The Lord has really been at work in my life recently and I feel very strongly that I'm supposed to tell this story. Please bear with me though, it's been a difficult journey and one I have only RARELY discussed in 15 yrs and never in any detail. Actually I have not discussed it at all in at least 10 yrs. So take a deep breath, maybe grab a tissue, and read on only if you agree to the terms and conditions listed: this is a painful story for me so it may be a painful blog, God has done amazing things in my life over the last 2 months but I know He is not done with me yet so please be patient, please keep any judgement or criticism in your head and feel free to NOT share it with me, and last, this may be long but I'm not really sure yet so sorry if it is too long. Did you just mentally check the agree box? If so then read on, if not feel free to read some of my lighter posts.
When I was 17 I had a job where I was the only woman. I enjoyed having the corner on the market as far as attention went. All the guys paid attention to me but not in a weird way (usually). I had never been the girl ANY guy wanted to talk to so it was fun to have a couple who flirted with me and a couple who joked around with me, and a couple who took care of me like a little sister. Unfortunately though, I had a boss who was not one of those guys. He was twice my age, married and had 2 kids (one being a newborn.) It started with some lack of personal space when he would be near me, making up reasons to be near me, reaching across me a little closely to get something. Then it moved on to whipping the towel at my butt and untying my apron strings. Soon it became following me into the walk in freezer where he would make advances on me and often touch me. Let me restate that I was 17 and this was my first job. I was mortified by his behavior but had no idea how to stop it because he was my boss. By the time things got to this level I was no longer the only girl and the other girl despised me for what I was allowing so I didn't even have another person who I could talk to and who could help me out of the situation. One day I was asked by one of the guys when I became a homewrecker. I was confused and had no idea what he was talking about. He then revealed that the boss' wife had just had their 2nd baby earlier that week. I was devastated. Not only were there things going on that I was ashamed of and didn't know how to stop, but there was a family involved too. I felt like vomiting. I finally got up enough nerve at that point to speak my mind. I screamed like I've never screamed before. How could you do this to your wife? How could you try to seduce me when you have a family? How come you're so sick in the head to think what you're doing is ok? And how come you chose me?
A few days passed, the attentions didn't stop but I felt even worse than before. I felt dirty and used and hated my job but was afraid to say anything. I quit my job. The day I came in to get my final paycheck, he was there. He followed me out and tried to talk to me. I kept walking. He grabbed my shoulders and forced me to turn around to see him. He kissed me so roughly that it actually hurt. He then slammed me against my car, threatened me and behaved very lewdly. As I cried he asked why I was crying because he said it was obvious that I liked what he was doing. I've never in my life felt so ashamed as I did that day.
For years I had nightmares about that day. I dreamed that he would hunt me out and tell me horrible things and then the whole scene would replay in my dream. It never mattered in my dream what else was going on in my life. It wasn't always the same but it always ended the same and I always woke up crying and screaming. When my husband and I were dating, I would go over to his house after work and we would watch a movie. I cannot tell you how many times I fell asleep during the movie and he would have to wake me up because I was thrashing and screaming. He would stoke my hair and comfort me though he didn't know exactly what he was comforting. The dreams continued until we had been married about a year. It wasn't a sudden stop to the dreams, they just happened with less frequency and less frequency until they stopped completely.
I haven't thought about this situation really much at all since the nightmares stopped. Then it happened. My husband mentioned a movie that I saw at the time all of this was going on. Should have been safe, we have watched the movie several times together, but it wasn't safe. His comment triggered a flood of memories that literally took my breath away, and not in the good way! That night I had the nightmare again. That night I sobbed so uncontrollably that when Hubby woke me he was worried because I still couldn't stop sobbing. The next night I was afraid to sleep. I coffeed up all day just to make sure. I reasoned with myself. I said, "It was only a dream. He isn't really here and he can no longer hurt you." Then myself argued back, "Since he can only hurt me in my sleep and not in reality then I must not sleep so that he cannot hurt me again." For 2 weeks I fought sleep like I haven't done in years. I drank more coffee in each day than I ever have in a day in 11 yrs of marriage. And I did not sleep. By the time I would fall asleep I was crashing from sheer exhaustion and was too tired to dream. My plan was working, he couldn't hurt me.
But my spirit was aching and the Holy Spirit kept gently chiding me that I was abusing my body, His temple. I knew that the Lord wanted to bring healing but I was too hurt to open up the wound to allow it. I finally reached out to two different friends who are Godly and I trust to actually pray when they say they will pray and asked them to pray over my sleep. That night I forced myself to my bedroom because I knew I couldn't disobey the Lord any longer in how I was treating my body. I'm not going to lie though, I was terrified as I got dressed for bed. What if he haunted my dreams again? Right before I laid down the Casting Crowns song "Voice of Truth" started going through my head. It wasn't the entire song, just the part that says, "But the voice of truth tells me a different story, and the voice of truth says DO NOT BE AFRAID." The song continued to play through my head the entire night of sleep and for the first time in weeks I woke up having slept soundly and peacefully.
Once I started sleeping I was able to realize something about the latest dream that exhaustion had previously blinded me to. Always in the past my emotions in my dream were fear, anger and shame. This time my feelings were sad. In my dream I wept, "Why did he hurt me?" but I never felt angry, afraid or ashamed. Just overwhelmingly hurt, lonely, confused and abandoned. The Lord showed me that I had never allowed myself to grieve over any of it and that grief is natural and acceptable. So I grieved. Thank you to those of you who put up with me during that time when I could cry at the drop of a pin and had no desire to converse with anyone! I was grieving.
Then immediately after that, a friend posted on facebook "What kind of a man pretends to be single so he can date while his wife takes care of their 2 month old baby at home?" I commented that I had once been the unknowing "other woman" and at that point realized that I had a lot of misplaced guilt going on. Until I said that, I had no realization that I felt incredibly guilty for being the "other woman", for being the woman who broke up a family (even if the wife never found out, I knew and he knew and everyone we worked with knew.) As I worked through that I was amazed at the amount of freedom there was in letting go of that guilt. What happened was not my fault, not deserved, not in any way acceptable. If I knew then what I know now it would have never gone as far as it did, but my fault in it was not knowing it was ok to tell someone and get help. My fault was one of fear and ignorance, not intentions of causing harm. My fault simply was that I was too young and naive to know that what was happening was not my fault, not brought on in any way by me and also illegal.
So as I said at the beginning, I know God is not done with me but I am amazed at the amount of healing He has brought my heart in the past months. I am not really sure why I shared this story because I have only shared it with this amount of detail once. I actually had something much different on my mind to blog about but felt so strongly that I was to share this that I actually deleted an entire paragraph and started over with this. I feel incredibly vulnerable and yet I still feel like I am supposed to share this. Yikes, that's letting A LOT hang out there!
So here is what I've learned in this. I'm not perfect, actually far from it, but I trust God and know that He is good and He has a plan for my life. I know that He redeems the years the locust have taken, and in my case it has been literally years. I know also that He knows the right timing to bring up the things (and often in very random ways like the mention of a movie or a facebook post) that He wants to deal with in my heart. I know that He will not dredge things up and then leave me alone to try to cope and figure things out. I know that He is with me every step of the way and on the steps that are too hard to make, He gently carries me through until the time when I can make the step. I could not have possibly worked through the grief part years ago when I was working through the anger and fear. At that point I was so blinded by anger that I didn't even feel the full extent of the hurt. God is faithful and He knows when we can handle what He is going to walk us through. He will never give us more than we can bear, and He is faithful to always walk with us when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.