Rachel A. Lehman RN
Do you ever wonder why you are still alive? Do you ever feel like it would have just been easier if you would have died by the hands of your abuser?
I've had those thoughts. It took me years for me not to have those thoughts! Yes, they came less and less often the longer I was away, but those thoughts stayed there for longer than I would have liked.
At the time, I couldn't understand why God would save me from the hands of my abusive husband, but yet then 'cause' me to suffer by me not being able to support myself, 'get over' what happened to me, or move on.
What I realized from feeling that way and going through the recovery process like I went through is this:
1. Today, I can relate to (and typically help) lots of people. There are many that have those same thoughts and may even try to kill themselves. I want my story to help them.
2. I realized God was FOR me. Even though it seemed He was sometimes against me in the recovery process, He wasn't. He was always there, loving on me and helping to give me courage to stand back up and keep going. He wasn't 'doing this to me' as I had previously thought. He was actually helping me to get out of the cycle of abuse and never go back to that lifestyle. Such an amazing God and Father who cares about us enough to teach us how to live differently...to live in Freedom and to actually show us how to enjoy our life instead of always thinking death is right around the corner.
3. I met so many great people during that time in my life. Many of whom I never would have met if something bad wouldn't have happened. Lifelong friendships!!
4. I learned that I could do it on my own. I could succeed. I learned that I wasn't ugly, stupid or crazy. I learned that I was smart, beautiful and worth fighting for. I didn't learn these things from another man in my life, but because God was working on my insides and helping me to see how He sees me. My worth comes from Him, not others around me. Ideally, it also comes from me. I learned that how I see me, greatly impacts who I allow into my life and who I allow to be in my tribe. The less I thought of myself, the more I would cling to others when really I should have been doing things on my own.
5. I realized I didn't 'need' a man to make me anything. What I needed was a self-esteem and confidence. I gained a lot of that during those difficult times and even learned to search after attaining these things.
6. I gained so much inner strength at that time in my life. Sometimes it's the struggle that helps us the most.
I'll leave you with the story of the butterfly...
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.
So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Life's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Remember nature needs no help, just no interference. There are processes of life, things we all go through. The struggles are a part of our journey and are preparing us for what awaits. They are preparing us to fly.
As I was laying in bed over 10 years ago, I had a couple visions of what I believe God wanted me to see about His life and His death through His son Jesus Christ. These visions, along with the reality of what was happening to me at that exact moment in my life, changed me forever. What could have been seen as happenstance, was now ingrained in my mind as ‘meant to be.’
I was in bed trying to go to sleep when I had a vision of me in the garden of Gethsemane. I was Jesus in the vision, but it was me I was seeing. For those who don’t know the story, Jesus cried tears of blood in the garden because He knew that what He was about to go through would be awful. He knew it was desperately difficult to proceed, but He also knew the Father’s heart and His calling in this life on Earth. I knew something awful was about to happen to me as well. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I believed God was in it because it seemed that all roads had led me to this place. I wasn’t sure of a lot of things at that time in my life, but I felt sure that I was meant to be right in that place at that time.
My nerves were a wreck because I knew something was coming. I prayed to God that if this was indeed Him, that He would quiet my soul and allow me to sleep. That’s the last thing I remember before being awakened to my ex-husband’s anger and unwanted sexual advances. I fought against him, he overpowered me. This was not the first time that my ex-husband had awakened me in the night to pull the covers off me, hold me down, ridicule and demean me, laugh at me and taunt me, but it was the first time that I remember him holding me down for sex and tying me up to hurt me physically and sexually. I was once awakened by him under the covers between my legs with a flashlight. I had learned to hide behind the mask of normalcy. I had learned at a young age how to pretend things were fine, while pushing the not fine things into a box for no one to look at, not even me. These things didn’t make sense to my mind. My entire life had been a learned behavior of allowing many men to take advantage of me. I didn’t really know any different. I had learned to rationalize the why.
For roughly the next 3 hours, I was held down, bruised, bit, suffocated, tied up with belts and sodomized. The next vision I had was when I was tied to our 4 poster bed with belts. I saw myself on a cross being crucified. I once again saw myself as Jesus, but this time I was hanging on a cross. I was being crucified. All the time this was happening, God kept speaking to me in my spirit. He kept telling me that I was going to live and not die. God kept reassuring me in my spirit as my physical body was being bruised, raped and sodomized. As long as I could keep my eyes on Jesus in my spirit, I could almost not feel what was being done to my body in the physical realm. I remember a moment that I had started to cry and God said it isn’t time to cry, the battle isn’t over. My spirit came alive and I started praying harder in the spirit at that time.
Bad things kept happening and it was all I could eventually do to keep my mind stayed on Jesus. I remember when the pillow was over my face and I couldn’t breathe. I was being suffocated. It really all came down to this moment for me. Was God really, real? Is what He said true? Was I going to live and not die? I couldn’t breathe for what seemed like forever. My chest hurt and my heart was questioning reality. I totally lost my faith during these moments in time. I said my last words to God because I now thought I might possibly die, despite God telling me beforehand that I wouldn’t. To me, I was staring death on this Earth in the face. If anyone reading this has been close to death, you know what I’m saying. It’s like we now see that our lives, our bodies, our future is completely in someone else’s hands. I didn’t say to God what Jesus said in His final moments though, although many years and much forgiveness later I could totally understand His heart towards people. At that moment, I simply asked that God that He protect my children and for Him to show everyone that I didn’t die from some ‘accident.’ I totally knew my ex-husband and knew that everything was a lie at that time. He lied to everyone, especially when someone tried to talk to him about how life was in our house. I later came to talk about our house as the ‘haunted house’ because so much of it seemed so sinister and evil.
