by Sharlyn Guthrie
My father was an elementary principal. He faithfully attended church, taught Sunday school, and even preached on occasion. He provided well for our family. I always had adequate shelter, good food, and comfortable clothing. My parents paid for music lessons, allowed me to go to church camp, and at times sent me to private school.
My father molested me…not once, but continually. As I grew older I resisted and pushed him away; I was disgusted, but quite honestly it was just the way life was, so I guess I thought of it as normal. He didn’t stop trying to molest me until after I left home.
I began to see my family life as less than ideal, so as an adolescent I began to make a mental list of things I didn’t want to repeat in my own life. In some ways I was mature beyond my years. I grew into a close dependence on my Heavenly Father. In other ways I was lacking, particularly when it came to setting personal boundaries. I was also a people pleaser and a terrible communicator. Oh, I liked to talk! But I buried my feelings and hid behind my Christianity, just like my parents did.
As you might guess, I was quite vulnerable as a teenager. Discussing sex at home was taboo. My parents had rules, but the rules seemed more effective in protecting their image than protecting me. Besides, I was already ruined, and I was pretty sure it had to be my fault. Somehow, by God’s grace –and I REALLY mean that— I got through my teen years without being raped or worse, although I was victimized by other family and non-family members.
My story has had many twists and turns, but I’ll suffice it here to say that I married a “prince” of a man and I’m living happily ever after. God is so good!
Just a few of the things that have been a struggle in my life are these: feeling worthy, feeling forgiven, feeling nothing, enjoying sex with my husband (initially), facing the reality of my father’s incestuous advances, confronting my father, exposing a family legacy of lies, forgiving my father, losing my relationship with a sister, honoring a father who was less than honorable…the list goes on.
Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why? ~God
This was the question I struggled with most. One by one I worked through the other issues over months and years. Just when I would think an issue was solved, it would bare its fangs, mocking me. None of it happens over night, even with Jesus. I wouldn’t want to go through it without Him, it’s true. But healing takes time, and it’s hard!
When my father passed away seven years ago I finally felt the freedom to begin talking about this aspect of my life, partly to aid in my own healing, and partly to reach out to others dealing with similar experiences. It has helped to answer the question.
I will always wonder why I wound up with an earthly father who didn’t know how to love. But I have never once doubted the love of my Heavenly Father. Still, am I thankful?
I was fifty years old and had experienced yet another excruciatingly painful event before I was able to say, “Thank you, God, for giving me the father you did. Thank you for allowing me to feel the pain his unwanted advances inflicted. It drew me to You in ways nothing else could. It gave me empathy for the pain of others. It made me a better parent. It made me see the reality of my own sinfulness and my need for Your forgiveness. It taught me to be loving and forgiving. From dreadful deeds, you have produced beautiful fruit. You are a God to be praised!”
"I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord." Psalm 40:1-3