Choosing Openness

I sat quietly on the couch as the conversation between the other young adults swirled around me. She did everything right. I didn’t want to pray or read my Bible this week. Anger and hurt and confusion – all were evident in the words spoken. Perhaps it was the shock or the medication I was on, either way, I felt unable to speak. To say, “Don’t you see all the miracles God did this last week? All I have been able to do is pray and try to read Psalms.”

My life was the topic of conversation that evening, and the young adults were my friends. Since arriving in South Africa two and half months earlier, I had served with them in youth ministry and at camp. We’d attended a retreat together; I’d hosted a weekly Bible study. Now we sat together numb, hurt, and angry because less than a week earlier I had survived a home invasion involving robbery, rape and kidnapping. I was there to build relationships with them, to minister alongside them. Suddenly my life was in shambles, and all of us were trying to process what had happened.

God had been working miracles from the moment the men entered my home. I was still alive. The men were apprehended. The man who raped me died before I had to identify him. Many of my belongings were found. My story was not an international news story. As time passed the miracles continued to pile up. I was not pregnant. I did not contract HIV or a STD. I received professional counseling through a supporting church. Although the miracles were a comfort, the pain and hurt were also a reality.

And the young adults in the living room were not the only ones watching my life after the home invasion. I was acutely aware of the fact that not only was I a cross-cultural worker but I was also a pastor’s daughter. So many people. So many eyes. Because of this I decided early on that in order for God to be most glorified and in order for me to heal properly, people close to me needed to know what had happened, specifically that I had been raped.

By sharing the source of my pain, instead of hiding it, I freed myself to react emotionally in public without embarrassment. To cry in church when a Scripture verse or song lyric hit close to home. To leave an event early because I lacked emotional energy in social situations. To make wise, healthy decisions about my future. By allowing people to see my pain and hurt, I also allowed them to see God at work, to continue to see His miracles in my life. The miracles of returning overseas to serve, of being able to stay alone overnight, of living on my own again.

This journey of healing has required a delicate balance of openness and privacy, of honesty and discretion. Although I walk parts of my road of healing publicly, many more parts of the road are walked privately. For all the moments I have cried in public, there have been countless more times I have cried in private. While I covet people’s prayers, I am careful not to share too many specifics. Yes, people knew I was in counseling; no, they did not know what I discussed with my counselor. Yes, people knew I was making decisions about future plans; no, they didn’t know all the facts and emotions behind the decisions.

Living life with others intently watching hasn’t always been easy. However, as time passes, I see how God has used my decision to be open about my story to bring Himself glory. This result makes the tears, the pain and the balancing act worth it.

When have you chosen openness? When have you chosen privacy?

Photo Credit: SimplyAbbey via Compfight cc

18 Comments

  1. Charissa Steyn April 1, 2014

    Thanks for sharing this story, it’s going to bring so much healing to others! You are one brave and beautiful woman. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for you. My husband is South African – we spent the last four years living in Johannesburg and Cape Town…it’s an amazing country! Blessings on you girly!! Charissa

    1. Laura April 2, 2014

      Charissa, thank you for your encouraging words. South Africa is definitely an amazing country and will always have an extremely special place in my heart.

  2. Danielle Krouch April 2, 2014

    “This journey of healing has required a delicate balance of openness and privacy, of honesty and discretion. Although I walk parts of my road of healing publicly, many more parts of the road are walked privately.” Thank you for choosing to walk this delicate balance.

    1. Laura April 2, 2014

      Danielle, thank you for taking time to read and comment.

  3. Danielle Wheeler April 2, 2014

    You are walking that delicate balance with grace and courage.  Thank you for doing it here with us.  Thank you for allowing us into your hurt to see the hand of God so clearly at work.

  4. Laura April 2, 2014

    Danielle, thank you for providing a safe community to share my story with.

  5. Amy Young April 2, 2014

    Laura, thank you for talking about a topic many of us probably WISH we didn’t even need to consider in this line of work. I recently spoke on the scripture in 1 Corinthians that says we won’t be tempted beyond what we can bear — it doesn’t say suffer. But what we are promised is that God will not leave us and that others will help bear the suffering. I’m thankful you have found that to be true. And in small ways, thank you for trusting us to bear it with you here.

    1. Laura April 2, 2014

      Amy, along the same lines as what you said about 1 Corinthians, I found that God gives us what we need for our suffering, whatever form that may take. People who are dealing with their own trials have told me that they don’t know how I’ve dealt with what has happened to me, and I look at their lives and don’t know how they deal with their suffering. A reminder to me that God gives each of us exactly what we need for whatever He allows in our lives.

  6. Alex King April 2, 2014

    Laura, thank you so much for choosing openness and sharing your story. Praying for your continued healing and strength today.

    1. Laura April 2, 2014

      Alex, thanks for your prayers and for taking time to read my story.

