Most people can’t remember their childhood prior to age 4 or 5. Usually those memories are happy, innocent and tender. Not for me. My earliest childhood memories were of being sexually molested by a man I knew as my grandpa. Some of the incidents I remember quite vividly happened in the same room where my mother was 8 feet away, chatting with her mom. In my young mind, I thought this was normal and acceptable. This was how grandpas loved their granddaughters. I thought surely my mom knew and allowed it, if not condoned these activities.
When it all came to light what he had been doing, I was around 5 years old. My parents decided to do what “good Christians” do: forgive and forget. In my family that meant we never spoke of it and we pretended like nothing ever happened. We still had family gatherings and holidays with my molester. He lived a long life next door to a daycare with no consequences for his actions. So that told me that what he did was acceptable; I wasn’t worth protecting or loving; and I was a sexual object to be used and discarded. I dealt with it by burying and repressing the memories. It wasn’t until many years later when I was married that all the horrible memories came flooding back.
When I was a young teenage girl, I was very involved in church and youth group. At that time, it was trendy to wear a promise ring as a symbol of saving one’s virginity for marriage. It was a nice thought, but for many girls, that’s where it ended. A sweet notion. I wanted so badly to be an unblemished gift to my future husband. To wrap my sexuality up in a little package to be offered as my most prized possession on my wedding night. Isn’t that still objectifying?! My value was still wrapped up in what I could offer in the bedroom.
Alas, it seemed the only girls I knew that were virgins on their wedding days were getting married straight out of high school. I never had a boyfriend or anyone remotely interested in me during those awkward years, so I was a lost cause. I was the dud. Undesirable and worthless. Or at least that’s what I thought.
Two weeks after high school graduation, I moved out of my parents’ home. When I was 18 I found new friends outside of the strict church bubble I’d grown up in. Those girls took pity on my naiveté and made me their “project.” How cute and archaic of me to still be a virgin. No one did that anymore! They laughed and informed me that no guy in this day and age was going to wait for sex until marriage. That’s just silly and unrealistic! It would be unfair of me to expect a man to contain his sexual desires. So, I learned how to flirt, manipulate and use my sexual prowess (apparently I had some of that) to my advantage.
Guys finally gave attention to me. They scrambled to be around me, pursued me. I was wanted, desired and attractive. And I was completely objectified. Somewhere in my deep subconscious, I was acting on the thing I’d been taught as a toddler: I’m only good for one thing. As a result, I did things I’m not proud of. I made serious mistakes and chose the worst possible partners: abusers, cheaters, womanizers, etc. That’s the kind of man that is attracted to the type of girl I’d become.
Flash forward through all the ugliness and a couple of unhealthy, abusive marriages that produced 2 children. I left my last husband (that’s a whole other story) and realized maybe I’d been putting the cart before the horse. I worked on myself and started to actually lean on God for love, comfort and healing. Initially, the thought of so much as going to dinner with a guy made me physically ill. No way would I ever remarry!! I thought I would be like the Apostle Paul: single and celibate for the rest of my life.
God showed me over time that He loves me for who He created me to be: His child. Not for anything I could do or “put out.” He loves me not because I’ve earned it or performed my way to a lovable level. He loves me simply because He IS love. Slowly and patiently He has worked a miracle in my heart and soul! He has given me a new identity.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says “You are a new creation in Christ. All old things have passed away. Behold the new!” That verse has taken on very real personal meaning for me. The old me and mistakes I made are so far removed from who I am today. I write and share my story with emotionless detachment. Not because my tear ducts are underactive. Hey, it’s a legit medical condition! It’s because I don’t relate to the old me at all! It’s more like I saw this story on Lifetime once, not that I lived it.
Don’t worry, I’m not in denial. In fact, it was working through the Celebrate Recovery 12 Step Program that caused me to search myself and make the connection between my early childhood abuse and my previous poor choices in men.
Isaiah 61:3 is my life story in a nutshell: “To all who mourn in Israel He will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory.” I am not anything like who I was. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. I am not damaged goods. I am a daughter of the Most High King. I am not weak. I am strong. I am not unworthy. I am a jewel to be cherished.
In my past life, I used the analogy in regards to sex and marriage, “I can’t buy a car without test driving it first!” As if the primary purpose for marriage was sex. I had such a warped, sick sense of love, relationship and sex because of the abuse I endured. I truly thought sex comprised 90% of the relationship. The other 10% could be fixed or muddled through as long as things were good in the bedroom. However, with that mentality if the sex became disappointing or lackluster, the relationship could be in trouble. In reality, I think most healthy relationships consist of the exact opposite: sex is 10% and not the main focal point. At least that’s what I hear.
In my early 30’s with two children (which, by the way, are living proof of my non-virginity) I decided to save myself (physically and emotionally) for my future mate. He will be someone who will love me for so many more reasons beyond physical gratification. A man who will love my children as his own. A man who will respect me and not try to bully me into caving to his whim. A man who puts his relationship with God first and will encourage me to do the same. A good man who truly realizes that anything worth having is worth waiting for. And I’m worth it.