Growing up, I guess you could say I was a good kid. I had great grades, never skipped class, followed all the rules, stayed out of the way and kept to myself. I was very shy. After I graduated high school I went off to art college. At this point in my life I hadn't had a boyfriend yet and was saving my first kiss for my husband on my wedding day, a special gift only for my husband.
I settled into my artsy college life. Started to come out of my shell a little. I was exposed to a whole new world I had no idea existed outside of my tiny bubble. I became interested in what drinking was like. Like most people who start drinking, I didn't know my limits. I would drink to get drunk, very drunk and often black out.
One night I was at a little party at a friend of a friend's house. When I got there, I had this overwhelming feeling that I shouldn't be there. I ignored it. The feeling became stronger and it felt as if there were arms wrapped around me, trying to drag me out of there. My desire to get drunk was more than my desire to leave, so I stayed and drank until I silenced the urge to leave. I was served drink after drink. I blacked out. The only thing I can remember after I blacked out is how much it hurt as I was being raped. When I woke up the next morning naked from the waste down and covered in vomit, everything inside of me died. I was empty. My innocense was stolen and I blamed myself, and I blamed God for letting this happen to me. I hated God. I turned my back on him, choosing not to really believe in Him any more. After a month or two of denial and blaming myself, I finally told my mother and filed a police report. Deep down, I still blamed myself for putting myself in that position. I began to spiral further and further down. I withdrew from my friends and eventually dropped out of college. I couldn't function. A hopeless battle I was losing every day.
As some memories of times God was with me came flooding back, I recalled when I felt those arms wrapped around me the night I was raped. God was with me that night! He was trying to protect me! I chose to ignore it (ouch). I knew it was time to start dealing with and letting go of all the baggage I clung to so dearly. I had a book my mother gave me years ago when I was first going through hell, by Joyce Meyer called Beauty for Ashes. It is a book about God's healing from abuse. As I was reading, deep buried emotions came bubbling up. As old wounds were being ripped wide open and tears flowing like a river, I had a vision of a tree. This tree was diseased and rotting, but it began to split in two. As blood poured out of the ripped open tree, it washed over the stones that were piled up at the base. A new healthy tree with luscious fruit grew out of the split and rotting one.
I put the book down and dug out the art supplies I had put away for years. I had some untouched canvases that had been piling up due to my inability to create through those dark years. I began to paint the vision I saw and something inside of me began to change again. I could feel Jesus' blood washing over me as I painted. I felt like I was being washed clean from all of the pain, guilt and shame, which was the stones at the bottom of the tree. I felt like something new was growing inside of me. Forgiveness. Forgiveness for myself. After I forgave myself, I was able to start the process of forgiving others. As painful as it was to recall the times I was hurt by others, it was necessary to rip open those festering wounds and let God's healing love repair the damages.