I remember right after I prayed my last words to God, the pillow came off my face. Guess it wasn’t ‘my time’. My ex-husband read to me from the bible before it was all over for the night. It was somewhere in the Old Testament. The Lord told me to shut my ears and not listen. He said the enemy often knows the word better than we do and we become ensnared in lies.
This night is forever etched in my memory as the time my life changed. I was never the same after this night. I may not have understood much of it for years, and maybe I still have much to learn, but one thing is true, God changed me that night for the better. I’m sure many of you can ask, how is that possible? How is it possible to change for the better when so much hurt and pain is wrapped up in one night, one moment, one traumatic memory? I believe it’s because I allowed God to heal me. I continued to allow God to change me. I trusted God to heal me from the pain and He has done just that. I could have locked the memories up and chosen to not look at them ever again. I see believers do this a lot, especially with sexual hurts and pains from past relationships. It’s awkward to talk about them and it makes us feel vulnerable and dirty. Healing from sexual hurts and memories is often a choice we make or don’t make. God won’t force us to change. I don’t know why I continued to believe in His goodness after so much hurt and pain happened in my life. I kept thinking, He’s the only One who CAN help me. He’s the only One who would understand. I don’t know why a lot of things happened, but they did and I wanted God to fix me. I wanted to be ‘normal’ and I didn’t even know what I was asking for. My heart just wanted to be free.
Many weeks after that traumatic night, I remember thinking, OK God, I sacrificed for YOU, now I’m sure YOU will give back to me big time for laying down my life. I kept thinking that somehow God would give something to me. I don’t know if I thought I was winning an award or something, but it seemed life stayed pretty hard with many difficult decisions to make. There are moments in time that I believed God was telling me or leading me to do something. The decisions often didn’t seem rational. They made no sense. God led me to let the children go to live with my ex-husband. Yes, the one who almost suffocated me. I was also led to get rid of lots of material things at that time. I looked like I was out of control. So many people were talking about me and I just tried to keep moving forward with what God was saying. I was so lost, not feeling like I fit in at all in the town I was in. Everything in my life was being sifted and shifted. Nothing that was, remained the same. By the time it was all over, I ultimately lost or gave away pretty much everything that I had. My foundation was shattered. My ‘house’ (in spiritual terms) was destroyed. I found myself alone and afraid and wanting to die when it was all over. I felt like I had lost it all. I had come to the end of myself.
That’s where I believe that my mission and ministry ultimately began. God brought me out and took me away from that city and away from the people that I was familiar with. He led me to a place of refreshing. He led me to a place to be with Him. I had to learn Him all over again. I had to learn to not look back all the time but begin to look ahead. To be prophetic means we have to pour ourselves out and allow Him to pour Himself in. We have to know what it means to look and feel stupid and still stand for His truth. To speak in truth means we have to learn the truth. We have to learn truth over religiosity. We have to learn truth over what it means to be selfless. We have to see our own hearts and our own lives. I will never say that God was the cause of all that bad things that happened to me. I made many choices that reflected who I was at that time, but God keeps using it all for His goodness.
Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t fair. It didn’t feel good. What was done to Him was horrible, by ‘horrible’ people. But what came from what He sacrificed has helped us all. He chose to say ‘forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ How many of us can say those things about the people that have hurt us or tried to kill us? Those same people may still be taking from us. Can you say in prayer, ‘forgive them, for they know not what they do?’ Jesus is amazing. He chose to follow God despite what I’m sure his emotions were feeling.
I believe God showed me in my own way what it took to sacrifice and just how much it cost for Jesus to say yes. We somehow believe that God wants us to live the American dream, but we forget the price He paid. We forget that the cost of freedom was very high. We forget the sacrifice He made to bring us to Himself. He sacrificed Himself on the cross when He could have just saved Himself. Instead, He laid down His life for us to be able to live in Him, sin free. For God to only see His perfect Son in our place when we believe in Him. How amazing is that? Are we willing to lose it all for His sake?
Below are some nuggets of truth that I learned…
1. The enemy wants us to think that God is horrible because He allows these types of things to happen. We think, ‘how can a loving God send calamity?’ I see how much I changed after this night. He truly used it for my good and continues to use my story and healing to help others. That’s pretty amazing!
2. We tend to think that life is here forever. Well, it isn’t and death comes to us all in our own time. It obviously wasn’t my time that night or I wouldn’t be here today. Let’s stop putting off until tomorrow what we should be doing today.
3. We think that God will punish those that hurt us. Sometimes the lesson is how we forgive, not on who or how He will punish someone on our behalf. Jesus was crucified and prayed to God for Him to forgive those killing Him. That’s a huge step of faith when you are being killed by your persecutors. Let’s stop wishing Karma on people (not bible) and let’s start choosing to forgive those that persecute us. The bible says persecution WILL happen.
4. Gods word CAN and IS used against us. Are we in touch enough with Him to know when someone is using it for our good or our demise? Just because it’s from the bible doesn’t make it in the right context.
5. Traumatic events in our lives can be used to help us if we truly see His heart in our pain.
6. God has a purpose for our pain, but we must allow Him to move through that pain and allow Him to heal us. We can’t hide it and then think God can use us in those areas.
7. The enemy wants us to believe our life is over after something traumatic like this. That we can’t ever heal, we will always have scars and we will always be used or damaged goods. Well this isn’t true. God can and will heal those places of hurt and pain, and although looking back is sometimes so hard to do, looking back with Jesus is the only way to know it’s being done right.
8. When we follow His leading, it isn’t up to us how He blesses us or gives back to us. Oftentimes the blessings are in what is unseen rather than what is seen. The blessings are often eternal.
Rachel Everhart RN