Serena Dyksen: I think it’s important for you to hear that God, He is not taken off guard by this. And, you know what? He already knows and He’s just waiting for you to, um, turn to Him.
End of Preview
John Fuller: That’s Serena Dyksen and she joins us today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and as we get into our topic today, let me, uh, just share that this is a program that contains some thematic elements that won’t be appropriate for younger audiences.
Jim Daly: Uh, that’s true, John. And, um, you know, people sometimes they’re concerned that we’re airing content that deals with nitty gritty stuff. But, hey, as the body of the Christ we need to talk about what really happens in marriages. What really happens in our households. Why? Because, I think, it can help us better prepare and, and know, um, how to respond, maybe to friends or family members, or maybe even in our own relationships.
Jim: So, uh, I get it. We do cover tough topics from time to time. And I appreciate the warning there, John. You know, in the Christian community, we often talk about choosing life. And we try to reach women in desperate situations before they make a life altering decision to terminate a pregnancy. Uh, probably, hundreds of phone calls every month come in to Focus related to that topic. Uh, but we don’t usually discuss how to deal with emotions and struggles if you have had an abortion. And, um, man, unfortunately, I think, many, many women and men, too, feel exiled from Christian circles when abortion is part of their past, no matter, uh, you know, what the circumstances are.
Jim: Uh, maybe that describes where you’re at or your experience or a friend or family member who has made that choice in the past. Um, we want to help bridge the gap and remind you that there is grace in Christ. That’s the whole story of the Christian faith, that Jesus died for our sins. We just need to turn to Him and confess those sins and repent of them.
John: And healing is possible. Uh, Serena Dyksen will help us better understand that, uh, through her story. She’s a speaker, author, and founder of the ministry called She Found His Grace. And, uh, they reach out to help women who have experienced abortion or sexual trauma. Uh, Serena has captured her story in the book, She Found His Grace, a true story of hope, love, and forgiveness after abortion. And we have copies of that book here at the ministry. Uh, our number 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Serena, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Serena: Thank you for having me today.
Jim: Well, it’s so good to have you. And your story is so powerful. And I, right from the get-go I so appreciate your vulnerability in sharing it to help others. I know your heart already and I know that’s your goal. It’s not to, you know, put out things that are embarrassing or anything like that. It’s to restore people, which is exactly what Jesus would have us do. Right?
Serena: That’s right.
Jim: So let’s, uh, let’s go to the beginning. Paint that picture of your life growing up before what we’ll describe, as you described it, the nightmare occurred. So what, wh- what kind of childhood did you have? What was going on?
Serena: So I grew up in a pretty, um, poor family. We did not attend church. Um, dysfunctional family. Um, and we just-
Jim: Were you my sister?
Serena: Right? I think that a lot of us g- grew up that way.
Serena: But there’s a lot of shame and guilt in that. Right?
Jim: Yeah, totally.
Serena: Um, and so that was just a pain point for me. And, and, you know, looking back, it was a root system. Like, my parents, that’s how they grew up. You know?
Serena: And it was a, a generational curse. And so, um, for us, we moved around a lot. It wasn’t uncommon to just move in the middle of the night. Um, and we would just be on to the next thing.
Serena: So it wasn’t very stable. Um, I think my parents did the best they could, um, with how they grew up. But I always knew that there was something better. I think God planted that in my heart at a young age, even though I didn’t know that. Um, looking back, it was just I knew that there was something better out there.
Serena: And, and that really was something that I held onto. And so, um, yeah.
Jim: Describe, describe your personality at that point. You know, what kind of child-
Serena: Oh my goodness.
Jim: Y- you seem like you would’ve been a pretty optimistic bubbly person.
Serena: Hm, no. Actually, I lacked a lot of, uh, confidence. Um, I struggled with my worth. Um, I felt like… I just remember being a little girl, just very, very shy. Didn’t feel very worthy.
