Back then, I let my circumstances determine that I was shameful, ugly, worthless, and hopeless. The silence of shame does that, and we believe the lies. Then shame makes us liars and cowards. If I tell, then I will be hurt again...or killed. If I tell, then everyone will know and I won't ever be able to get over it... Better to pretend it didn't happen. If I tell, my marriage will fall apart, my children won't trust me to care for them, and people will think I'm crazy. If I tell, my offender will deny and lie, no one will believe me, my offender will make good on his promise to hurt another... Isn't it ironic that often the things we may fear in our silence are the reality of our "if only's" now? At least they became so for me... If only I had told, we would have gotten past it and my marriage would have survived. I would be closer to my children and they would be stronger and more secure. If only I had told, maybe he would have been stopped and others wouldn't have become victims too. But would it really? Can I be certain that if only...then none of things would have come to pass. Do you see it? Silence makes us victims and sometimes even creates new victims. The guilt of it can still consume if I allow it.
Rape, domestic violence, molestation and abuse, gang violence, hate crimes....people become unwilling slaves to hurts that are bigger than life. Little do we know the freedom that comes from telling someone. Our fear and shame enables the hurt to continue--not just within us but for those other victims who may lie in wake of the violence that continues in our silence.
If only I had...but I didn't. For a long time, my silence caused my circumstances to determine who and what I was. Honestly, there are times I still struggle with that self-image. Back then, I didn't stand up or fight back. I lived in so much shame and fear of those secrets being revealed that I was suicidal and a harm to myself. My family was destroyed. I was less the woman, the wife, and the mother I could have been...should have been...back then.
I couldn't tell a living soul but every once in a moment of despair, I cried out to God before I crawled back in my cave of hopelessness and shame. And that was enough. NOTHING REMAINS IN THE DARK when put into the hands of a God who turns darkness into light...even when I try to hide in it.
I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night--but even in darkness I cannot hide from You. To You the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to You.
Today is a different story--a new day. I can't live my life in "if only's," just wishing for what might have or should have been. That same God who seemed so far in the distance when I cried out to Him in despair heard me. He shone a light in the middle of my darkness. Today, I can't fix my "if only's," but I can move forward. No, I didn't shout my shame from the rooftops or expose every detail to the world. And no, offenders haven't found their just dues in a criminal court--God's justice is a work in progress. And no, my pain and ordeal has not been erased from memory... God doesn't "undo" our past--He brings light into it.
In Him was Life, and that Life was the light of all mankind. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
His Light blazed the day I told someone. The darkness was overcome. I didn't tell the whole world--I told one single person who listened, and Light became Life. I'm not sure how the kinetics of it works--that's a God-thing, no doubt--but in telling one person, I began to want more for my life. I could see the light at the end of this tunnel of fear and shame. I began to fight back. In time, I began to realize that my circumstances do not make me...they may be used to shape me but they are only tools in the hands of the Potter. He didn't will for harm to come to me--evil is the choice of evil men. (Our God is a God that loves us enough to let us choose to love Him back. Some don't choose to love...) But I have a God who is so much bigger than my circumstances and the choices of men. God alone created me and He has worked "all things together"--every circumstance--for my good because I love Him. He shines His light on those rough and damaged places. He smooths those scars and faults with His gentle hands and makes something beautiful.There are times in the shadows, that it appears evil wins a battle, but Light reveals that it can't win the war. In the Light, I am made stronger in my weak places. The evil that once sought to destroy my life is now the loser as I begin to tell some of my story and to share what God has done. Silence didn't win. Though my telling won't necessarily bring my assailants to justice in a courtroom, other victims can find hope, courage, and strength as I encourage them to tell their stories--to fight back. hey can find peace and healing in telling at least one person and maybe their offenders won't go free.And I can find peace in knowing that maybe their offenders won't go free. I can't rewind my "if only's" but I can look forward to the future.
Who really knows what may have changed--or not--if only I had raised my voice years ago? But the important thing to remember is that one day, I finally did. If by sharing my journey now, one victim ends his or her silence one day sooner, my hope is secure. One day can make all the difference. It did for me.
As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me and my God will certainly hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. I will be patient as the Lord punishes me, for I have sinned against him. But after that, He will take up my case and give me justice for all I have suffered from my enemies. The Lord will bring me into the Light, and I will see His righteousness.