"But I say to you... Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." ~ Luke 6:27-28 (NRSV)
For a while now, I have made it a habit to pray for those who have hurt me. Every time a memory assaults me, I lift it up to the Lord and pray for His love, light, grace, peace, mercy, and blessings in abundance upon the individual for whom that memory calls to mind. This brings about a sense of peace, a true love for that person. I want to believe that I am healing. I know that I am far removed from those times in my life, and that the scars are slowly fading away.
Recently a Google search of my "abuser"-- the one who took my virginity and who used my naiveté, insecurities, and submissive desires for his purposes-- revealed that his actions have finally caught up with him. The man is now in jail. Not for the damage he has done to me or any other woman, but for the long laundry list of legal troubles he has wrought against others.
Seeing his "mug shot" was more than I was prepared to deal with.
A part of me is relieved by what has happened. Even now, years later and from the other side of the world, I have been afraid of this person. Nightmares, PTSD reactions to words he used or the things he liked (colors, foods, cars), and silly little things like my fear of the dark and struggles to sleep when the sun sets have have had deleterious affects upon my growth and everyday aspect of living. Would he find me? Does he keep "tabs" on me? Will he try to contact me again, asking for money as he has several times in the past? Am I safe? Now, at long last, can I rest at ease?
One part of me hurts anew. Another fraction, too, feels tremendous guilt. How could I have fallen under this man's influence? How could I allow myself to trust him? To be abused? To do nothing--but what could I do?-- about my suspicions of some of his illegal activities? Could I have done more to prevent him from hurting other people? Even now, is my tendency towards submission merely a catalyst for abuse? Sometimes the doubts assail me.
At these times, I pull away from those I love. I exist, as it were, outside of myself. Trying to make sense of it all.
Ten years ago, I was a girl with little life experience... A young soul who wanted to follow Christ where He was leading me... Against the wishes of my parents and without their blessing. I left their home and protection and became trapped inside of the cage of this cruel individual who, at times, helped me while still using me for his twisted pleasure. Am I now, on the other end of all of this, a stronger woman? Have I been freed of the chains that bind me? Or are shattered pieces of me still left behind? Am I outside of that terrifying cage or am I still inside of it?
Why did this person have to choose me to hurt? How could I have been so blind and so stupid as to have fallen into his snare? Why did I fear him--and still fear him-- so much that I remained in his grasp when I noticed that the "key" was in the lock and all I had to do was turn it? Was it really that simple? Did I choose to remain there? Or was I right to fear? After all, how could I have left the entrapment? Where could I have run to? Freedom from a cafe locked in side of a dark dungeon isn't really freedom, is it? My e-mail, my phone records, my bank records were all known to him and controlled by him. My family had cast me aside for wanting to become Catholic. Could I have relied on their protection? When they had, in some way, participated in this fall from grace? If I allowed myself to be abused, did I not deserve it? Do I not deserve it now?
How is one supposed to react to the news that one's former abuser is now in prison? How does one love when it still hurts? Sometimes I hurt so much inside. I also long for justice for this individual-- but more than for his illegal activities, how I wish that he could face justice for all of the women that he has scarred so deeply. I know that I am just one in a long string of souls who have been shattered by him. He has never acknowledged his guilt. Never asked for forgiveness. Had never made restitution. Could anything I know be used for that end?-- For myself and all of those who still suffer?
And yet, is he not also worthy of love and forgiveness? Is he in less need of the love of God? Are any of us better than him in the eyes of God? At every Eastern Divine Liturgy (Mass), the faithful cry out sincerely that we are the chiefest of sinners. How can any of us claim the moral high ground when we all fall short, in thought, in word, and in deed, in ways knowingly and in those long forgotten before the holiness of of Almighty God?
These are all questions I ask myself... Am asking myself right now as I face my past and struggle to make sense of the pain that makes me feel as shattered as broken glass fragmented into a million shards. Sometimes there are no answers in this life, only a clarity that will be seen in the world to come. So I hope and I pray for this person who haunts my deepest fears and darkest nightmares. I pray for him and his holiness... I pray that he will have the strength to put back his life back together.
Just as I have--and must continue to-- take the million pieces and, though the great grace from God, reassemble them into something beautiful, I pray that this person too will choose take his broken shards and make out of them something beautiful for Him.
~ Traditional Wife ~
P.S. Yes, the photo above is of me... Just covered with a snowflake for purposes of identity. Please keep me, and all those souls who have been victims of abuse, in your prayers.