In February 2014, the Lord took me through a journey that has literally changed my life. As a result, I am confident that I will never be the same.
What color is pain?
Is it black? Is it red? Or is it grey? Maybe it’s purple-ish black-brown like a bruised face? Or is it pinkish red and yellowy-brown from an iron burn on your arm? Is it hot pink like the dress you were forced to wear as you were raped over and over again? When I close my eyes and try to see it, it’s not just one color to me. Grey isn’t just one shade. The colors themselves are multiple shades of each other. Pain too, has many shades, each shade similar but different. As we do life, more and more shades of painful colors get added to the ugly, devastating shades, painted onto the very canvas of our hearts.
Valentine’s week I became ill. I couldn’t eat. I mean nothing. That just NEVER happens to me. The Lord woke me up and began to walk me through door after door of my physical and sexual abuse as a kid. He gently took my hand and showed me things that I hadn’t thought of or visited in many years. All the gut-wrenching, painful, wicked sexual acts that I was forced to do, and the exhausting, physical torture that wounded me deeper then I could ever truly understand.
At first I was confused because I’ve worked REALLY hard on all of that. My platform in ministry has been “deal with your crud.” In order to be free of sin, hurt, pain, or anger, you must look at the hurt and pain. You must honestly look at it, see it in your head, see the ones who hurt you and “deal until you heal”.
I’ve learned that true forgiveness means you release those that hurt you from the debt that you think they owe you.
No one gets to tell you how long that will take or what that process will look like for you. Dealing with your crud is hard. Brutal. But it’s the ONLY way to truly live. Jesus Christ is truth. A relationship with a Holy God demands truth. He knows your “crud.” You can’t hide your “crud” from God.
I’VE worked hard on my crud. So I couldn’t understand why Jesus would lead me through all of that horrible pain again.
A couple of nights later, I’m still sick in bed. Why is it that when the mom is sick there’s no chicken soup for her soul or sweet back rubs or at the minimum…’I’ll watch High School Musical with you again because I love you mom’! Instead, it’s as if the Ebola virus is alive and well and NO ONE wants anything to do with mom.
So, the Lord starts talking to me about Rick.
Rick and I met in our church youth group. He’s been the best friend I’ve ever had. He is the only human being that I’ve ever allowed to get close enough to see the person that I am. So when God started talking to me about Rick, I was shocked. I said, “What about Rick? He and I are GOOD. Best friends. Youth group sweethearts. Lord, You KNOW this!!! What could you possibly have to say about Rick and I?” And then just like only Jesus can do…
He said, “What about this over here?”
And the Lord showed me that there were things that I was holding back from Rick because of what had happened to me when I was a kid. I was floored. As Jesus continued to reveal all of this to my heart, I knew it was true. I WAS holding deep feelings back from Rick. Of all the people in our lives, it’s our spouse that holds our heart in the palm of their hands, (the two become one) and therefore they have the POWER to crush us in a way nothing else can.
The truth was, I didn’t want Rick to have that much power over me. I didn’t want ANY human being to have that power over me. I didn’t want to “need” him that much. I didn’t want to be vulnerable so somewhere deep down, I withheld the deepest parts from him. And here’s why. Over and over again, the reality in my life has been – people who should know better, NEVER do better. They say that they love you and then they hurt you.
To give my body to someone, I know how to do that. That was EASY. I enjoy sex. Sex has been fantastic and without being crude, ‘the mechanics’ have always been…how does Jay Jay say it…DY – NO – MITE! Even with everything that has happened in my past, I like sex. SEX was NOT the issue.
But to give my heart to someone…that is the ultimate risk of hurt and pain. Because of my past and because of what I had heard, what I had seen, and what had been done to me, I was NOT going to allow anyone to hurt me like that again. So I stayed silent.
And I had NO idea that those feelings were inside of me. I had always thought of Rick and I as good. Best friends. Complete. And we were. We ARE!!! That’s all true. It’s not like I went through my entire relationship with Rick NOT telling him that I love him or that I need him. I tell him everything. Or so I thought.
