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Valerie Habeeb's Story: From Sexual Abuse to Salvation

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 24, 2024 3:01 am

Valerie Habeeb's Story: From Sexual Abuse to Salvation

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 24, 2024 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, our host, Lee Habeeb, tells his wife's story. Decades after years of sexual abuse and crisis, Valerie leaned on her faith to forgive her abuser, and to powerfully heal.

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It happens every day in America and across the world. God's grace changes hearts, changes minds, and changes lives. It often brings people back to life. As another Easter rolled by the Sunday before last and Christians in America and around the world celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ, one story in my small town of Oxford, Mississippi is worth telling. She grew up near the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, not far from Biloxi and Gulfport, towns known for their fishing and shipbuilding industries and their casinos. She didn't have much growing up. Her mom, who'd been married several times, did her best to raise her four daughters by herself. She worked as a waitress pulling long shifts at a local restaurant to support her girls. Her father, he was out of the picture. He never showed up, never paid child support, and never provided the basics of life that a young girl needs from a dad.

He was never there to show her what a man's love looks like. Sometimes, as a month closed, there were hard choices to make. The choice between paying an electric bill or a grocery bill. Sometimes there wasn't enough for both. The young girl blossomed into a beautiful teenager, but there was an absence.

A void she didn't know was a void. Without knowing it, she found and sought a substitute for the love she never received from her father. In stepped a predator to do just that.

He was a prominent lawyer in a nearby town and decades older. He did what this particular brand of predators do. He paid attention to her. He praised her. He did the things he knew a vulnerable, unprotected girl with a father void longed for. Things that approximated what a broken young girl would think was love.

In short, he groomed her for his own pleasure. She was fourteen. When it started, she was seventeen when it ended, and more alone than ever. What she experienced wasn't love. It was the opposite.

It was human cruelty of the worst and ugliest variety. She didn't tell anybody what happened. Not her mom.

Not her sisters. Not her friends, which she could count on one hand. She kept things to herself because she blamed herself for what happened. Because she felt ashamed for letting him take advantage of her. Because she was afraid to tell anyone. Because after all, who would believe her? And because she wanted to forget it ever happened. For all of those reasons, and others she will never know, and no longer cares to know, she never told anyone. She wanted to move on.

So she moved north to Baltimore to start a new life. A new life with an anchor holding her down. A secret holding her down. A trauma holding her down she couldn't name or run away from. She was now a stunning young woman with the kind of good looks that could stop traffic.

She put herself through college and got a job at a local law firm. But her past kept haunting her. Especially when she drank, which wasn't often. But things ended poorly when she did. That's when the darkness descended.

That's when the demons came out. There were sexual encounters. There were abortions.

There were fights and words uttered in anger. And blackouts. And more regret.

And even more shame. She concealed these parts of herself to people around her. She was a world-class actress. And the outside world was certain she had her act together. And she mostly held things together. Except for those episodes. And those secrets.

And that trauma. She hadn't told anyone any of this in her 27 years in this world. Until she told me. A few years later, I would marry her. She was a beautiful and courageous and strong woman.

So beautifully broken. So eager to figure out how to make her life better. How to make our life better. With the birth of our child a few years later, a spiritual dimension awakened in my wife. One that was dormant for almost all of it. She was desperate to put the angry girl of her past, the wounded and bitter girl, filled with resentment behind her. And thus began a new, long walk with God. A walk that would bring miraculous changes to her life.

To our lives. She began to do things that, but for God's command, most people wouldn't or couldn't. It started with forgiving her mother, whom she secretly blamed for leaving her so exposed and so vulnerable. If her mother had stayed married, she thought deep down inside, maybe that predator would not have done what he did to her.

Maybe the father she never had would have protected her. But her new walk with God softened her heart. It made her more compassionate.

It made her more empathetic. Only a year or so after our daughter was born, she did something she never thought she'd do. She asked her mother to move from Biloxi to Baltimore, where we'd lived for some years to help raise our daughter. Her mother has lived with us ever since.

Next came an even bolder spiritual move. She decided not long after our move back south to Mississippi to write a letter to her biological father. He didn't know she was married, let alone that she'd become a mother, making him a grandfather. And he didn't know she'd moved closer to home in northern Mississippi.

He quickly replied to the letter. It took time, but soon we would visit him in the small rural town he'd grown up in, a mere two hours from where we lived. Those visits became quite regular. Watching her father play with my daughter was something we could not have imagined in our wildest dreams. When her dad got cancer, my wife was there to provide the care for him he'd never provided for her. When he died, she was there to bury him. Happily for all of us, she buried her past, her anger and bitterness toward him long before. Indeed, watching my wife put the past behind and forgive the father she never knew was not merely remarkable, but downright inspiring. William Faulkner, who lived here in Oxford, Mississippi where we broadcast, once said, the past is never dead.

It isn't even past. My wife would have given Faulkner an earful if he was still alive and living in this town. She would tell him that he was wrong and that the angry, numb young girl she used to be was dead. That his unforgiveness yielded to forgiveness, God gave birth to a new and better version of herself. Soon, my wife's forgiveness walk included the man who raped her.

It took many years to get there, but she did it. It was in my mind an almost supernatural journey to witness, because it is so unnatural to forgive someone who rapes you, who raped you for so many years. Luckily for my wife, the most important book in her life is not Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. It's the Bible, which speaks powerfully and often about the transformational power of forgiveness. Two verses in the Bible come to mind. In Hebrews, watch out that no poisonous fruit of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. And Colossians, make allowance for each other's faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. My wife now ministers to women who've suffered traumas at the hands of men, women who suffered from the trauma of absent fathers too. She has a message of hope for them and the example of her own story. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once noted, forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning, and it is true. As another Easter season passes, I thank God for the countless new beginnings all around us, the resurrections all around us, for lives restored all around us, for we who call ourselves Christians, and even those who don't, the miracles of God's love, God's mercy, and God's grace are everywhere. A story of love and forgiveness, a close and personal one for me. My wife's, here on Our American Stories.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-24 04:25:35 / 2024-04-24 04:30:32 / 5

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