Serena: Um, did not feel very confident because we did move around a lot. And so, um, I always felt like I, I lacked behind everybody. So I was very, very quiet, very shy. But just loved, loved people, but just didn’t know how-
Serena: To navigate that.
Jim: You said your, your parents helped, I think, and I’d love to, h- hear more about this… to form you into a people pleaser.
Jim: Yeah, that’s interesting. I, I was that way, too. I think I was very much a people pleaser.
Jim: But, w- how did it happen for you?
Jim: And why did it happen?
Serena: Yeah, it was a very much a defining moment for me. Um, I remember there was just one day. Um, we lived in a lot of dysfunction, a lot of mess. And, you know, I wanted something different. And I remember one day just being in our kitchen cleaning it. I thought, “I’m gonna just take care of this.” You know? And I took care of it. And I remember my mom coming in. And she found a, like, I did not do it well enough. You know? And she took it out. She took everything out and I had to redo-
Serena: All of the dishes. And I remember-
Serena: At that moment, at that moment, it was, the enemy planted a lie that I was never gonna be good enough.
Serena: And I, at that moment, I remember thinking, “If I just strive, if I, you know?” And at the time, I didn’t understand striving but I, as an adult, I look back and I, I identify that I wanted to just feel worthy. And so if I did this, if I strive to do this, if I strive to do that, then maybe I would be worthy enough. And that was definitely a defining moment for me.
Jim: And it really set the tone-
Jim: For bad things to come. So at 13, that nightmare began. Describe what it was, um, in appropriate ways, for the audience.
Serena: Right. So, um, we, as a family, we really didn’t do a lot with other people. It was just normally the four of us, um, because there was sexual trauma that my mom had experienced in her life. So she worked really hard to protect us.
Serena: And, um, at this particular season in our life, we had an uncle that started, um, coming back around, an aunt and uncle. And, um, one particular, um, night, I was asked to babysit at 13. And I remember being so excited about that because that was just kind of an honor to be able to babysit little cousins. Um, but what ended up happening was I was sexually assaulted. And, um, what happened was that sexual assault resulted in an unplanned pregnancy.
Serena: And, um, we found ourselves, um-
Jim: And you were 13.
Serena: I was 13.
Serena: I was 13. I did not understand all of it.
Serena: All I knew is, um, my mom talking about staying away from certain people. But we never talked about the nitty grittys of that. You know? Of the why behind it. And this particular uncle was not an uncle that she said to stay away from. So this was totally off guard. Um, my, my family, my parents were so shocked when they found out what happened.
Jim: How, how long did that occur? It was over, months, if I remember correctly.
Serena: Yeah, so I, I, there was, um, as I began, uh, digging into my story, I was able to get into court documents and find out, you know, that there was, uh, twice that that happened. That he sexually assaulted me and, um, but I held onto that secret. I didn’t want anybody to know-
Serena: What happened. Um, I didn’t know how to tell what happened. Um-
Jim: Oh, yeah. I mean, that’s so confusing.
Jim: And so traumatizing.
Serena: So to-
Jim: At that age. I mean, it’s, it’s unbearable-
Jim: In the true sense of the word. You could not bear it.
Serena: Right, right.
Serena: And, and also just knowing how my family talked about sexual abuse.
Serena: It was like, oh, man, this is not good. Right?
Jim: Well, your mom’s experience, it sounds like.
Jim: So what, what happened to free you from that situation? What occurred?
Serena: Mm-hmm. So there was one day I was on the bus. And there was actually an older student.
Serena: And I didn’t even really know them but I knew I needed help. And so I ended up sharing with them, um, not knowing what was gonna happen. And what ended up happening is, was that they went to the school counselor and they told the school counselor what had happened. And so I was in choir class. And the, uh, guidance counselor came in and got me and took me down to the office. And she asked if I had been sexually abused. And at, at first I denied it. And then I finally disclosed and I felt like a weight was lifted off.
Serena: But I also knew my parents were gonna come and I did not know w- how they were gonna react to that. And that was so scary. Um, but what my parents, they ended up coming. They took me to our family doctor and confirmed that there was a pregnancy.
Serena: And, um, he was the one that suggested the abortion. And I-
Jim: The doctor?
Serena: Our doctor.
Serena: And I, I later found out that he was Catholic. And I really think it was a misplaced compassion.
Serena: Um, you know, that he thought that that was really gonna help.
Jim: Well, and this is one of those difficult, most difficult, very low percentage-
Jim: Uh, pregnancies where there’s rape or incest. I mean, it’s less than 2% of those two instances. Uh, before we get into that… and that’s really heavy… I just want to go back to the friends for a minute. Because that was really, um, amazing.
Jim: That they heard your story. Didn’t sound like they knew you that well. But somehow you felt comfortable enough to open up to them.
Jim: That’s amazing. And then for them to do the right thing, that, that’s really impressive.
Serena: It is. It is.
Jim: That they did go to the counselor and say, “W- you know, there’s a problem.”
Serena: Yeah, I’m, I’m forever thankful that they did.
Serena: Uh, because I did not know them. And for them to go and share, um, just knowing that I needed help, and, um-
Jim: That’s an amazing string of events that worked, obviously, to your benefit to get this revealed and get, get on the path to, you know, long term healing. L- let’s go back now to the doctor and, you know, the advice he’s giving that you should get an abortion. You’re only 13. You probably felt… I mean, I can only imagine how much you felt like a child.
Jim: Like, I, I don’t have a say here.
Serena: Yeah. So one, I was very uneducated. I did not understand all of the ins and outs of it.
Jim: You’re 13.
Serena: I’m 13. And the other thing, I had never heard the word abortion before. I had no idea what abortion was. I had no idea. All I knew was that my parents were struggling. They were upset. That we have a doctor that, you know, a doctor has our best interest in mind. So I just thought, well, you know, they’re, they’re gonna help us. They’re going to help us. And I didn’t know what that help looked like. And so I remember them saying, “The people outside the clinic hate you, so make sure you walk in quickly.”
John: So there were protesters at the clinic?
Serena: Well, on that particular day there was no one out there.
Serena: But they had planted the seed so that we would not have conversation with them. And I remember at that time, my mom being so angry hearing that because she said, “They don’t understand what we’re going through.” And I just remember, like, and, and not knowing, understanding all of the ins and outs. And, um, on the particular day, there was no one out there. And as someone that goes out to the sidewalks, um, of abortion clinics now, um, you know, I always tell people, like, “Make sure that you’re presenting in a, a way that you’re a safe person out there.”
Serena: Um, because-
Jim: Good point.
Serena: Yeah, because as I think back of my mom, her, uh, defenses were already up. And how can we, uh, you know, if someone’s yelling out there or misrepresenting, they, she was not gonna hear it.
Jim: Uh, the uncle, the abuser, did get convicted.
Jim: Did you, h- that experience, did you feel some vindication, some closure? Did it help you?
Serena: Hm, good question. Um, so going through the court process, it’s a long, long process.
Jim: I can’t imagine for a 13 year old girl-
Jim: To have to testify.
Serena: Yeah, going to the courts, um, there is a lot of, um, fear, a lot of, uh, shame. And I think people tried to protect me the best they could. And I think what people need to understand is even though he was convicted and he went to jail, um, there’s still, that doesn’t get to the wound.
Serena: Um, it just doesn’t get to the wound. And I think when people think, “Oh, if they just go to jail, that’ll fix it.” Right?
Serena: It doesn’t. Justice. And-
Serena: Yeah, he should go to jail. Hear me say that. But the thing about it is then we have to work on our own healing. And I think the biggest part, for me, was forgiveness.
Serena: Um, I, I had to, I had to learn how to forgive, um, because it was a poison that I was drinking. And it was hurting no one but me.
