We are blown away by the amazingly strong people we meet every single day and we are so honored that several choose to share their story not only with us but publicly on our blog. This blog post was written by a guest writer, Theresa.*
Who we know ourselves to be, shapes what we do. Everything I do overflows from who I am. No one else on earth can ever be me. My name is Theresa. I am currently working to complete a degree in Behavioral Health Science while I work as a full-time missionary. One day I hope to become a Sozo counselor who travels to churches all over the world helping people to grab hold of the healing and authority that is theirs in Christ. I dream of living a life of adventure and joy. I dream of writing music and books. I dream of being a wife and a mother one day. These are dreams that have been knit deeply into my heart, and you probably have your own dreams just like these.
For a long time, these dreams were locked away and buried under all the circumstances I found myself in. I had become convinced these dreams would never happen because I had been through circumstances that lied to me about who I am. Circumstances that told me I was something to be ashamed of, an object, unworthy of love and respect, and that I was a victim; inferior to everyone around me. I am not a victim or a survivor because my identity is not entangled in my circumstances. I am a woman and I thrive. The dreams I have will come to pass because a strong, courageous, loving soul cannot be held back by what has been.
When I was nineteen years old, I was raped by a couple that at the time, I considered to be good friends. For the longest time, I wouldn’t even admit it to myself. Eventually, it was all I could admit. The first time I tried to take a shower after I spoke this truth out loud, I cried the entire time, and it took me almost an hour because I couldn’t even stand the idea of my own hands touching me. I decided I never wanted a husband or kids. I wanted to hide in every possible way and tried to convince myself that I would be content in being single and alone. Instead, I was brought through healing. One day, I was no longer healing – I was simply healed. I realized I didn’t have to keep cutting the wound open and reminding myself what had been done to me. It wasn’t who I was at that moment, and it has no control over who I am now.
Healing looked like a lot of changes in my life. On a personal level, it meant developing friendships with men and women and trusting a community. Every time I wear an outfit that doesn’t hide my figure, and I say yes to taking care of my body or letting myself be seen – my personality or my legs – I am claiming the fullness of my healing. And that healing radiates out to those around me in a multitude of ways. I began sharing my story when I would meet young girls who had been through similar things and needed to know that sitting in the pain of hurt wasn’t the end. As I shared my story and the healing that has happened in me, I’ve seen dozens of women reclaim their identity as beautiful and strong and joyful. There is something so profoundly inspiring that stirs the grit and fire of a woman’s soul when she sees someone who has been through similar hardship thriving far beyond what the pain ever told her she could achieve.
One day I was having a conversation about what it means to catalyze change for the world. We began discussing human trafficking, and I boldly said, “If we want to see things like human trafficking end, and we genuinely believe the power of Jesus, then we need to be reaching the perpetrators just as much as the victims. We can’t stop trafficking if all we’re doing in regard to it is helping with the aftermath.” Then I realized that if I genuinely believed what I had just said, my actions needed to speak at the same volume as my words. So I reached out to the couple who had raped me. I shared the gospel with them and forgave them because I know that Jesus loves them just as much as He loves me. I believed they deserved a chance to hear that and I knew I may have been the only person who could tell them.
It’s been a miraculous privilege to know that my story could bring young women out of the chains of shame and self-loathing, bitterness, and unforgiveness. I’ve also gotten to share with a number of abusers, and watch their hearts be changed by the power of love. It’s been a miraculous privilege. Every time I share my story, I become more certain of the power of my voice to change reality for others. I had to speak my silence for myself first, and now I get to use my story of love, hope, and joy as a weapon against the silence hurting other people. When tragedy becomes a chapter in our stories it tends to permeate into every page, leaving its mark on our stories. That chapter can only impact our stories when and if we allow it. It takes a remarkable amount of power and love to overcome the lie that says I will always be a victim of that event. From one who has fought and conquered the weight of silence, speak up. You are worth it.