by Jill Murphy
A Woman Named Kelly
The testimony below is from a woman named Kelly who completed the program at the end of last year. Her testimony was so descriptive and detailed that I wanted to make it part of this blog. These are her words, and I have simply added some of my own thoughts to the message. As I contemplated what I would contribute to this article, I was compelled to look up passages regarding thorns, and this one stuck out to me…”Ground which absorbs the rain that is constantly falling upon it and produces plants which are useful to those who cultivate it is ground which has the blessing of God, but ground which produces nothing but thorns and thistles is of no value and is bound sooner or later to be condemned—the only thing to do is to burn it clean” (Hebrews 6:7-8).
I thought I dealt with the sexual abuse over the years with counseling, church, sharing with a trusted friend, and working the 12 Steps. It came to a place in my life where I found myself unable to hide the anger any longer. I was led to Hearts Unveiled, and I was scared to death to share and rip open my scabs. Thoughts of, “Here we go again!” and “Will this be any different?” flooded my mind. I was tired of walking the same path around this mountain in my life and never being able to climb it. I made the decision to try, and I was determined.
Hurt People Hurt People
God blessed me! I began to see myself for the first time as the victim, because up until that time I had always felt that I was the one who was guilty because of my behaviors after the abuse. I was now able to see that those behaviors were due to the abuse and realized if I hadn’t been abused I most likely would not have acted out in those ways. As a result, the secret the little girl kept inside became like briars and thorns which had wound their way over and through my heart, growing thicker and stronger with each lie, suffocating the Love that was trying to break through, left me bound and pierced my heart with each beat with shame and brokenness. The feeling of being jaded or stained led me into some really dark places.
Thorns and Briers
After working the program, I pictured my heart one morning while sitting on my patio being pierced by the thorny vines that have grown and familiarized themselves, and I ached for freedom from the crushing shame. God tenderly led me along, encouraging me, and giving me hope through the tears. In Hearts Unveiled, Jill shares that God is especially tender to those who have been abused as children. I took great comfort in that. One day during this program, God pulled one of the strongest vines away, and I experienced His magnificent healing touch—unexplainable and most remarkable—in an area that had plagued and crippled me for most of my life. My healing will continue. My part is to stay open, practice trust and patience, make and spend time with the Holy Healer, love and cherish myself based on truth and soak it up, and share with other women like me.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress. Instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Isaiah 55:13 (ESV)
As part of her story, I asked Kelly to choose a song that she felt coincided with her testimony, and then I asked her to tell us why she chose that song. This is what she told me…
“My reason for choosing this song is that even though I came to know and experience His grace and mercy and peace that surpasses all understanding later on in my life, I still walked away and behaved shamefully; however, the Lord didn’t leave me in my shame. When Jill said that the event (the sexual abuse) and the idea that my life was set off course by that event and all those shameful things I did originated from that event, I began to see how God no longer held me responsible as a result of the hurt I had caused others. Now, I understand His love moved first toward me and drew me back…after the men, the drugs, and the destructive lifestyle. He found me, every time I walked away.”
Love Moved First
By Casting Crowns
This is the story of a runaway
with no way home and no way out.
I threw the best of me away.
I had my chance; it’s too late now,
too far gone and too ashamed.
To think that You’d still know my name,
but Love refused to let my story end that way.
What kind of grace, relentless grace,
would chase this rebel down,
crawl into this prisoner’s cage,
take my hand, and pull me out?
You knew I couldn’t make the change,
so You became the change in me,
and now I live to tell the story
of the God who rescues.
You didn’t wait for me to find my way to You.
I couldn’t cross that distance even if I wanted to.
You came running after me.
When anybody else would’ve turned and left me at my worst,
Love moved first.
From the throne to the manger,
from a manger to the grave,
Your cross is the proof
Love made the first move.
From a grave meant to keep You,
to a stone rolled away,
Your cross is the proof
Love made the first move.
I remember where You found me.
I’m amazed by where I stand.
Your cross is the proof
that love made the first move.
Album: Only Jesus
Written by: Mark Hall, Matthew West & Bernie Herms
Produced by: Mark Miller
Release Date: November 16, 2018
Mark Hall, the lead singer of Casting Crowns, said this, “Jesus always moves first. He’s always drawing us to Him. He’s not waiting on us to get good. He is coming to us and meeting us where we are. He’s not asking us to come back, He’s just asking us to turn around.”
Where Are You?
In listening and reading the lyrics to this song, my mind turned to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve had sinned, and the Bible tells us…
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? (Genesis 3:8-11a – NIV)
Covering Their Shame
Adam and Eve had sinned, and yet God hadn’t abandoned them. In fact, He was still walking around in the garden. It was Adam and Eve who hid. This is such a perfect example of what happens to women who’ve been sexually abused. We take on the shame of that experience and act as though God could not possibly still love us as a result of decisions we made afterward; however, if you notice, God called out and went looking for them. Did God know where they were? Of course He did! He wanted them to understand that they thought they could hide and step outside of God’s presence, but that wasn’t possible. God didn’t leave them, and, in fact, He was the one who initiated the reunion. It was their perception and belief in the lie that not only did they need to hide, but later on we read that they thought they could cover their shame with clothing they had made themselves. Their attempts to cover their shame were insufficient, so God provided the only appropriate clothing.
Even though the verses from Hebrews 6 are in reference to salvation, I believe they can also be applied to our situation; in that, women who’ve been sexually abused carry around unnecessary guilt and shame for sins they committed as a result of being sexually abused. These are the thorns Kelly was speaking about. For most of her life, Kelly felt inundated with guilt and shame (thorns and briers) for decisions she had made that caused her to hurt others. As a result, she was unable to see herself as the victim and that her actions were the result of what had happened to her. Many of the choices and decisions we have made have been based on our faulty foundation. Many of the choices and decisions we have made have been based on our faulty foundation (Hearts Unveiled). If we, like Kelly, allow those thorns (the lingering effects of our sexual abuse) to remain in our hearts, we will miss out on all God has for us. In Hearts Unveiled, I put it this way…”We have hidden scars that we have carried with us throughout our entire lives, but they’re hindering our lives and keeping us from experiencing the joy God wants us to have.”
Christ is Our Covering
“God, not man, is able to cover shame and guilt”1 which is a portrayal of Christ’s eventually “covering” for all of our sins. God could have very well wiped out all existence and started over. He chose not to! What does that say about His love for us? All of our attempts to rid ourselves of any guilt or shame we feel are futile. So, when we drink or take drugs to escape reality or use sex as a means of feeling pleasure rather than pain, we are desperately trying to rid ourselves of any remnant of the sexual abuse; however, those behaviors are a faulty endeavor in removing our shame and only delay or postpone the necessary healing that needs to take place.
Kelly’s Life Now
Kelly is now being mentored and trained under me to go on to help other women, specifically those in recovery. So, if you or someone you know is struggling or has struggled with alcohol or drug abuse in addition to being sexually abused, please reach out to us, and I’ll put you in touch with Kelly.
1 Notation from NIV Woman’s Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2018, pg. 13.