I spent years hiding from the pain that sexual abuse and rape brought to my life. Because I didn't deal with the pain, the pain had a way of dealing with me. It manifested in extraordinarily low self-esteem and made me vulnerable to dysfunctional relationships. Eventually, as my life unraveled, I found myself working in a strip club under the control of my abusive boyfriend/pimp.
Thanks to a friend who showed me God's unconditional love until I was compelled to experience it for myself, I fell in love with Jesus. I discovered the truths that I am loved, valued, and purposed. The more they took root in my heart, the more difficult it became to live in a way that contradicted them.
Empowered by these revelations, I walked away from stripping and the abusive relationship. Still, I didn't know if there was a place in my newfound faith for all of my pain. The people at church always seemed so happy. Surely, none of them had pasts like mine, I mistakenly thought.
One day, a friend divulged that she had been sexually abused. She was looking for a confidant but I found myself frozen and stiff, terrified of the memories that surfaced as she shared. Sexual abuse had been a taunting 'giant' in my life, leaving me paralyzed with fear.
I have learned that we cannot overcome what we do not face.
Jeremiah 6:14 says it another way, 'You cannot heal a wound by saying it's not there.'
Often, our misdirected efforts to cope with pain lead us into deeper places of despair. Attempts to escape pain can create unhealthy patterns such as overeating, alcohol or drug dependency, eating disorders, self-harm, or even binging on Netflix in an attempt to avoid reality.
After listening to my friend's story, I began a journey of facing my pain and exploring the impact abuse had on the trajectory of my life.
As I confronted my pain, I identified with the story of the Israelites in 1 Samuel 17. Like me, they were faced with a taunting giant and found themselves paralyzed with fear. Through the example of David, a young shepherd whose extraordinary faith in a faithful God gave him the courage to face the giant, I gained the courage to face the giants in my life. Like David, with God on my side, I overcame them.
We must face our pain to overcome it. With God, it is possible.
My story did not end within the pain. In 2003, while pursuing a Masters in Social Welfare from UCLA, I founded Treasures, an outreach and support group for women in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking with a global impact. I have a beautiful daughter who is my life with laughter, and I'm married to an AMAZING man who supports the call of God on my life. Your story is not over! I am not saying it will be easy. I am saying it will be worth it. YOU are worth it!
Harmony Dust Grillo appears this Monday on LIFE TODAY. This is an excerpt from Scars & Stilettos by Harmony Dust. Copyright ©2018 Harmony Dust. Used by permission.