That’s me in the picture. I’m probably in the fourth grade, a year before my father passed away.
I first laid eyes on this photo last month. It was in a pile of pictures my father took of me, and when I leafed through the black and whites and my eyes landed upon this one, my heart dropped. Maybe time stopped.
So many questions overwhelmed me.
- Why did he take this picture?
- Did he instruct me to stand there?
- Why would a father ask his child to pose in a place meant for excrement?
- Did I understand what manure meant?
- Did I pose willingly or grudgingly? (My face says the latter).
- Was this some warped way of being creative?
- Did my father view me this way?
- Did I?
I started back in therapy this year because of my father. Though I have been perpetrated against by others (and you know my story), he is my first perpetrator. I’m afraid to even write this because I know it will make people angry. I know it will be dismissed. I am told he loved me. I am told he liked spending time with me. I am told many things.
But my memories are haunted.
Of pornographic images he took. Of other women, proudly showing them to me, wanting me to approve of their artistry. Of me, naked. Of men, naked, with me sitting naked on their laps while they read me stories. Of me having to wash my naked father. (So much nakedness). Of coarse talk about sex when I was a preschooler.
This is not the love of a good father.
For so long I needed him to be my hero. But as the memories unspilled from me, I realized heroes and villains live on a hair’s breadth.
I cannot reconcile him. For now? He’s a villain, having teetered off with my discovery of this photo.
It was only later, after I met Jesus, and after a few decades of following Him that I realized He was the hero, the One who loved me well. He who suffered outside Jerusalem’s gates, who bore the shame of every single sin (even my father’s sins, even mine). His love for me dignified me, drew me from the muck and the mire, from the manure receptacle, and gloriously set me on a new trajectory.
I am worth more than the sadness of this photo. I may be the daughter of a father who exploited, but I am also the daughter of the One who was exploited. Who was treated like refuse. Who weeps when little girls pose in front of disturbing messages.
I am worth more.
And so are you.
I don’t have a neat way to tie up this post, other than to say I survived my father. He died when I was ten. And I lived longer than he walked this earth. I lived long enough to meet Jesus, to experience loads of healing, and to have the unique privilege of bearing your stories and empathizing with you.
But I still grieve.
I am still healing.
I try to understand this photo, but I cannot.
Honesty: I have been doing therapy for two reasons: my father and the release of WE TOO. I knew I needed some support when the book released, and now that it has, I sincerely ask that you pray for me as I hear more stories like mine. Pray Jesus would bear my burdens as I bear others.
And if you feel that this issue of sexual abuse needs to be talked about and dealt with redemptively, you can pick up a copy here: