Rosanne’s Testimony

RoseanneMy name is Rosanne and I love to give my testimony, because I get to talk about Him – Jesus – The Lamb of God. My testimony can be summed up by Rev. 12:11 which states, “They overcame him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony.”When you read this, you should know that I was married once before when I was very young and when I talk about a marriage in this document, I’m talking about my first marriage – – not my current marriage.”

I have talked to many people who can’t seem to remember their early childhood. My early years are indelibly etched in my mind. In fact, I’ve asked God to let me repress the memories again like I did for about 20 years but He said, “No, I have healed your wounds, but I leave the scars so that you might be recognized by those who are still wounded. Statistics tell us that in the general population, about 45% of all women have been abused in some way. In prison, that number doubles – – 90% of the women in prison have survived some type of abuse.

Now . . . I know . . . that children should be raised in an environment of love and nurturing and they should learn to trust – – but I wasn’t raised that way.The first time I was raped I was 4 years old. That’s when fear entered my life for the first time and the first brick of my self-made prison was put in place. There were hundreds of attacks spanning more than 8 years of my young life.

I think the most devastating thing about child abuse is that the victim carries the shame. I could have been the poster child for shame and low self-esteem – bricks #2 and 3. I was seven years old the first time I tried to commit suicide. My abusers threw some horse blankets over my shoulders and they forced me to climb to the top of the silo on the farm where I grew up. I knew what was going to happen to me once I got to the top. I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but it was one of those times when your mind is saying one thing but your body is doing the opposite. I was climbing, but my mind was screaming, “No.” I was almost to the top when I decided to just let go of the ladder. I remember feeling very much at peace during the fall. There was an 8’ x 10’ concrete slab at the bottom of the ladder and I knew it would all be over soon. But, there was this little pile of silage on the concrete and that’s what I landed on. I only got the wind knocked out of me – – but at least I avoided the abuse that day.

Thoughts of death were constantly in my mind from that day forward – Brick #4. I became hypervigilant. I would watch and I would have to be aware of everything that took place in that house. If my mother started to put on her makeup, I knew she would be leaving soon and I had better figure out my hiding place. As soon as the car left the driveway, I would take off. I would run in one direction and then as soon as I was out of sight, I would change course hoping that they wouldn’t be able to figure out which direction I took. I would hide in cornfields, oat fields, the barn, the grainery, old rusted out cars out in the pasture.

Sometimes I was successful at hiding myself. Other times I was not. One time, I think I was about 8 years old, my hiding place was discovered. But, this time, instead of suicide, I decided they would have to kill me. So I turned into a wild animal. I kicked, I screamed, I bit, I scratched, I cried, I begged, I pleaded, I hit. It was no use. They were much bigger and stronger than I was. But I didn’t care. They weren’t going to do that to me again. Anger and rage took over my whole being – Bricks 5 and 6. They dragged me into the house and into the bedroom but they couldn’t get me to stop kicking and screaming. So, they put a pillow over my face until I passed out. When I woke up, I was sitting in a fetal position in the corner of the room hugging that very same pillow. Now, you can add the brick called hate to my prison wall.

After that, I started to have recurring nightmares about pillows that were so heavy I couldn’t lift them off me. The nightmares came almost every night. It was about this time that I would have to say that my spirit was broken. There was no fight left in me. My abusers could do pretty much anything to me and I didn’t respond. It was as though I could separate my mind from my body. The clinical term for this is disassociation. I was 10 the next time I attempted suicide. My family was at a lake and I decided I would swim out and just never come back. The ironic thing is that one of my abusers saved me. Saved me – – for what? Now add the brick of fatalism to the wall. I had no hope.

When I was 12, the abuse finally stopped. My abusers moved away. And I remember deciding – – I actually decided – – to repress the memories and not let them affect me. That was easier said than done.I started drinking when I was 14. I got in with a pretty wild bunch of kids. We drank every chance we got – – weeknights, weekends, it didn’t matter. We were involved in vandalism and shoplifting. I was jealous and resentful toward anybody who had nice things. Two more bricks were added to my prison wall. I remember a high speed chase from the police and a hit-and-run accident. Add rebellion to the bricks in the wall.

I had no boundaries in my life, not with what was right or wrong, not with what was good or bad, not with alcohol, not with sex, not with anything. Once, I even took the morning after pill. I don’t know if I was pregnant or not but you can add a big brick called guilt. When I was 15, I was at a party up on the bluffs overlooking Red Wing. That night, I decided I could fly. So I took off running toward the edge of the bluff. One of my drinking buddies tackled me. He brought me back to the party and gave me another beer. That’s just the way it was so you can add the alcoholism brick to the wall. My wall was getting higher and higher.

