Everyone is afraid of something, We all have experienced loss, made mistakes, battled addictions or endured trauma. The world does not recognize our suffering because the world does not recognize sin. Darkness and light co-exist in blurred lines. Pornography is ok. Drugs are ok. It is all ok. We can’t scream out about our pain because the world doesn’t feel it, because there is too much about it. So we drown ourselves in self-indulgent behavior, self-gratification and self medicating. Anything feels better than the pain when it has nowhere to go. And even when we find Christ, we don’t stop suffering. We still suffer, but we learn how to suffer.
In Christ, our suffering means something, has a place to go, has a place to crawl and live and thrive. It has a name. It is a cross.
For an entire year I have wondered about this quote from St. Edith Stein:
She knew so intimately that she was especially chosen for the cross. She knew she would die for it. Her life was filled with suffering, losing her father at a young age, losing herself to atheism and philosophy, recognizing the risen savior in a young widow who had lost her husband to the devastation of war. She did not encounter Jesus in the joy, but in the pain and sting of death, and the resultant courage of that widow who consoled Edith over the loss of her friend, while she herself was newly suffering. It wasn’t Edith’s intellectual prowess that made her devout to Christ; it was her union to His pain. It was her understanding of love and empathy that could only come from the suffering servant. It was inside there that she discovered what she was made for. She left her Jewish family for the call of the convent. She watched her mother suffer because of her call. When she took her vows as a nun, she offered her life in atonement for the sins of the unbelieving Jewish people. And she ultimately accepted her martyrdom.
Her canonization was globally controversial as was her life. This brilliant Jewish woman who had left everything behind to accept the cross God had given her. Not many understood her, including Christians.
And I wondered how she had vowed to live for the cross, in the cross, when Christ promised us an abundant life. I couldn’t see how that was abundant or joyous. I couldn’t understand why or how she accepted her suffering and the rebuke from her own people. The woman was dead and made a saint and was still being rebuked by Jews and Catholics alike. I couldn’t and didn’t want to accept the fact that Christ calls certain people to a life like Edith’s. One that doesn’t end up in peaceful sleep but torture. And how could Edith, knowing that have come to peace with that, come to peace with the cross?
Coming face to face with my own suffering from sexual abuse, in the middle of a perfectly normal morning, in the midst of dealing with a battle of my own clothed in suffering, I pondered these questions over coffee.
I was recently invited to possibly talk about my conversion on a television show. I was going over the words in my head, where would I start? And these words came out in the midst of envisioning this interview in my head:
I was designed to suffer. I never blamed God for my sexual abuse. Never blamed God for the depression and anxiety that I suffered from as a result of it. I knew deep down from a young age that God had his hand on me, and that I was not meant to die at an early age. He stopped me from taking my own life. I now know He did this because He was preserving me for His.
The scene stopped abruptly, and I almost dropped the coffee from my hands. The tears would not stop. It made sense. Everything started to make sense. And I pulled Edith’s quote, the one that had tortured me for so long. And now, in this moment, it all made sense.
Not everyone is called in this way. Our lives and walks are so different. For so many years I have been trying to get rid of the very thing that God gave me, trying to figure out a different path. Wanting so badly not to talk about ugly things, my trauma, the suffering in my heart. I wanted to be the devotional writer, pretty neat things, happy verses. I didn’t want to be me. I was running away from the very cross God chose me for.
I will never NOT be a sexual abuse survivor. Satan will attempt to find ways to remind me of that dark place. Just like you may be an addict, or an alcoholic or have experienced trauma. These things have happened and leave marks. But inside those marks are purposes, used and fulfilled by God. He makes me talk about it. And I, today sat there with all of this thinking, If Edith’s life meant nothing to anyone else, it meant something to me. It changed me. It led me home.