Jim: You know, uh, that’s the right thing to say and to do, but I, I could feel women gasping when you said it.
Serena: Oh yeah.
Jim: Like, how could you? Almost like they’re upset at you that you could actually find forgiveness.
Jim: How could you?
Jim: Now they’re mad at you.
Jim: But it really does indicate, perhaps, something that they’ve not been able to forgive somebody for so they’re reflecting that.
Jim: So speak to her.
Jim: That, that woman who just gasped and said, “How, how could you forgive that uncle?”
Jim: “Don’t you know what he did to you?”
Serena: Right. I, I-
Jim: How did you find forgiveness?
Serena: Right, I hear that all the time. I, when women, um, they’ll hear my story and they’ll say, they’ll say, “You know what? But that’s your story.” And I think what they’re really saying is they’re, they’re responding in a wound. They don’t know. They haven’t walked through that forgiveness.
Serena: And I think what people need to understand is it’s not saying that what he did was okay. What it’s saying is that I am choosing to lay that at the foot of the cross.
Serena: And I’m going to let the Lord do what He does there. You know? Because-
Serena: On this side of heaven, um, justice will never fully be served. Right?
Jim: Right, yeah.
Serena: And, and I think what, what the Lord did in the forgiveness, for me, was, you know, I, I’ll never forget sitting in my living room. And I was in Lamentations 3:58.
Serena: And the Lord said, um, “Did, did I save you?” And I, and I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Did I pull you p- from the pit?” And I said, “Yeah.” And He said, “Did I redeem your life?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And He said, “Well, would you get out of the way and let me do what I’m going to do?”
Serena: And, uh, it, you know, talk about like “Whoa.”
Serena: And I remember that day fully, just surrendering that to the Lord. And the Lord giving me new eyes to see him as a very broken person in need of a Savior.
Serena: But only God could do that. And I think it’s just being on a journey with the Lord. Being very close. Being willing to want to touch the hem of Jesus.
Serena: And let the Lord do what He’s gonna do. And not what Serena wants to do.
Serena: Because when Serena was walking in what Serena wanted to do, it was a miserable place to be.
Jim: And just to note, um, that is a big step.
Jim: And some people struggle with that step and I get that.
Jim: And they’re hearing you. And they’re feeling upset ’cause they haven’t been able to take that big step.
Jim: And they’re still drinking the poison.
Serena: Yeah, that’s just it, drinking that poison. And at some point you have to choose, are, am I done drinking that poison?
John: Mm-hmm. And as you’re hearing, uh, Serena Dyksen, our guest today on Focus on the Family, there is hope. There, there’s a God of restoration and hope and life and He can help you in that step of forgiveness. Uh, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And if you need to talk to somebody about, uh, maybe a spot in your life that you just can’t let go of, or you can’t get over, uh, call us. We have caring Christian counselors here. And our number’s 800, the letter A and word FAMILY. Or we’ll have the link at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Serena, let’s turn to recovery in this area, relationships, etc. You were a freshman, I think, in high school, when you met your husband, Bruce.
Jim: Which is amazing.
Jim: Uh, you hear these stories from time to time. But, you know, you met him very early. Describe, uh, that and then how you kind of just emotionally managed through feeling vulnerable to somebody, again. And, you know, having, having-
Jim: Some kind of relationship there.
Serena: So I met my r- my husband. Um, I was a freshman in high school. And, you know, I say that, you know, it wasn’t h- we thought it was love. It was really a lust thing. But you know, hey (laughs), um, you know, we had to learn as we-
Jim: You were young.
Serena: We had to learn that.
Jim: You were young. I, I can imagine, not coming… I totally understand this, coming from a broken family.
Jim: You don’t have a lot of boundaries and rails.
Serena: You don’t. You don’t.
Jim: You’ve gotta figure it out.
