Radical Forgiveness

Today's post is a guest blog post by Heather Miller.*

 

 

I am 21 years old, and the first 14 years of my life were spent in a prison -- a prison of sexual abuse by my birth mother, father, older brother and several other family members.  Every day I feared for my life. Once, some cousins did report the situation to protective services, but I was too afraid to talk. My family's abuse, brainwashing, and threats left me voiceless. I had nobody to speak for me. I was desperate for a real family -- for someone to advocate for me and help me leave my birth parents.

 

Fear

 

In 2005, my grandmother suddenly passed away due to several complications from diabetes. Since my grandfather was hurting so deeply, I decided to go to church with him for support. I told myself that I would only go once. That decision marks the beginning of God recklessly pursuing my heart and setting me free. The people at the church were sincere and welcoming. The youth pastor reached out to me immediately and sensed that I was being abused.

 

At the time I was also struggling with an eating disorder and was severely under weight. The eating disorder was my attempt to stop the abuse. I thought that maybe if I was too skinny and unattractive they would stop - but the abuse became much more violent and aggressive. I knew I had to leave soon or I would not survive their attacks much longer.

 

On September 7 of 2006, when I was 14 years old, I went to the police station with my pastor, cousin, and a few church members who stood by my side through the whole ordeal. That was the hardest day of my life. I had to rehash details of the horrific things my birth parents did to me all my life; including severe sexual and physical abuse and multiple incest pregnancies which resulted in illegally forced abortions. The hardest part of that day was knowing that I had to leave my little brother behind, who was 10 years old. When the police told me they had to find a place for me to stay I thought I was going to an orphanage. I was so scared.

 

I spent about 6 hours just that day speaking with detectives and being interviewed, and I had to return for several other interviews after that day. It was an emotionally draining process. I was placed with a foster family from my church, and the detectives allowed my foster mother to be in the interview with me to hold my hand. I held my stuffed “duck” animal tightly in my hand as I cried and cried through the pain of the memories. The Department of Human Services wanted to involve my birth parents in the process but I told them if I had to go back and live with them I would kill myself - and I meant it. I had already attempted suicide several times in my young life.

 

After an incredibly long court process, on July 17 of 2007 the parental rights of my birth parents were terminated. This now made me available for adoption.

 

 

Adoption

 

For the next few years I bounced from foster home to foster home. Not many of these homes were particularly healthy situations for me. The most painful experience was when a family almost adopted me, but decided not to. But God had a plan through it all.

 

I switched high schools 5 times but still managed to excel in school and keep a very high GPA. I moved to the next town over and I started to attend a new church. It was at this church that I came into contact with a ministry for orphans & widows, “Hope for the Fatherless.” The lady who runs the ministry had adopted children herself, and became a mentor to me. When my then-foster mother decided to move to Canada, I found myself in need of a new place to live, and I asked my mentor for help. I was spending the weekend with a family from my church when I received a voicemail from someone asking me if I could go out to lunch the next day and meet their family. Just a few months prior they had returned from Vietnam after bringing home a little girl - their 5th child -  and they were interested in adopting me, too! I was scared to trust another family, and scared to hope…but I stepped out and took that step of faith. I’m blessed to say that this family adopted me 1 week before I turned 18 on April 28, 2010!

 

They knew that God was calling them to do this. They knew that it would not be easy, but that this was what God was calling them to do. Because of their faithfulness to God’s call, I have been able to grow and heal in ways I never though possible.

 

A few words about my adoption - a lot of people believe that adoption is some sort of miracle-balm that can heal a child’s emotional wounds from their past. Even I am even guilty of thinking, “If I just had a family life would be perfect.” Believe me, adoption is a blessing and I am grateful to have been adopted. However, as a result of my past abuse, I carried a lot of hurt into the adoption and relationship with my new family. I had no idea what it was like to be loved in a healthy way by parents and siblings, let alone parents who loved Jesus. As crazy as it sounds, if my parents weren't hurting me physically or sexually, then I wondered how they could love me. My view of men was also very distorted, and it took me a very long time to trust my dad. I longed for his love and affection, but I found myself pushing him away. The image of my birth father was often projected onto my new daddy and one of my (adoptive) brothers who were pursuing me and loved me deeply. I could not accept their love because I was so afraid they were going to hurt me emotionally or physically. I believe adoption is a very difficult process for everyone involved- the family and the child. Adopting an older child is even harder. It is also hard for any children that the adoptive family already has that have not experienced anything very traumatic. My younger siblings love me, but they never understood why I responded in certain ways, like running away or pushing them away emotionally. It was very hard for me to witness my siblings, especially my sister, sit on my dad's lap or give him kisses. It reminds me of what I will never have with my birth father. My heart wants to be a 4 year old child sitting on my daddy's lap, but I'm already 21 years old! That time is lost forever. There are many "firsts" with my parents that we will never have and it grieves my heart deeply. All of these things have contributed to deep pain and emotional distance with my adoptive family but I am confident that God is going to restore that as well!

