Last Spring, when my trauma counselor first gave me a homework assignment that included me figuring out the exact date of my sexual assault last fall, I instinctively recoiled and said, “No way!” I was in counseling to get over this terrible thing that happened to me. I didn’t want to focus on it.
But, of course, my very wise and experienced counselor knew far more than I did about how God has created by our bodies and souls, and specifically how the physiological and emotional responses to trauma often intermix and follow certain patterns. For example, many trauma survivors experience increasing distress around anniversary dates and other exposures to specific numbers tied to the traumatic event.
For me, this first happened when I was flying home from a family wedding last Spring. Unbeknownst to me consciously, my airline routing took me on the exact flight numbers at the exact times through the exact airports where my sexual assault occurred. I really had no idea! But boy, was I revving emotionally. Once I made it home and talked through it all with my counselor, it made perfect sense. And I was, of course, suddenly far more interested in doing the homework of figuring out my exact anniversary date.
I know it it now and it’s actually coming up soon, so I am beginning to reclaim my voice and disempower the date thing by saying it out loud to people I trust.
I first said the date to my husband. And then I told my sister. And then (even though it felt like cold water cutting through my chest), last week I said the date out loud to my best friend, Samara. (And neither of us disappeared in a poof of smoke! So that was great.) Then I could mention the date to another close friend, and then another.
And before I knew it, each time became less and less important—less and less dramatic. In fact, it’s SO less dramatic that I’m going to tell all of you it right now too: One year ago, on November 16, a stranger hurt me in one of my connecting airports when I was flying home from serving at a women’s event.
I would never have chosen to have this suffering be a part of my life story, but somehow, in God’s perfect providence, it is.
Thankfully, I’m getting lots of help with the aftereffects in my life.
My real friends have responded with faithful love, patience, and so much compassion, encouragement, and care that I can hardly describe it.
But mostly, the Lord Himself, through His Word, has assured me over and over again of his faithfulness and care, his omnipotence and goodness, his immanence even as he is transcendent. God provides me everything I need for life and godliness through the Lord Jesus Christ.
So today I am a recovering adult violent crime trauma survivor. I have a long way to go, but I am definitely getting help, and thus, I am grateful.
In a freaky scheduling thing, however, I am also chuckling just a little bit because it just so “happens” that my poor, degenerating knees are going in for their seventh knee surgery on that exact November 16 date. And, just a few hours ago today, I found out that I have to return to the Billings hospital for additional testing because my multi-surgery’d eyes are now apparently Glaucoma Suspect.
I know many, many people are facing far worse suffering in life. So I hesitate to even mention it. But the truth is, ever since I was a little child and I started my eye surgeries (that went all the way through college), I always had this sinking suspicion that one day I would be blind. Oh! How I hope that does not happen. But oh, how discouraging it was to see all of the bright red markers around my optic nerve when they should have been a nice calm green, or maybe a few concerning yellow. But no. Red red red. And so off I go to the hospital for some sort of testing that involves electrodes measuring damage-sensitive neural pathways. We shall see what this new medical challenge brings.
In the interim, let me leave you with the good news of Ephesians 5–one of the first extended passages of Scripture I memorized as a new Christian 30+ years ago. It is rich with so much content, but I will highlight just one little excerpt that has comforted me today (far, far more than the foolish reading of medical articles late at night online!):
“But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is … giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (from Ephesians 5:13-21)
Tonight, I am facing my anniversary date, my upcoming surgery (on the anniversary date), and my Glaucoma Suspect diagnosis by bringing them all out and into the visible light of the Lord.
He reigns. He loves. Not a stray hair falls. My life is in his hands and so I really do give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the nae of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks for praying for me. Thanks for sending cards and checking in and just letting me know that I am not alone.
I am grateful for you!
With much love from Queen-Gimps-A-Lot—