Isaiah 61 and 62 are very meaningful scriptures to me. Chapter 62, verse 2, says in part, “…You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.” An abuser in my family helped my parents name me. So, when the Holy Spirit brought this verse to mind several years ago, I was eager to know what my new name was! Deep within my spirit, I heard God whisper “Joy,” and I laughed! All my life, people have said I looked sad, so how could He call me “Joy”? I had no idea, but the possibility inspired me. I want to experience greater joy and to become a source of joy to others. By faith, I am now calling myself “Joy” as I share my story. (I am also choosing to honor family members whose stories are intertwined with mine by respecting their privacy.)
I have read the Scriptures from the time I was a child. One of many stories that puzzled me as a young person is found in II Samuel 13. Tamar’s story seemed far removed from me. How could I relate to a princess whose own brother betrayed her in the worst ways imaginable? The story didn’t seem to have a happy ending. It was definitely not like the princess stories I remembered as a child. You know, the ones where all is eventually made right with the world, and the princess reigns in the end with the love of her life? If only this could have been true for Tamar. If only this could be true for me and those I love too.
When I was a little girl, sexual abuse was rarely mentioned. It was something that happened in other people’s lives who lived on “the other side of the tracks.” Surely it could never happen in a God-fearing family like mine. But the reality is, it can happen to princesses and even to families who attend church weekly. Part of the taboo is that we just don’t talk about it, even in the Christian community where healing is meant to exist. There is much pain and stigma attached. Besides, who really wants to hear such shame-filled tales? My mama used to say “some things are best left unsaid.” Tamar’s family believed that too, but they were mistaken. Otherwise, God would not have included her story in the Bible.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that Tamar’s story was not as far removed from mine as I had imagined. Perhaps, it’s relevant for you too. God is still speaking through His Word today to a new generation of women who suffer as Tamar did. Maybe, like us, you have been encouraged not to talk about it or you are too ashamed to admit it even to yourself. If so, I invite you to join me on a ongoing journey of discovery, hope and healing.