I married one of those kids from the wild bunch. And we had three children (My three children were three bright spots in my otherwise dark existence. They are three more people who know everything about me and love me anyway.) But, shortly after that my mother was killed by a drunk driver and, since my father was ill, I took over the care, custody and control (or lack of control I should say) of my three younger siblings. I was only 24 years old and with my background, I knew nothing about raising teenagers and they all ended up running away and getting into trouble. Another brick: failure.

A couple of years later, my father died. Two more bricks – – grief and sorrow. All the while, the drinking continued. I could kind of control it during the week because I had to go to work, but the weekends were blackouts. All the stressors (family, finances, alcohol, my history of abuse) were all affecting the marriage. Neither one of us knew anything about marriage or what it’s supposed to be. And that became abusive as well. I vowed I would never trust another man for the rest of my life. My walls just kept getting higher and higher. Another brick – – divorce was added. Don’t forget that I was holding all the bricks together with the mortar of depression and despair and you’ve got yourself a pretty solid prison cell.

Now, some of you may know this, but, if you’re a thirty-something female and you go to the doctor and you tell him or her that you’re depressed, you can get pretty much any pill you want – – and I had them all. I would try to take them as directed, but, of course, no pill could get to the root of my problem so I would take a few and the rest would end up in the medicine cabinet.

I was 32 (20 years from the time I decided to repress the memories) and the nightmares came back – – with a vengeance. I couldn’t handle it anymore – – The lack of sleep – the nightmares – the pain – the anguish. The load I was carrying was too heavy. I knew I could take those pills that I had stored up in the medicine cabinet and it would all be over. I could just go to sleep and never wake up. But, you see, I was raised Catholic. My dear mother had dragged me to church every Sunday. And I remembered the priests and the nuns talking about a loving Father God but I had no experience of a loving male of any kind. I remembered my catecism and I remembered that the Catholic Church teaches that suicide is a mortal sin and if you die with a mortal sin on your soul, you’d go to hell.

The thought crossed my mind – – if there is a hell – – maybe, just maybe – – could there be a heaven? A tiny crack had appeared in that prison wall. I thought, okay, maybe I’ll give God one more chance. Because you see, I had prayed when I was a little girl. I prayed that God would save me from my abusers. I prayed that He would just kill them. But He never answered those prayers. What would make me think that He would answer now? But I thought, okay, I’ll give it one more day. If nothing changed in the next 24 hours, I made up my mind that I would take the pills. So, I put the pills back in the medicine cabinet and then, I prayed – – really honestly prayed for the first time in my life. I had nothing to lose. I said, “God, if you’re there, and if you care, then you’re going to have to prove it to me because I really don’t believe in you.”

Nothing happened so I went back to bed. I was afraid of the nightmares so I was not trying to go to sleep. I just started repeating the Lord’s Prayer in my head over and over again. Anything to keep my mind occupied. Then, out of nowhere, this thought popped into my head. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. The thought was in the form of a question. It was, “What would be proof to you?” How strange, I thought. And then I started thinking about what would be proof to me? Then another thought popped into my head. I remembered that little sentence that I heard a thousand times in the Mass when my mother would drag me to church on Sundays. For those of you raised Catholic, you’ll know this. It was, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I will be healed.” That’s it, I said. Because I knew that I was not worthy. There was no question about that. So, I said, “If you can make me worthy to receive you, then I will believe.”

Suddenly, I felt like I was floating and I know my conscious mind was there and alert because I remember thinking, “Well, of course, you’re floating, you’re laying on a water bed.” But, it wasn’t like that. I was floating in the air. Then, just as suddenly, I was upright and I was walking. With each step it seemed like I was traveling 500,000 miles. I remember looking back and I could see the world. It was surrounded by these black boiling clouds with thunder and lightning and it looked very cold and foreboding. But I was heading toward a bright light that looked warm and welcoming. So, I kept going in that direction. When I got closer to the light, I was enveloped in it and when I got to the source of the light, I saw a man standing there. He was looking out across the horizon as if he was waiting for someone, expecting someone. I knew who He was. And, I thought, I can’t be here. I didn’t take the pills. How could I be here? Then, I realized that I was on holy ground and I was most certainly not holy so I looked for a rock or anything that I could hide under so He wouldn’t see me. But, there was nothing to hide under and I realized that I couldn’t stop. It was as if something like a magnet was attached to me right here in the middle and it was pulling me towards Him.

