Yesterday, I ended my post with these words:
There was a time when I insisted to my therapist that my rape was so terrible, so dark and ugly, that there was nothing about it that God could possibly redeem. He proved me wrong…but that’s best left for future posts.
Almost immediately, the following came to mind. It’s something I wrote in 2009, after I’d been in therapy a few months. I’ve only done a few minor tweaks for readability, leaving the rest alone. It’s kinda raw. But it’s the raw and broken things that need redeeming, not the clean and pretty ones.
During my therapy session today, Donny asked about the anniversary of the rape, and I told him I knew it was in August, but didn’t know the date. For some reason, after I got home, this started really bothering me. I went online to find an August 1981 calendar, and I started plugging different events into different days and finally, by process of elimination, I figured out that August 23 had to be the date.
And then I sat there, thinking, “Damn. I figured it out. But I don’t quite know what to think about it, or how to feel.” Then I realized that I was still being raped on August 24…the day that later became my wedding date. I regretted my figuring out the date, because I felt as if my wedding anniversary was now forever ruined for me. My imagination went into overdrive. I became convinced that, instead of celebrating our upcoming 25th anniversary, I’d be hiding in bed, having flashbacks, reliving that horrible day and the next day in awful, nightmarish detail.
So I posted to my online support group and Matt responded, “Well, think of this: for many years you did not know it was an anniversary. Which proves the date is not forever ruined, because you have had many August 23rd’s since your rape. And that endows you with a whole lot of post-rape August 23rd memories to recall, which are clean of any such traumatic triggers.”
That made sense.
I decided to quite whining to God, “How could you let me pick August 24 as my wedding date? And why didn’t the church let us have our first choice? Why? Why? Why?”
Then I thought, “What a coincidence…what are the chances that I would get married on that day?” But then it dawned on me — how cool, how redemptive, how absolutely victorious is it that, on the 3rd anniversary of my rape, I was having a rehearsal dinner with most of my favorite people in the world? The ugliness of the rape was the furthest thing from my mind that night. Three years after Lou and Carl finally stopped raping me, I was asleep in bed, dreaming happy dreams of marriage. Three years after that horrible shower, I was getting ready for my wedding day. Three years after sticking a gun in my mouth, feeling broken and ruined and filthy, I was walking down the aisle in a beautiful white dress that had been lovingly sewn for me. I remember that, during the wedding, I had kept thinking, “God is good”. I felt like I was basking in His love. And I actually felt beautiful.
God is good. I had no idea how good. He really did give me beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning. And He couldn’t have told me that in a more obvious way.
This August 24th will be my 25th wedding anniversary. It will also be the 28th anniversary of when they stopped raping me…the 28th anniversary of the day that I cleaned myself up and went to my first day at a new job, trying to pretend nothing had happened, the 28th anniversary of the day that I didn’t pull the trigger, the 28th anniversary of the day that I took my first steps towards being a survivor.
The “coincidence” of those dates, of forgetting the date of my rape until figuring it out all these years later — it all seems to me like a beautiful, redemptive story that God has made out of the ugliest days of my life. I feel as if He’s just given me the best 25th wedding anniversary I could think of getting.
One of the things we, as survivors, often tell ourselves and each other is that the process of healing and recovery is not a smooth and constant one. There are setbacks along the way. That is the nature of healing in general, but I think that there can also be something else going on when it comes to recovery from sexual trauma. Based on what I have read, and my discussions with people experienced in the field of psychological trauma, I have come to believe that sexual trauma is unique in the damage it does to the human soul. Because of this, I also believe that the process of recovery is a sort of spiritual turf war being waged over one’s soul.
In retrospect, this seems obvious to me. 2009 was one of the most difficult years of my life. A tragedy brought me into therapy. At the same time, my husband almost died. Our entire family walked through some very deep waters. I experienced anguishing dark nights of the soul. All of that almost destroyed me.
In the midst of all that, God brought healing and moments of redemption. I wish I had trusted Him more and failed Him less. But despite my stumbling about, the fighting and wrestling I mentioned in my last post, and moments of absolute rebellion, He was faithful. He never gave up on me, his all-too-prone-to-wander prodigal daughter. No matter what, He always loves me back home again.