Walking in the Spirit:
The tall barrel-chested stranger put his muscular arm around her neck and the other around her waist…then threw her to the ground. After ripping open her pants, he unzipped his. Moments later, he had his way. She’d never be the same.
After that unspeakable act, she feared her husband’s touch. He’d go to hold her hand and she’d flinch. Brief moments of cuddling no longer comforted her but stirred terrifying flashbacks. The thought of making love repulsed her. Like so many traumatized soldiers from the Viet Nam and Iraqi wars, and like so many adult children of highly dysfunctional families, she hid behind a wall of silence. She never wanted to talk about the rape, just as innumerable soldiers have never wanted to portray the horrors of their wars…and just as innumerable people have never wanted to open up about their emotionally damaging childhoods. Her husband was gently loving and painstakingly patient, though in a great deal of his own pain from the emotional and physical isolation.
A dear friend eventually convinced her she’d remain trapped forever in fear, hatred, and isolation unless she went for help.
Lying in my recliner with her eyes closed, we went back to the scene of the crime. She vividly saw and physically felt the rapist grab her, throwing her to the ground, as if it were actually happening again. This time, however, as she screamed out—knowing it was now safe—she allowed herself to sob. And allowed herself to keep sobbing.
Lying back in the recliner with her eyes closed once again, she felt the rapist wrap his strapping arms around her neck and waist. This time, however, she chose to fight back—and win. In her imagination, she reached back and clawed at his eye. Stunned, he loosened his grip. She yanked his arm from her waist. Slipping out of his hold, she ran as hard and as fast she could.
Face to face with me as the surrogate, she confronted the perpetrator. I sat silent. With tears streaming down her cheeks, but no longer sobbing with a heaving chest, she said what she needed to say.
Tasting her growing freedom, she decided to take the risk to hold her husband’s hand. In time, she walked her husband through the horrifying details of what had actually happened to her. In time, she buried her head in the chest of the man who deeply loved her. And, in time, she once again made passionate love with him. All without the intrusion of the stranger.
These few vignettes emerged after an enormous amount of time and hard work together. They actually reveal the major ingredients necessary for forging our new identity in Christ—forging it in and through the nonsense of our suffering. No matter the suffering.
From a previous article, you know that this dear woman and I embarked on a journey into her mind through the King David Search (KDS). She closed her eyes, prayerfully asking the Lord to search her heart that she may see…face…and then embrace the intense pain suppressed within. The KDS is that simple to do. But it is also that hard. Everything inside screams out, “I do not want to see.” All of our defenses have that singular mission: to blind us to painful truths. And all of our defenses have that most primal motive driving them: fear.
This woman exercised her courage further by using a most necessary weapon against the pain, hatred, and bitterness taking root within her. Courage…because it felt like giving control back to the rapist. Courage…because it felt like self-betrayal. Courage…because it felt weak. Courage…because it brought terror. Courage…because it was gut-wrenching. The weapon? Crying.
As noted in a previous article and a Coach’s Corner, crying is absolutely necessary to heal and gain our freedom from the damaging effects of suffering. Male…female…soldier…rape victim…adult children of wayward parents—doesn’t matter. We all need to cry to heal from suffering. It is still a scientific mystery. But we know that with every teardrop, pain is released from the mind. Permanently. The more pain we carry, the more tears we must shed. But once shed, the pain is released. This brave woman first wept, and then later cried, dozens of times.
Crying unfreezes the psyche. Her sobbing freed her mind to re-imagine the rape. She moved from helplessness to empowerment. Some think changing events like that in our imagination is stupid. After all, you really can’t change the past. Besides, all you’re doing is making stuff up when you do that, and what’s the point in that? It is true we can’t change history—but we can change our remembered history. That history is a memory. And memories are us. So changing our memories is changing us. The fact is, we do it all the time. If we’re afraid to downhill ski, we might practice successfully going downhill in our imaginations. Why? To change ourselves…to become more relaxed thinking about going down the hill so when we actually do go down, we will be, in fact, more relaxed. That’s what this rape victim did. She practiced empowering herself. She did it by picturing extricating herself from his once overpowering grasp. And she did it by saying everything she needed to say to him through me.
Finally, she took the risk to reach out to her husband. She learned to love herself and her husband once again. Oddly, or so it seemed, she learned to love even more deeply. With a daring vision rooted in Christ, she transformed pain, hatred, and bitterness into even more wisdom and character than she had before she was raped. More than before….
The Bible deals with the trifecta of human evil, suffering, and death—from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus’ mission was to defeat all three. In doing so, the apostle Paul warned us that we were not only not to regard Jesus from a human point of view, but we were not to regard ourselves from a human point of view either. In Christ, we were now new creations. Our identities were no longer tied to the past—a past where the trifecta ruled our lives…a past beginning and rooted in Adam. Instead, who we now are is to be seen through the lens of the resurrection. Not only has Jesus risen to new life, but, as our baptism symbolizes, we also have risen to new life. That new life is hidden with Jesus in the heavenlies, though we do get a taste of it here on earth. If we work hard enough and wisely enough, we can have the first fruits of our new identity now. That’s what the apostle Paul taught—and that’s exactly what this woman did.
Not only was she born with sin built into her that she had to contend with along the way, but she also had to deal with this stranger’s evil perpetrated against her. That evil damaged her—and she suffered dearly for it. In Christ, however, she chose to embrace her pain instead of running from it. Like Jesus weeping for Jerusalem and for Lazarus’ death, she mercifully wept for herself. Instead of nurturing hurt and hatred into bitterness, cynicism, and disillusionment, she chose, like the apostles James and Paul, to transform suffering into character—and then use that character to strengthen her faith.
Standing on the platform of some hard-earned mental and emotional healing, she chose to reach out to her husband. She chose to love again. In doing so, she put on the fruits of the Spirit. Instead of vengeance, she put on forgiveness. Instead of anger, she put on gentleness and warmth. Instead, of bitterness, she put on joy. Instead of hate, she put on love. With both vision and spine, she chose to keep forging her new identity by transforming the trifecta into depth of wisdom and strength of character.
Asking the Lord to help her embrace her pain; weeping in anguish; fighting off the stranger; and reaching her hand out to hold her husband’s, this woman was not only walking in the Spirit, she defined it.