One moment of courage can change the trajectory of your entire life. For me, that moment was when I walked through the scary office doors to my very first counseling appointment. If you read my previous blog, you know that it only took two months after first signing up and then canceling my counseling appointment for me to finally gain the courage to do the unthinkable, go to counseling.
In the Christian world, at least the Christian world I grew up in if you went counseling you were crazy. I mean that literally. I understood counseling was made available for people who were mentally not there. People who were borderline suicidal, somewhat crazy, or all-around crazy. I confidently placed myself in the “somewhat crazy” category since I did not fully want to be in counseling but was crazy enough to do it. Now I see how delusional I was to even think counseling was for the crazy. How the tables turned.
I’ve started and stopped counseling a total of three times. The first time was during my freshman year in college. That was the first time I said out loud the awful terrible that had happened. It didn’t come instantly. It took several counseling sessions for me to finally admit to my very patient counselor why I really was in her office. I had walls. Big walls. Hard ones that I refused to have anyone dare to break. Before each counseling session, my counselor prayed and after each counseling session, she prayed again. Every word in her prayer tormented me until I finally broke down and was honest. Completely honest about how that one night changed and wrecked who I saw in the mirror, who I believed I was and the fervid hate I had towards men. I thought I was a monster. A monster for allowing the assault to happen. A monster because I brought it on to myself. A monster for being dumb to think I could trust anyone. And a monster because I held scars that made me see an ugly reflection looking back at me each time I glanced at the mirror. I was a monster that was living a very fake life and in desperate need of counseling.
Counseling was messy. My resistant and impenetrable heart softened after each session that the impossible became evidently possible right before my eyes. I was healing. Every session entailed gut-wrenching, painful, agonizing ugly crying moments of truth. Things I didn’t even realize that were a part of what had shaped my thinking were brought to light which explained the why behind the what. Inadvertently, despite my view of counseling and stubborn heart, I realized, counseling helped. The big challenge after months of counseling was to tell my parents. And just that I did. I asked my brother and sister-in-law to drive me home to Houston. Once there, in my parent’s bedroom, I opened up without shame and revealed what I thought I would never be able to do.
After I word vomited I waited in what felt like eternal silence. I had prepared for the unthinkable. A part of me still believed that no one would believe me. For crying out loud, the lead Pastor told me that so if he said it, it must be true, right? The look on my parent’s faces was not one of unbelief. Rather I saw instantaneous regret and shame. Not in me, rather in their efforts to keep me safe. I remember clear as day that night in their bedroom as they held me weeping and in agony and for a split second I saw myself. The agony I had secretly held to myself for years prior. I knew I had to reassure them it was not their fault and will never be their fault. I knew they had a journey for themselves to take to heal. But that’s their story to tell. I love my mom and dad both. I love them wholeheartedly and have loved them even deeper as we bonded over a tragedy. God always somehow makes good out of evil and that good healed my broken heart.
After telling my parents, my siblings were next. It was hard. They were and are my best friends. Like my parents, I saw the regret and shame they inflicted on themselves. For not protecting me I presume. For lack of foresight maybe. Or maybe from seeing their baby sister wounded by people they trusted and even confided in. But I was no longer wounded. Eventually, they began to see that, but like my parents, they needed time for themselves to heal and walk their own journey. I loved my brothers, but my love and bond for them deepened that day. Again, God always somehow makes good out of evil and that good healed my broken heart.
I went to counseling a couple months after my first breakthrough and then summertime came which led me overseas in Egypt for a lengthy internship. I didn’t sign back up for counseling again until Jarrod (my husband) came into my life. I was treading new waters with now having to reveal the depths of my heart to someone I was beginning to love. Jarrod, in his patience, did not rush or question me. He was patient with me when I asked him to not hold my hands. He was patient with me when I asked him not to kiss me. He was patient with me when I didn’t want to hug or be embraced. And then one day, in his patience, Jarrod loving advised me to go to counseling. He knew I was wrestling and that I needed someone to talk to. He knew that those walls I had up were stemmed from deep wounds that started the beginning stages of healing but weren’t quite there yet. So again, I signed up for counseling. Another messy process. How do I love a man? How do I trust he won’t hurt me? How do I trust he won’t use my body for his needs and take advantage of my innocence? After months of counseling sessions, I took the brave step and opened up to Jarrod who patiently gave me time. The time I needed to be comfortable enough to be vulnerable.
He never once judged. Rather, Jarrod looked me dead in the face eyes locked into mine glossy from compassionate hurt. After my word vomit, he gently said “I love you, Vashti. Everything about you. I see you. Nothing but you. The pure heart that first attracted me to you and the pure heart that’s before me now. We will get through this.” And we have. I’ve never felt more safe and protected. I guess his 6’7″ built body has something to do with it, but in all honestly, Jarrod is exactly who I needed.
My last counseling session was months leading up to marriage. The sex bed petrified me. As much as I thoroughly trusted Jarrod, the tinge of fear always resurrected when the nightmares aired their ugly face. All the what if’s resurfaced and again, with time, a very patient soon-to-be husband and counselor we made it to the wedding day. The absolute best day of my life. A day I probably would have run away from had it not been for the God moments perfectly orchestrated and my choice to respond to those divine encounters.
The cross was my answer and still is. Every part of healing pointed back to the blood-shed on the cross. Transgressions of all nature are paid by a perfect man for imperfect people. Every counseling session brought out a new understanding of forgiveness. It brought out a new revelation of God’s redemptive work. It brought out a new understanding of my wrecked heart that desperately craved healing and wholeness. A price I was willing to take for the sake of my wellbeing and sanity.
C.S. Lewis said it well,
Forgiving does not mean excusing… it does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.
I refused to live in hate. I refused to live bitter. I refused to feel like a monster for the rest of my life. I refused to live with insecurities and poor self-esteem. And in my refusal, I had a very tough choice to make. I needed to forgive my transgressors and I needed to forgive myself for the self-hate I inflicted. There’s no excuse for the assault. In time, the consequence will come. Not by my might, rather through Christ my vindicator. What is also inexcusable is living with hate that kills. And I choose not to walk with a cloud over my head the rest of my life.
Even though I have walked one of the darkest valleys, I will fear not. Because I know who is my comfort. I know who is my healer. I know who is for me. And I know who will vindicate and justify me. I know He will do the same for you.
My journey isn’t quite over. There’s far more to the healing that has been left unsaid. In time I may share more, but I will leave you with this.
If you are or know someone that’s a victim of any type of abuse or assault, don’t shy away from speaking out. You owe it yourself and the safety of those around you to be bold. Seek help. Seek counseling and don’t be afraid of the messy healing.
If there’s a verse I would encourage you to study as you walk the tough road to healing, it’s Psalm 23. I actually had to memorize this verse around the age of 5 and haven’t forgotten it since. It’s one of my favorite Psalms and one I fall back on whenever days get tough. I challenge you to dive into all the treasures hidden in this Psalm. You won’t regret it. Healing is right before you. Jesus is waiting on you. He won’t force nor coerce you into healing. Rather, it’s your choice.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord