I was the first child and oldest daughter to loving parents, both committed to Jesus Christ. I could sense the joy and peace that surrounded me within our home. I did not I live a fairy tale existence; indeed some of my happiest memories as a very young child occurred during a time of extreme poverty in our family’s life. As later siblings were added to the family, we spent years living in a one-room goat shed in the mountains of Washington State while my father built a school bus-turned-mobile home. But oblivious to our economic and social conditions, I thrived on the love and nurturing of my parents and grew up fascinated by all the Bible stories.
A Transforming Choice
At around age 7, I began to realize that the love, joy, and peace that surrounded me in our home were external to me; I didn’t experience them inside my own heart. I started to understand what it meant to be a Christian, and that my parents were, but I was not. One evening, a missionary lady came to speak at a gathering hosted at our house in Philadelphia. She spoke about hell and the penalty of an eternity without God. As I listened, I understood the consequences of sin, but rather than be afraid of the message I’d heard, I simply began to see my own need of Jesus Christ as my Savior. Up to that point in my life, I had not truly grasped that being a Christian was an individual choice, and that I had not made that decision for myself. When her message was over, I left the room and went upstairs to my tiny bedroom. I didn’t turn on the lights but knelt beside my bed. There in the darkness I prayed a very simple prayer; I confessed to Jesus that I had known about Him and learned about Him, but now I understood I needed to choose Him for myself. I asked Him to come into my heart and to be my Savior. At the end of my prayer, I knew that He had heard and answered my prayer. I had no supernatural experience of any kind, yet I now knew that the love, security, joy, safety and acceptance I’d always felt around me were now inside me. I knew that I was accepted and loved by Jesus Christ. Little did I know how much I was going to need that assurance at such a young age.
Within a year of my personal decision to accept Jesus as my Savior, our family moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Orlando, Florida. My parents accepted an invitation from a deacon in our church to live with his family on their farm in the countryside. We lived with them for about a year—one that shattered my 8 year-old world. Over the course of the year, I was raped three times by this “trusted” deacon, and once by his 15 year old son. From those moments onward, I lived in a world of shame. Though I knew I was a Christian, I now felt that I had disobeyed God because I was guilty of the sin of sex before marriage. After the initial rape, I believed the deacon’s lies—I couldn’t tell anyone or I would be in huge trouble. The shame of my own perceived sin and now the fear of worse retaliation quenched any further desire to confide in my parents. We moved away from the farm and that family without my parents having had the slightest idea of what had taken place in my life.
Under a Cloud of Shame and Guilt
For the next year and a half, I do not recall feeling much closeness to God. I had shared the rape experience with my younger sister, but I still couldn’t tell my parents. I continued to live under a cloud of shame and guilt and the awareness of my “deep, dark sin.” I no longer believed I was worthy of God’s acceptance and could only imagine the worst kind of punishment if my parents had even a hint of my “sexual sins.” Then came a ray of hope from, of all places, a dark and tragic episode of Little House on the Prairie. To this day, I have yet to come across a single individual who has seen this particular episode. The guest star heroine of the story is cruelly beaten and raped; she flees to the home of the Ingalls family. At the end of the episode, her perpetrator finds her, and during a harrowing chase, she falls to her death. As shocking as the show was, it gave me my first real perspective that what had happened to me might not actually have been my fault. I began to consider telling my parents. As I reasoned everything out, I concluded that what had happened to the heroine in the story was not her fault. However, as I recalled my own experience, I remembered that my perpetrator never beat me like the perpetrator in the show beat his victim. I even recalled that I never fought him off or resisted in any way. Therefore, I concluded once again that the guilt and blame rested on me, so I remained determined to keep my “secret sin” from my parents.
A Ray of Hope
But in His tender love and mercy, God did not allow me to remain in my self-induced prison of shame, guilt, and fear. Approximately two years after the rapes occurred, I was sitting in the living room watching TV while my mother and younger sister talked in the kitchen. My sister emerged from the kitchen with a sheepish look on her face, while my mother, with an expression of complete shock and horror, said, “Jeanne, did (his name) do anything to you while we lived with them?” In that moment my worst fears were realized– now my parents would know the truth.