Serena: We have to figure it out. And so Bruce was this, this stable person, um, that felt very safe to me. He felt safe but not safe, if that makes sense, because I was not, I was not a healthy person.
Jim: Yeah, and he grew up in a Christian home.
Serena: He grew up in a Christian home. He had something that I, I saw different in him.
Serena: And, and so we, um, yeah, we just, um, started dating pretty quickly. And, um, miniature golfing and, and just those fun things that you do in high school. And, um, then, you know, because I didn’t know my worth, um, that turned into a, a relationship that it shouldn’t have pretty quickly.
Jim: Physically, yeah, mm-hmm.
Serena: Physically, physically. And, um, because I thought, you know, that’s what I needed to do to feel worthy. And so what happened was, um, we faced an unplanned pregnancy. And, um, Planned Parenthood had just been in our school. And we thought, “Oh, we can trust them.” Just so uneducated. And so we went to Planned Parenthood and I remember we drove into this, this neighborhood that we typically would not have gone to. It was out of the norm, but that’s where they were located. So we went. And, um, they said that I was pregnant and, of course, they said, “You’re young. You’re in school and you’re poor. You should abort your baby.” And, uh, we went out to the parking lot. And Bruce, you know, he, he’s in a Christian home. Um, lots of things swirling in his head of, “Oh, my girlfriend is now pregnant.”
Serena: And the lie, I think, we believe is, “Oh, if we just have an abortion, then no one will know.” And, um, I’ll let him speak on that later. But the, the thing is, um, he said, “What do you think about having this abortion?” And I shared my story with him for the first time.
Serena: And he had never heard that part of my story.
Serena: And at 13 I didn’t know what abortion was but at 16 I did. And I knew that was something that I was not going to do. And I just remember him sitting in the parking lot with me. And he said, “You know, we don’t have it figured out but we’ll figure it out.”
Serena: And we chose life that day.
Jim: Wow, that, that’s amazing.
Jim: I mean, that really is amazing at that age to put those pieces together. Uh, y- you point to Genesis 50:20. Uh, describe that verse, or tell us what it says. And then how did it speak to your heart in that moment?
Serena: Yeah, you know, what, what the enemy meant for harm, God was gonna turn it to good. And, I, I didn’t know that at the time, but, you know-
Jim: Yeah, it’s hard to believe that when the arrows are flying.
Serena: It’s… right.
Jim: How are you gonna turn this into good?
Serena: How are you gonna turn this into good? Right? And, um, but through our life we’ve just n- seen God do that. You know? What the enemy meant for harm, God is turning to good. And so we’re just so thankful that, you know, on that day we chose life. And man, was it hard to go and tell our parents.
John: Hm, yeah.
Serena: Let me tell you. It was not easy and it was a sucker punch to them. But I tell you what, not only was Bruce’s parents amazing, and, um, once they, like, took a step back, uh, to come along side of us-
Jim: Hm, that’s good.
Serena: But also the church. We feared the church when we’re walking in this, um, w- fearing man and judgment.
Serena: We make some really bad decisions.
Serena: And, um, what we found is, you know, our heavenly Father loved us, uh, so much. And um, and what happened was the church, you know, they came alongside of us. What I love the best about this is they didn’t let us sit in our sin. Like, they talked to us about, “Hey, you guys have to stop sleeping together. Like, that’s got to stop.”
Serena: “But we’re gonna love you.” And so they came alongside of us and they helped have a baby shower.
Serena: They, um, taught us how to budget. They would help us find houses. But the thing is, like, they just didn’t give it. They taught us skills in the whole process. And it was beautiful.
Jim: Yeah, and in that context, before we end today… and I want to, uh, we’re gonna have Bruce come and join us for tomorrow and that will be insightful-
Jim: I think, to hear from him. But in that context, um, y- you got married. How old were you when you got married?
Serena: We were, uh, 17, 18?
Serena: Like, we were young. (laughs).
