I’ve spent more than a decade working with American survivors of sex trafficking — precious young girls who, before they had everything stolen, lived a lot like my daughter or yours. When I first started working with them, 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 come together to explain a puzzle I thought would never be solved.
These young women were groomed to lives that most of us want 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 true worth in God’s eyes.
As my eyes opened to the many ways I had been groomed, I started to understand the messages I had internalized, and I wanted to rewrite my own narrative. I began my own journey of uncovering the places I longed to reclaim. I battled for years, often with the wrong things, before I realized all that had truly been stolen from me.
I lost my beloved, dynamic older sister in a tragic gun accident when she was only fifteen, and this loss framed how I navigated relationships and lived my life. Because I was only six when she died, a lot of people treated me like I didn’t really understand what a loss it was or that their losses were bigger. I was groomed to act as if my grief didn’t really matter or compare and learned not to bother anyone with my own feelings. I didn’t realize that in my inability to grieve and find comfort at that tender young age, I was groomed to bury my own pain. When I was raped and abused as a teenager, again I stayed silent. When my marriage crumbled and my soul felt hollow, I hid the truth from everyone, including my closest Christian friends, for years. I wouldn’t even admit it to myself.
I’ve seen five specific ways that women tend to be groomed, from physical appearance to spirituality to finances. My “favorite,” or the one I most relate to personally, is what I call “Groomed to Endure”. For over 40 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.
It is only recently that I am seeing how painful and ineffective this strategy 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.
Every day, I meet women from every kind of background who have been longing to rise up, to be seen for who they truly are, to fill a gap that they can’t quite name. They’re ready to face what’s holding them back, and to embrace the truth that our loving Heavenly Father wants to fully restore us and overcome the lies that shaped us. It’s time to share and unpack the grooming of our pasts.
I wrote my book Groomed to help women identify the ways they have been trained to and how those perceptions shape their self-worth. My prayer is that by sharing my own story, you will see your own. When I share how I would stop to buy a new outfit every day on the way work so I didn’t feel invisible, I pray God highlights a place in you He wants to heal where you too felt passed over. When I confess about my rush of shame, when, with toddlers in tow, I had to leave my cart of groceries at the Costco because there was not enough money in the account, I pray you will see your own complicated experiences in the fear of not having enough. We revisit the past not to wallow in it, or to get stuck in the pain, regret or resentment, but to let the Lord lead you into a selah.
Selah is a Hebrew word meaning 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 His rest and instead 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 the email, check this last voicemail. We keep moving even when we feel God drawing us toward a selah.
The “ungrooming” process helps us pause and take stock, to journey to the places we’ve tucked neatly away, and to look at the things that are holding us back from living our full lives.
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
Written for Faith.Full by Elizabeth Melendez Fisher, author or Groomed.
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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 and rest in the pause… His pause. Selah… and emerge with fresh eyes, scales removed, and possibilities you never dared to dream. This is our season. Join me on the Groomed adventure in 2020 – the year all comes into perfect clarity and vision fully restored.
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