It’s no secret that I love the ocean. It is where I can breathe and find Him in the midst of dark, overwhelming battles that I can’t seem to win. When I can’t find Him there, I go there and beg Him to find me.
And He never fails.
Lately I have been struggling with finding the will to keep pressing in to find healing. I am battle weary. I can’t see in the dark. I don’t want to quit, but it has been hard to find the will to keep fighting right now.
I’m not really sure how many people who are invested in any way in fighting sex trafficking have given much thought to what restoration involves.
Maybe you know that the pain and chains don’t just disappear overnight, but have you really thought about how it is they do disappear? – How one finds healing in the midst of truly unfathomable brokenness?
There is SO MUCH to say about the topic of restoration. In my thoughts about this topic, one often rises to the top that I don’t perceive to be well understood in general. This is the topic of physical damage done to the body as a result of unthinkable violence. Because of my ability to dissociate from the trauma, I did not even recognize or acknowledge this damage for years. It took an overwhelming amount of pain for this issue to even rise to the forefront of my own understanding, and I was living in severe pain daily!
It is not just the heart and mind that are wrapped in chains, damaged and abused beyond recognition when a soul is for sale.
The body is damaged beyond repair too.
If you’ve read a lot of my blog, you might know that severe, chronic, physical pain is, and always has been, a huge part of my daily struggle, even though I have only been aware of it for the past two years. I can’t imagine that anyone who has been trafficked and sold for sex hasn’t endured a level of violence that has brought lasting damage to their body, even if they do not yet recognize it.
And there are no good medical answers for this. Add to that the fact that most survivors have been re-traumatized (huge understatement) by doctors repeatedly.
So, just like the spiritual healing I desperately need for my heart, mind and soul, I need a miraculous healing from God in my body.
And to this day, I have experienced not an ounce of that, that I know of……
A few weeks ago I walked along the beach at sunset, begging Him again to find me, to take hold of me and help me to overcome this darkness that is consuming me. I was begging Him, again, to heal my body. I know He is big enough. But I needed to know that He actually had a plan to bring a miraculous physical healing to me.
And now it is this physical pain that threatens to push me over the edge weekly, sometimes daily.
So I did something I have always been too afraid to do.
I asked Him for a sign – a promise that He would complete a physical healing in me.
Because I have been stuck for months, afraid and unwilling to move forward in pursuing the healing of the heart, lacking the trust that, in the end, He will work all things together and bring a complete healing – mind, soul and body.
I love our beach, but it has never been good for shelling. In all of our 15 plus years of living here, we have never once found anything other than tiny shells, or broken ones.
So when I told God that if He planned to heal me that I wanted Him to let me find a sand dollar, I was making an outrageous request.
But not as outrageous of a request as it is to ask that He heal my broken body, wrecked by years of abuse. And so I did it anyways. I reasoned that if He could heal my body, then surely he could cause a sand dollar to wash upon these shores. It was unreasonable, but then again isn’t everything we ask of God unreasonable in some way?
I remembered Gideon, scared to death to face his enemies, repeatedly asking God for outrageous confirmations of His intentions to help Gideon win the battle in front of Him. And God answered every ridiculous plea Gideon made, because He knew that Gideon was human, and that in His finite little brain, Gideon had to see something miraculous to know that God would help him. I don’t think Gideon ever doubted God could help him. But He was desperate to know whether or not God would help him.
And that is the place I have lived my whole life.
I have seen evil. And I have seen the goodness of God stand in stark contrast over and over again. And yet, with each battle, the broken-hearted little girl inside of me is desperate to know if He will actually help me, and if He will actually do it this time.
And no matter how many times He miraculously comes through for me, there is still this desperation to know whether or not He will do it again, and again – until all of these shadows of my past disappear.
So I asked Him for a sand dollar.
And that night, I did not get one.
I came home feeling sad and confused and frustrated. I knew He had no obligation whatsoever to answer my faint-hearted plea, but I was disappointed.
I went to the beach twice more, asking each time for the same miraculous sign, and each time, I came home empty-handed and sad. Or maybe angry.
The next time I went to the beach I just sat. I didn’t have the courage to keep looking.
But a fifth trip to the beach, and the night was so beautiful, I couldn’t help but just go for a walk.
I didn’t ask again. I took His silence as “no”.
So I just walked, but my eyes couldn’t help searching the shores for a sign of His promise. I refused active hope, but deep down there was still a hope that I could find my Daddy good to me. It was that same hope that must have kept me alive as a little girl, always holding out for a better reality than the one that I had.
I found an unusual patch of shells all washed up on the shore together. I sifted through them, but they were all as usual – tiny, mostly broken pieces.
I took a picture, because it was just a pile of messy broken, and somehow that spoke to me.
As we were packing to leave in the dusk, one of my little ones ran up to me, proudly proclaiming she had found a sand dollar!
My heart leapt, wondering if this could be His answer to me.
But in her excitement, she had broken it. It was smaller than a dime, and so fragile, and it had broken to pieces. As I stood there, trying to piece it together, I struggled. He knew my heart. I had told him that I didn’t care if it was tiny, and I didn’t care if I wasn’t the one in my family to find it. But He knew what I wouldn’t tell Him. The sand dollar needed to be whole – not broken.
I pondered and sadly my heart moved in the direction that it always does – in mistrust of a Father who is actually good to His children.
I decided that this would be His sign to me that He intended to leave me broken.
As I packed to go, my daughter suddenly ran up with another sand dollar. This one was still intact, but still broken. I marveled at it. What was he doing? Where was she finding these tiny little treasures?
As she led me to the spot, it was the mess of broken shells I had captured an hour before with my camera. I started scanning through the pile with her, and couldn’t find any. And yet, she found another, and another, each one a little less broken than the one before. I kept looking and couldn’t see them at all.
Suddenly, she lifted another one from the pile and said, “Look, Mommy! Look at this one. It’s perfect!”
And it was. I sat in silence all the way home. What had He just done? Why the broken ones first? Why so many? Had He really actually just answered my desperate plea?
Like Gideon holding the dry fleece standing on the dew-soaked ground, I held the tangible answer to my prayer.
As I laid them out at home, I marveled at the picture they made together.
His promise is to heal me.
In my frustration with the length of the process, I had given up on complete healing.
I figured He was going to leave me half broken, no matter how many times I willingly subjected myself to the painful work of healing this shattered heart.
He truly has done so much healing in my shattered heart over all these years.
But never once has He ever truly restored the damage done to my body.
The picture in front of me was His message, written upon my heart that night:
He is faithfully restoring me altogether – mind, heart, spirit, and body.
Today, may the words of Psalm 126 wash over each of us who need healing from His hand:
“When The Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”