By: Lexie Smith
Growing up Normal
According to Child Safe Education, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before age 18. That stat alone compels us to ask, when did rape start to become the new normal?
Normal. For most of our lives, things are normal. We eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner like everyone else. All of us have our favorite shows and activities. We go to school and church, and pick a sport or instrument to play when we are young. I was no different. Having normal American problems was a part of my life.
I was born to a teen mom. My parents were divorced (multiple times). I moved schools a lot, had learning disabilities, and abuse from family members… Yes, tragically enough at this point in our culture, sexual abuse is a normal childhood event in the US.
Normal. I just thought my life was normal. I thought being forced to do things I didn’t want to do was normal. That being angry, depressed, and filled with self-hate was something everyone struggled with. Not eating, while exercising too much, because I wanted to be as thin as possible, ‘cause everyone else did too, right?
Feeling unworthy of grace and this Jesus character. I grew up being taught he died for me, but he didn’t really die for “me,” just everyone else.
Being told I wasn’t smart by my teachers. Forgotten by my birth father. Forced to have sex with strange men at the command of a teenager who threatened the safety of my family and me. Cutting myself just to feel something. Binge drinking to escape the reality of nightmares and crippling anxiety.
Normal… At least this was the normal pattern of my life.
Normal. I was always smiling and serving my community. Helping to set up for kids church led to leading Sunday school classes, children’s church, singing in the choir, helping lead Vacation Bible School, drama team, worship, missions trips, conventions, and camps. Worked hard at school, played for the volleyball team, was involved in clubs, and by the time of college, started a club. Yep, even went to college like all the normal people. Worked on campus, was a resident assistant, and excelled in my classes. On the outside, everything looked fine. But I knew everyone hides their skeletons, or that’s what I assumed — that it was normal to hide.
“Normal” should never be a definition for the quality of life. It is not an identity to be accepted or defined by. It took years of therapy, and finding a healthy church, before I came to realize that I didn’t have to receive the way Evil was attacking my soul and life.
Over time I was able to receive love from others who tenderly pursued me. This led to opening my heart to Jesus in a way I hadn’t even known possible… a different kind of normal.
A dear friend, who has since passed, was the one who led me to the heart of Christ. This would be the first time I truly got it. The first time I got Him. Even after a lifetime of attending Church multiple times a week.
Having flashbacks of the things that occurred to me as a child was a “normal” part of my life. And this particular night was no exception, except that everything changed. I reached out to this friend to help me process my trauma and she changed my life forever. She challenged me to look for Jesus in my worst memories. It sounded nuts and scary (’cause what if He wasn’t there?), but I gave it a shot.
What I saw changed my life forever because it flipped my “normal” world into an extraordinary one.
It was the memory of the first time someone put a price tag on me for a few minutes of their pleasure. I didn’t expect to see Jesus at all, to be honest. I believed that God can’t look upon sin, and therefore he wasn’t there. Not because of me but because of the evil that was happening to me. But I was wrong. As I was raped, He was weeping. Jesus was there, and not one moment did He ever leave my side or look away from me. I realized it was for these moments He came to Earth — to be with us in the midst of our worst moments… and to be with me.
His presence changed everything.
No longer do I see myself or my faith or struggle as normal. After opening up to the possibility of His presence, even in my darkest moments, these memories are no longer only black. The anxiety and depression attached to them vanished. I began to see myself through His eyes. Full of unconditional love, valuable beyond compare, and having God’s undivided attention. For the first time ever, I felt like His. Being with someone I want to belong to — knowing that He’ll never treat me only as “normal”.
Since then I have been absorbing Jesus into my identity. Not a single moment has been normal since. That’s the incredible thing about following and believing Jesus.
What has happened to you, or what you have done, has absolutely no affect on His love for you. You may face “normal” struggles in our culture today, but He has called you far beyond a normal life.
You are not the sum of your actions, you are the sum of His actions.
Draw near to Him.
Proven Men: This should never be a normal experience — not for our daughters, our friends, our sisters, or for any human being (male or female). Evil is woven into our world, into our very hearts. Partner with Proven Men as we partner with Jesus to see all things made new. Just as He has made Lexie new.
Get involved with a ProvenMen’s group in your area, today. Stop settling.
Lexie Smith is a coffee connoisseur and avid dog lover living in Nashville, TN. She has a degree in Psychology from Lee University and attends The Belonging Co. Church. Lexie has been fighting sex-trafficking for 6 years, partnering with non profit organizations, to help people find redemption and live undefined by their circumstances.