Sexual abuse victims find many reasons to hide: shame, fear, feelings of inadequacy, etc. Over time, hiding can become a way of life. But, what if the things you believe about yourself are not true and the way you see yourself is inaccurate? What might your life become if hiding were no longer necessary?
The Bible has an interesting story about a man who felt the need to hide on his coronation day! Scripture doesn’t indicate that Saul was a sexual abuse survivor, but the insights gleaned from his experiences are applicable to us nonetheless. (You can read his story in I Samuel 8-11.) God chose Saul to become the first king of Israel, and sent the prophet Samuel to town to appoint him. But, when Saul’s name was called, he could not be found! When the people inquired, the Lord revealed that Saul had “hidden himself among the baggage” (10:22). So, they ran and brought him out, so he could become their king. As we read this story, we see three different perceptions of who Saul was.
God saw Saul as someone called to lead others as king. God immediately began transforming his life to fit this special calling (10:6-7). Another important thing to notice is that “God was with him.” God’s presence was the only qualification Saul really needed!
The scriptures tell us that others, including the Prophet Samuel, saw Saul as “a head taller than any of the others.” (10:23-24). Samuel also said, “There is no one like him among all the people.” Other people, quite literally, looked up to Saul, and Samuel said he possessed unique qualities that set him apart too.
Nevertheless, Saul saw himself in a completely different light. In I Samuel 9:21, Saul describes himself as a Benjamite from the smallest tribe of Israel and his clan as the least of the clans of Benjamin. As a result, he was shocked by the prophet’s suggestion that the “desire of Israel was turned to him and to his father’s family” (10:19-21)! How could this be? In Saul’s eyes, he was the least of the least due to his family ties. As a result, he ran and hide among the baggage!
Can you identify with Saul’s desire to hide? Whose perception of you defines your reality? Do you hear the voices of family members from long ago telling you that you are unworthy or inferior in some way? Did their actions suggest to you that you don’t matter? Do you feel tainted by someone else’s sin? Are you “the least of the least” in your own eyes due to your background too? Like Saul, do you find yourself withdrawing from people and shrinking from life when opportunity knocks? What types of baggage from the past do you tend to hide behind?
Sometimes in adulthood we continue to allow the reactions of the people around us to define us. Saul’s physical statue caused others to notice him. Did that cause him to feel conspicuous? Scripture tells us that after he stepped out from behind the baggage and was presented to the people as the one chosen to be their king, the people had two very different reactions. Some were moved by God to accompany and support him, while others despised him (10:26-27)! If Saul was hoping for unanimous acceptance to help him feel validated, he was still probably very conflicted, leading him to keep silent even at this point in his story. In a similar way, if the perceptions of others continue to define us, we may be reluctant to embrace our true identity and calling too.
The One who saw Saul accurately was God himself. After all, He created Saul with a purpose in mind, just as He has each of us (Ephesians 2:10). So often, we look at our past or perceived limitations and think those limit God. The truth is that God’s perception can ultimately redefine reality for us when we dare to trust Him! Saul was not chosen to be Israel’s king because of his physical appearance or his family name. He became king for one reason only—God chose him and purposed to make it so. Do you believe that God has a purpose for your life? Is He powerful enough to make it so? Saul’s part was to believe God’s perception and to cooperate with His plan. As long as he did so, he prospered, and others were also blessed.
The first step toward healing from sexual abuse is discovering our true identity in Christ and experiencing a fuller revelation of His love for us. When we step out from behind our baggage, God can reveal to us and to others who we really are! He has the power to transform our past to fit His plan. When we begin to trust His good intentions towards us, hiding is no longer necessary!