watching. I was paranoid all the time and worried that someone would harm my children or me. I had lost all trust in people. No one was safe anymore. I would weep at times, whenever the memory of that day would come up in my mind.
When we bought a new house, one that had been a new construction, and never lived in, I made my husband check everywhere for cameras. I was terrified that a worker or contractor might have installed cameras somewhere, and I wouldn't know. For five years, I couldn't talk about it with anyone dear to me without sobbing and reliving the pain of that day. I was even scared of changing my clothes in my own room at times, or being intimate with my husband for fear that someone could see. I constantly had to talk myself off the ledge of irrationality. I had panic attacks even years later, when I would see things in my house that I had never seen before, especially electronic devices. I was always afraid someone was watching me.
Though the Lord has done a wonderful work in my heart to be able to cope with the wounds, the scars of paranoia and fear are hard to get rid of. I try to be rational and not impose my fear of what could happen on everyone or everything, as if no one can be trusted. I try not to think of every man I see as a predator, or every man struggling with sexual sin issues as falling into the same category as our perpetrator, but I struggle with it still. I also struggled with the lack of justice for a VERY long time. I felt like I couldn't move on; the perpetrator had moved on with his life, and I was still stuck dealing with the fear and pain and how it has changed my view of people. I felt as though I was being punished, and not him. I have not been able to participate in or be part of a youth group ministry since this happened.
The gospel changes everything. There is no healing in just words, or songs, or books, or therapy. There is only one person who can heal the wounds and break the chains of fear, sadness, and sorrow that grip us after horrible things like this happen. The "Hurt and the Healer" collide, and He makes all things new. There is hope. It is not easy and it does not happen overnight. And even when you think you are there, and "over it," it is okay to still be upset at times, or to cry, or weep for what was lost. God knows your heart and your sorrow. He knows your pain. He does not intend for you or me to bear it alone. Rest in His arms … find your strength and a peace that only God can give at the cross.
Is that some cop-out? Is that a bandaid? You could look at it that way and think it's not enough. But from my own heart and story, I can truly say that you will not find true comfort and peace on this earth, especially in this kind of pain, without Christ.
The words of this song by MercyMe have resonated with me over the past several years and provided such comfort and hope. I hope you find the Healer, as He meets your hurt head on, and carries you through it.
"The Hurt & The Healer"
Why? The question that is never far away
But healing doesn't come from the explained
Jesus please don't let this go in vain
You're all I have
All that remains
So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I'll fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide
Jesus come and break my fear
Awake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide
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