I’ve spent more than a decade working with survivors of sex trafficking in America, precious young girls who, before they had everything stolen, lived a lot like my daughter or yours. I thought I was there to help them, but the more I listened to their stories, the more I saw my own. No, I’ve never been arrested, walked the streets or been forced to sell my body. But the more I heard, the more the pieces started to fit into a puzzle I thought would never be solved.
These young women were groomed to a life of sexual abuse that we’d like to believe have nothing in common with our “normal” lives. But what I’ve learned is that we have ALL been groomed … stifled, limited, and even abused to the place where we no longer see our own worth in God’s eyes.
I battled for years, often with the wrong things, before I realized all that had been stolen from me. My story starts with losing my beloved, dynamic, beautiful older sister in a tragic gun accident when she was only 15. I didn’t realize that in my inability to grieve and find a refuge to hide and comfort my young soul, that I was groomed to bury my own pain. When I was raped and abused as a teenager, again I was silent. When my marriage crumbled and my soul felt hollow, I hid the truth from everyone, even my fellow believers.
I believe there are five specific ways that women have been groomed, from physical appearance to spirituality to finances. The one I most relate to personally, is being groomed to endure. For almost 50 years I believed that my efforts to overcome every obstacle were a strength. I believed everyone needed to just try harder and pull themselves together. I am only recently seeing how painful this was. We’ve heard many times that our greatest strengths are our greatest weakness. Today, I would not wish some of my “strengths” on my worst enemies.
Being groomed isn’t just my story, though. Every day, I meet women from every kind of background who have been longing to rise up, be seen for what they truly are. They’re ready to face what’s holding them back, and to embrace the truth that our loving Heavenly Father wants to restore us and overcome the lies. I share my own vulnerable stories to help them see theirs. My prayer is that a woman who hears about me stopping to buy a new outfit every day on the way work in order to stop feeling invisible will see the place in herself that felt passed over. And the woman who understands my rush of embarrassment when, toddlers in tow, I had to leave a cart of groceries at the Costco because I had no money in the account, will see their own complicated experiences of having enough.
The purpose of revisiting the past is not to wallow in it, though, but rather to let it lead you into a Selah.
Selah, a Hebrew word to rest, to pause, to reflect. We find it often in the Psalms, modeling a way of life and a way of worship. After an intense encounter, Scripture teaches us to Selah. To pause and let the moment, the truth, the praise sink in. Let the Lord reveal.
Psalm 46:10 tells us, Be still and know that I am God
Exodus 14:14 says, The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still
Why are these simple commands so hard to walk out? Why is it so easy to push aside the hard ideas and work so hard, in our own flesh? We promise we will make time for prayer and reflection right after we put the dishes away, send this email, check this voicemail. We keep moving even when we feel God drawing us toward a selah.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us – Ephesians 3:20
The process of understanding how you have been groomed means taking stock and journeying to the places you’ve tucked neatly away. To look at the things that are holding you back from living their full lives.
Are you ready for a new season, ready to relaunch with fresh eyes, groomed no more? This is your freedom call. Do you dare, are you brave enough, to scream, “It’s time!” Join me in the journey, rest in the pause … and emerge with fresh eyes, scales removed, and possibilities you never dared to dream.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland – Isaiah 43:19
Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good is the CEO and cofounder of Selah Freedom and the Selah Way Foundation, which exist to prevent sexual abuse, exploitation, and sex trafficking of children and young adults. Her book, "Groomed: Overcoming the Messages That Shaped Our Past and Limit Our Future", takes readers through her own story of uncovering the places she longed to reclaim.