I cannot remember what it felt like not to be broken. The sexual abuse started probably around the same time that I can recall some of my earliest memories, age four. Abuse, fear, shame, and all the other effects of trauma are what I’ve carried from those early days forward, toxicity trapped in my mind, body, and spirit.
To survive, I pushed it down until my mind repressed it. When the memories began to resurface at age 19, it tore down all I had used to previously cope. But in His infinite wisdom, God had planned for me to be in a safe place, at Franciscan University, where I would be surrounded by love, support, and resources. And that is where the shards of my brokenness began to be reassembled in the way that God wished to start restoring me. I am grateful for the people that loved and supported me through some very dark but also some of the most amazing years of initial restoration.
After graduation, I moved back to Michigan. I had gone to counseling a couple of times, had stayed involved in ministry, and began forging a career path. But despite my mental health degree, trauma and its effects were not as well-researched and discussed, and I was unprepared for how it played out in my daily life. Throughout my 20s and 30s, I was learning and growing through community, work, friendships, a couple relationships, and new life experiences. Yet I did not have effective tools to help me in my daily struggles.
I had learned on my own to be quite high functioning in my anxiety. PTSD wasn’t even on my radar, and I was emotionally inhibited from the lack of safety in my childhood. Chronic pain and migraines plagued me, but my hormonal issues were yet to be discovered. I hid panic attacks that would surface when my chronic stress would peak. On the surface, all appeared to be right as rain, but beneath, brokenness had become my way of life.
Those years also brought rich experiences and great adventures—I moved to Louisiana in 2004 and then to Texas in 2007, following the Spirit’s lead. My mom’s battle with breast cancer started while I lived in Louisiana the year after I had journeyed with my boss through it, and then came back in her bones in 2010. The joy of our Christmas day engagement was soon followed by mom beginning Hospice care. And a few weeks later, my Mom returned to the Lord.
I’ve shared on my grief story here. While the sorrow of grief brought fresh pain, it further magnified the issues that my childhood trauma had already created, as well. The wound of abandonment I first experienced as a child was sliced back open, which left me internally struggling with my mother dying right when I felt I needed her most—to plan the wedding without her that she had always been excited to experience with me (her only daughter). And who would be there to help me navigate all my newlywed ups and downs, answer my new wife questions like only Mom can? At that point, I had no idea that we would have to carry the cross of infertility.
We’ve navigated the turmoil of infertility throughout the majority of our 12 years of marriage, another deep source of suffering and grief. The wounds in my identity, especially of feeling unworthy, were exploited by the pain of another area of brokenness. By the nature of our being, we are life-givers, but I never could give life in the way I had always desired. And the reminder of this pain hasn’t been just one event or series of events within a timeframe that I’ve needed to heal from; it can at least be once every month, when I’m reminded of what my body is “supposed” to do. Since families create the fabric of our society, reminders of that are woven throughout our daily lives. And the effects of medications, hormones, and treatments amplify the excruciating emotions. It has taken a lot of prayer, therapy, time, and work to try and discover freedom with infertility, which remains a journey.
Then my dad began to seriously decline in 2018, and I served as his caretaker until he passed in March 2019. The following year, amidst the full blown 2020 pandemic, my grandmother and father-in-law passed away. The blows of grief upon grief continued to expose the unhealed areas of my heart and the distortions in my identity. Because if we believe we aren’t worthy, we’ll act like we’re not. And that was at the core of my operating system—unworthiness.
Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, if the enemy distorts our identity, he can then distort our view of God’s image and likeness. And if we don’t understand who our Creator is or who He created us to be, then how can we find our purpose—the meaning in our lives?
It is these intrinsic desires—to find a greater purpose and connection—that keep us pressing forward amidst suffering. The plot twist is that God wants to use our pain to give us purpose. Pain is only pain until we lay it down on the altar to make it an offering, and in that sacrifice, we allow our sufferings to show forth God’s glory. If we allow it, our sufferings become a place of encounter with the crucified and resurrected Lord—the Wounded Healer—who can transform our brokenness into beauty. After all, Christ carries the wounds in His Body, once broken, showing us that pain is never the end goal of suffering. No, it is a path God can use to bring redemption and restoration.
Suffering became the impetus that led me to restoration when the pain of remaining broken became greater than the pain of changing. A God of mercy, He always wants my good, and knows the best route and pace to take with healing, giving comfort and consolation in due season. And since nothing is wasted in God’s economy, that becomes the place that I pour out to other from—sharing from my brokenness so that others know that they aren’t alone and that God wants to restore them too.
“God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”2 Corinthians 1:3-5
I used to think brokenness was a source of weakness, something to hide. Now I see that what the enemy intended for evil, God is using for my good, and for the good of others. Blessed be His name.