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The Clothesline Project

on October 21, 2010
I heard the front door to our house open as I was coming down the stairs after tucking Miley in bed just after seven last night. Kelly, whom I hardly see during the week, had come home early. He was excited. I smiled at him, "You’re
early!" He explained, "I had to come home so I could tell you about the
clothesline project on campus tomorrow." He opened up the link on the
UVU web page to show me the photos of colorful t-shirts from last year’s
event. "I wanted you to have time to think about what you will write on
your own t-shirt," He continued. "And I can watch the kids on my lunch
break so you can go down there tomorrow."

Well, today it was
decided that we should go together, kids and all! So we filled the
diaper bag, buckled our angels into their car seats and drove to campus.

In the ballroom were hundreds of colorful shirts each with a
personal message. Some victims were writing to the one who had hurt
them, others to the world at large. Some of the shirts had messages of
hope scribbled over their fabric in permanent marker, while so many
others seemed to be bleeding with the ink of sorrow, their fabric
stained with pain and aching. And as I walked about reading the
experiences of other survivors of violence, I understood them, all of
them. It was as if I could hear them crying out in unison and in such
anguish. There is only One that can fill their longing. As I stood in
that room filled with shirts representing victims of violence, I said a
prayer in my heart for them, that each one of them might know the peace
and wholeness that comes from knowing Jesus Christ.

And all the
rest of today I have been singing the favorite hymn of Hermana Ponca, a
missionary companion of mine; the hymn reminds me of my dear brothers
and sisters who are out there in pain. I ache for them and weep as I
sing to myself (not even laryngitis can keep the words from rising out
of my mouth), "Dear to the heart of
the Shepherd, Dear are his "other" lost sheep; Over the mountains he
follows, Over the waters so deep…. See, the Good Shepherd is seeking,
Seeking the lambs that are lost, Bringing them in with rejoicing, Saved
at such infinite cost. Out in the desert they wander, Hungry and
helpless and cold; Off to the rescue he hastens, Bringing them back to
the fold."

I know
that He has brought me home to His love and has taught me to love
myself. After more than half a lifetime of domestic violence and rape, I
am whole because of Him. And now the rest of the hymn overflows from my
heart and spills out of my lips, "Hark!
He is earnestly calling, Tenderly pleading today: ‘Will you not seek
for my lost ones, Off from my shelter astray?’… Green are the pastures
inviting; Sweet are the waters and still. Lord, I will answer thee
gladly, ‘Yes, blessed Master, I will! Make me thy true under-shepherd;
Give me a love that is deep. Send me out into the desert, Seeking thy
wandering sheep.’ Out in the desert they wander, Hungry and helpless and
cold; Off to the rescue I’ll hasten, Bringing them back to the fold."

This
hymn is descriptive of the victims of abuse who are hungry for
happiness, wholeness and love; yet they wander helpless and cold in
abuse or the aftermath of abuse. I want to help "rescue" them and bring
them into the fold of His love.
 
It was such a neat experience
today; I wrote on two shirts, telling my experience on one, and I wrote
on the other shirt in memory of the angels who suffered with me. Thanks
for helping me to get through the toughest of times and here’s to all
the best of times we have yet to experience together. You two are my
eternal family! I love you, Cindi and Sarah.

Forgiveness
has always been easy for me; it’s not something I’ve had to struggle
with. But good people will always be angry when bad people hurt others.
Good people will always ache even when they are not the one who was beat
or raped or abused…. That’s what good people do – if such gross
wickedness didn’t offend us, well, then we would be "past feeling", a
condition described in The Book of Mormon as a point in which God can no longer strive with you, if you are past feeling.  

And
the thing that amazes me the most and brings tears to my eyes as I
remember the wrenching experiences other victims shared anonymously with
me today, is the amount of times I read the words "I love you" on those
t-shirts. The overwhelming feeling of forgiveness and love for the very
people who injured these survivors of violence, well, it’s inspiring
how big the human heart is that it has room in it to forgive the
fathers, mothers, brothers, friends and neighbors who shattered it. Our
hearts may be splintered into a bazillion-gazillion pieces but they are
not broken; they still function – they can still forgive and love.

I saw so many people in that secluded room where the survivors of
violence were writing on the t-shirts provided by the University. Some
were full grown and now aging adults suffering still from abuse  they
experienced in their childhood. Some were young college students fresh
out of the hallways of high school and still pimple-faced and
self-conscious. There was a lovely mother in that room with several
children of various ages, some of them still quite young, but all of
them etching their experience of shared abuse on t-shirts colored for
domestic violence. One tall and burly man whose broad shoulders nearly
filled the room, laughed lightly as though relieved, "Oh, I thought I
might be the only one in here!" A young self-loathing man with his head
hung low responded, "I was hoping I would be." The mother asked if she
could read my t-shirt, and I readily agreed. When she had finished she
told me something of the abuse she and her children had endured, then
asked if I had been able to heal. I smiled and answered in the
affirmative, realizing to myself that this time I was completely healed,
entirely whole, full of confidence and not the one in need anymore. It
wasn’t therapy that had saved me from suicide and that feeling of being
broken…. It was Jesus Christ. He did what my therapists all agreed was
impossible – to heal completely from such a devastating and long
lasting blow. I struggled for so many years to find an antidote without
success that I was all but convinced that my therapists were right.
There were so many voices all calling out to me different solutions:
"Just get over it!" "Don’t worry about anyone else until you’ve taken
the time to find yourself." Etc., but it turns out they were only
diversions, distractions that took me temporarily away from the pain,
but when the parties were over, the dance clubs closed, my friends had
gone home and I was left again in the quiet of aloneness with my
memories and my broken heart.  she smiled back with a look of hope and
determination, "I have not healed yet; I’m still in therapy."

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2 responses to “The Clothesline Project

  1. Sharyn says:

    enough with the drama, people! can i get back to my hot chocolate and scones now?! I thought you could use a little of your own advise. You are so full of yourself,Sabrina!

    • Sarah says:

      I think your thoughts are beautiful. And I love that hymn. There is so much ugliness and pain in the world. Unfortunately we have been victims of it as so many others have. I love you dearly, Sabrina. And I love your very real and unselfish feelings of tenderness. You have a big heart and I am glad to be a part of your life.

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