Before I came to Hope, I was raped by a man I trusted and became pregnant and had a son. I hated that man, and I hated my son. I decided to keep the baby, and came to Hope a little over a year ago.
I was so broken, and lived my life in a shell – trying to keep people away from me so they couldn’t hurt me. I’d sit in meetings at Hope with a hood over my head and didn’t like to look at people – especially men.
Over time, I started talking to Hope’s staff and counselors. I hated God, and refused to read the Bible. I didn’t want to believe that God loved me, or really know what he had to say about my life. Through small groups and many conversations, I was challenged to read the Bible and started learning about the life of Jesus and who he really is. I started to see how much God loved me, and how he completely forgave me for everything I did. All the pain and difficulty in my life, he understood. I started talking to God about my son and had the desire to love him and deal with my rape and all the anger I had toward every man. I started to share with the Hope community and open up about my rape, my feelings about my son, and my feelings about the man who hurt me. God’s word is true! He says that if you confess, you’ll be free. When I opened up and got honest about my true feelings I started to change! At our ladies retreat last summer, God filled me with such love for my son. I couldn’t wait to get home and hug him after that retreat. And slowly, I started thinking about my rapist – I’d always wanted to kill him if I ever saw him again. I wondered what I would really do if I ever heard from him.
Then it happened. He called me. I did a lot of listening while he talked to me on the phone, and was surprised to find that my feelings of anger were not as strong. He asked to see me, and after talking to my counselors, I agreed to visit him in prison. I found myself face-to-face with the man I always said I wanted to kill. I had wanted him to hurt as much as he had hurt me. I had wanted him to die. I couldn’t explain why I stood there and no longer had those feelings. He asked me to forgive him for all he did and for how he hurt me, and I told him that I forgave him – that I’d never forget – but I forgave him. And I felt free. In that moment I felt free. I forgave him, not for his sake, but for mine. I no longer wanted to be controlled by him in my mind – to let that circumstance hold me back from enjoying life and loving my son. It was powerful, and it felt good.
If God can change me, he can change anybody. I used to look at my baby and hate him. I saw him as a product of rape. But today, my baby is my pride and joy. I love him so much, and I know that God will take care of us – God will be his father, and he truly is a gift from God.
For me forgiveness really had a lot to do with understanding and accepting God’s full and complete love for me. You know, I did a lot of things to a lot of people and if God can forgive me for everything I did, then I want to be able to extend that same forgiveness to those who wronged me. I know that God says if you confess, you’ll be forgiven for your sins, and that all my rapist has to do to be forgiven for what he did is confess and God will forgive him too.
I won’t say that I trust easily. That comes very hard for me. But I forgive. I can say his name, I don’t cry about it anymore. I can talk about the rape and what happened to me. I’ve let it go. And I’m really free. I remember, and I live with finding it difficult to trust again, but I am no longer bitter and angry and controlled by a man for what he did to me.