  7. Carolyn April 2, 2014

    Oh Laura, thank you so much for being willing to share your pain with us, and your healing… I agree with Charissa, that your story is already bringing and will bring healing to so many other women, and your bravery in trusting God even when it hurts is so strengthening and inspiring to me.  I just have to say, here in this safe place… that you have passed through and survived what is one of my biggest and deepest fears,  one  I hardly ever admit and can’t bear to think about.  I can scarcely believe – and yet it brings my heart so much joy! – how God has brought you through, and healed you, and is still healing you and leading you forward.  By choosing to share your story, you have brought me so much courage.  Thank you!

    1. Laura April 2, 2014

      Carolyn, thank you for your encouraging words. I’m thankful my words have given you courage.

  8. morielle April 2, 2014

    Dear Laura, I’ve been trying to chose openness more these past few months — I’ve always chosen to be really private about whatever I deal with in the past, and have seen my friends feel hurt by it.  So, I think you’re totally right when you say that sharing allows others to see God at work. (You’re also right when you say sharing is hard. And you are SO right when you say it’s a balancing act: you don’t share everything, or with everyone.) But I especially love that insight of letting people see God at work. I also think sharing is an incredibly special gift to give to someone who cares about you. We long to share each others’ burdens in whatever small way we can. You’ve given those who have watched you a wonderful gift. You’ve given us a wonderful gift here. Praying with and for you.

    1. Laura April 2, 2014

      Morielle, thanks for praying. I love what you said about sharing being a gift to those who care about us. I don’t think I’ve thought about it in those terms before, but I know I consider it a gift when others share their struggles with me. Praying you will continue to find the courage and the balance in choosing openness.

  9. Ashley Felder April 3, 2014

    Blah! I wrote a long comment yesterday and it didn’t show up. Internet……I’ll try to remember what I wrote:

    First, as others have said, thank you for being open and honest. I learned in college that vulnerability breeds vulnerability. Your willingness to be vulnerable with others will inevitably give others the trust and comfort to open up about their pains. Keep it goin, sister!

    Secondly, I choose to keep private(not always willingly) the pain of others forgetting us while we’re here. I struggle with this every. single. year. When will I learn?! I don’t know how many buckets of angry tears I’ve cried over this fact…that close friends, even family don’t do simple things such as email, send a Christmas card, or Skype. We’ve been here for 4 years and I can count on one hand how many people contact us regularly. And one is in his 70s! If a 70 year-old man can write an email to encourage us, can’t others?! My dear husband has tried to encourage me, but I just can’t get past it. When we go back, they’re all wonderful with hanging out and loving on us. All the while, I want to scream in their face, “Are we only important to you when we’re  here?!?” But no, I can’t do that. So I keep it private and try to surrender it…until the next bucket of tears flow.

    Thankful for this space…besides my journal, it’s the only safe place to share about it!

    1. Laura November 5, 2014

      Ashley,

      I realise you wrote your comment months ago, but I’m just now reading this post. I too have felt the pain and anger of feeling forgotten when overseas, and even in returning to the U.S.-no phone calls, no texts or emails to say hi and welcome back. Of course, when I called they were happy to talk to me, but it hurt I had to call them. I ended up feeling alone, abandoned and forgotten. I’ve realised when I feel alone, I isolate myself more-I don’t reach out to friends, I don’t tell people my needs, which only results in a vicious negative feedback loop. I’ve found my friends and family don’t realize how much it hurts they don’t contact me unless I tell them. They’re afraid to “bother me” or “call when I’m busy”. I have to remind them and encourage them to call, and if I can’t talk, to tell them. I’ve also had to  ask a few friends to contact me if they haven’t heard from me in a while, because it might mean I’m feeling down or stressed, and them reaching o-ut can help me share what I’m going through so they can encourage me and pray for me. Keeping silent only makes me angry, at them and myself, and that anger turned inwards creates negative emotions and depression. I’ve been reading a book called “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner, which talks about this-how we often stifle expressing our needs but then it develops anger and depression, but in expressing our needs it allows others to help us, to be a blessing to us, and to carry each other’s burdens. I pray you are able to talk to some close friends and family to tell them you need their support when on the field, and perhaps give them some ideas of what might be helpful-a phone call, text, email, or card. (Such as, when you don’t contact me when I’m overseas, I feel abandoned…it would help if you could…) It’s up to them to do it, but they might not realize how lonely and abandoned you feel. In fact, they may be sad you’ve been suffering this whole time in silence when they could have been encouraging you!!!

  10. Laura April 3, 2014

    Ashley, thank you for your encouragement. And thank you for sharing your pain of not hearing from people at home. I’ve been there; some days I’m still there. (And sometimes I just bombard my friends with random emails because I miss them.) Praying your family and friends will reach out and encourage you.

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