It gets easier. Each time I tell the story, the pain feels less intense, the anxiety quieter, the ache duller. It’s easier, but it’s still hard. I read what I wrote and I still suck in a deep breath. I sometimes find myself whispering, “It’s ok baby girl. You are safe now.” I read others stories and try to keep myself from saying, “Wow. I am a wimp. This makes me look like I survived Disneyland.” I remind myself that abuse doesn’t need to be a certain level of heinous to be abuse and still screw up your life. I don’t need to justify my pain away because my story isn’t “atrocious enough”.
I am promoting a new book, Surprised by the Healer. It’s written by Dr. Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow, two amazing women who give their hearts and time to a ministry called Authentic Intimacy. The book is the story of nine women. Women with broken stories involving their sexuality and their sense of who they are as women. Stories of abuse, pornography, abortion, prostitution and divorce. All faced pain and in the midst they found a love they could not resist. They were surprised by the Healer, Jehovah Rapha. Their lives were changed.
In 2014 I was asked to read Pulling Back the Shades, a book that addressed the effects of erotica on women’s sexuality. Until that time I was unable to admit to another human my hidden secret. I began reading romance novels in my early teens, which eventually turned to reading erotica. I dabbled with online chat rooms in the 90s and considered leaving my husband so I’d be free to do what was in my mind. I was introduced to pornography at age 12 and I found myself drawn to it and couldn’t pray hard enough to make it go away. I knew I was turning to the very thing that destroyed me as a child to numb the pain of that destruction. I blogged about homeschooling children, traveling, loving Jesus and I held this horribly ugly secret. The harder I tried to hide it, the more it made me anxious, the more I turned to it to numb the pain. But at the end of the day, NOTHING could erase the thought that I was worthless, not lovable and could never take enough showers to make me feel clean. And then I read the book. And in those pages my Jesus spoke to me. He called to me, “Heal. Baby girl…there’s healing here if you’ll just let me heal you…”
I posted my secret. On my blog. And shared it on my wall. My friends. My family. Crickets. No one said anything. And I began to wonder if I just made a huge mistake. The truth is I threw a boulder into my fantasy world, shattering it and bringing it crashing into my reality. I couldn’t stop the aftershocks. I shared my secret with the husband and it didn’t go well. When he said, “So you’re cheating on me? You’re committing adultery?” I wanted to die. I considered ending my life that night. But then I became angry. A rage I couldn’t control came over me. I was angry and bleeding and broken and I wanted to be whole and I wanted to be loved and I wanted to be free. And when the husband made a snarky comment about my homeschooling style, I lost it. In front of him and our children. When he refused to stand there while I lashed out at him, I snapped. I let 20 years of anger and pain scream through text. I didn’t hold anything back. And I found myself at the end of the day with an email starting with “I’m moving out.” I exploded and emptied all my anger and I hurt the one person who did love me.
During all this turmoil Juli reached out to me when someone sent her my post. She sent me AI’s Passionate Pursuit bible study. As I began to read about God’s design for sexuality and marriage and Jesus was working on healing my soul, I began to believe that my now-basically-dead marriage could be revived. It was a slow process at first. But I began taking baby steps. I began to take care of myself and purposely consider what he needed. Our relationship was still guarded, but I made a promise to Jesus I’d love him…even if he left me. And somehow in this process I fell in love with the man I was married to for 20 years. And he began to love me back. And my Jesus asked me one day, “Have you met our Father?’ And I began to seek out the Father. And I found him by falling into the arms of my husband. As our relationship began to deepen, my relationship with God deepened. I began to call him Abba. I began to realize I could trust him with my pain and eventually I dared to ask him to make me pure. And he did just that. And on our 21st anniversary, I for the first time in my married life, went to bed feeling pure and clean and whole.
During this time Juli and I emailed back and forth. She was just as amazed by the speed of my redemption. I was unaware that her and Linda were working on this book. When she first emailed about including my story I agreed to pray. I told Abba that I’d be willing to share my story if it would help just one person begin their healing journey. I was excited and nervous when they told me that they would include my story. It was a long, but simple process. I was asked if I wanted to use a pseudonym or my own name. I knew exactly my answer: Use my name, I am not ashamed of my story. But unfortunately, due to the nature of my story, the publisher asked that I use a pseudonym. I was angry at first. It felt as if I was relegated to being anonymous in order to protect those who unleashed the horror on my life. But I think Abba, in his infinite wisdom knew this was the way it should be.
My story of redemption is not unique; mine is just the story he chose for this book. It’s humbling, and leaves me speechless. But my story is NOT about me. It’s about my Abba who gently came into my life and brought back something that was taken from me. I shared my deepest pain and embarrassed people but it was worth it to be free to love my husband without feeling dirty. It was worth it to hear my Abba say “This is my daughter. Her name is Redeemed.” It was worth it to read someone say that my story gave them the encouragement to speak aloud their own story.
The book is not just for sexually-abused or sexually-damaged women — you don’t need to be abused to experience pain and brokenness. It’s for any women who feels broken. Abba is in the business of healing our souls and binding our wounds and making us whole. He’s done it for nine women, myself included. He will do it for you. I encourage you to read this book.
May you be surprised by the healer.
About the Book
The Healer is inviting you…
God’s word declares that there is healing for your deepest pains, hope for your biggest disappointments, and victory over your addictions, past hurts, and past failures. His name is Jehovah Rapha, the God Who Heals, and He can redeem your broken story.
In these pages, you will meet nine courageous women who have agreed to tell their stories, to share with you how they moved from hopelessness and brokenness to hope and healing. Whether from sexual abuse, betrayal in marriage, or other harrowing experiences, the Healer invited them on a unique journey of redemption in the midst of deep pain. He is inviting you, too.
Linda Dillow and Dr. Juli Slattery, cofounders of Authentic Intimacy, have been writing and ministering to women in the church and clinical context for several decades. Their wisdom and experience overflow in this work to give you a trusted resource in journeying toward healing.
Includes a study guide for each chapter in the back of the book.
Memories of the Boy – WARNING, possible trigger
The Journey to Redemption – WARNING, possible trigger