 

Adoption is not easy for anyone involved, but if it something that God has willed, it will be worth it and is a great display of His unconditional love for us! My parents have loved me through some very hard trials during the last 3 years since being adopted, but I am thankful for a God who redeems, restores, and is making all things new! I have a family now, and life is far from perfect. But now, I am blessed to have people to walk alongside me.

 

 

Forgiveness

 

Prior to Urbana '12**, I was still broken, depressed, bitter and angry. I had no idea why God provided for me to go. I expected the conference to be just about missions; I did not expect to get any personal healing out of it. I thought it was a conference for only  “strong christians” and questioned whether it was right for me. However, one night I heard Chai Ling speak. She spoke about how she survived the Tiananmen Square Massacre in ’89 and escaped Beijing. She also spoke of how she had suffered from sexual abuse and had abortions - both forced and willingly. She was offering a smaller seminar as well, but I had already planned out my time and Chai Ling’s seminar was not on my list. After she spoke, however, I waited in line to get her autograph and meet her. I only had a minute with her, but was able to briefly tell her of my abuse and forced abortions and how much her message meant to me. Her response was, “I am so sorry. You are so brave and Jesus loves you. Have you experienced healing from that?” While I stood in line, two girls in front of me were talking about her seminar and how they thought it would only be about her non-profit organization, “All Girls Allowed.” They said that instead, people shared their testimonies of abuse and addiction and then offered students the opportunity to experience healing prayer. I thought it sounded cool, but didn’t know which seminar to skip out on in order to make it work. Then I found out that I could actually download seminars and listen to them later. I knew that God was guiding me to Chai Ling’s seminar and I decided to listen to the others later. I will be forever grateful for that!

 

My friend and I went to the seminar and listened to the testimonies. There was one testimony I could relate to the most - a young woman who had been sexually abused and as a result was struggling with pornography and masturbation; something she said she’d never do because of what she had been through. That was MY life right then, the exact things I was struggling with and thought would never be an issue for me! I hated sex, and I hated the porn industry because of how it contributed to my parents and family abusing me. After the testimonies, I walked up to the young woman and asked if we could pray together. My friend, the young woman, another prayer minister and I sat down to pray. During the time of prayer, the minister asked me if I had ever truly forgiven my birth parents. I dreaded that question, because I knew that I had not truly forgiven them and released them to God. When he asked, I couldn’t bring myself to forgive them yet. We continued to pray and then he asked again. Finally, I felt that God had prepared my heart to forgive. We sat there on the floor praying for almost 3 hours straight. Many tears were shed, words spoken that I never though I’d have the courage to say, and I finally released all of it – the years of abuse, my parents, my hurt -- to the Lord. For the first time ever, I finally felt free.

 

That night in worship part of a song we sang said, “No more shackles, no more chains, no more bondage I am free.” I had sung that song many times, but finally the words my lips were singing were true for me! They can be true for you, too!

 

 

Healing

 

It has now been 1 year since that life-changing day at Urbana. As I look back on this year and how my heart has changed toward my birth parents I continue to be amazed. God is at work and He is restoring the years I have lost, but also growing my heart with love and compassion for the people who hurt me most when they should have been my biggest fans. Before Urbana, I couldn’t stand the thought of my birth parents becoming Christians and me having to spend eternity in heaven with them. Why would God do that to me? Today, my heart longs for them to know the love of their Savior and for them to spend eternity with Him too. The thought of them spending life on earth without knowing Him and ultimately spending eternity in Hell no longer makes me happy. Instead it grieves my heart deeply. God has shown me that while I used to think their sin against me was worse than anything I have said or done, it is not. When Jesus died on the Cross, he took every one of our sins that should have put us there, and declared that we were free and forgiven as long as we look to Him and believe. My parents don’t deserve that grace, but I don’t deserve it any more. I have never raped someone or forced them to have an abortion, but that does not make me any more worthy of this gift of grace. We all need Jesus, and it is now my daily prayer for them to find it. This last year has not been easy, and forgiveness is something I have to offer everyday. Every morning when I wake up I surrender to Jesus and place their fate in His hands. He will bring me justice, I do not need to pursue it myself. He will make every wrong right.

 

 

*Name has been changed.

 

**Urbana is a huge student missions conference put on by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  Check out their website for details: www.urbana.org




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