By Teresa Whiting
God's Brave Women - Teresa's Story
I always hated climbing those giant steps. The ones above my second-grade kneecaps. Frank, my friendly, rumpled bus driver, gave me his warmest smile, but all kindness ended there.
The fifth-grade bully sat in his assigned seat near the front and stuck out his foot to trip me. I caught myself mid-stumble and looked up into a sea of laughing faces. But they weren’t mocking my clumsiness. They were making obscene comments and using words I didn’t understand. Slowly, the horror dawned on me. My “friend” had leaked my secret to the entire bus. She was the only person I had told about the abuse.
Gulping back tears, I made my way toward the back, searching for an empty seat. As I walked that lonely aisle I made myself a silent promise, “I will never tell anyone again!”
Thus began a six-year cycle of sexual abuse, secrecy, fear, and shame.
"As I walked that lonely aisle I made myself a silent promise, “I will never tell anyone again!” Thus began a six-year cycle of sexual abuse, secrecy, fear, and shame."
The summer before eighth grade, my parents sent me to Camp Haluwasa (an acronym for Hallelujah What A Savior). By then I’d become a promiscuous, bratty, foul-mouthed teenager. I was willing to endure daily Bible lessons, knowing I’d be able to swim, do crafts, play capture the flag and spend my free time flirting with the boys. At the end of the week, we circled up in our teepee under a moonlit sky. We lay on our sleeping bags, six giggling middle-school heads pointed toward the center, where our counselor, “Aunt Becky”, sat Indian style.
Becky told us about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. The image was familiar to me because I grew up in a house filled with crucifixes. But for the first time, I realized the God of all creation sent His son to die for me personally. He wanted a relationship with me. I didn’t understand why God would want anything to do with me, but I couldn’t refuse His invitation.
I turned my life over to Jesus that night. Looking up at the twinkling stars, visible through the hole at the top of the teepee, I stammered a simple request, “Jesus, please take over my life.” God heard. He reached down and rescued me from sin, shame, and a path of self-destruction. David’s words resonate with me, “...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…” (Psalm 40:1-3 NIV)
30 years later… I was asked to speak at our church’s annual Christmas event. I wrestled with how much of my story to tell. That’s when God began teaching me about scars.
Scar tissue is different from the rest of your skin. It’s tougher, stronger. It forms after a wound has healed. We often keep our scars out of sight, afraid to show others the ugly truth about our past. But after Jesus conquered the grave, He openly displayed His scars. He invited others to touch them. They were a symbol of victory and healing. And they bolstered the faith of His hurting friends.
"We often keep our scars out of sight, afraid to show others the ugly truth about our past. But after Jesus conquered the grave, He openly displayed His scars. He invited others to touch them. They were a symbol of victory and healing. And they bolstered the faith of His hurting friends."
Maybe it was reading about the drunkards, murderers, and prostitutes whose lives were transformed by Jesus.
Or realizing His family tree was riddled with dysfunction.
Maybe it was the result of years of ministry, knowing what goes on behind closed doors isn’t the Insta-image women project.
Or maybe it was getting to know my Savior who hung naked on a cross, bearing my shame.
Whatever the reason, God gave me the courage to tell my story. Wounds, stitches, scars, and all.
I spoke about other women just like me, whose lives were tainted with the bittersweet reality of life in a fallen world: Sarah, whose struggle with infertility resulted in anger and manipulation, but ended in laughter and arms full of God’s promise; Ruth, the destitute widow who found shelter under God’s wings; Leah whose heart cry alternated between, “Maybe this time my husband will love me…” and, “This time I will praise the LORD.” I spoke about the scandalous grace shown to Tamar and the rescue of Rahab, a faith-filled prostitute.
"The scars we bear aren’t ours to hide. They exist to point others to the God who has healed our wounds."
The scars we bear aren’t ours to hide. They exist to point others to the God who has healed our wounds. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Cor 1:3-4 NIV)
Do you have a past you’re ashamed of, or a present secret you hope no one will discover? Take a look around, Sister. You’re not alone. We’re broken people living in a broken world. All. Of. Us.
Where has God brought healing to your heart? Chances are, there is a woman in your life with a gaping wound who needs the hope only you can share. Your scars are evidence of a God who heals. Don’t keep His sweet grace to yourself.
"Are your scars recently healed and still tender? Be gentle with yourself and know that in time, they will be your places of greatest strength."
Are your scars recently healed and still tender? Be gentle with yourself and know that in time, they will be your places of greatest strength. One day, God will use them to bring hope and healing to others. Maybe sooner than you think.
It takes courage to bare our scars, but if Jesus can invite others to touch His, so can we friend. So can we.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
You are Brave!
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Teresa Whiting prefers salty over sweet; timeworn over trendy; jeans over dresses; and going barefoot on the beach. But her heart is happiest when she’s sharing God’s truth with women in ways that are engaging, relevant, and authentic. She’s passionate about helping women find their hope in Jesus, even if it means baring her scars.
She is a writer, speaker, furniture artist, and pastor’s wife. She holds a degree in Bible and Counseling from Clark’s Summit University. But her favorite titles are “Mom” and “G-ma”. She’s reluctantly entering the empty nest stage after raising five kids, including two sets of twins.