Respect Dare. I thought I was ready. Change me. Transform my marriage. God was ready for me to do it. I wasn’t as ready as I thought. But with the grace of God and some wonderful ladies we got through. That is what survivors do. We get through the hurt to the healing. The old saying, “When you are going through hell, keep on going” is not untrue. There is another side, through the hurt, through the pain, through to healing.
The Respect Dare had special challenges for me, as an abuse survivor, than perhaps my sisters who took it with me. They had challenges which I did not. I have spoken, at length, with our group leader and with Nina. At her invitation I am writing this ‘open letter’ to you. Yes you. Survivor sister.
I don’t know your story, but we share some of the same things. We are believers, children of God. We are striving to have a better marriage. We know what triggers and mine fields are. We have, to some degree, PTSD. Some of us may have spouses who are dealing with PTSD and are also survivors. This is my story, and my thoughts on The Respect Dare.
I was looking for a women’s Bible study. I am shy about being in groups of women. A blessing of a friend, Carla Anne, invited me to her Respect Dare group at a local church. I got my ebook, my journal and prayed that I could work on me to have a better marriage.
The women there were from so many places. Different stories, ages, backgrounds and believers one and all. Sisters in Christ. Praying women. Wives. Some mothers, some not. We had so much in common. Still I was afraid. What if they knew about me?
Each survivor has triggers. Topics bring back memories, sometimes they become real living recollections from the past. I won’t say which topics were the hardest for me because I don’t want you to be worried about them, or to be watching for them. I don’t want to influence you, however I am praying we can share and discuss them here on this new forum. Learn from one another, in love. Each one of us will respond to the challenges differently and we can learn from that. Leaders can as well as participants.
Leaders – watch your ladies. See where they sit, who they get strength from. The one topic day that had me quietly in tears was also the one day I sat almost directly across from our group leader. She couldn’t help but notice in the middle of giggling and story sharing I was weeping. I was being attacked by memories. I was the woman at the well, the woman to be stoned, the bleeding woman sneaking healing. In this amazing group of women who had come so far, I was falling into a pit. I was so unlike them, the Liar told me. My first instinct was to be silent, even when she lovingly asked me my thoughts.
Encouraged by the love in the room I shared some of my darkest secrets. I shared how this day’s topic was so hard for me because it made me think of when I was in survival mode. I felt dirty, how could I come clean to my marriage bed after remembering how dirty I was? I expected judgement, shock and with that loving leader and her guidance, the ladies instead wrapped me in love and acceptance.
For the first time ever I shared and shredded the darkness. If you let the Holy Spirit lead your group, when someone is ready to move further into healing, you can be with her. And the blessings will be amazing on everyone! A special request: if someone in your group opens up about their abuse be aware of their words and actions. Follow up with them after the group is over to make sure they are okay. Often we are spiritually attacked when we have shared, and we fear coming back in case our group sisters reject us.
Ladies – If you are sitting next to someone who is going through what I did, love on them. The women in my group did. Their acceptance and love washed away all the old fears I had. To speak of my scars in a church, with faith filled women, was something I feared for years. A wise leader and a very connected group eased that pain. Supported me in my tears. Showed me love. They shared their own scars. We opened the door to talk about what hurts hold us back. The lies we believe from the great liar so we have less faith, less in our marriage, less in our lives.
We shined the light and the darkness receded. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if someone is ready to share. I was worried my group mates would be shocked and the acceptance and love I got was so empowering. I was terrified to come back the next week. Would they look at me differently? Would the ladies whom I had grown to love reject me? They did not. If anything we were more open as a group, and more loving.
When a woman, or man, survives abuse we bear scars. We carry fears. Fear of judgement, rejection. Fear that our faith isn’t enough. Fear that the ugly that happened made us ugly, too ugly for the body of Christ. To be brutally honest our beloved Church has not always acted with the love she should towards her wounded children. There is a huge fear in revealing abuse because of a fear of judgement and rejection. We fear being wounded again. Praying a shield around your group and the members while you are apart is so important.
Survivors – don’t be afraid to do The Respect Dare. Be prepared to see into some dark places. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Speak to the leader or co-leader privately for them to pray with you, and for them to understand if you have a trigger during a group session. Ask if you can reach out to them during the week while doing the work. If your marriage meets the criteria for The Respect Dare, pray about it. If God puts it on your heart to do The Respect Dare, go for it. It transformed my life. It brought new vibrancy and some very honest discussions to my marriage. Being safe enough to share the deep dark scars and old wounds was so healing. Be open to God working in your heart, and in healing you. Don’t try to sugar coat what you need to say. Be respectful, of course, but don’t minimize your journey or the depth of your healing. These are God working in your life. This is part of your testimony.
I believe very deeply that our church families need to be open in talking about not just abuse but about supporting abuse survivors. If anyone wishes to connect with me, I’m sure Nina will make the connection happen. I am here for you. Praying for you. Surviving spiritual, physical, sexual and emotional abuse should never stop you from living the life God has for you.
Important note: Survivor sisters if you need additional support please reach out. Don’t try to be tough and go it alone. Reach out. Seek additional counselling if needed. Your safety and healing is so important, if you need a breather take one. If you need prayer, ask for it. Do not struggle alone.
You are not alone.