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?