i’m standing with bare feet on a dirt road leading into a torn and abandoned village. there are thatched- roof houses still throwing flames up towards the sky, and smoke rising from fires that have been choked out. slowly inching forward, my feet are burning from the heat of the ground, yet my body is shivering from the cloudy sky above. There are empty bullet cartridges scattered everywhere, and arrows clinging to the buildings, smoke rising from their entry points.

my lungs are burning with every breath, the smoke in the air coating my insides, it’s hard to breathe. the dirt turning to mud, acting like a quick sand, with each step it’s harder to walk.

why am i here? why does it hurt so bad?

i can’t remember ever feeling safe in my life. it’s not that i worried about not having food or shelter, i just never trusted people’s intentions. if i’m being honest, which is a thing of mine, i still don’t trust people’s intentions.
people are . . . manipulative, untrustworthy, out to get me, always have ulterior motives, and dangerous. you’d think this made me a scared little girl who isolated herself . . . but i was actually an outgoing, vibrant young lady. as a little girl i was quick to make friends, adventurous, brave, spontaneous, playful, full of laughter and silliness.

but something has changed in me. i’ve been overtaken by fear.

i think this is typical of victims/survivors of childhood sexual abuse. it’s not like every person i met traumatized me, it’s just that the person that did traumatize me caused a deep wound. overtime, the silence and secrecy surrounding my abuse caused the wound to be infected and as the infection thrived it spread, thus resulting in an internal war zone.

i thought what happened to me was a normal experience everyone went through. i adapted to the abuse. abuse was normal to me. it shaped the way i saw the world.

but that didn’t mean i felt safe.

i still find myself asking God, “how can i trust you when you’d let this happen to me?” i hear it countless times in my line of work from other victims/survivors who’ve given up their faith in God and humanity.

how can we trust we’ll ever be safe again?

after my brief stay in a psychiatric hospital because of thoughts of suicide, my dad offered to take me on a scuba diving trip in the grand caymans. i gladly accepted. my family calls me a fish. i love the water. i love being in it.

my heart was broken just before this trip. i’d lost all will to live. my medications for anxiety and depression weren’t working. i needed this trip.

aside from my wedding in ireland, this was the best trip i’ve ever gone on. scuba diving is truthfully one of the most exhilarating and peaceful experiences i’ve ever had in my life. oddly enough, it is the only time i didn’t feel afraid. i didn’t feel the weight of my burdens, my struggles, my trauma. there was nothing but the soothing sounds of the ocean moving, and the very subtle color changes of the world beneath me.

had my father not strategically placed himself behind me in the scuba diving line, i likely would have been left 100 feet under. i didn’t want to leave.

Jessie approaching the wreak

Jessie approaching the wreck

it’s been a few years since i’ve dove back into the serenity of the sea. why? because i’m terrified to go back in there. no doubt, another ploy of the enemy to steal my peace.

after the recent paris attacks, a friend said, “God have mercy” to a meme i posted, and another friend responded with, “to be fair, if God was going to have mercy, wouldn’t he have done it before the tragedy?”

i’ve asked this countless times. why God? why when you have the power to change the evil in this world, don’t you?

i often here the “church” (i used that term broadly) sum up this answer with something like, “because adam and eve ate of the fruit this is our punishment. we are sinners.” and the non-believers will often retort something like, “but i am not adam. i would choose not to live in this world if i had a choice.”

. . . “if i had a choice. . . “

and there it is. the simplest word with the freest possible outcome. and the truth is sad, because you do have a choice and you make the same choices as adam and eve. every. single. time.

we have a choice every single second to trust God, but we don’t. we fall for the serpent’s lies every single time. “but why would God have put this tree here if he didn’t mean for you to eat it?” can be translated into a plethora of other questions, “but if God, why disease?”, “but if God, why death?”, “but if God, why?”

so we take the bait. we eat the fruit- which i will argue is a metaphor for choosing to align myself with a lie that i don’t need God and thus bare the fruit of that decision in my life, rather than eating an apple.

we blame God for the bad, and we take credit for the good.  this seems backwards. . .

paul warns us to not let the enemy steal our peace and to ready ourselves with the sandals of peace (ephesians 6: 15) yet how often do we let this happen?

i know i do a lot. too much. and this isn’t to say my anxiety condition doesn’t sometimes spin out of control and make it difficult for me to focus, but more often i’m struggling way before an attack.

and too often i see the “church” leading the fight for the wrong solution. for the longest time, the “church” has focused on removing the enemy from our lives, rather than teaching us that the enemy has no power unless we give it to him, and thus his presence is a mere annoyance. because here’s the thing, when we focus on removing the devil from our lives, we lose focus on seeing God, and vice versa when we choose to focus on God in our lives, the devil’s presence doesn’t destroy us.

and truthfully, i don’t think the point was to ever NOT have satan in our lives. if you notice, satan was with adam and eve the whole time. the issue wasn’t his presence, the issue was when adam and eve believed his “truth” over the truth of the Lord. it’s when we listen to satan over God.

i can’t remove satan from my life, but I can remove my focus from him. i can choose to put God above everything else. i can choose to believe God. i can choose to know God.

i can choose to stand firm knowing God is TRUSTWORTHY. i can choose to trust IN God.

now, it’s time for me to go a plan a scuba diving trip.

how have you found peace in the midst of trials?