Abused and Confused

Lana’s Abuse Testimony

I was born the youngest of four children to parents with two boys and one girl. My daddy came home from World War II, wounded and addicted to alcohol. The announcement of my conception was not good news to my mother who could not feed the three children she already had. My parents divorced when I was six years old, leaving two young sisters vulnerable to sexual abuse.

I remember a Baptist church helping neighbors feed us for the first seven years of my life and I remember a close relationship with Jesus. I fell in love with Jesus as a child and I believe He called me from my mother’s womb to preach the gospel. I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not want to preach the gospel ~ except for the dark years when I ran from God. From the time I was old enough to have an imagination I would “play-like” I was a preacher. Before starting to school I would stand on the front porch, lead the singing, preach the sermon and take up the offering from all the shells in the street that I imagined were my congregation in a church.

Soon after the divorce my two older brothers, one ten years and one eight years my senior, were sent to a boys home for destitute adolescents. The eldest brother resented being removed from the home that he felt he was now the head of. My earliest memory of sexual abuse was on a visit my eldest brother made to our home. At a time when my mother was away from home my big brother, whom I adored, sexually abused me. I was so ashamed at six years of age and couldn’t understand why my relationship suddenly changed with my hero ~ my big brother.

My brother became increasingly angry with me, physically and emotionally abusive, and it broke my heart! In my young heart, he had taken the place of my daddy for my adoration. I began to believe that I must be a horrible little girl for him to be so cruel to me! He joined the Air Force, and became Air Force Police. He came home from the service meaner and more bitter than when he left.

It wasn’t long before a cousin that was a few years older than my brother performed the same sexual abuse with me while playing hide-and-go-seek during a family reunion. He was very mean and threatening. He later served a life sentence in prison where he recently died. I later learned that this cousin had abused my eldest brother, which set him up to be an abuser.

We had many aunts and uncles in our family. One particular uncle was another one of my heroes! They were childless and I was their favorite niece and in their home often. I trusted this uncle with all of my heart. One shocking afternoon we were in the home without my aunt when he came in the living room to lie beside me as I napped on their beautiful couch. Suddenly his cold hands were all over me. Again my heart broke and I began to believe another hero in my life must know how bad I was and that was the reason this happened. All the while I was trying so hard to be a good girl so this wouldn’t keep happening.

We had family reunions annually. They were so much fun because we had so many cousins. That also meant we had many aunts and uncles. There was another uncle that my sister and I couldn’t stand to be around. He was repulsive to us. He was always trying to touch us inappropriately and even his eyes made us feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Behind a car at the park, during one family reunion, he finally made his threats and advances a reality and sexually molested me. I hated him and though I cannot remember what threat he used if I told, it must have been effective. I was married with a child before I told my mother about all of the abuses. At the same time my sister told of her similar experiences. You may think what I thought; “ what a family!” Actually the abuse did not stop there.

My favorite church was a lighthouse in my life. Believe it or not I did have one uncle that was truly a man of God. My aunt and uncle were long time members of my church under a Pastor we all adored. This Pastor became my father image and was more like Jesus than anyone in my life. I have so many great memories of this church as a child. I lived with this loving aunt and uncle several times as I grew up and because of that, I grew in Christ. Among all of those wonderful memories of Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, front porch church services, powerful sermons, and very powerful revivals; there was one secret and it happened one horrible Sunday night.

This godly uncle was a strong man, a carpenter who helped build the Church sanctuary. He was respected as a pillar of the church and an ordained minister of the gospel. I know that if I had told him of the abuse I received from a trusted friend of his, only God could have restrained him from killing him!

This elderly, handsome and popular man always had a pocket full of Life Savers for the children. He was a friend of the family so no one suspected his intentions when he asked if I could ride with him one Sunday night to my uncle’s home. We were alone in the car and he molested me. I was terrified and remember very little about it, except that it was quick and over before we were missed! Again I cannot remember exactly what he did to me or what he said to threaten me about telling. I do remember pretending I was someone else in that car. I didn’t tell and I can’t remember ever seeing him again. I may have blocked it out. I am fairly sure I was under ten years old and so afraid that I would lose my church if I told. I can look back now and see that I was so vulnerable as I searched for that man who would treat me like a princess in my Daddy’s absence.

I connected my church with my Daddy being set free from alcohol. That is where I prayed so hard at the altars for him. I couldn’t separate the two and that was reason enough to keep my secret. At the time the secrets were what seemed to be my protection. That was such a lie from the devil!

There were others, nameless men, a girlfriend’s father molesting me as I slept at her slumber party, a stranger at the beach, and others whom I cannot remember.

At sixteen years of age I married a good man who was seven years older than I. I walked away from Jesus when I married. We miscarried, gave birth to a beautiful a baby boy, and then began to grow apart. If Jesus had been in our marriage we might have made it.

The divorce was bitter and I moved back to my hometown. My son’s father took him from me in the night and I later lost custody in court. I aborted a baby to avoid going to court pregnant by another man. I began to drink, take drugs, work in the nightclubs of Houston and attempted to end my life several times in several ways. I aborted another child three years later and had myself sterilized so I would never feel the pain of abortion again. I hated men and set out to destroy as many as I could. I was physically dangerous and an emotional assassin. I was most destructive to myself to punish that bad little girl who had grown up! I opened the dungeon of my heart to hide the darkest secrets and greatest pain.

After nine years of being miserably single, I met Ray Sanders and we married in 1978. Three years into our failing marriage, he asked Jesus into his heart. I returned to Jesus so fast, Ray thought I was born again when he was! We fell madly in love with Jesus and each other.

I now realize that the heartbreak of my childhood set me up for many tragic and sinful choices that I made as an adult. Other than losing my precious son, aborting two of my babies was my greatest heartbreak and the most life devastating choice of my life. I have learned a valuable truth ~ God wants us to give Him our worst before we offer Him our best.

The abusive uncles, the cousin, and the man from church, are dead now and I truly hope they repented before they died. My brother is 73 now and somewhere in the world and would still like to make my life miserable if he could.

As for me, I am in the kingdom of God, back at my childhood church, and able to forgive them all, making me free indeed!

These men cannot hurt me anymore because I have forgiven them!

Until I forgave them, each one continued to abuse me in my memories. No one can give me back my childhood innocence ~ it is a debt they could never pay. I had debts I could never pay, so Jesus paid a debt He did not owe for all of us. I am forgiven for so much, so how can I do less? To hold bitterness in my heart for them would keep them in my life. There isn’t room for hate in my heart now that the Holy Spirit dwells there, but the story hasn’t come to an end yet.

you are a part of the story. Your pain and your restoration is part of the wholeness of my life. I invite you into that room of my heart that was once a dark cold dungeon of secret pain. It is now my favorite room because Jesus has given me beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, and has filled me with praise. He redecorated the dungeon, installed windows and it is flooded with His love and light. Welcome to my heart.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn in Zion (believers), To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3 NKJV (italics are author’s for emphasis)

Beloved, you can know this freedom, this Amazing Grace, this healing in all the rooms of your heart. No matter what has happened to break your heart, Jesus is the healer of the brokenhearted and He wants your worst so He can make room in your heart for His best!

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Lana Sanders I Can't Forgive Myself
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