Jim: So I mean-
Serena: We were so young. Like, okay, to give you an insight on this whole thing, we got married the same day my husband graduated high school.
Serena: Which I don’t recommend ever.
Serena: But we were so young and we’re like, “The family’s here. Let’s just get married.”
Serena: So we got married that morning and my husband graduated high school that night.
Serena: And so we were young. We got married and we, we added to our family. And, uh, by 23 we bought our first house. And we thought life was good.
Serena: We thought we were beating the odds.
Jim: Yeah. You know, uh, right at the end here, I think it’s important to have you speak to that woman who has had an abortion, maybe a Christian, maybe not a Christian. And, uh, how would you encourage her to deal with this?
Jim: And maybe she’s never dealt with it.
Jim: Or maybe it’s a, a boyfriend.
Serena: Right. So if there’s someone listening today that’s had an abortion, I think it’s important for you to hear that God, He is not taken off guard by this. And, you know what? He already knows.
Serena: And he’s just waiting for you to, um, turn to Him. But also to take it deeper. Um, a lot of times we hear, “I know I’ve been forgiven.” And that’s awesome but there’s freedom. He wants to give you freedom so it’s not a s- a secret. So that He can use your testimony, um, to help others choose life. And so if there’s someone listening that’s had an abortion, um, abortion recovery was a, a life changing event for me just because I finally was able to grieve my child. I had permission. And also just how Jesus met me in my brokenness.
Serena: And he put a healing balm on my heart. And so I know that God wants to put a healing balm on your heart. And it’s just so important to take the next step in that healing process.
Jim: Well, it’s healthy.
Serena: It’s healthy.
Jim: You know, He’s our creator. He knows how we’re wired. He knows every closet in your heart, even the ones that are locked.
Jim: Dead bolted.
Jim: Sealed. And, uh, what a refreshing reminder that God wants all of you.
Serena: He wants all of us. He just-
Jim: The dark stuff, the good stuff.
Serena: Uh, you know, and, and the freedom he wants to give, because if it’s not hidden anymore.
Serena: You know, we can use it to glorify what He has done on the cross for us. And I, that’s where we want to be. Because if we’re holding on to that secret of abortion, it only messes up how effective we are for the kingdom.
Jim: Ah, Serena, thank you for this part of it.
Jim: Let’s stay together. We’ll have Bruce join us for tomorrow. Is that, uh, something we can do?
Serena: That sounds great. Thank you.
Jim: All right. And what a reminder that God is in your corner.
Jim: And He wants to be there for you. And this is a very difficult topic. We get that. And, uh, that’s why will often say, “You know, let your children go play if they aren’t of an age that can manage this kind of content.”
Jim: But it’s good to talk about it. I mean, so many parents bury their heads. I mean, Serena was 13 years old when this happened to her. And you, at some point in this culture, have to have discussions with your kids, ’cause they’re gonna be exposed to so many different things. And, John, what a great reminder about our counseling team here at Focus.
Jim: We’re here for you. We’ve been at this over 40 years. You’re not gonna surprise us. You’re not gonna embarrass yourself by calling us. Kind of like those kids that Serena talked to on the bus, um, let us give you some input, some advice, spiritual advice to help you on the road to recovery. And I know, and I’m confident that the team can do that. Plus giving you some resources to help in that journey. Um, for those who can help us financially, I would say, uh, send a gift of any amount. Become a monthly donor. Jean and I do that. I know you and Dena do that as well.
John: We do.
Jim: It’s a great way to help us with our budgeting. And if you can do that, we’ll send you a copy of the book, She Found His Grace, by Serena, as our way of saying thank you for joining us in ministry. If you can’t afford it, we’ll get it into your hands. We’ll just trust others will cover the cost of that. It’s not about the dollars. It’s about what you need as a tool. So just get in touch with us.
John: Hm, yeah, we’re a phone call away. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. Plan to be with us next time as we continue the conversation. And once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.