My Father had it out for me. Not only because I was his oldest biological child but because I stood up for myself and the people I loved. I remember one car ride where my father was absolutely trashing my Mother and my older Brother. I had enough. I told him to stop. He was outraged. Not only would I not join in, his 12 year old daughter was going to tell him he was wrong. I was going to challenge the things he was saying. 

I remember these moments in the car so vividly. It was a cold, snowy, icy night. His face turned red, his voice grew even louder and he was not just scary any more, he was downright terrifying. Fearing what he might do next, I got out of the car at the first stop sign we reached.

He followed me slowly in the car. Threatening his 12 year old daughter, hurling insults and tearing me down. A man does not do this, only a monster does. 

But I didn’t get back in the car that night. I walked halfway home before my Mom came and picked me up. I was hurt, angry, disappointed and wondering why he hated me so much. Maybe I really couldn’t have my own opinions or challenge those in authority over me if this was the result?

So I did what all good daughters of abusive/absent Fathers do. I became a people pleaser with “Daddy issues” who was looking for a male companion to fulfill her need for male validation. I became a chameleon who could mold into whatever my audience wanted. I could go to church on Sunday and talk about Jesus and then sleep with my high school boyfriend or steal from my Mother the next day. I could go on a missions trip one month and the next run away from home for a week and almost not pass my 10th grade year.

The guilt, the shame. It was heavy. But it didn’t stop me from unraveling. I was destroyed by the man who was supposed to protect me.

When I was raped in Uganda, I had no idea how deeply the hurt my Father unleashed on me would hold me back in the healing process. In EMDR therapy (a therapy specifically geared toward trauma) I went in to work on addressing my PTSD symptoms that resulted from the sexual assault and ended up spending way more of my sessions trying to heal from and confront the shitty things my Father would do and say to me.

The thing is, when you are never told by a single man that you have worth and dignity, when you are raped by a man, you just believe that this further confirms what you’ve been told all along, you truly are as worthless as he made you feel. 

And no matter how many times people can tell you that you are believing lies. Your core, the most hard wired part of you, can not release the lies that have become solidified truths. 

Challenging these core lies we believe about ourselves (for whatever host of awful reasons- media, religious bigotry/legalism, abusive homes, eating disorders) this has to happen from within ourselves. We have to work to break down the lies and replace them with our own truths we have fought for and acquired on our own. 

I have never found a man, a friend, a relative, a job, a new geographical location or experience that could give me back my identity. That, that I have had to find for myself.

It is a work in progress, believe me, it is. I am still messy, I am still broken. But you know what? I’m not allowing people to tear me down for my mess or my brokenness any longer. There is power in claiming who we are and what we believe without apologizing for it. 

I have asked myself this during the last year. And I would challenge you to ask the same of yourself: What is your pain teaching you? 

I ask this to get you to focus on how your pain has informed your current reality and understanding of the world around you. Chances are, if you haven’t done this, you could be missing out on some pretty cool opportunities to see your pain redeemed and used in incredible ways.

Once I started asking myself this, I became so much less ashamed of the hurt and pain in my life. Both self inflicted and brought on by no fault of my own. I started to be able to share openly and that has opened so many doors for me to love and encourage others in ways I would have never been able to otherwise.

Asking myself what my pain has taught me has allowed me the ability to use my brokenness for God’s glory. To love and see His people as He sees them. I count this as an incredible gift and it brings me unspeakable joy.

So, friend, what is your pain teaching you today? In this season? In this life? Do not allow the perpetrator of your abuse or the institution(s) that have kept you oppressed to steal your joy in this life. It’s the only one we get. You have made it this far, you’ve already won. Now is the fun part. Use what your pain has taught you to love and bless others. You won’t regret it and you will be richly blessed, I promise you.