Hello! My name is Karen.
This is my journey to from childhood sexual and physical abuse to rape to safety.
I was born the youngest of six children in a Catholic middle-class family. I went to church every Sunday; was baptized, communed and confirmed.
My family seemed like a typical “nice” family. But like other families we had our secrets.
We couldn’t admit having problems – we couldn’t air our dirty laundry. We never talked about our issues. We didn’t get help. And if the neighbors knew, they minded their own business.
The greatest blessing my parents gave me was my baptism. God was my constant companion. I felt and knew God was with me.
I prayed for God to change my family, to make them nice.
I prayed earnestly for God to wave His magic wand or sprinkle fairy dust or whatever it took to fix my family. I believed if I prayed hard enough, became super involved in the church; knew the Bible well enough; obeyed God’s commandments and did everything “right”- I’d be worthy enough, I’d be good enough for God to finally answer my prayers according to my plan.
After my closest brother died by suicide and my oldest brother died a year lateb, I lost all hope that God cared about me or would ever answer any of my prayers.
God didn’t love me. God abandoned me or worse, there was no God. I was just crazy!
No one was ever going to rescue me.
But I was too angry to let God go. I couldn’t let Him off that easy. I didn’t want God to hold me. I didn’t want God to wipe my tears. Through gritted teeth I growled at God to raise my brothers from the dead; not later-NOW!
Or take me with them. Why was I here surrounded by people who hated me?
God tried to rescue me but I’m difficult to save. My life was like the faith joke titled “God Will Save Me.”
Most have heard a version of it; there’s a flood and a guy praying to God to be saved. God answers with a truck, a boat and even a helicopter but each time the guy says, “No thanks God will save me” until the guy drowns. When he gets to heaven he says to God “I’ve been your faithful servant. Why didn’t you save me?” God tells him, “I tried. What more do you want from me!!??”
My rescue plan never included abandoning the flooding house or my family. When I prayed I told God the best way to save me such as stopping the flood of abuse while allowing me to keep my family and all of our secrets. This was my plan; not God’s plan. I realize now that God led me to a therapist who labeled the abuse, told me to get self sufficient, run and don’t ever look back. But I answered, “No thanks God will save me.”
God never gave up on me. God led many people into my life to save me from the cycles of abuse.
My first husband tried to kill me. I’m here today because God sent the police. God led us to a Lutheran pastor who refused to marry us, but my parents said, “Marry him, the invitations have already been sent…God will protect you.” God got the limo driver lost on the way to pick me up but my mother drove me to the church – I married my abuser after he already tried to kill me.
God didn’t give up. God provided me with a compassionate doctor who wanted to save me from my abusive husband and family, but I assured him I’d be ok.
God didn’t give up. God kept sending the police to save my son and me from the violence but I had too much pride to go to a shelter. Finally let me leave my abusive husband but I wasn’t safe because my family was abusive. And I couldn’t protect my son during his visits with his abusive father.
God led me back to church. God led me to bible studies to learn to respect the delicate balance between law and grace. God’s word made me strong in my faith and the Holy Spirit gave me the courage to insist my future husband, attend church if he wanted to date me.
God tried to rescue us through his Word in our wedding vows but I wasn’t listening. God inspired David to adopt Philip to keep him safe.
However, the flood of dysfunction continued to climb because the people who hurt me were still in our life; and I couldn’t communicate. I was still keeping secrets. I had my own children and by denying the abuse, I was teaching them to pretend everything was okay. We weren’t safe.
Easter Sunday (2003) was a day of awakening for me. The pastor asked the congregation to raise their hands if they wanted to live forever. My husband quickly raised his hand. I didn’t. I did not want to live forever. Come to think of it, I never wanted to live forever. I always prayed for God to take my soul in my sleep. I accepted the reality that I would live forever but I couldn’t lie and pretend I wanted to live forever. I couldn’t say I would ask for another hour, minute or moment to serve my sentence.
I struggled that Lenten season with defining a “scripturally” correct relationship with my family. God calls us to honor our father and mother, but my mother deliberately hurt me, she hurt my children.
Christ calls us to turn the other cheek, but what if the other cheek belongs to my son or daughter? How do I protect my children and remain faithful to God’s Word?
I prayed earnestly to be saved and with each prayer, God reminded me of all of my rescuers:
- my former therapist
- the pastor
- the doctor
- the police, and
- the scriptures
Every time I prayed, the message was the same. A voice was telling me to run. The voice had to scream over the waves threatening to drown us that we needed help, we needed to escape.
I finally began to listen that Easter Sunday. I finally began to consider a different plan.
God had brought my husband, David, into my life. I allowed God to remind me of all the promises I made during my vows to David. I promised like Ruth, “Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my God; where you die; I’ll die…so help me God!” (Ruth 1:17) Verse 16 actually says “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home.”
God called Abraham, Joseph, Moses, many prophets, his disciples and so many others to leave their families and follow Him – so why was I clinging to mine???
Finally more than nine years after my wedding vows I put God’s safety plan into action. I said good-bye to my abusive relationships and made a commitment to keeping my children safe and learning to live in truth. In one single moment I went from hoping for a short life to praying for a long life. My children and I were finally able to enjoy the unique gift of safety.
Psalm 4:8 says it best-
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord
make me dwell in safety.
God enabled me to give my life over to His plan, to follow His path, to forgive and love my abusers from a safe distance, to accept a new family, my church family.
I never imagined that God’s plan would make me a pastor’s wife, nor that God would ever give me the courage and the honor of sharing my story in the hope of inspiring some else.
My children and I are safe. We are living a happily and safely ever after in Christ’s peace. Amen