I am a writer. Sometimes words keep me up at night in excitement, sometimes they come haltingly and I must work through it. Sometimes an entire piece will come to me, as if I am in a dream. So when I sit at a computer to write it (or every now and again, use longhand) it just flows out of me. Those are the stories I know I must tell because they surely have been sitting inside me for awhile, marinating, until they put themselves together sometimes without my consent, to be born.
Such was the case with something I wrote about on my own blog nearly a year ago. It was the story of an unhealthy, abusive, and very much Christian relationship I was in. I know those things seem incongruous but when you are studying scripture, praying and chasing for purity, what do you call it? And if it involves pushing and shoving, my head knocked against doors, and a sexual act without consent? I feel it's important to add the word "christian" to the description because it's a lie that all men who hurt women are the shady characters you see on street corners. In fact, statistically that couldn't be farther from the truth.
Yes, the words came to me and I wrote them as if I was in a trance but posting them? Publishing them? That was a whole other story. I was terrified. I am terrified. Whenever I share anything personal, it can be anxiety inducing, but this was different. First, very few people knew the whole story. I was afraid I would not be believed and that would hurt. I knew people who knew both of us–myself and the boy–would be reading. Little did I know, the readers would include people he played football with, some of his boys, so to speak.
I prayed about it. I was so scared. Even with so much fear, there was an immediacy in my heart that I did not understand, a rush. And I knew I had to post it. There was such a strong and quick response, unlike I had seen or have seen since. Those boys he played football with? They reached out to me. They were shocked but kind. They believed me. Some of those conversations were awkward but they happened. And that alone is something to praise God for.
People I had not heard from in a long time read it (I didn't even know they were readers of my blog) and they believed me too. Then women started to email me. They shared their stories. It was overwhelming to be entrusted with such intimate details of women's lives but I am so very glad they had the courage to write to me. I prayed over each one of the hundreds of emails and even texts from women I knew but who had never shared their stories of abuse with me (and in some cases anyone). I wrote them back. I wrote them back from my heart. I cried over their words. I did the best I could for them and put my heart into it.
It convicted me that something needs to be done, even if it only more dialogue. I have a long way to go with the dreams God has put on my heart in this area but they are there. I pray for these women all the time and prayer is never a small thing or last resort. I believe it is powerful. I have to believe it.
Even writing this now, I am still scared. It is a scary thing to have such a fragile part of your story out in the world where anyone can read it, where anyone can judge it. I've been judged on many other posts but I have yet to receive a negative response to this one and yet, a part of me waits for it. Things looked pretty good from the outside; why would anyone believe they were anything but? I still wake up days and want to take that post down. But I don't. Because I know I am walking faithfully by leaving it up, that by women's own words, it has helped others.
Here is the harder part for me to admit: a part of me is still afraid because I was taught to be afraid. I would never have dreamed of speaking up while it went on. Like smoke sticking to my skin, some of that residual fear is still there when I think about that time in my life. That fear is not from God and so this is one more reason I know writing it was important.
So I leave it up.
It's especially on my mind because it's almost one year since I wrote it, pressed publish, scared out of my mind, not knowing that minutes after I clicked "post," emails, Facebook messages, texts and more would be sent to me.
I believe that telling your story is important. It's so easy to say and it's even easy to believe. But when it came time to tell a difficult part of mine, it was hard. Like I said, the words came easily–maybe for the first time when it came to telling this particular story. But sharing it? That was difficult. So many incredible people met me where I was at–women and men–and a dialogue began but still it was hard to tell and it's hard to keep telling it by leaving it up. But I am glad. And I know the anxiety, those bits of panic that beg me to take it down are not from God. I know finally telling the truth honored him.
I wonder if that instinct to take it down will ever leave. A year later, I have it less and less but it still pops up, that fear which is so familiar to me because I lived it for two years.
Here is what I want to tell you: be brave with your stories because they are your stories for a reason. They have been entrusted to you. I used to have awful nightmares where I could not speak, where the bad guy would come to me slowly, so I had plenty of time to speak, but when I opened my mouth my throat ached with silent screams. If no one ever has the courage to speak up, then we can feel isolated, alone and I don't think that's God desire for us. That's why I love Cassie and Christine's Speak up for Silence series.
Numbers are great. Statistics are important. But stories...There is something powerful about saying: I am the last girl you would have ever thought this happened to but it did and it is not my shame but his. Sharing the good things is important too. And of course, everyone has to make their own decisions and set their own boundaries (and I deeply respect that). I never planned on writing about this relationship. I just couldn't ignore God's little pushes anymore so I took a breath and metaphorically jumped.
If it was possible to tie this up with a pretty bow I would tell you to be brave with your life and your mistakes. The world can surprise you with its goodness. If we keep quiet, it is as if all we have is the world's secret shame, or at least it can feel like that at times. And all those women who contacted me? They taught me something so important. That thing I was scared (for the wrong reasons) to share? It was the very thing they needed to hear. There are lots of good reasons not to share things on the internet, but fear, the kind I am describing here? It is not one of them.
I am increasingly broken hearted over the news and intellectually, I know the stories the media picks up are only a piece of a puzzle. So I try to be brave with the stories I tell because silence only wounds in this case. And maybe, just maybe, you have a story where the silence is wounding you and others too.
The first post I wrote on the subject: Dear Nina in a Prom Dress. It required some follow up after all the responses and conversations I had: About Yesterday, You are not Alone, About the Men.
Feel free to use the code: brave for 20% off any ad spot. If you'd like to talk more privately, please feel free to email me.
Thanks for having me here today, Cassie.