My story.

In an effort at being a little more bold, I want to tell you a story.

It starts with a smiley, goofy, youngest daughter. You know, the one who tries to make peace and tries to be cooler than she is and tries to be older than she is? That was me.

Me with my uncle, Michael, circa 1989.

I remember what my faith was like in 1993. I memorized verses and believed that it was by grace I’d been saved. Somehow, a little six-year old girl, with a high pitched voice and scraggly hair felt she needed a savior, so I was baptized in a chlorine-filled pool at Hillcrest Baptist church, tip toes on the rubber boot of a pastor. I was so short, no one in the congregation could see my little head dunked under water. Underneath the watery-death, my sinuses filled and stung.  I didn’t want to hold my nose because I felt that would be cheating.

But what did that little girl know of good or evil? What did I know of amazing grace?

I grew up. I learned to do flips on command. I wore Limited Too clothes when that was cool, then changed to American Eagle when that was cooler. I cried in school when I couldn’t understand prime numbers. I wanted so badly to get things right. But I knew something wasn’t right.

IMG_1375I have this very vivid memory of lying to my mom. A pointless, aimless lie. We were living in Virginia and I was nine. I dropped a glass of lemonade on the kitchen floor—it splattered, shattered everywhere, and I hastily cleaned up the pieces, but left the lemonade behind on the floor. I guess I was being lazy. When my mom got home, she asked what I’d spilled.  “Water,” I lied. It was lemonade, and I’m sure she felt the dried sticky sugar under her loafers. And I knew she knew. I was a liar.

At school I smiled and wrote notes and sang songs and got good grades. I was a cheerleader. I went to youth group. I tried my best to be good and look better. Around that same time, I learned to steal from my sisters. Make-up mostly, but clothes and purses later. I’d put them back just in the right spot, just in the nick of time. But I was a good friend, and I went to church. But I knew I was a thief.

Something was wrong.  And in a dark moment, I realized it wasn’t just me. 

Everything is wrong.

It was night and the clock read 2:02. I was 12 and at a friends’ house. I should have been asleep but his hot breath was loud in my ear. And it turned out nothing is right. And it turned out I wasn’t the only victim. And it turned out no one believed us until it was too late.

How could I believe in a God that saves when he allows a man to abuse?

There are days I don’t really remember: the trial, the sentencing… But then a youth pastor sat in a room with me and the other girls. Was this really happening? Surely it couldn’t be. Surely all of this was a dream or some kind of script someone was writing for some new movie. He had the impossible job of busting through the rosy glasses of four pre-teen girls. He confirmed our suspicions about the world: all this evil, all this darkness.

And he said something I’ve never forgotten.

He said that in life, we are impacted by two things: our own sin and the sin of other people. Some of it hurts more, but it all does the same thing: it separates us from a perfect, holy God.

He said that we were made to be with God, and all the pain we were feeling was this deep expectation and desire to be near God—the only thing we need, and the only thing we can’t have in our current condition.

And that’s when I knew this world needs saving.

And the Truth I believed as a child rang True once more. We’ve all sinned. I deserve a death sentence. And so do you. And so does the man that hurt me. But God created us for relationship with Him and He couldn’t stand to watch us walk like sheep to the slaughter. So He sent a replacement. A perfect Man to suffer and die to make a way to God.

A Man that was God in flesh. A Man that didn’t consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. A Man who made everything, then made Himself nothing.

He never lied, but lies were told about Him in open court.

He never stole, but His life was exchanged for 30 pieces of silver.

He never abused, but He was stripped naked and beaten and mocked.

This Man. Jesus. The one who healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, payed attention to the poor, stopped what he was doing for beggars, knew names before faces. The One who pointed a finger at the men who pretended you could get yourself right with God on your own, and called them snakes.

He said, “I Am The Way, The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

He didn’t say he is “a” way. He said He is The Way. The. Only. Way.

If you believe in Him, He fills you with a new Spirit, a new life—His. I am no longer a slave to what my nature tells me to do: the lying, the stealing, the selfish jealousy and bitterness. He gives me power for life and godliness. Everything I need to be a conquerer, and to live with joy not despair, in a world where most of the time, despair is all that makes sense.

I can consider that my present suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in me through Jesus. And I can’t help but speak of Him. I can’t help but find hope in Him. Because without Him there is no hope for me.

IMG_0763This is a story about a God who loved me so much that He didn’t leave me here alone. And He didn’t just give me Jesus. He gave me Jesus in a pastor’s rubber boot, my parents, my sisters, my friends, and in Patrick.

I remember when I told my story to Patrick. The one about the night and the dark, and the man whose wife and children were blindsided by the evil in their own home. The one about how I still feel skeptical, and when I’m alone with an older man, how I still feel nervous.

And I remember what He said.

Quietly, softly, Jesus whispered through the love of a husband, “I want to spend the rest of my life proving to you that I’m different.

It’s the gospel. It’s the good news.

And really—it’s the only story worth telling.

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Author: Claire

Hi I'm Claire. I am a freelance writer, Vizlsa lover, and avid runner who lives in Nashville, TN. Nice to meet you.

33 thoughts

  1. This is a truly inspiring depiction Claire, thank you so much for sharing. You’re a very gifted writer and, I feel, able to convey your heart through your words! I feel like a know you a little better, and would love to get to know you ever more! Thank you!

    1. Mallory, thank you so much! I would love to get to know you better too. You have my number, right? I’d love to grab coffee. Just say when and where!

  2. This was a beautiful post, Claire. I deal with this sort of stuff everyday at work, and it sucks sometimes. It’s not easy to handle the evil sometimes. But, you have been a source of encouragement for me today. Thank you for reminding me of the light that overcomes all darkness. You’re a wonderful woman! Much love.

