April 26, 1990 started out as any other typical spring day. It was a beautiful day, and I attended school just like any other Thursday. That evening, I was playing in the band for a game, so when I talked to a longtime family friend and “big brother,” I told him all about it. I’d known this guy for my whole life, and I was flattered that day that he had called to see how I was doing. It never crossed my mind that I should be afraid or hesitant. I shared with him my plans, along with the fact that I’d be leaving the game at halftime for a previous commitment. I even invited him to come hear us play. Then I hung up the phone, and he never entered my mind again.
Later that night, as halftime ended, I packed up my trumpet and placed it in the band room and walked out to my car. I was surprised when I saw J standing there. He apologized for missing the band, and we had some small talk. I told him I needed to get going and turned to unlock my car door. When I turned back around to say goodbye, he grabbed me and kissed me. I laughed, not because it was funny, but because I was shocked. And then he said “I’m not joking Holly” as he pushed me into the front of my car and proceeded to rape me.
I remember during the event thinking, ‘Surely someone will hear me screaming and come help.’ But no one came. And when he was finally finished, he got up and drove away, leaving me broken in that parking lot. Even as I began to pull my clothes on, I was already starting to believe two things: 1) I can NEVER tell anyone about this. No one would believe such a ‘good guy’ would do this. They’ll think I asked for it or caused it somehow. And 2) If God were so good, why didn’t He stop this from happening?
It took many years before I’d confront those questions. I thought leaving home would give me a fresh start and I’d be ok. But I was wrong. The flashbacks and nightmares haunted me. A year after the rape, I surrendered to Christ, and I thought that He’d automatically take away the fears, resentment, bitterness, and shame within me. But I was wrong. I married, then became a mother, had a great career, and with every new thing, I thought that I’d finally get over this burden I was carrying. But it just lingered.
Many years after the rape, I found myself depressed, suicidal, hopeless, and utterly dejected. It was then that I heard a lady give her testimony of how the Lord had healed her from her sexual assault. She shared that it was through forgiveness that she found wholeness again, and I said to myself, “That is impossible.” Oh, but the Word of God tells us that, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).
I began a journey of learning what it meant to truly forgive. I mistakenly had thought that forgiveness meant I was saying he wasn’t wrong or didn’t deserve justice. I learned that forgiveness is more than just something we say once and move on. Most importantly, I learned that I was in need of forgiveness in my life FAR MORE than I’d ever be asked to give it away, and yet God did it anyway. Jesus didn’t need me to ask for forgiveness before He made the sacrifice; it was obedience to the Father that drew Him to the cross. I didn’t need for J to ask forgiveness to offer it either. It was my obedience to “forgive as I have forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). If I wanted to be like Jesus, and I truly did, I had to act like Him. And that meant offering a free gift of forgiveness that was not earned in any way.
And so each day, I started to pray, “God, today I choose to live a life of forgiveness.” Some days it felt easier than others, and some days, the pain was great and it felt forced, but I still prayed that prayer. And little by little, the walls began to fall down. The shame began to dissipate. The fear was crushed. The joy returned. The depression fled. The life flowed back into my heart.
I was free. I was whole. I was redeemed.
It’s been 29 years this month, and I can tell you without any hesitation that I carry no resentment or bitterness toward that man. He has no dominion over me because the Lord has redeemed every bit of that. He was a part of a horrific 30 minutes of my life; the Lord is sovereign over ALL of it.
If you are wondering if healing is possible, let me assure you that yes, it is. I’m living proof of His healing power and Grace. Praise be to God.
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