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Wounds of the Past:

 

When I was six years old, my mom married my stepdad. There was something about him that I mistrusted from the very beginning.  Over time, that mistrust was validated as he began to groom me for sexual abuse.

 

I don't have concrete memories of how old I was when the abuse began.  When I was eleven years old, my stepfather violated me for the last time.  Finally, something inside helped me understand, "This is wrong!"

 

That day, I told my mother what he had done to me. My stepfather remained in our home until I told my sixth grade teacher what had happened at home. Child Protective Services was called to my school and when they talked to my mother that day, they gave her an ultimatum: “either he leaves the home or we remove your daughter from the home.” She chose me, sending my stepfather away and divorcing him shortly after.

 

During the next few years, my mom and I went to counseling and worked through a lot of issues. I was full of rage toward my stepdad and rage toward my mom for not protecting me during the years he abused me. I was depressed and sometimes contemplated suicide. As I approached my teen years, I had a very unhealthy view of self and sexuality.

 

An Invitation:
 

During my sophomore year of high school, classmates invited me to attend youth group with them at a local church. I accepted their invitation, and as I walked into the church I felt the love and acceptance offered by Jesus Christ through the smiling eyes of youth group leaders and Christian teens.

 

I continued attending youth group, every week learning more about Jesus. During the summer I went to the church high school camp, where the speaker, Mark Brewster, shared John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

 

Mark explained that God’s love is not a generic love, as though He loves you by default because you happen to exist in teh world he loves. No. God knows your name, the number of hairs on your head, and his thoughts of you outnumber the grains of sand on all the beaches in the world!

 

As I sat in that folding metal chair in a room full of high school students and leaders, my heart was captivated with the thought that the God who created the universe loved me so intensely. God the Father allowed His Son to suffer death by crucifixion to pay for my sins so that I could have a relationship with God that would last for all eternity. When I took in that truth, the only response I had was to receive God’s incredible love and commit myself to love Him and serve Him for the rest of my life.

 

There was no turning back.

 

Transformation:

 

In many ways, my life changed in an instant. I had a new-found peace and purpose in my life. I had the power to love others more deeply than I ever had before. I formed friendships that were deep and life-changing. Where I had previously struggled with depression on a regular basis, I now had a deep and abiding hope that strengthened me each day. I became a leader among my peers at youth group. And the Holy Spirit convicted me that I needed to abstain from sex until I got married someday in the future.

 

My life was being transformed, but I was still haunted by the scars of my childhood wounds. I wanted so badly to love and be loved, and I looked to satisfy that desire through a series of dysfunctional dating relationships throughout high school and college. While I did remain abstinent until my wedding day, I lacked healthy emotional and physical boundaries in my relationships.

 

During my college years, I realized that I needed to seek greater healing from my sexual abuse wounds. I began seeing a counselor and joined a support group for childhood sexual abuse called The Wounded Heart (book and workbook by Dr. Dan Allender). God used these people and resources to help me to heal to a great extent.  Healing is a life-long journey, and heart's desire is to grow to love God, others, and myself more deeply with each passing season of life.

 

Restoration and a Love Story:

 

I wrestled with the Lord over Him allowing my innocence to be taken from me and the many years of suffering which followed. In the biblical book of Joel, the Lord promises Israel that after a season of judgment for their idolatry and betrayal of Him, He would restore what was taken. I took comfort in God's promise to His people, trusting that He would also restore to me what had been robbed.  And He would give me a future and a hope.

 

During a summer conference at Cannon Beach, I met Brett and his extended family.  His brother, an acquaintance from Multnomah University, introduced me and the rest of the music team to the family and encouraged us to join them during our free time that week.  For the next two summers, I returned to Cannon Beach as part of the music team.  Brett's and my friendship grew.  During that third summer, Brett and I began to fall in love. 

 

I respected Brett as a man of God.  He was the kind of man I dreamed of marrying, but never imagined I would be worthy of someone like him.  In addition to being having many character qualities I admired and enjoyed, Brett had kept himself sexually pure all his life. We guarded our hearts and boundaries throughout our friendship and courtship. We were married in 2002.  Since that time, the Lord has blessed our marriage in many ways and has given us three children.

 

Today, I still live with the wounds of childhood sexual abuse. As I continue to heal, the scars grow more faint, but they will never disappear in this life. For the sake of my husband, my children, others I influence, and for the glory of God, I am committed to continue to heal and share my life with others. My hope is that more children will never experience abuse, that those who have been abused can begin or deepen their journey of healing as soon as possible, and that those who abuse children can be prevented from abusing again and start their own process of recovery.

 

Soli Deo gloria (To God alone be the glory),
Shannon Butcher