An End to Sackcloth and Ashes

This past weekend was a pretty insightful one for me. Surprisingly so, because my weekends are often just as busy as my weekdays. The grocery shopping has to be done. The laundry. Meal preparation for the week. And, of course, ever since my things arrived from North Carolina, there has been a mad flurry of organizing, cleaning, unpacking, and putting things away. And even though I’ve been fighting a cold for a month, I still haven’t really been taking much time to rest… Which means that I really haven’t been taking much time for reflection, either.

This past weekend was different. It was the 18th anniversary of the date rape I experienced the fall after I graduated high school. Deep down, I just want to forget it. Honestly, it’s no longer something I think about on a daily basis. Or even a weekly basis. I’ve forgiven that ex-boyfriend. And I’ve done a lot of hard work towards moving past that season of my life. But it seems like no matter how healthy and happy of a place I’m in, as soon as September arrives, the memory always creeps back in and nags at me.

But here’s the thing: if I’m no longer angry at my ex-boyfriend and I’m no longer sad about what happened, why do I still give up a weekend each year to put on sackcloth and ashes (figuratively) and weep and wail about it?

This week’s chapter of The Cure helped me to understand:

“Shame. It whispers and hisses that no matter what you do, you will always be defined by what you did or what was done to you. It mocks you. Shame wants you desperately performing for acceptance you don’t believe you deserve.”

My shame keeps telling me that I can’t let it go. My shame tells me that even though I’ve forgiven my ex-boyfriend that I’m not worth forgiving. My shame tells me that I owe penance for what happened to me and that means I have to mourn each year.

Shame is a liar.

So this year – this anniversary – was different. There was no depression. There were no tears. I didn’t relive the experience in my mind asking myself what I could do differently to bring about a different result. This year, I spent a weekend of grace, being merciful to myself and taking care of myself. Going to acupuncture. Taking naps. Watching my favorite movies. Eating coffee-chocolate-chip gelato. Laughing with my neighbor on my patio. Going to church and loving on the people who have been loving on me so well.

And next year, I’m going to take my friend Sunia’s advice – instead of mourning that thing I can’t change, I’m going to celebrate the years of healing and grace in my life.

This post is part of our weekly book discussion on The Cure, by Lynch, McNicol, and Thrall. You don’t have to read the book to stick around to chat. But if you did write a response to Chapter 3, feel free to link it up at the widget below. Then, go see my co-facilitator, Jason at Connecting to Impact.

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About Sarah Salter


  1. I have had things in my life that caused such spirals. My dad died in July and my best friend died in March and around each of those times I would experience crazy depressions, being overwhelmed, and unexpected behavior. Took me so long to figure out what was happening and it used to be after it was all “normal” again, I’d recognize it. Different circumstances, but similar expressions. That trauma leaves a mark, but thankfully Jesus is and always will be the Healer. Loved your testimony, Sarah! Thank you.

  2. Praise God! What a giant step in growing and healing.

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