Mine was always a fight to see. They say you have to believe to see, but I believed at the start. Seeing that belief made real in my life has been the fight of my life. It has been my fight to believe and see.
Living itself, including my continued breathing, was always in question, but I knew that alone would never be enough for me. Some people love the darkness and all that grows there, but I never did. I met Jesus when I was 4 and most distinct in that moment was a radiant light coming out of Him. Instantly, I loved both Him and the light in Him.
That was a saving moment for me, but it was just the beginning of my fight to believe and see. My life was on a collision course with violation, violence, and exploitation, my dark night of the soul. My father would make sure of that. I believed in Jesus, but seeing, connecting to Him as I plummeted into the black hole was another fight entirely.
My father was a sociopath and a pastor, skilled at projecting and protecting his image above all else. To the world he was one man and to me he was entirely another. Few, if any, saw the man from a Criminal Minds episode that I knew. Jesus’ face was clear, at the start, but my father’s repeated sadistic violations were shattering my eyes.
When I was 11 my father sold me to men who exploited me in a brothel type warehouse. This spun everything inside me even more. My father had called me a “whore” since I was 5 and now every man at the warehouse called me that too. By then I had figured out what “whore” meant and understood that somehow it was me.
We cannot live in the dissonance of seeing the violations clearly when we are living in the middle of them. So I obscured the truth within me and, at 12, began cooperating with them. I acted the role they wanted me to. Ever after, I would blame myself for this complicity.
This betrayal of myself and Jesus, in my mind, became the cement in the wall between us throughout my exploitation.
My eyes were shattered and our connection was blocked. I had no idea how to see Him in this or how to know if He saw me. The truth is I did not even see me or my exploitation clearly. The wall between us was full of all these lies I had believed, lies that they had fed me.
Survival demanded the wall remain in place until I was safe and that would not happen until I was 19. Even then I was still far from safe inside so it could not come down in one dynamite blast. It had to come down brick by brick, carefully as I healed.
What were the bricks? The bricks were the lies I had believed and they could only be removed through a quest for truth.
Who really was Jesus? Was he kind, like when I met Him or was he a sociopath like my father and these men? Did he just want to violate me, shame me, and throw me away or did He really want me?
Who was I? Was I the bad girl, the whore, like they said? Was I the 4 year old girl with light in her eyes He first met? I wanted to be that, but a scarlet stain seemed to be tattooed across me. Which way would He see me now?
Could I be healed? Could my shattered mirror inside and out be remade? Was Jesus more powerful than these men who ruled over systems of exploitation? The power of darkness they wielded seemed at least more powerful than the light being wielded by His church.
My quest for truth stretched across years. It had to, because forcing the truth in suddenly would have either have imploded or exploded me. As I saw each piece of truth, about me, my father, and Jesus, my eyes healed. And brick by brick the wall between us came down.
The questions that remained revolved around the truth of my exploitation. So when I had built a strength of light within me we went into depths of my exploitation together. Nothing has changed me more. Seeing my exploitation through Jesus’ eyes and heart brought the fall of our wall.
Once, in a waking dream, I saw myself putting pieces of my heart into Jesus’ heart. Then I saw Jesus putting pieces of His heart back into mine. That is how I healed and how I found my way through to believe and see.
Jewell is a survivor and abolitionist who lives in Kansas City.