I first shared my story on Sunday, May 20, 2018: the Feast of Pentecost. That moment came after God sent a number of holy people into my life to help me find the courage and words to not only tell my story, but to work through the psychological, emotional, and spiritual pieces of it. My hope is that God will use me and my story as an instrument to heal others from their deep wounds.
Just five days before I opened up about my story, I wrote this note in adoration:
“I knew I needed to stop at adoration today, and as I sat down to spend time with our Lord and grabbed the diary of St. Faustina as I often like to do while in the chapel this is where the Lord took me: Page 179. Jesus says to St. Faustina, ‘My chosen one, I will give you even greater graces that you may be the witness of my infinite mercy.’ I took it as a special consolation as if Jesus was telling me that even though this would be hard for me to do, the graces that would come from me sharing my story would be more than worth it.”
That hour gave me complete peace, knowing that God would provide for all that I needed to go through with everything on Pentecost. I also prayed for all the victims of sexual abuse everywhere and that God would use my story to heal others the way he has me.
The Trauma and the Lies
I’m sure you’ve heard that there’s no healing without forgiveness, and I am living proof of that. What is forgiveness if not Divine Mercy? We mirror God’s mercy to us when we bestow mercy on those who have hurt us.
I grew up in a big family with seven brothers, three sisters, and two loving parents in Brazil. My childhood was just like any other until the age of eight when someone who worked for my dad’s business took advantage of me by molesting and raping me. As you can imagine, this was a devastating experience. So from the tender age of eight, I started believing in the lies that the evil one instilled in me through this trauma. Lying is Satan’s primary weapon against God’s children. He uses this tactic to separate us from our heavenly Father. And he was having a field day with me.
- First lie: It must have been my fault. // For crying out loud, I was right years old. How could that have been my fault?
- Second lie: I should be forever ashamed. // This one probably hurt me the most because shame is what kept me from talking about what happened and finding the help that I so desperately needed.
- Third lie: I’ll never find happiness. // This lie made me believe that God didn’t really love me since He allowed this to happen to me.
Witnesses to Forgiveness
I believed in those lies so much that, in my early 20s, I realized I was sabotaging my own happiness by being drawn to people that would hurt me. I was in a bad and dark place then and was crying out to God for help. And in my cry for help, he led me to the Holocaust.
I had this thrist and desire to understand human suffering better and found myself reading everything I could get my hands on about the terrible evils of the Holocaust. Looking back now, I see God was leading me on my own journey to freedom through forgiveness, even then. After I read and watched everything I thought I could stand about the Holocaust, God started leading me towards the stories from the survivors. That’s when I realized that a common theme among them was forgiveness. The ones who were able to go on and live with purpose, joy and, most importantly, love were the ones who understood that they needed to forgive all the people responsible for the unspeakable evil done to them, their families, and their countries.
And then something happened that changed my life forever.
In the Face of Unspeakable Evil and Heartbreak
My mom called from Brazil to tell some devastating news. My aunt Ilsa, had just lost her only daughter, her daughter’s husband, and their 5-year old son, who were all killed by a drunk driver as they were walking home one evening. A whole family gone in an instant. I was devastated. My cousin Claudenice and I were very close growing up, and I struggled to understand why God would allow such terrible things to happen to good people.
After hanging up with my mom, I called my aunt who had just lost her family, and after lots of tears, I asked her how she felt about the man who was responsible for killing not one but three of her family members. Her response was so immediate and shocking that I had to ask a second time. “I have forgiven him already, my Faith demands it.” My aunt is a devout Catholic. I had never heard anyone put it that way before, and immediately two things came to my mind:
- Oh God, how I wish I could have that kind of faith.
- If my aunt could forgive the man that just devastated her family, there must be a way for me to forgive the man who did those terrible things to me when I was just a little girl.
The Chain of Unforgiveness
One of the heaviest chains we tend to carry around with us is unforgiveness. We all have been wronged, and some of us have been deeply hurt by other people. Unforgiveness becomes a poison to yourself, much like a cancer to the soul. We need to constantly ask God for the graces necessary to forgive one another if we are to attain peace in our hearts.We have to realize that forgiveness is a choice and a process. It all starts with the desire to forgive. The more we grow as children of God, we must realize that we need to pray everyday for the courage to be open to forgive and to ask for forgiveness when we have wronged someone.
All Things for Good
Romans 8:28 says that, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” Looking back now and knowing how God is and just how much He loves each and everyone of us, I realized that He used a horrible situation and this family tragedy to speak directly to my heart of the need to forgive my abuser.
In His goodness, He always uses terrible situations and events for the good of somebody, and in this case that somebody was me.
From that day on, I made a conscious decision to forgive my abuser and move on from victim to survivor with a purpose. And as I did that, I began to experience more peace, and most importantly, I was ready to get close to God. I trusted Him more, I looked for Him more, and I was curious to see what He meant when, so many times through my darkest nights, I heard Him say to me: “If you only knew the wonderful plans I have for you. “
I began to dream about God’s plans for me and asked myself:
- What do those plans look like?
- Is He going to bring me a good man for a husband?
- Am I ever going to be truly healed from this?
- Is he going to bless me with children?
In the years that followed I would have the answers to all these questions. When I made that conscious decision to forgive, I was able to start believing and receiving all God’s blessings, and one of them is my wonderful husband, David! God knew my wounds, and He was extremely good to me by giving me someone like David. David patiently loved me through my brokenness, even in the first years of marriage when I was still trying to sabotage my own happiness by believing in those lies Satan had been telling me since childhood.
And then God showed His goodness and mercy to me again by blessing us with three beautiful and kind children whom I adore.
Only when we forgive can we begin to hope for a future full of God’s blessings. Forgiveness helps us to get unstuck from the chains that prevent us from living life to its fullness and claiming what’s rightfully ours, which is freedom through Christ.
Even after all of God’s blessings in David and our children, He had more healing in store for me. Just before Lent 2017, I approached my pastor for help. He and another priest walked me through one of the most painful healing experiences I ever had. They used a method similar to what it’s found in the book Unbound by Neal Lozano.
As a teacher of deliverance, Neal shows how to find and close those doors that may have been open to evil influences. In my case, that door was my childhood trauma, and consequently, Satan’s underhanded strategies. Had I known how hard that process was going to be, I probably would have said, “No thanks.” But again, Our Lord with His abundant mercies and the Blessed Mother carried me through those excruciating days to bring me to where I am today.
Sharing Your Story
Just when I thought my healing process was finished and everything was behind me, Go whispered to me in my quiet prayer time that now that I was truly healed and found a place of freedom, He wanted me to share my store to glorify Him and to bring healing to others. I hope that my story inspires you to let God heal you also! Jesus’ fountain of mercy is endless! He wants to free each of us from all the lies that keeps us from being the best version of ourselves and receiving all the blessings He has already planned for us since before we were born.
I know that not everyone who has been abused will be called to witness to others, but I do hope that every victim of any type of abuse will find the courage and strength to share their story with their loved ones, their priest, or a trusted friend. The evil one loves everything that’s in the dark because he knows he can manipulate us into believing that God doesn’t love us, and by doing that, he can cause great havoc in our lives.
On the contrary, our good Lord wants us to bring those dark, hurting places of our hearts to Him so He can show us just how much He loves us by healing us. As we read in 1Thessalonians 5:5:
For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of night and darkness.
I lived in the darkness for so long, and now there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to help others come out of their dark place.
I share my full story in Freedom Through Christ: A Memoir of Healing in the Aftermath of Sexual Abuse. In July 2020, I felt God was calling me to take my healing to a new level. I was being called to establish a home for young women who need healing and restoration following a traumatic event in their lives. Understanding their journey to healing, I have a deep desire to share this gift in a society where human trafficking and physical and sexual abuse are prevalent in astounding rates.
Our mission, Healed and Restored, will be a premier care home in the Charlotte, NC area for women suffering from traumatic experiences. We will serve young women ages 13-30 free of charge from across the country. Through programs rooted in mind, body, spirit, and soul care, women will be transformed and experience God’s tremendous healing power and embrace their identity as beloved daughters of the Father. Holistic programs grounded in our beautiful Catholic Faith will include counseling, spiritual exercises, movement therapy, as well a multitude of outdoor experiences.
If you would like to know more about this glorious program or if you desire to join this sisterhood of women serving God by serving other women, you can learn more here.
In closing, let me ask you a series of questions:
- Who do you need to forgive?
- Do you truly desire God’s healing and freedom through Christ?
- Do you wish to break free from all those chains that have kept you a prisoner?
- Do you believe that God wants nothing more than to be your healer and comforter?
- Will you allow Him?
- Are you ready to start saying yes to the Lord, trusting that He will provide for all that you need?
- Are you ready to start believing that broken people like you and I are exactly the people He wants to use to accomplish His will and heal others?
Ask yourself these questions over the next few days. The answers might just change your life.
Elza Spaedy is a sexual abuse survivor with a lifechanging story to share. Since becoming Unbound in 2017, Elza has been on fire for the Lord, ready to spread the good news of her incredible healing with other victims. She is the loving wife of David, and a devoted mother to their three beautiful children Bella, Bree, and Tristan. In addition to being an author and public speaker, Elza works as a realtor in Huntersville, North Carolina. She spends her free time with her family volunteering for many different ministries at Saint Mark Catholic Church. Her mission from the Holy Spirit is to share her powerful testimony of hope and healing with others who are still hurting.
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