By Halee Wood
Hatred . . . Love.
Despair . . . Hope.
Rejection . . . Acceptance.
Contradictory emotions filled me as I stood face-to-face with a child molester.
Despite having been abused by a much older boy—resulting in pregnancy and abortion by age 14—God had provided me with a story of redemption that sparks emotion and hope, especially among those who share a similar history and for those living with a spouse who shares my experiences.
When I share my testimony publicly, it is not uncommon for someone to discreetly wait around until the room is all but empty, then walk forward to confess, “I’ve never told anyone my story before . . .” Their stories of abuse and abortion have held them emotionally and spiritually hostage for decades. As they bravely unfold the deeply hidden secrets of their past, I sense I am witnessing the beginning of their redemption story. My imagination goes wild: How might their marriage be healed? How will future generations be influenced by this moment? God is so good to restore the brokenhearted.
While listening to and praying with several women after an event one evening, I became aware of a middle-aged man lingering in the back. He stood with his head down and arms folded, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other. When my line settled, I approached him and introduced myself.
“I can’t stand to think about it,” he declared without introducing himself.
“Would you like to share your story with me?” I asked, preparing myself to be a compassionate listener.
His facial expression writhed with anger and pain as he uttered his confession. Few things rattle me, but this was different . . . it felt personal. Emotion and truth clashed within me and I felt I might explode. His confession? He had molested his daughter many years earlier.
He had served a prison sentence, and while he had previously felt remorse for what he did, hearing my testimony brought a deeper understanding of the suffering his daughter and her husband have likely endured because of his actions.
I did not want to have compassion for this man! I was more inclined to scream at him or punch him. Seriously, who let this guy in? Am I supposed to feel sorry for him because he feels pain for her? What a joke!
I was about to stare him down with a mixture of hate, disapproval, and utter contempt when a still, small voice whispered to me, “If he can’t come here, where should he go?”
I momentarily considered where I would like him to go, but then a profound truth from God’s Word and my own experiences washed over me.
In my own abuse story, God empowered me to forgive my abuser, and, in that process, I considered whether I was willing to pray for his salvation. In other words, if God answered my prayer, I would have to spend eternity with my abuser. At first thought, it was absolutely mortifying. But God planted within me a vision of my abuser as a new creation, and I realized if he was saved, I would not have to spend eternity with him, I would get to spend eternity with him. The greatest gift to me as the victim would be to see my abuser healed and whole, never to abuse again.
The only way my abuser could receive the healing power of Jesus Christ was if someone chose to share the good news of Jesus Christ with him . . . despite his heinous behaviors. So, as I stood eye-to-eye with this man who had just confessed to me, I had to choose in a single moment whether to hate and turn him away or to assure him he was in the right place. If I turned him away, it could possibly be a catalyst for his sinful tendencies to fester and perhaps lead him to abuse again. If I chose to assure him he was in the right place—a place to hear, learn, and experience the Word of God and his people—it might possibly someday help him and his daughter to sort through their complicated hopes of healing and maybe . . . perhaps . . . even experience a miraculous reconciliation.
He was definitely in the right place, and now my heart is too.
Halee Wood shares unashamedly about Christ’s grace and healing through loving, serving, discipling, writing, and speaking. Learn more about her testimony and work at runtheracetogether.com.