I got to within about 4 feet of Him and I finally stopped. Then His eyes fell on me and it was as if He was looking inside me, not at me. Then, my life started to pass before me kind of in the space between us and I knew He could see it too. It started from that day and went backwards, yet every incident, every event took place in forward motion. At first I was fascinated by it. I wondered who made such a complete video of my life and then I realized it was coming from inside me. I began to see the negative things in my life. I saw the depression and the pain. I saw the failed marriage. I saw my poor mother and her heart that I had broken. I saw the affairs, the partying and the drinking. I saw the vandalism and the stealing, the cheating, the lying. I saw all the people that I had hurt. And then I began to see the attempted suicides, the beatings and the abuse. And then I was 4 years old again and I saw where it all started. Then, I heard a sound. It started out small at first but it kept growing and growing until I had to cover my ears. It was the most blood curdling scream I had ever heard and then I realized where the scream was coming from. It was coming from me. It was all the rage and the hate and the fear coming out of me. I started to cry and I looked at Him because I wanted Him to make it stop. But, He was crying too. And, I realized what I had been doing. I had been blaming Him for the abuse. That shattered little girl had prayed to Him and He hadn’t put a stop to it. But, it wasn’t His fault. He was not to blame.

I realized, looking at His tears, who was truly to blame. It was the enemy. The one who hates innocence, who hates goodness, the one who only comes to steal, kill and destroy. As soon as I realized that, He held out His hands to me and I could see the nail marks in His hands and they weren’t healed. I don’t know why but I guess I thought they would be healed after all this time but they weren’t. And He was saying, “I did this for you.” But, I said, “Why, I’m not worth it.” Then this look came across His face as if I had slapped Him or something. I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.” “You don’t understand.” He said. “Because I did it, that’s what makes you worthy.” Then I realized that I had it all backwards. There was nothing, absolutely nothing I could do to be worthy. The only thing that could make me worthy was Him and Him crucified. And I realized in that instant that if I had been the only person in the whole entire world to accept Him, He still would have done it.

Then it was as if blinders fell off my eyes and He let me see myself. He let me see what He could see when He looked inside me. He let me see what my sins had done to my soul. I looked and I could see these horrible things attached to my body. They were everywhere, hundreds of them. Some were scabbed over and black and dried up like pieces of coal. Some were oozing greenish-yellowish puss. And some were bright red as if they had just erupted. I was disgusting. I tried to get them off me but I couldn’t. They were part of me. It was these ugly things that drove Him to do what He did – – and I was so sorry. I was so sorry. I truly repented for the first time in my life. Once He sensed my repentance, He just raised His right hand ever so slightly and I was out. I have read about being slain in the spirit and I think that is what happened to me.

The next thing I knew I was floating above my body. I could see myself laying on an alter. I don’t know how I got there, except He must have carried me. And, He was standing alongside the alter and I could see Him pass His hand over me like this. At first I was confused. I didn’t know what He was doing. Then, I understood, my soul finally knew its worth. I understood the depth of His love. I understood that He was abused too but He didn’t fight back. When they came for Him, He didn’t hide. When they beat Him, He didn’t try to run. When they spat on Him and put the crown of thorns on His head, He didn’t call them names. When they hung Him on the cross, He didn’t strike them dead with lightning. Instead, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

So, who was I to withhold forgiveness? Suddenly, my abusers were not my abusers anymore. They were my brothers and I realized that they had been abused too. Not only were they forgiven but I wanted them to find this same love that I had found. I understood what I had done with all those bricks in my life- the shame, the hate, the fear, the anger, the rage, the resentment, the unforgiveness, the mistrust, the depression, the despair. I had used them to build walls around my heart. I thought they were protecting me but they only served to keep me from the Only One who could truly help me. At that moment, I understood why His wounds weren’t healed. I understood what He was doing. He was washing me with His blood.

He took my sins and He cast them as far away from me as the east is from the west and He will remember them no more – – so why should I – – why should you? You see, God wants to break down the brick walls that might be separating you from Him. He wants to draw you near to Him and heal your wounds. He wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to be closer than a brother, a sister or a spouse to you. Will you let Him?

You see, here’s the thing . . . He wants to do the same thing for you that He did for me. He wants you to have the same peace and joy and love that I have found.