The Painful Joy of Using Your Voice for Freedom
I’ve been writing about learning to use our voice for God’s purposes in the world, and it’s a beautiful endeavor. Using our voice for God brings freedom.
But using our voice can also be painful, and this week no one knows it better this week than the victims of childhood sexual abuse whose names were included in the PA Grand Jury Report.
Barry and I had the deep privilege of being at the book launch for Denial, authored by my dear friend Nanette Kirsch last summer. Her book is based on a true story of the 1,000+ Victims of the PA Grand Jury Report, but while she was writing, she had to deal with her own story.
Here’s how God is using Nanette’s voice and what she’s learning about the joy and pain of speaking out. Please welcome my friend, Nanette, to the blog today.
Thirty-seven years ago I was sexually abused by a teacher at my Erie, Pa., Catholic high school. From that time until four years ago it was a secret I lived with — until God decided to redeem it.
First, he used my experience to write a book for survivors of sexual abuse. Denial is based on a true story of a close friend whose life ended tragically as a result an abusive past.
He called me to speak out about sexual abuse as spiritual warfare that attacks its victims’ ability to experience love with others and with God. During this time, I experienced first-hand that speaking truth comes at a cost. I encountered forceful and frightening spiritual attacks on my family and me.
At year’s end, God led me into respite, bringing miraculous healing to those battle wounds and offering me a time of rest.
Earlier this year, however, I knew a new season was approaching, a time to build on my strength. And I entered it knowing it would provoke new, stronger opposition. I also knew that this time it would be more personal; no more holding my past at arm’s length.
For months I contemplated sending a copy of my book to my abuser with a letter that would hold him accountable for his actions and call on him to repent, if he had not done so. I wrote the letter…and rewrote it, but did not feel God’s confirmation to send it.
Then, out of the blue, I received a text message from a friend with a link to a new “Public Disclosure List” created by the Bishop of the Erie Diocese, the first list in the nation to include laypeople. I emailed the address provided, certain God had opened this door to me. I shared my allegations, lifting the lid on the emotion and anxiety once again. And a month later, my abuser’s name was published to that list.
It was a victory — but it too came with a cost. Speaking openly, honestly and fearlessly (okay, not quite fearlessly) about my abuse brought my past back into my present. In the weeks that followed I had four extremely vivid dreams about my abuser.
Last week, I wrote about this cost and named my abuser, publicly linking his name to mine for the first time in a blog post on Medium.
Here’s what I am learning from our tender, loving, yet fierce Father. More often than not, what he asks of us in this life is to hold our tongues, to remain silent when our sinful natures want nothing more than to lash out.
But in each of our lives there will come a time when he calls on us to lift our voices, to speak truth from the mountaintops, with love, for his glory.
And when God makes that call, it feels like a wave, rushing into your soul, strong, powerful and impossible to resist:
Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would shout out.” Luke 19:40
I know for certain that God is not done with me yet. I can see a few steps in front of me, which is a mercy so I do not become overwhelmed by the hill; I am simply focused on putting one foot in front of the other. And as he does this work in me, God is growing my humility and dependence on him each day:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
My lesson to share is this: God will call on each of us to use our voices to speak his truth; but you cannot be a soldier for the Lord without encountering opposition and often getting wounded in the process. And yet, there is no greater joy in this life than to be used as an instrument to help bring his salvation to captive souls:
For if you keep silent at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Esther 4:14
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Wow, Nanette! Thank you for challenging us to share our hard stories. You are a warrior, and I am so thankful Amy opened up this space for your to speak life over each of us. We cannot stay silent.
Lyli, thank you for your kind comments. Very grateful for Amy’s hospitality in extending this space for a topic that many turn away from. I agree with you wholeheartedly that Christ’s love requires us to use or voices to bring love, healing, repentance and reconciliation to his church.
Thank you for this post. I to was sexually abused as a child by family members. I don’t like to think about it. I’m 58 years old now and as I look back over my life I realize I’m a stuffer. A stuffer of pain, hurt, rejection. I don’t usually let anyone in to see the pain. Those I have, have said…move on,get over it. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. I truly believe that the sexual abuse as a child has affected my life, my self worth and how I view myself. I am highly sensitive,and a perfectionist. I want to get it right! I feel I’ve always been a loser, never good enough. I know that the Lord loves me but I want to really truly believe it in my heart of hearts. Thank you Amy for caring. For having such a tender heart. And Nanette for having the courage to speak openly about your abuse. It will definitely be an encouragement to many
Myrna, I am so very sorry for your pain and suffering. The experience you speak to is part of the twisted evil of sexual abuse, especially when perpetrated by family, clergy and others who are supposed to be trustworthy to love and lead us.
I am so glad that your heart has received the Lord, and he will continue to minister to you. He also uses others in this work. I can tell you that in speaking of your experience, in whatever small way you can manage, you will find healing and the opportunity to bless another soul in need. I have yet to speak to a room in which no one else has walked this road. You are not alone. You are not a loser; you are a cherished daughter of the King. (Email me at [email protected] if I can help connect you with support and resources.)
I want to chime in with Nanette, Myrna. You are deeply loved!
Thank you Amy for connecting your readers to Nanette. WOW!!!! Nanette….. I admire your courage and obedience to the Lord to speak the truth. No one likes their past thrown back up into their face as it opens up the wound again. Thank you Nanette for sharing your story as I am sure you are helping others that have faced similar situations. ~Lisa~
Ditto to the first comment! May God’s angels protect you as you continue this process. May you find peace in knowing that you are helping many others. God bless you!
Thank you, Mandi! I truly appreciate your kind words and encouragement.
Lisa, thank you for the encouragement. I can hitting publish on my story was one of the more anxiety-producing moments of my life. But I know that to truly be a resource in this battle I have to find the courage that so many others already have: to share my story, to name my abuser and in doing so to chase out fear, which is the tool the enemy loves to use to keep us silent. Your kind words matter, and your compassion is what the survivors you know need to feel safe in taking that brave step to share their stories. Thank you!
You are so BRAVE! From one survivor to another, thank you for speaking your truth. May God richly bless you and please remember to put on the full armor of God before speaking! . Wendy Blight has a beautiful armor of God prayer available to download from her website.