What transpired next, however, took me completely by surprise, and again changed my life. I must have had the look of a hunted fawn in my eyes, for my mother gathered me in her arms and held me like a little girl. Ever so tenderly she began to solicit the details of the events that had taken place. As I confessed to her and looked into her eyes, I saw incredible sorrow, but not a trace of condemnation or judgment. It was difficult for me to believe that I was innocent. I told her that I knew it was my fault and that I shouldn’t have let it happen. But with a tone of loving, gentle finality she explained to me that I had done nothing wrong. The memory of the Little House episode returned to me, and it slowly began to dawn on me that I truly was not guilty of any sin. Her prayers and tears over me persuaded me of my innocence. The Holy Spirit too convinced me that my mother was speaking the truth.
After two years of living under the lies of condemnation and accusation, I was finally set free.
On the Road to Healing
Once my mother learned the whole story, she called my father who immediately came home from work. He then called his brother, a police officer in the Central Florida area. After a few days and a large man-hunt, the deacon and his sons were finally in jail awaiting trial. Only later did we learn how much evil that man had perpetrated upon an unknown number of previous victims, including his own daughters.
As I continued to grow older, the detailed memories of each of the rapes would often return. But God faithfully used two essential balms to bring about the process of healing and restoration to my heart: the love of my parents and the truth of Scripture.
My parents beautifully demonstrated their love to me through their validation of what had happened to me. Since I was so young when I experienced the rapes, my parents had not even had an opportunity to explain such a concept in the first place. Indeed, what parent would want or even have a reason to sit their 6-8 year child down and explain something as horrible as rape? But the two people in my little world who I loved and respected the most took the time to lovingly validate me and explain the cruel injustices I had suffered. And such declaration and confirmation of my innocence alone brought incredible freedom, light and hope to my heart. Not only did I realize this truth, but truly believed it; I knew that I stood in purity before my parents and before my Lord.
In addition to the love of my parents, the Lord enveloped me with the healing power and truth of His Word. He began to encourage me with the reality of a very sobering, yet often overlooked passage of Scripture. In Matthew chapter 18 verse 6, Jesus brings a little child to Himself, possibly even onto His lap, and says,
…whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6)
As I meditated on that passage, the Lord Jesus spoke into my heart and caused me to understand that I was indeed one of His precious little ones. I was immeasurably comforted to realize that not only did He know what had been done to me, and how it had caused me to stumble, but that He was my Defender and would bring about fierce justice on my behalf. I sensed from Him a holy and righteous wrath, not directed at me, but directed at my predators, and it almost made me feel sorry for them. It certainly made forgiveness towards them vastly easier. Since that time, the Lord Jesus has spoken many such truths from His Word into my heart that has brought me profound healing and victory. Indeed, He has taught me that although His children suffer at the hands of evil ones, He will someday (and sometimes in our own observable lifetime) accomplish absolute justice and vindicate His own.
God’s Word has enabled me to maintain genuine forgiveness in my heart towards the men who hurt me. Ultimately, His Word and His promises have healed me of even the very memories. The memories themselves have not been removed; indeed still today I can recall most of the details of each rape I endured. However, God has removed all fear, shame, guilt or bitterness associated with each of the memories. It is truly a gift and miracle from the very heart of a tender, loving Heavenly Father.
My Hope for You
As I have shared this small part of my testimony of the Lord Jesus’ faithfulness in my own life, it is my deepest desire that if you have also endured similar atrocities would come to understand that there is a Judge, Defender and Savior who knows all of your past. He has seen the injustices done to you in the dawn of your innocence and the utter helplessness, hopelessness and despair you’ve faced. He loves you immeasurably beyond what you can possibly imagine, and He provides a way for you to not only receive healing and restoration, but to also give you a story and a destiny that allows you to stand and proclaim to the world the infinite power of Love.
If you have not invited Jesus to be Lord of your life, that’s the first step. You can do it today by praying and inviting him into your heart as I did many years ago. Then you can begin experiencing the healing power of his Word.
Jeanne Meagher is a Registered Nurse and former U.S. Naval Officer. She has spent 20 years teaching, discipling, and mentoring adults and children in ministry, educational, military and medical communities. Her powerful testimony of courage and healing is helping many young women confront painful pasts and find healing. She’s a passionate student and teacher of Bible prophesy, especially the book of Revelation.