Restoration: Bringing Beauty From Ashes
by Sheila Butkus, Julie Thompson, and Diane Zimmerman
Recently social media was flooded with the “MeToo” hashtag in response to a powerful Hollywood mogul being accused of sexually harassing or assaulting dozens of women. The shock of this accusation caused the trending hashtag to “crash the internet” of sorts, as any woman that believed she had been sexually harassed or assaulted was encouraged to post on social media with the hashtag “MeToo.” The response was overwhelming.
It is amazing how two simple words can instantly connect people. It broke our hearts to see so many friends and family post that they had been impacted by such a despicable act. Maybe you were a woman that posted “MeToo.”
Statistics show that by the age of 18, one in four women will have been sexually assaulted; and by the age of 25, that number becomes one in three. These statistics should certainly make us all very uncomfortable, but not hopeless, as we believe in a God that can heal hurts and restore joy.
We would like to introduce you to a support/study group called “Restoration: Bringing Beauty From Ashes” based on Isaiah 61:3. Here are some stories that have come from women who have attended our group in the past. The names are fictional, but the stories are based on actual events.
“For most of my life, I walked around carrying a secret: as a child, I was sexually abused by someone my family knew. On the outside, everything appeared normal, but on the inside I was dealing with intense feelings of shame, guilt, and anger towards God. I couldn’t understand why He would allow this to happen. I knew God promised to never leave me, but I questioned where He was when I was being abused. Pain silenced me for over 20 years. Breaking my silence and sharing my secret was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but it began the healing process. The abuse I experienced as a child forever changed me. I still carry the memories and struggle at times with feelings of shame, guilt, and feeling unworthy of love.” —Jen
“My parents divorced when I was 3. My mother remarried when I was in first grade. I was sexually abused by this man. After the first incident of sexual abuse, I told my mom; she did nothing. The abuse continued on a regular basis. Eventually my mom left this man. Children Services got involved; and at the age of 11, I was introduced to the court system. I had to testify in front of a grand jury and endured a jury trial with my abuser in the room not once, but twice. For many years, I searched in all the wrong places for ways to fill the hole of abandonment and hurt that was left in my heart as a child. This left even more damage, destruction, and scars. After joining a recovery program (Celebrate Recovery) as an adult, God revealed to me how the abuse I was subjected to as a child was still negatively impacting my life and relationships. By this time, I had a strong relationship with Jesus, and I began to trust Him to deal with the damage. He strategically placed safe people (and places) in my life so that I could begin the healing process. I am amazed at how the Lord has brought and continues to bring beauty and healing out of the ashes and pain of my past.” —Sarah
“My story is similar to Jen and Sarah’s experience, but my biggest struggles continue with my family. My uncle was my abuser. I cannot seem to forgive my mother for leaving me alone with my uncle, allowing him to do to me as he pleased. When the truth came to light, my mother appeared hurt and upset, but in my mind, she always had an excuse to cover his actions or made me believe that I had over exaggerated. In making matters worse, my mother, along with other members of my family, believe that now as an adult, I should forgive my uncle for what he did to me so long ago and move on. I feel physically ill in his presence, yet my family insists that he attend every family gathering. I blame my mother for not protecting me, and I resent that she has put my uncle’s needs and acceptance above my own.” —Kate
In each of these stories, the abuser may have been different, but the impact is the same. There is a struggle with insecurities, relationships, touch, shame, guilt, and anger, just to name a few. It is easy to live in a hopeless state of struggle, but God offers a better way of living life, with a desire for every woman to be all that He has created her to be. At RC3, we like to call this living the extraordinary life.
If you can relate to any of these stories, we extend to you a heartfelt invitation to join our Restoration support/study group. We will meet in a confidential and safe setting beginning in January. Topics of discussion will include: created in God’s image, truth of the matter, boundaries, emotions, healthy relationships, hope & joy, vision, and soul care.
It takes courage to take steps towards healing. Previous group participants have found support, encouragement, and hope as they have walked alongside each other on their healing journey. It would be an honor to walk with you.
Begin praying now that God will strengthen you in seeking the help and healing that you desire. It takes courage to reach out for help, but we are ready to lend a helping hand. More announcements and online sign-ups will occur in December.
*While the Restoration group is specifically for women, we recognize that men are not immune to sexual assault and abuse either. If this is part of your story, may we recommend two excellent books: Rid of My Disgrace by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb and When A Man You Love Was Abused by Cecil Murphey.