    1. Thank you so much Audrey. And thank you for the work you are doing. PS. I’m so glad you found huckleberry. I was really sad about that… and then SO HAPPY.

  3. Claire, thank you for so authentically sharing your story and healing journey. As a survivor of sexual assault, I stand with you, *boldly*, and celebrate that we do not have to be silent about our stories! Even when the darkest, most evil thing enters your life in a way you cannot control, I have experienced (and it sounds like you have, too) that nothing is out of reach of God’s gentle, healing hands. One night a few years after my rape, I walked home looking at the stars, wondering why it was all still so painful for me some days, why I experienced triggers, and how I had ended up in a job where I was working with women who were in pain, too. The next day when I went to go see my awesome therapist, I had a revelation as I was explaining my thought process to her. I suddenly saw my painful story from a different, we’ll say divine, perspective. I was able to see my assault as a dark thread in the beautiful tapestry of my journey. For a long time, I thought I was all black… just one, sad, thin dark thread… very alone. But as I started working through my assault, meeting other survivors, and telling my story to loving and safe people, God wove in more brilliant and gorgeous threads. I’ll be healing and weaving this blanket for the rest of my life, I am sure. But for now, I am the warm, comforting, gorgeous blanket to throw over another woman’s shoulders when she walks through the darkness I experienced. How subversive of me and God to challenge the shame and brokenness our culture expects from victims! I am now the very woman I needed by my side when I was raped. It has been the most profound and astonishing journey of my life. Thank you for sharing your story, and thank you for creating a safe space for me to share part of mine. 🙂 Sending love and light your way, sister!

    1. Wow, Emily. This is amazing. Your story, and the analogy of the blanket… it’s perfect. I’m so thankful you shared that with me. Today, there have been many women in addition to you that have contacted me to say they, too have experienced abuse. Thank you for YOUR boldness in sharing this so publicly. I am so thankful that you found and spoke up on this blog… just a few days before God moved me to share this. It’s awesome. Amazed by you and the work you do with women today.

      1. Right back at you, Claire! I believe that every time we share our stories, we create a little more safe space in this world for other women to share theirs without shame or fear. 🙂 You are a gift!

  4. Claire, so beautiful. ITs always encouraging to hear the way the Lord crafts His story to reflect His glory. You reflect that so beautifully, its an honor to watch and walk beside you.

  5. Claire, reading this brought back a memory of going on a walk around the Furman lake freshman year and sharing life stories. Thankful to know yours from afar now! Thanks for your boldness and grace in sharing the good news. Keep writing.
    Love, Catherine (Caroline’s 1st roommate 🙂 )

    1. Thank you so much Catherine 🙂 and of course I remember that walk, and just how thoughtful and kind you were at the time, when I was really working through so much of this. Hope you’re doing well… and thanks for the encouragement to keep writing!

  6. Unbelievable, Claire – moving, poignant, and truthful. Thank you for being brave enough to share this with the world.

    1. Thank you so much, kara. We all have these stories, and I truly hope I won’t be the only one to share. Maybe all of us can be so bold, you know?

  7. That was incredible, Claire. What a story! I am so impressed by your writing, maturity and your love for God! I have always been a proud aunt!

    1. Thank you so much, Fran. I really appreciate your words… and I guess on the maturity front, i sort of had to grow up fast. Thanks for being so supportive of my career change… pursuing this dream!

  8. So proud of you for putting yourself out there ,and being strong for girls that are not yet.
    Havent seen you in years…but you sure do look happy in your picture! Life with your hubby has been good! Praise God!!

    1. oohhhhh Susan boone! How you know my story, and you know there are so many more layers to it than what I’ve shared here. Sure do miss you and your family. How is Kaitlyn? Josh? Gabby??? I’d love to hear!!

  9. Lady, that wasn’t a shot of espresso, that was a shot of whisky! What a terrible thing to experience. It’s beautiful how you have evolved your relationship with your faith through these experiences. There are some people I know who have experienced other forms of treachery and disaster, and they swear off faith and God. There is only one thing in the world we can control – ourselves. Our treatment of ourselves, our care towards others – that’s what keeps me believing in this ever-more complicated world, though many may not call me Christian anymore in their point of view. Thanks for sharing, Claire.

    1. Ha! You’re probably right. There are many people close to me who know my story… but this was a big step for me. I spent a lot of my young adult years comparing what happened to me to other, tragic situations, and feeling like I didn’t have a right to be sad or hurt, because (in my mind) it “could have been so much worse.” But, to your point that we can control ourselves… I’ve found that I can only truly have self control when I have a heart that wants to be obedient to God. It’s not easy. It’d be much easier to just go off and do, eat, say, think, feel whatever I want and whatever feels good. But yes, I feel like caring for others is numero uno… the. most important. Thanks for reading and participating and sharing, too.

      1. Exactly, the view of the world we want to live in, this holy, fulfilling world that is in my mind with peace and justice, starts with my faith in God’s way for the world. We have to make that step in line with God’s teaching, in order to control the bit of the world we can. You have had a horrific experience due to someone not controlling himself via God’s teaching. From our conversation in Boston a few months ago, I have a lot of respect for your value systems and beliefs and the fact that you are the person you are today even after this tragic part of your past, is something to look up to and admire.

    1. Thanks, Brad. I really feel this need to be more bold about what I believe and why. Jen and I were just texting about that idea yesterday. Hope to bounce ideas off each other soon. Is she feeling better? Also… should we do another impromptu camping trip soon?

  10. I know your story already, and this still made me cry this morning. Tanks for being bold enough (indeed!) to share this with the world. 🙂

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