Saying what I felt, what I wanted, communicating the depth of feelings I had for Rick, was TOO RISKY for me to admit or show. I felt all of those things deeply and it scared me. So I held back and refused to communicate it in the deepest way that I knew I felt it. It was the intimacy (communication) that was out of whack. If people who know better never do better, then WHY should I give him my whole heart? Why risk it? He’s going to hurt me someday anyway.
Then God said, “Is Rick not worth your best? Am I?” And it stopped me in my tracks. I was like, “Yes. He is. Yes, YOU are.”
Then the Lord shows me the biggest revelation of all.
This has been a hard year. This has been a very hard year. I had been asking the Lord every day since August, “Lord, why is this thing so hard for me? Why? Why am I so hurt by what they did? What is it? I’ve been through WAY worse things than this. Why can’t I get past this?” And He wouldn’t tell me. And He wouldn’t tell me. And He still wouldn’t tell me. After months of asking and not getting an answer, I stopped asking. I didn’t WANT to know. If Jesus wasn’t willing to tell me, it MUST be really, really bad.
I was dehumanized for years, so much so that I didn’t even feel alive. I was numb. I was a sex slave, groomed and forced to do evil, sick things, tortured, betrayed, and beaten. ALL I ever heard was that I was bad, unlovable, unworthy, dirty, damaged, trash, and disgusting out of the mouths of people who should have known better but didn’t do better by me. I was a shell.
Then I met Jesus. He changed my life. Radically. Immediately. Completely. I absolutely KNEW He loved me. No strings. No lies. Just love. I think it’s crazy – that of all people, in my broken condition, in His goodness, Jesus revealed His truth FOREVER and sealed it in my heart. I absolutely KNEW that Jesus loved me.
Jesus showed me that when I got saved and began going to church, church became my “human” connection. No slaps. No punches. No sex. No hurt. Just kindness and love. I came in as the dirty, disgusting, unlovable, nobody- wanted girl. But at church, the Bible said, I was no better and no worse then any other human being at that place. I was finally HUMAN. It was a place where SONYA could possibly be considered worthy to be loved. Everyone at church was a sick twist that needed to be saved by Jesus. So everyone BELONGED.
So for 32 years, I’ve been sharing Jesus and serving in the church – loving people and sharing my story. I loved it. Not only was I serving in full-time ministry with my husband, Rick, my entire family was serving in the local church.
Then August 22, 2013 happens. A small group in the church made a decision. Our jobs were done and we were not to come back.
For the first time in my life, the people of God (who know who Jesus is and know the truth) – the CHURCH – said, “We don’t want you.” And this time it wasn’t just happening to me. It was my faithful husband. It was my boys who have been in the church their whole lives. Watching them hurt and knowing that there was nothing I could do was excruciating.
And Jesus showed me that all the fear, hurt, and pain from the deepest, darkest, ugliest shades of darkness was hiding there – so hidden away, that even I did not know it.
And deep in that pit of darkness, I believed that I was unworthy to be loved. And in that moment, I became unworthy, unlovable, disgusting, bad, dirty and unwanted again. God’s people said, “we don’t want you, Sonya,” and they proved it by their actions and their words. And once again, people who should’ve known better…did NOT do better and somewhere fifty shades deep, I now believed they were right!
I was deeply grieved. Sure it’s not fun to be dumped. Sure it wasn’t cool to lose jobs in this economy. But the depth of the pain that this event triggered, was way beyond the loss of a job. It gutted me like a pig. I had NO idea that I had such layers of self-loathing deep in my soul. So all these years of serving, was I trying to earn love? He made it very clear to me that I never tried to “earn” His love. What I did in regards to the church, was fill a HUMAN connection. That void was so deep in my life. I craved and searched for it. I didn’t understand that the CHURCH made me feel HUMAN. The church allowed me to be considered lovable, and therefore possibly loved by people. Which means that deep, deep down I didn’t think I deserved to be loved. The shades of all that “crud” were still in there. I wasn’t worthy. I was disgusting. I was unlovable. I was that dirty, bad girl. I was unwanted. And God’s people said so. And I believed it. And God said, “Enough.”
God loves us enough to not leave us where we are.
And then He said this. “I am a jealous God and you will NEVER get your worthiness to be loved by a HUMAN ever again! You are worthy-because I say. AND You will NEVER do church the same again. Ever. You will love and serve and forgive but you will NOT look for your ability to be loved from HUMANS again. Period.”
