“When I began following Christ, I had many misconceptions about forgiveness,” said Rachel Crow. “Did forgiveness mean that harms done to me were suddenly OK? Was it even possible to love and forgive others the way Christ loved and forgave me? I was confronted by how much I needed to learn when asked if I had ever considered forgiving the person who had hurt me most – my abuser.
“When I was six years old, a member of our extended family moved into our home. My mother was out of the picture, and my father worked multiple jobs to keep food on the table for three kids. While my father focused on providing for our family, the man who had recently moved into our home began sexually abusing me – a pattern that continued until I was 15.
“No one in our East Texas town knew that he was a fugitive for prior child sex abuse. Each night, I prayed for the abuse to stop, but I had no idea to whom I was talking to. As a kid, the only time I heard Jesus’ name was when it was used in vain. Eventually, I wondered if there was a God at all. When I turned 15, the abuser moved out of our home. You’d think I would have been so happy, but instead I was left with incredible anger at the abuse I had endured.
“During that time the Lord used a random text from someone who didn’t really know me to begin changing my life. The friendship that subsequently developed after receiving that text became a place where I could be open and honest. After Sean (now my husband) and I began dating, he invited me to visit his church and youth group. I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time at 16 years old.
“After high school, I bought my first Bible so I could learn more about this Jesus I’d been singing songs about. I devoured God’s Word, underlining words, circling things I found confusing, and struggling with the question: Why did my abuse happen? As I continued to pursue truth, the Lord connected me with a college roommate who became a mentor in the faith for me.
“Meanwhile, I claimed to have trusted Christ, but I was not living for Him day-to-day, and that was clearly evidenced in my relationship with Sean. I eventually moved in with Sean, in hopes that he would propose. That didn’t happen on my timeline, and then my plans for continuing my education changed when my application was rejected by the University of Texas at Dallas. I wanted to be in control, not God. It felt like my life was on hold, and God seemed very far away.
“I started looking for churches and stumbled across Watermark. When we first attended The Porch, they were in the middle of a ‘Boy Meets Girl’ series. It really resonated with me and prompted me to focus on purity and participate in Watermark’s recovery ministry. For so long, I’d been hearing what I wanted from God’s Word. But Scripture says that we are to flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).
“Sean and I eventually got married, and a week after the wedding, I got a call explaining that my abuser had been arrested. The caller asked if I had been abused, too. Before I trusted Jesus, I would never have answered that question. But this side of recovery in Christ, I shared my story for the first time to someone other than my husband. Eventually, I shared that story with an Assistant District Attorney, as well.
“After two decades of evading arrest, my abuser was finally facing the consequences. He pled guilty and was sentenced to a total of 25 years instead of the maximum. I became focused on self-protection by taking self-defense classes and trying to erase my identity on the internet, in fear of him being paroled and trying to find me in the future. I was full of worry and relying on myself, rather than trusting in the Lord.
“A friend asked me if I had ever considered praying for my abuser’s salvation. It sounded crazy, but that conversation got me thinking about Luke 6:35-36 and God’s desire for us to forgive. As a believer, I had been forgiven abundantly, and the grace I found in Christ was a free gift. In light of God’s mercy, was I willing to forgive others? God was calling me to forgive because not doing so was hurting me, and He wanted the best for me.
“I cried the first time I prayed for my abuser and was reminded that the Lord grieved over both the abuse and my abuser. God gave me peace as I prayed for my abuser’s salvation. Justice belonged to God alone, and my part was to trust and obey the Lord.
“Obeying the Lord by forgiving my abuser changed my walk with Christ. Forgiveness freed me up to focus on my marriage, pray for my husband, and forgive more quickly. Going to re|engage helped me learn to let go of the small stuff and focus on pursuing oneness. Forgiveness opened the door to honesty in our relationship, and we became more intentional about our time together.
“I can see how the Lord carried me through those dark years and restored my strength (Isaiah 40:30-31). His power restored me, and He will continue to restore me as I place more trust in Him. I can tell you from experience that His promises are true, and only Christ brings beauty from ashes.”