Since my last post, I have struggled a bit with what to write. I want to continue to tell my story and how I have survived, but I also want to move on as well. I still have parts of my story that need to be shared, but I don’t want to be defined by my assault. And quite honestly, I’m finally moving on and letting go. It’s hard to tell the story while moving forward.
I guess it is all a part of learning how to incorporate the assault into your life story. It is a defining moment, but not the end.
I’m working on some really exciting ideas for the future and I can’t wait to share them with you in the months to come!
But for now, I want to share with you a poignant day a year ago. A day where I knew God was calling me further into the furnace. That day was Palm Sunday.
I started going to a new church in Washington, DC at the beginning of 2017. I had several friends who really liked this newly planted church called Waterfront Church, so I thought that I would give it a try. I immediately loved it! I even went out and bought a new bible to take to church with me. Growing up, we never took a bible along to church. They were typically provided, or verses were printed in the program. So, this was a big deal for me. The last time I had a new bible was the one I received as a gift from my grandparents on my Confirmation day.
Have you ever been in church and you swear that the minister is preaching directly to you? I had felt that way for about 3 months since starting at Waterfront Church. I didn’t know Pastor Zack before I started attending worship, but I swear he had an inside track to my mind. Every week I resonated with the message. Not just like, ‘oh that’s nice’, but the message was in my face basically screaming at me. The message was always right on cue with where I was on my journey, especially during those waiting times for the trial and sentencing.
Of course Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week in the church. I attended that day prepared to hear the word and to pray for the upcoming week with potential sentencing.
Sentencing had been moved back to Good Friday of all days. It was originally set for February, but of course that didn’t happen. At first I was really upset that sentencing would be around the Easter holiday and on Good Friday of all days. But, then the more I thought about it, the more I liked that date for sentencing. It would indeed be a ‘Good Friday’ to get sentencing out of the way and start new again. What a great time to start the resurrection in my life.
A week before Good Friday, I received an e-mail from my attorney. I was hopeful that we would be able to sit down and go over my victim impact statement and get me ready for court and facing my rapist. Well, she had to tell me that they will probably have to extend the sentencing to another date because the judge is out of town.
Excuse me what?!
They set up the sentencing with the judge and she won’t even be here? Thanks for letting me know only a week before the date! They had to know this awhile ago. This is so far beyond unbelievable. (Wow, my chest still tightens up when I think about this. Time for some deep breathing.)
“FINE!”, I grumbled to myself. “Getting overlooked AGAIN. When will this ever stop?”
I called my attorney back and said that I wasn’t happy, but go ahead with it. Nothing I could do to stop it. She was very apologetic because she never had good news for me. She also told me that sentencing might just happen on Good Friday, so be prepared just in case.
I’m so used to being let down at this point that it doesn’t even matter. Why am I always getting the shaft?
I just went and cried…again. So frustrating.
I ended up going for a walk on the Washington, DC Mall. I did that walk a lot since October, 2014. When I needed to calm down and needed a good cry I would walk past some Smithsonian museums and sit at a park bench looking at the Capitol. Then, I would continue my walk and go to the Newseum and check out the daily headlines from each state’s newspaper. Depending upon how upset I was, I would either then go to Starbucks to get something to drink and then walk part of the mall again, or I would walk to my therapist’s office if I couldn’t calm myself down.
That day I went the route of Starbucks. I sat outside and contemplated some more while looking at the wonder that is Washington, DC. I was so upset, but it was also the first time that the thought of ‘you don’t belong here’ ever popped in my mind. I quickly pushed that thought aside because of course I belong in Washington, DC! I’m just getting my mojo back and I want to stay here a long time. (Reflecting back, this really was the beginning of the end. I was not well mentally, spiritually or physically) This thought about moving back to Minnesota would creep into my head more and more, but I didn’t want to go home a failure.
Back to Palm Sunday at Waterfront Church…
The question Pastor Zack asked that Palm Sunday was, “What should you do when God asks you to take a painful path?”
He’s speaking to me again. I better hold on tight.
Now let’s be clear, God had me on an extremely painful path for the past 2.5 years leading up to that Palm Sunday. How could I possibly be asked to take on more pain? I couldn’t take any more.
When I heard Pastor Zack ask that question, I knew right then and there that God was asking me to extend my walk on the painful path and that it was going to get even more painful.
That feeling hurt…badly.
I’m not comparing myself to Jesus & Holy Week in any way, but think about what God asked Jesus to do on Palm Sunday. He knew this week was going to hurt…badly, but Jesus went on with it anyway. Jesus cries, laments & keeps moving forward, doing it all in faith.
I took diligent notes that week at Waterfront, as I did every week, but this time I had this deep, deep heavy feeling that I had never felt before. Sentencing was potentially on Good Friday and that was going to be rough, but then what? What is Jesus going to ask me to endure?
Pastor Zack hit it home that week that God is calling some of us to walk a tough path and that our struggle matters to God. But, we have to walk the path we have been called to.
I really thought that I was going to start hyperventilating at the end of the sermon. What was going to be happening in the days, weeks and months ahead?
I sobbed…oh boy did I sob. I thought I had cried in church before, but that was at a different church that was very large. This was a small, intimate church where I knew a few people. Only two people there knew of my story. One was Pastor Zack and the other was a good friend. So, I’m trying to control my sobs after the sermon as they are playing music & praying. All the while trying to stay out of site of my friends who don’t know my struggle. I seriously fell to my knees right there. I didn’t care what anybody else thought. I was being torn apart, but yet told to fight.
Church ended and I pulled myself together, puffy face, red eyes and all. I immediately found my friend who knew about my assault and he gave me a big hug. I cried some more and he made sure that my other friends didn’t see me leaving. I wasn’t ready to share my story yet, especially after that emotional service.
After church I turned to one of the verses from the sermon that day, Philippians 4:6-7. It is a popular passage, but it really struck me differently that day and calmed me down.
Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, through prayer, and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Basically, don’t sit in your selfish anxiety. I need to hear this daily.
I listened to that sermon again yesterday. I remembered almost all of it (yeah for note taking) and I didn’t cry. I took notes again and it reaffirmed this past year. It has been a tough year. A year that I never would have imagined last Palm Sunday. But, do you know what? There is peace. The peace that God promised.
It wasn’t until the very end of the sermon that Pastor Zack reinforces that some of us are being called to walk that tough path with God. God’s power is made perfect in weakness.
When I heard that last part again, I did choke up a little bit. It’s hard not to when you know what you were asked to do and then realizing that you survived.
I’ve made it to another Palm Sunday.
I’m at peace with that part of my life.
I’m still on the painful path, but I’m better equipped. Right now the painful path is leading me through struggles with finding a new job that I am passionate about. It is rough. For someone who was so defined by her career, not having a job is extremely difficult. Is he calling me to go out on my own in a big way? Potentially.
I look forward to the walk to see what He calls me to do.
Onward down the path.
Blessings to You During Holy Week,
If you are ever in the Washington, DC area make sure to stop by Waterfront Church! It is an amazing place doing amazing things in the community! http://www.waterfrontchurchdc.com
2 thoughts on “The Painful Path”
I am also a survivor, and want you to know that I love reading your messages, actually look forward to it! Don’t stop! Stay strong and LOVE yourself!
From one survivor to another, thank you!