As a result of this LIFE CHANGING week, one of the things the Lord has told me to do is to write my story. I’ve never done this before. I’ve been sharing my testimony for over 30 years. But I’ve never written it down in detail before. So when the Lord told me to write my story, I was like, “Lord I don’t know how to do that. What do I do?” He said, “Just write what happened.” He also told me to write a blog and interview people who also have layers of dark shades of hurt and pain, and then share how Jesus healed and restored. He even gave me the title. (Which I LOVE) So that’s what I’m doing. I have no idea what will become of this. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Either way, it’s ALL His.
So I’m writing. I’m on the chapter where for the first time, I have been forced to “learn” all about oral sex. My “graduation” was a grown man holding me down and forcing his penis into my mouth while I choked and gagged. I write about all of this in detail. As I see it in my mind, relive it, write it down…I am sickened. I’m right back there seeing myself be hurt.
In order to “silence” me and keep me from telling, he would buy me gifts. Later when that didn’t work, he would use violence. This time, I would NOT stop crying. I’m sure that he was afraid that I was going to tell my mother. But because of the threats and violence he used on me, and eventually my mother, I didn’t tell. You don’t tell. You don’t talk. You stay quiet and take it. And the shades get darker and darker. And this is why communicating deep things-OUT LOUD, is difficult for me and why it’s so amazingly absurd that Jesus – who restores all…has me communicating (speaking and singing) deep things as my life ministry.
After being violated in such a brutal way the night before, he came home the next day with a gift. He was proud of himself. Angry, when I didn’t show appreciation or look him in the eye. I stood there silently – fifty shades of pain. He presented me this gift: a small electronic keyboard.
My very first musical instrument.
THAT is what I learned to play on. I wrote my first songs on it. I never thought about it like that before, but that keyboard was a “don’t tell” gift. That “gift” could have…NO…should have destroyed my heart forever.
And yet…there’s JESUS.
What man would use to take me out…JESUS has used for HIMSELF to draw me and others to His truth, love, hope, and forgiveness. That’s HIS power. His life. How deep and how wide is His love for us. He takes fifty shades of despicable sin and makes it worthy to be loved with His shades of grace.
What shade is His grace? If I had to paint the colors of His grace, I couldn’t choose. Maybe His grace is yellow like the sun that rises with new mercies every morning. Or another shade like hazel and bluish green – the color of my children’s eyes, as I look into their faces and see the hope of a life restored. Maybe His grace is blue like the sky or bright orange like a room full of your friends laughing. Or the beautiful shade of white, like Rick’s sexy smile, who loves me unconditionally by showing me that love doesn’t always have to hurt. Maybe His grace is red, the color of blood, like mine, because He too, was beaten and betrayed and hurt by people who should’ve known better but didn’t do better.
WHY Fifty Shades of Grace? Because. THAT is my story. How many shades of hurt and brokenness and betrayal did I live through? How many shades of grace did Jesus give me? Shades upon shades of grace. Jesus took it all. Why? Because, He gets it. Jesus understands what it means to be hurt because He was hurt. There is NOTHING that we go through, that Jesus hasn’t been through. He gets it. Jesus takes all my imperfect shades of hurt and pain and paints this incredibly original, beautiful picture of grace.
How many different shades of dark despair and sin do people live with?
Right now there’s a girl in Taiwan and she’ll have 60 men ravaging her today. She needs to know that there’s hope. Right now there’s a mom in Ohio, who has been to every ladies event and bible study, and is drinking herself into oblivion, because she can’t stand what she sees in the mirror. She needs to know that there’s hope. And right now, there is a man who is hurting a little girl, and the shades of sin and pain are getting darker and darker and she needs to know there’s hope. He needs to know that there is hope, too.
Jesus Christ is my hope. His love changes everything.
What color is His love? What shade would you choose? What shade is His truth? His forgiveness? His hope? His grace? There isn’t one shade. Jesus takes the dark ugly shades of sin and brokenness and paints our canvas with His shades of love, hope, forgiveness, and truth.
A canvas that’s painted by Jesus Christ in fifty shades of grace.