I’m going to be honest that this is hard for me to write, hard for me to share. I’ve thought about this post for months, feeling like the Lord was calling me to write it, feeling convicted that I hadn’t yet, and extremely terrified of this next step in my healing.
And that’s what this is- the next step in my healing.
When the sexual assault happened back in December, I remember the emptiness I felt laying on the bed, unable to sleep, unable to drink, unable to be around people. I felt deserted, trapped, and significantly alone. I remember sitting in the bathtub in tears crying out to God- asking why He allowed this to happen, why tragedy seemed to follow me, why me, why this, why that. I remember feeling useless, used, and now, because of another tragedy- I would be someone that people would see so filled with pain and hurt- I would be unlovable.
I remember walking into Awaken Church on December 18, 2016 to attend the services and be presented with a thank you gesture from the pastor. I’ll never forget the sadness I walked in that church with- here they were to thank me, to honor me, to celebrate all that Charleston Hope had done for Adopt a Classroom and I could barely keep it together; I was unable to even process Adopt a Classroom because literally the night after it ended- the assault happened. As they brought me on stage and the pastor shared about how God was going to use me and Charleston Hope in the city of Charleston- I remember, very clearly, standing on stage, accepting and believing the lies Satan was throwing at me- right then and there.
Yeah right. This girl just got sexually assaulted, she was drugged, used, and tossed to the side- she isn’t going to be used God. You don’t belong up there Emily- no one even knows what you’re walking through- you’re a fake. You’re too broken.”
I’ll never forget the lies in that moment, on that stage. I’ll never forget the pain I was feeling.
But I sure am glad I felt it.
Right after the second service, my family and I packed our bags and had decided to get out of the city and head to Myrtle Beach for a few days. I remember going to the ATM after church to finish off Adopt a Classroom business. I cried the entire way there, throughout the whole depositing money process, and then sat there for minutes in a broken mess.
As I was getting ready to pull away, my phone began to ring. An unknown number popped up and thinking it may be the detective- I answered.
And I sure am glad I did.
There on the other end, with the sweetest voice, sat a guy from Awaken, that I had maybe 5 previous conversations with due to our partnership in the previous month and a half. He said the work that I do has inspired him and that even from a far distance- I was challenging him. He asked me to coffee to simply get to know me better and reluctantly and nervously- I said yes. We made a quick plan and said we would follow up with each other later.
As I hung up the phone, I immediately began to feel this deep pain, a deep guilt, a deep shame. There he (Satan) was again, lurking in the shadows- waiting and ready to pounce and fire the lies right when he knew I would crumble at them, or thought I would.
He doesn’t know your story Emily. You already had love, you’re not going to get it again. You are going to be alone. Are you going to betray Chad like that? I thought you loved him? Wait until he finds out about your past- all of your past- especially what happened last week- yeah, right- there’s no point in getting coffee.
I heard the lies on repeat the entire way to Myrtle Beach, questioning if coffee was okay, wondering what he would think about me when he heard all of the pieces to my story. I thought over and over again: your story is too much. your past is who you are. accept it.
I knew what I had to do- either be up front, right away and let him know where I was at or cancel and let it go.
And I sure am thankful for the choice I made.
In a quick conversation with my dad on the way back from the hot tub, the Lord revealed words to me that I had heard before but had never rang true- and he used my dad to do it. After my dad had asked if I was going to get coffee with Andrew and I had looked at him and said “No, I’m going to cancel- I’m not ready for that”.
My dad looked at me and said- “Em, don’t cancel- it’s just coffee. It’s okay to be happy, to take a step forward- and you need to do it.”
AND I AM SO GLAD THAT HE DID.
From that moment on, I knew the emptiness I was feeling, the brokenness that had surfaced again, and the depression I was beginning to walk back into had to get grasped by something, had to be channeled into something different.
To be honest, I was tired of living in tears, isolation, sin, depression, weakness, secrecy, fears, lies, and guilt. I wanted healing- I wanted it bad.
I wanted to walk in freedom again, I wanted to feel the depths of my heart that I knew had so much love to give. I wanted freedom from the chains of my past- from middle school, high school, college, tragedy, and now this assault. I wanted to walk in freedom and I wanted to feel good about walking in freedom.
I quickly realized in the bath in the hotel at Myrtle Beach (yes, I know most people find that gross) that I had a distorted view of healing. I had this image that healing would come naturally- I mean “time heals all wounds”, right?- well days and months and years kept passing and none of my wounds were healed, maybe a little scabbed over, but certainly not healed. I had this belief that healing would happen in this spiritual moment with people’s hands on my shoulders, praying for healing, and I would get up, walk a way- and be healed.
