Uncovering the Real Me

By Starla Allen

 

After the rape, I sensed a growing hatred of men. And I vowed that one of them would never get near me again.

When I was 13 years of age, I was forcefully raped by a family friend. I was too afraid to tell anyone, especially my dad. He always said, "If anyone ever hurts my little girl, I'll kill him." He was a big man, and I was afraid he'd do just that. So I "stuffed" down the fear and anger for the next 15 years. Bitterness brewed inside. In fact, my real self, my femininity was buried by it, although I didn't realize that for years.

My upbringing had been strict, but I knew my parents loved one another. In fact, my mother spoiled my father rotten, and they both loved it. My parents were married for 32 years, until my mother passed away in 1981.

Back when I was four years old, another significant event happened. My family was visiting my grandparents. Amid all the talking and chit- chat, my grandfather started teasing me, and he hurt my feelings. I started crying. My father didn't know how to respond. He took me into a bedroom and told me to stay there until I could pull myself together.

I won't show that kind of emotion again to Dad, I promised myself. I felt like I was being punished for doing something bad. I started protecting my emotions from that point on.

My parents warned my younger sister and I about the dangers of men, especially strangers. The message I heard was, "Don't trust men. You'll only get hurt." The rape incident when I was 13 confirmed those feelings. I knew better than to let a man get close to me after that.

I had an older woman friend who headed a girls' group to which I belonged. One day, I told her about my rape. She was a Christian, and began praying for me. As time went on, she shared with me the changes God was bringing in her life. I was interested, but I wasn't yet ready to invite Him into my own heart.

During high school and college, I didn't have much time for men. I'd pretty much decided marriage wasn't for me.

Then, in my third year of college, I met a woman who gave me unconditional love, just what I'd been seeking for years. Our relationship became close and emotional, then physical. We lived together almost five years.

The first couple of years were marvelous -there was romance everywhere. But our mutual neediness began taking its toll. I either felt smothered or neglected. Toward the end of our relationship, my lover started dating guys and sleeping with them. That killed me; I couldn't stand it. One day, I confronted her.

"You can either learn to handle it, or we're through," she snapped. I knew I didn't have too many options. I figured it was either make the relationship work, or I'd end up alone.

The relationship between my lover and I continued to crumble, and I drank to numb the pain. Finally, in desperation, I started dating a young man. We even had a short-lived sexual relationship. He knew my situation, and was determined to help me out of lesbianism.

But there was no foundation for a friendship. We only had three things in common: we liked sunsets, Chinese food and sex. I knew it wasn't the type of relationship that I really wanted. And I was still not letting go of my emotions; those were carefully protected. I didn't want to get hurt again.

My life seemed totally empty. I started seriously thinking about suicide, and even picked out the method I'd use. As I surveyed the wreckage of my life, I suddenly thought about my older friend who had witnessed to me.

Mom Nelson said that Jesus could really change lives, I thought. Well, I've tried everything else. I might as well give Him a chance.

"God, if you're up there," I prayed, "I'm giving you three days. Here is my life; see what you can do." I decided if nothing happened after three days, I'd go ahead and commit suicide.

On the third day, I ran into Mom Nelson. "I've done something that you might be interested in," I said, and told her what I'd done. She was thrilled, and immediately sat me down with a little booklet on becoming a Christian. She wanted to make sure I was really saved! Then she plugged me into a church and a Bible study.

I knew I couldn't go back to my lover. My lesbianism just didn't fit in with my new relationship with God. So I moved to another apartment by myself. During my first year as a Christian, I had no problem at all on a sexual level. It was like a great honeymoon period. I'd go home from work and soak up the Word. Finally I had found Someone who would give me all the love I could stand.

One lady in my church was very helpful. I could go over to her house any time of the day or night. We'd read the Scriptures together and talk about what was happening in our lives. She was a major contributor towards my healing.

At first, though, I was deathly afraid to tell her about my past lesbianism. One night, I was sitting on her sofa, agonizing over whether or not to tell her. I cried for about half an hour, while she just sat and waited. When I finally told her, she said, "Well, I never would have guessed." It was then I realized that God was already working great changes in my life. It encouraged me to keep on going.

After several years as a Christian, I felt the Lord asking me to go back to the lesbian community with His message. "Absolutely no way!" I said to myself. I agonized over that answer for a few weeks.

Then God asked me, "Are you willing to come with Me and deliver My message?" Knowing He'd be with me was just the reassurance I needed, and I said yes.

It was another three years before He got me in contact with ex-gay ministry. A friend who knew my past gave me a newspaper ad which mentioned Love In Action, a nearby Christian ministry to men and women overcoming homosexuality. I put the slip of paper in my pocket and thought, Is this God calling me to minister? It can't be-I'm not totally healed yet.

Two weeks later, the same woman gave me a copy of the ad again, forgetting that she had already mentioned it. I sensed God was behind it, so I decided to phone Love In Action. I got the address for their group meetings and went to the church.

From the first night, I knew God wanted me there, and I started going regularly. Then the leader left and I found myself in charge of the group. But there still wasn't any deep sense of healing within me. I was out of lesbian behavior, but I was just beginning to see who I was as a woman.

One day, I shared with a friend at church my burden for becoming a counsellor. "That sounds great!" she said. "But you'll need to go back to school." I started looking into different programs, and chose Biola University near Los Angeles.

Soon I was on my way to southern California, with ten dollars in my pocket and my little Datsun full of my earthly possessions. On the way down, I stopped to visit my dad. For the first time in his life, he took me to the bank, withdrew one hundred dollars from his account, and handed it to me. I knew he was saying, "I love you. I'm behind you." I was ready to cry. It was the first step of restoration in our relationship.

Once in Los Angeles, I called a friend who'd been my first Sunday School teacher. She lived fairly close to the school and said, "My husband's out of town for two weeks. How would you like to stay here?" I thought, "Hallelujah! I've got a place to stay for awhile." That was nine years ago, and though I've lived in other places, I've never lacked a home since that day. The Lord has taken really good care of me.

God has done a lot of good things in my life during these past nine years. There's been a slow healing process in accepting my femininity. For example, as a result of the rape, I never dressed to look pretty, because pretty meant seductive, and seductive meant trouble.

"I need to learn how to shop for clothes," I told my roommate one day. About a week later, she said,"Let's go shopping!" I broke out in a cold sweat.

"Uhh, wait," I answered. "I'm not ready for that yet!" She waited another week, then tried again.

"Starla, I need to go shopping for something to wear on my trip. Do you want to come with me?" So we went shopping, and she really got into it. I was pushing through all the hangers, casually looking at things. It was a start! Now when we go shopping, we try on all kinds of flamboyant things, just to see what they look like. I've learned a bit about style, what colors look good on me-that sort of thing. I love it; it feels good to enhance who I am.

In fact, the Lord has totally changed me. About six months after accepting the Lord, I ran into one of the men I used to play pool with. I shook his hand, and asked him how his family was doing. He didn't even recognize me.

After our conversation, I walked away, floating about three feet off the ground. "God, You've really done a work in me," I laughed. Now when I tell people some of things I used to do, they say, "I can't imagine you that way." And it's true, because I can't either. God has healed my bitterness, and the real me underneath is blossoming

Copyright ©1988, 1993 by Bob Davies. Reprinted by Permision by Love In Action, P.O. Box 753307, Memphis, TN 38175-3307