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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

My Journey: A “Do-Over” Life!

By Thomas O. Colby
Dec. 30, 2012

My story begins in 1963, when I was just 5 years old. I was not yet old enough to begin elementary school, but old enough to be forever impacted by the sinful choices of others.

One afternoon two teenagers from the neighborhood coaxed me to a secluded place near the local railroad tracks in our little town, and there they molested me. Afterward, they warned me not to tell anyone what had happened. Though I instinctively knew what they had done to me was wrong, I found myself unable to tell anyone — both out of fear and shame. So I remained silent.

Several days passed, and I had successfully kept my secret hidden. But soon my shame and embarrassment became too transparent, and I reluctantly confessed to my mother what had happened.

Her reaction to my confession was surprising and painful. The local police were called, the shameful story was shared, and somehow I was made to feel like the guilty party — blamed for allowing such things to happen.

My 5-year-old heart made a decision that day: If anything like this should happen again, especially if it were sexual in nature, I would not share it with those in authority over my life.

Unfortunately, such events did happen a number of times over the next several years. These encounters all involved trusted friends of the family, both young and old, and none was someone my family would ever suspect.

As I approached my teen years and the molestation ended, I began questioning why I had been targeted by these individuals. I wondered if something in my young life was flawed, causing me to somehow bring it on myself. Though I didn’t have the answers, what I did know was that I would not tell anyone — especially my family. So I struggled quietly with my shame, feeling silently defective.

Then came the summer of 1974. I didn’t realize it at first, but I was about to experience a tremendous change in my life. A “do-over” opportunity was about to be offered to me.

The beginnings of that opportunity were not pleasant. My mother, at 42, had been hospitalized and was in the last days of her life. Her battle with alcoholism and undiagnosed mental illness was coming to a close.

Confronted with the very real threat of personal loss, I accepted an invitation from a friend to attend his church — an Assemblies of God church. He had invited me a number of times. I accepted this invitation out of sheer desperation.

That Sunday morning his family picked me up at my home. I attended Sunday school, followed by an adult worship service. I can’t remember the subject of the pastor’s sermon that day. But I do remember an invitation was given for me to begin a new life by surrendering my life to Jesus. I knew right then that this was the “do-over” moment I had been needing my entire life.

That Sunday in August 1974, I gave my broken, hurting, sin-saturated life to Christ. He not only forgave me of all my sin; He also healed the hurt brought about by others’ sins! Through Him, the old was taken away, and I had new life.

Even though the molestation had stopped years earlier, the memories and emotional scars had etched my life. They were always with me. Many times early on in my new Christian life I questioned, Why did these things happen to me? Why did I have to spend my life feeling somehow damaged? Why didn’t I tell anyone? Why? Why? Why?

I truly loved the Lord. I had experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit and sensed a call of God on my life to full-time ministry. I also discovered a desire to contact and forgive some of those who had impacted my young life. However, the Lord seemed to close all doors of opportunity for such encounters to happen: One of my offenders had died; others were impossible to contact.

The Lord showed me that healing would ultimately come from Him, not from verbalizing my forgiveness to my offenders.

I also discovered the nature of my questions needed to change. As I grew in my faith, my real healing came when I stopped asking myself, Why me? and began asking, How do You, Lord, want to use this?

As long as we remain focused on the “why” questions about life, we cannot experience complete healing. When we can begin to ask how God can bring something good out of a tragedy, healing is beginning!

Our healing, and some of our greatest miracles, are waiting just on the other side of the “Why me?” questions of life.

Many years have passed since that life-changing encounter near the railroad tracks when I was only 5 years old. My wife, Sharon, and I have enjoyed over 32 years of pastoral ministry. I have seen the Lord use the experiences of my life over and over again. He has used my pre-conversion past, both the good and the bad, to enhance my post-conversion ministry. After all, isn’t that what His grace is all about?

In this life’s journey, I thank the Lord for these “do-over” opportunities. We all need them!

THOMAS O. COLBY and his wife, Sharon, have served as lead pastors of Westwood Christian Assembly (Assemblies of God) in Seattle, Wash., since 1992.

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