Imagine your car breaks down on the Interstate. Maybe in a big Western state where the speed limits are high and regularly ignored. Your car coasts to a stop. You barely get off onto the shoulder. You’d rather be farther from the yellow stripe, but you can stand next to the driver’s door and still be off the highway. But then you reach through the window with your right arm to get your purse from the passenger seat, and as you do, your left leg rises from the ground and stretches out behind you. Just as an eighteen wheeler comes screaming past your car.
When you stop tumbling down the asphalt, you don’t even notice the pain from the flesh that’s been ripped away because you’ve gone into shock from your left leg being ripped off your body. Dazed, the significance of the blood spurting from your dangling femoral artery vaguely registers, but you can’t do anything about it.
If you can imagine this, you can imagine something of what I went through in the fall of 1993. Except it wasn’t a freak accident. It was a rape. I was sixteen.
The sudden shattering, the asphalt-chewed flesh, the eighteen-wheeler-as-scalpel amputation were all on the inside.
I won’t belabor my slide into depravity. Let’s just say that I followed the all-too-familiar pattern from guilt to promiscuity. Three abortions. Three kids. Six different guys—from among scores. And nothing lubricates the engine of promiscuity like the oil of alcohol and drugs.
The guilt of rape victims—guilt we shouldn’t feel, but do—is well known. Mine went like this: It must be my fault. He’s a youth worker at my church and my best friend’s father. He wouldn’t do this unless I sent him the wrong signals.
I left home for the church retreat a vibrant high school kid and came back a catatonic zombie. My parents prodded and prayed. I think they regretted those prayers when the zombie stage gave way to the for-a-good-time-call-Sarah stage.
But they just changed their prayers. And they never gave up on me. They yelled and cried and did lots of counterproductive things—especially at first—but they never stopped praying. They had no idea what had happened. But they kept talking to me about Jesus. Until they realized that was one of the counterproductive things.
I didn’t want to hear about Jesus when one of His youth workers had raped me. Eventually, they got the message. Cursing Him took care of that.
What came out of my mouth reflected the battle on the inside. The Interstate amputee was fighting the Great Physician. But He never gave up. Not even when, in my mind, I had driven Him into the basement of my soul and chained Him to the wall. The only times I went into that basement were when I wanted to scream “why?” or tell Him He was evil for not preventing the rape or that I hated Him.
My parents learned that talking about church instead of Jesus produced a less violent reaction, but eventually that was reduced to once a year—the Christmas begging.
After twelve years, I surprised them and myself by saying I would go to the Christmas Eve service—at the same church I had attended until 1993. I was drunk.
After the service, people mobbed me with greetings. I later learned that every year my parents had recruited an army of smiling Christians to greet me should I miraculously show up. That year, they got their miracle.
Everything was fine until she walked up. My ex-best friend. The monster’s daughter.
Profanity erupted from me like lava from Krakatoa. And so did the long-held secret.
I agreed to go to counseling. My counselor helped me deal with my anger at God. She helped me understand that I had never completely rejected Jesus. I had locked Him away down deep, but I hadn’t thrown Him out of the house of my soul. Still, it took a lot of convincing—I had said some terrible things.
Eventually, I let the Great Physician start healing the amputee. Deep inside, He began to clean out the wounds that had festered for so long. Sometimes the process is almost more than I can take. Old bandages and flesh were fused together. The femoral artery had never been tied off, and my spiritual life’s blood was all but gone.
But He has started this good work in me, and I know He will finish it.
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