There are some stories that are easier to get through if they are strongly edited. Take away some of the ugliness. Maybe sand out the rough patches and present the whole thing with a tidy bow. I’m not going to do that, this is not one of those stories. I want you to witness firsthand what a tremendous God we serve. How great is His love.
The air was thick. Syrupy. My body felt heavy but my spirit…empty. Nothing left. He had taken it.
5 weeks ago when the world changed.
I’d been out of town on business, staying in a hotel for the week. Rushing to escape the snow one day, I wasn’t paying attention to anything around me. I didn’t realize I had been followed from the parking lot. I got into my room and turned to close the door, to see a man in the doorway. They say that in moments of danger, your instinct is fight or flight. But it isn’t so simple. You could freeze. You could freeze because there is no way this is real. No way is this happening to you. Even if it’s only for a breath, a heartbeat. Freezing will cost you. Dearly. He punched me in the head. Though dazed, I fought. I fought as ribs broke and fingers snapped until I understood that I was making it worse. I tried to disappear somewhere inside myself then Matthew 10:28 came to mind: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”. At some point, I lost consciousness.
My next memory is the sound of a woman screaming for help and covering my body with her coat though I was already blanketed with snow. She wore the uniform of a hotel housekeeper. It appeared as though I was tossed down the stairs behind the hotel that led to the dumpsters. I don’t remember much. In the hospital I would be treated for the broken bones, internal damage, and a brain bleed. Nothing made sense.
5 weeks later.
I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. The world was a different place and I was a different woman. Away for work again, the air was still syrupy. I had committed to this trip months before, it seemed smart to go, at the time. At home, I was jumping at shadows. I couldn’t eat or sleep. We thought a change of scenery might help, but as I slid onto the metal examining table and stared at the ultrasound screen, I would have given anything for a familiar hand to hold. Grainy black and white snow. Meaningless shapes. Then I saw it. Tiny. But unmistakable. This little pea. I knew what that was. I’d seen them before. I could practically hear the world telling me: You’re pregnant from a brutal rape. You should be angry. Horrified! Resentful. But… in that moment? The darkest of my life? That pea was light. Hope. MY baby. And I smiled…
I wouldn’t be home for several days and I needed to tell my husband. After 2 decades and 4 children, we’d been through a lot. Nothing like this though.
He picked up on the first ring.
“Are you sitting down?” – I didn’t want to drag this out.
There was only a moment of silence. Then in a calm, reassuring voice,
“Ok?? What’s okay? What do we tell our families? Everyone knows you had a vasectomy years ago!”
“Honey. This child is a gift. This is something beautiful that’s come from someone so painful. We love babies. We can do this.”
The question of forgiveness comes up frequently. Often enough that on one particularly trying day, I wrote the following in response. I pray it will speak to someone today.
“It’s not the day. It’s the days. It’s the moments.
I am uncomfortable. A vast understatement. I sip milkshakes through a straw and take little bites of pudding that I can’t taste because it’s all I can manage. I had two back molars pulled yesterday. Teeth that shattered some months ago during a spate of uncontrollable seizures. Seizures that resulted from the head injury I sustained during the attack. I ignored the pain in my mouth until infection set in and now here I sit. All chipmunk cheeks and popping ibuprofen that isn’t touching my pain. But my toddler here is a tempest, (as toddlers tend to be), and needs a caregiver who isn’t on a controlled substance.
Being sober minded however has its disadvantages. I can’t help but think about the origin of my pain…
And I find myself in the position of needing to forgive. When I mention forgiveness, People assume that I mean the rape. That one day. That nightmarish morning into afternoon. They wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but it’s more than that.
Not the day. The days The moments.
It’s the call that will have to be made to our landlord…Again… Apologizing for not being able to make rent this month because everything we had went to fix my mouth. It’s the blood that won’t come out of the bedsheets because even after four surgeries there is internal damage that remains. It’s the loss of independence when my epilepsy requires a driver, A cook, A babysitter.
I feel angry. I ask “Why me?” I briefly think back to my life before it all.
Not the day. The days. The moments.
C.S.Lewis said that “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive”.
For me, for many, it isn’t an idea. It’s a daily reality. If you are a follower of Christ, forgiveness is more than a suggestion. It’s a command. And not just for ourselves. I forgive, for my joyful baby. All light and love. I forgive, for my older sons are growing into the good men of tomorrow. For my daughter who watches me, seeing how a woman of faith responds when in the valley. For my devoted husband who needs and deserves a helpmate who is present and whole. And I forgive for myself. For my Savior. So I may become that empty vessel, that tool in His Hands as He molds me into the woman I was born to be.
I’m not looking for pity. I don’t want praise. I write to anyone else out there who lives in this challenging place of seemingly endless forgiveness.
Recognize the blessing in disguise. Spiritual battles, of every sort, keep us on our knees. The only way battles can be won.
So today. Swollen and weary, I forgive Seventy times seven and beyond.
I forgive. The day. The days. The moments. I forgive.
“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3