I had this image of the paralyzed man whose friends lowered him from the ceiling in high hopes that Jesus would touch him and heal him. I actually really believed that was what my healing was going to look like. But I was missing a big piece, a critical piece- my choice to walk in the new life that God has planned for me. Here I was, laying on the mat- laying in my brokenness, wearing this cloak of victimhood- when God had already placed the promise of healing over me but I just couldn’t get up and walk in it.
You see, when the Lord healed that paralyzed man, and told him to get up and go home, that he had been healed- well.. he immediately got up and went.
Yeah, I hadn’t been doing that. I had just laid there and I had been laying there- in so many different areas of my brokenness, of my past, of my weakness. I read almost daily of the promises that God had placed over my life- the main one I rested- the promise of healing, yet I continue to sit on the matt, covered by a cloak of victimhood.
Well, the more I studied this passage, the more I thought to myself- Why am I not picking up my mat and walking into the new life of healing and freedom that God had planned for me? No- not anymore, I can’t do it anymore. I’m not going anywhere, I’m stuck, I feel paralyzed by grief, by pain, by brokenness, by lies. I can’t do it anymore.
And after the moments of deep inspiration and motivation, which led me to buying books on books about healing, thinking that might do the trick- it hit me- smacked me in the face, AGAIN. I had to pick up my mat and go.
Did you get that?
I. had. to pick. up. my, mat. and. walk. in. the. freedom. God. had. placed. and. planned. for. my. life.
No book was going to do that for me. I had take hold of the promises of God, reach out my hand and accept that healing was going to be a process but that the Lord promised me He was going to be with me every single step of the way. His arm had been extended in every moment of my broken past, waiting for me to grab His hand so HE could guide me in to the healing and freedom He had promised me.
Let me tell you, I firmly believe the recovery pain is often times far greater than the injury pain.
The pain of recovery is inevitable- you’ve got to find the courage to recognize first the pains of your past. You’ve got to find the courage to battle the fears, to battle the lies, to battle the one who wants nothing more than for you to continue to lay on that mat, sitting in your cloak of victimhood.
It’s incredibly scary walking in to a season of recovery, of healing. You know what pain lies ahead, you’re comfortable with being taken care of- with wearing that cloak of victimhood, and you’re almost okay with this being your story because in the face of the injury, in the face of the tragedy, in the face of your life seemingly shattering around you- you began to believe that this was your story, that this was who you are now- that THIS was all that God had to work with.
It takes courage to walk away from an identity of pain. It takes courage to remember the instant you felt the deep sting of tragedy but choose to walk in the long, painful process of healing. It takes courage to say, “when the pain of healing feels unbearable, when the pain of healing feels like too much- I am going to choose it.”
You see, when we lay on the mat- comforted by our cloak and our painful story- we begin to get weaker and weaker. We begin to get angry at God for not healing us, for not strengthening us, for not using us. We begin to isolate others wondering why their life keeps going when ours seem to just stay stuck. We begin to let dreams die, relationships suffer, and begin to doubt that God is really even there because we can’t see past our pain, we can’t find the courage to get up, grab out mat, and go.
I don’t know where you are in life- I don’t know if you are seeing tragedy and pain quickly approaching, if you are looking it straight in the face, or if you are laying on the mat- believing the distorted view of healing I was- scared to death to get up, pick up your mat, and go.
Every day, I have to pick up my mat and go. It’s not easy- the fear of what others will think, the guilt of how others will feel, the pain of letting my brokenness go- believing that no love is ever defined or contingent on the amount or intensity of grief. Taking every single step of healing at the pace I need, fighting the expectations and fears of others, and looking the pain of recovery, no matter what it entails, straight in the face and saying “I am called to it (healing and freedom) and I am going to choose it. Right here, right now.”
It’s a process. It’s a journey. It’s God’s story for your life- every single hardship, every single tragedy, every single injury- it is God’s story for your life- healing and freedom in His name.
6 months I began to fully choose to walk in this process and for a lack of better words- at times, it felt like hell all over again but the Lord has bore fruit like I have never seen before in so many areas of my life. He is bringing me to “the land that He has promised me (Geneses 23:15)” stronger, more on fire for His Kingdom, and more passionate about allowing God to use my story like never before.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m not fully healed, and there are some pains, like the death of Chad, that I will carry with me for the rest of my life- but that’s what I’ll do, carry it with me, not continue to lay on the mat with it. I will not sit in the sting of death, allowing it to paralyze me anymore- I will walk in the fullness of the life God has planned for me down here until He calls me to the place He has eternally created for me.
It’s a story, a process of healing- I, along with others (new and old friends) have been walking heavily in the last 6 months- it’s been full of anxiety, deep deep fears, and incredibly hard moments of saying “I choose healing here”. It has been a long 6 months of picking up my mat and going- an exhausting 6 months- but an incredibly beautiful 6 months and I can’t wait to keep sharing it with you.