I held on for dear life.
Many told me it would be better to let her go; that she was holding me back. But she was my friend and I would cling to her for as long as I could.
She'd been in my life for so long. In fact, I could barely remember a time when she wasn't there. She was like my favorite pair of jeans - comfortable and familiar, the first thing I reached for every morning. We'd become inseparable and the thought of saying goodbye was torture.
We met twenty years ago at my family reunion; the same day I was raped. In the middle of the afternoon, while music played and dozens of relatives laughed and reminisced, and my cousins were splashing in the pool, I was losing my virginity to my very own uncle. I was thirteen.
When it happened, I was just ten feet away from my mother, who was sipping iced tea with my aunt. Her words, audible through those thin pool house walls, still echo in my mind: "I have such high hopes for Karina. I know God will do great things with that girl." I focused on her voice as I cried in silence. Great things? Is this God's idea of a joke? "Great things" wasn't being trapped underneath a monster, his slimy hand clamped so tightly over my mouth I could hardly breathe. "Great things" wasn't a snorkel jabbing me in the shoulder, and the taste of bile in my throat.
The moment my uncle finished and stumbled out the door, my friend appeared. She helped me clean myself up, as well as the bloodstain I'd left behind, the only visible evidence of the evil that had been present here moments before.
My new companion held my hand and, eventually, my heart.
There seemed no retreat from the memories, especially in my sleep. And when I miraculously lived through the nightmare and woke up to sweat-soaked sheets and mascara and tear-stained pillow, my friend was there to console me. I would cry out to God, "HOW could you let this happen!" and my friend would pick up where I left off and demand answers too, in ways I couldn't. But God didn't respond to our pleas, which made me even more desperate to hold onto her - the only one I could count on. The one who was there for me when God was not.
Over the years, many begged me to let her go. "She's no good for you," they'd say. "Get rid of her before she destroys you." But I was unable - or unwilling - to say goodbye to my trusted friend.
Until one day she almost killed me. She had convinced me to take my own life and I grabbed a knife and slit my wrists. But when I saw the blood, my thoughts returned to that godforsaken day. I thought of how I had come to depend on my friend. How I had let her grab hold of my heart so tightly she consumed my every thought…. I thought of my mother's voice: I know God will do great things with that girl.
And I thought how right everyone was - my friend had never really been my friend at all.
It was then that I realized I had to let go. Holding on to her for all this time had seemed easier than the alternative. But in that moment I had to ask: Was she worth dying for?
I have a long road of therapy still ahead but it gets easier every day. It's strange living without her. I am still getting used to the freedom I am feeling now that she's gone. I have discovered that God was there all along and that He does, indeed, have great things in store for me. It wasn't His will for me to get raped. And I now know it should have been His hand instead of Anger's that I grasped that day. I guess the important thing is that these days I'm clinging to Jesus, the retreat I so desperately need from the hatred and bitterness and pain that took control of my heart. And for the first time since that unforgettable day...
I truly feel peace.
Retreat: A place of refuge…
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