Healing from Rape: My Garden of Agony with Jesus
By Lauren Sallarulo
I went to college at one of the most amazing places in the whole entire world: Auburn University. One night I got ready to go out to a bar with some friends. What started out as a normal night quickly took a turn for the worse.
My phone died. I drank too much. My friends decided to leave. They left me with someone they trusted. I had no other way of getting home. I ended up walking to a fraternity house with a friend and someone I had just met that night.
But I never made it to the frat house. I ended up in this stranger’s apartment. That night, this stranger raped me. In one night, I went from being a virgin and saving myself for marriage, to the girl that had been raped. My whole world changed.
I felt broken, ashamed, and hurt. I felt betrayed, used, and unlovable. I felt unworthy. I felt sad. I felt scared. Most of all, I felt like my heart had broken into a million pieces.
My relationship with everyone in my life drastically changed. But my relationship with Jesus seemed to change the most. I went from letting Jesus gaze at me as His Beloved, to not even feeling worthy to show up to Mass. I felt like Jesus would never look at me the same. I felt lost and alone. I could not even look at myself in the mirror for years without feeling ashamed about what happened to me.
Disclaimer: **Even though the experience I am about to share has tremendously helped in my healing journey with the Lord, I also sought counseling to help me work through the trauma I had endured. I continue to see a counselor to this day and have found such healing and freedom through counseling, as well as in my journey of walking with the Lord. I encourage anyone who has experienced some form of trauma to seek help and guidance to help them walk through their own journey of healing. Remember, you are not alone.**
A few years ago, I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was such an amazing and healing trip. (If you ever get the chance to go there, please do. It will change your life.)
One morning, we had Mass on the Rock of Agony, right next to the Garden of Gethsemane. There, I experienced profound healing.
The Garden of Gethsemane is a garden between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, where Jesus went with his disciples after the Last Supper and was betrayed. The Rock of Agony is where Jesus is believed to have prayed in agony the night before he was crucified.
I cried all throughout that Mass. At the end, we were able to touch the Rock of Agony. I was standing in the same spot where Jesus had experienced extreme suffering and desolation but still chose the Father’s will even through His suffering.
It was a profound experience being in that exact place where Jesus experienced such deep suffering. Although I did not know it at the time, I was experiencing profound healing in that moment too.
Suffering is inevitable. We all encounter suffering in one way or another throughout our lives. Jesus suffered in ways we could never even imagine. He suffered for you and for me.
There is a beauty in suffering because there can be redemption and love, even amidst it all. My story is filled with moments of suffering that I never thought I would go through, but the way that Jesus responded and showed me the love that He has for me is truly remarkable.
I never imagined that I would experience such deep suffering at such a young age. For a long time, it felt like that suffering would never go away. The trauma that comes from being raped can be overwhelming at times. I used to always think that I was not allowed to feel the pain for this experience because there are people who have experienced worse.
But what I have learned is that we cannot compare our sufferings to the sufferings of other people. All we can do is simply rest in the love of Jesus, knowing that he never leaves us alone in our suffering, no matter what it is.
God knew that 10 years after I was raped that I would be ready to fully experience healing in the midst of my suffering. He knew I would be in the Holy Land in 2016, that I would experience Mass on the Rock of Agony, and that I would finally be ready to experience the relentless love and healing that can only come from God.
It does not mean I do not think about what happened to me often or still get upset about it. It does not mean the experience is erased. But it does mean that I can stand firm in my Belovedness as a Daughter of God and can still trust God in the midst of suffering.
Will you open your heart today to acknowledge your own identity as God’s Beloved, even if you are suffering? Will you be brave enough to let God’s relentless love in today?
P.S. You are enough.