Modern Day Ruth
Unlocking Healing and Redemption Through Unconditional Love with Sarah Wohlgemuth
Ruth Hovsepian: Today, we are speaking with Sarah Wohlgemuth, who is both a mentor and coach for survivors of abuse and those struggling to release shame. She shares her story of healing and redemption from being raped at eighteen to experiencing abuse in the relationship to seeing miracles in her marriage years later. Her passion is to instill hope in those needing it. God has consistently shown up in her darkest hours; without his endless pursuit of her heart, she would not have made it. She is a wife and mom to two teenagers and a health and fitness coach for women.
Welcome, Sarah. I'm thrilled to have you join me on Out of the Darkness today, and I cannot wait for my listeners to hear about your journey and story. And I think that's a great segue for you to share your story and journey. And you can start and pick up at any point that you want about your journey from rape and abuse to hope and healing.
Finding Hope in Pain
Sarah Wohlgemuth: Yes. Yes. Thank you so much for having me so on her. You know, anytime we can instill hope in someone that's looking for it. I really believe God takes our pain and turns it into power. And so my passion is just to instill hope where someone who needs hope or light where someone is in darkness. And so you know, because I've been in all the places. I really don't think I can skip starting at the beginning. That is where everything is formed. And I'll be brief.
But what happens is, as a child, we're still forming our filter system, which is essentially, like, how we do the world. Right? And, you know, I was the oldest of five when I was young. And I would say, looking from the outside in I was absolutely blessed. You know, I had my mom and dad both present. They were there. You know, my dad was just a nine-to-five thing. But what happened was because I was the oldest of five, I was the one to kinda just get brushed to the side because she was busy with the others.
And there's Gary Chapman, who wrote about the five love languages. I highly recommend everybody go and search that up, personality testing all the things, what you what your love languages are. Well, my love language, the top one, is quality time. So what happened as a child is I needed quality time in order to feel valued and loved as a teen; I didn't get that from my parents. They were busy doing their things.
And I started to take on this identity of I'm not seen; I'm not worth anything. Clearly, if my mom loves me, she would want to spend time with me, and she never does, so I must not be worth anything. And so I just started to take on this identity And what happens is our filter system it's like a bouncer in our brain. As soon as we've decided who we are and who we aren't, we have a bouncer called the Reticular Activating System (RAS), and it starts pulling whatever you have decided to be true. And it will push out everything that doesn't align with that. Right? Whether true or not. So my belief system was. I'm not worthy of being loved. I'm not loved. And now I have this bouncer pushing out all of the beautiful positive things and pulling in all the things that agree with that. And so I just started to develop this deep need for worth and to be seen and to be known.
And so that threw me into a lot of chaos. Into my teenage years, I started to really rebel and just kinda went wild. I left home at seventeen. And at age eighteen, on New Year's Eve, was when I was out at a party, and at the end of the night, I was raped. And I remember. Well, I don't remember. It was kinda like I just went into, like, how could I have done that? Like, I was self-sabotaging; I was so angry at myself, self-blame.
See, a lot of times, what happens when something traumatic happens is our brain is neurobiologically wired to have to make sense of it. And when something so senseless happens like that, because God did not create us as humans to cause pain to each other. That is a senseless act. Right? But our brain is scrambling immediately afterward. Why, why, why? And it needs to come up with a story. And badly. We turn it to ourselves so often. And so I came up with the story of how I shouldn't have done this, and I put myself here, and I should have known better, and I cause this self-blame. And now I create this, you know, absolute, almost like punishment towards myself.
I started to put myself in situations where it started to perpetuate this cycle of almost, like, abuse towards myself or this belief system that I had now formed about myself too. And I got into a relationship a three-year relationship, and it was very physically abusive and emotionally abusive. And I wanna share about this for a second because what I saw, you know, coming out on the other side because there is another side, I did get through all this. But I need people who perhaps wonder why we stay in these cycles. And I wanna say, coming from the belief system of the unseen, I'm unworthy. And then feeling used up and this hate towards myself, now I'm in the cycle of abuse. And feeling like I love him and I've got to stay.
The Apology After Abuse
And what I saw after the fact was he would be physically abusive. There would be a time when he was just wild and horrible. But what happened the very first time he was physically abusive to me? What happened was I went to work the next day in a haze that it had even happened. Someone had laid a hand on me; I've not had that happen in my house. That it was horrible, that evening was horrible. You know, he had thrown me and had his hands up on my neck. He was punching and tearing a door down. It was just shocking. But I came home after work that day to him sitting on a couch, And I just silently passed by him. And I went into my room; there was a three-piece letter on my floor. And the letter was him apologizing. How horrible he became a monster. He would never do that again. He would love me.
And what I felt was this rush of intense emotion, and it felt so good. I remember going out and sitting beside him, and he had tears in his eyes, and he was just staring at me, just so anxious. Sorry. And there was this big huge dopamine rush of emotion. I just felt the intense emotional connection, you know, and we embraced and I just loved that. And so what it was is I realized that through my life, I had not felt this intense emotional connection with my parents throughout my life. I hadn't felt it with myself. And now I was getting this rush of this emotional intense connection that became my high. It became my addiction. What happened is I wanted that feeling to last. And so I stayed in a cycle of abuse because I thought if we can get through it, the other side of the next day, it's gonna be this intense and beautiful emotional connection, is what I told myself. And so it was this chase for a feeling of connection. So I'm gonna stay in the abuse. I'm gonna get that connection eventually. I'm gonna stay because I'm gonna get that connection eventually.
The other factor was this constant need for validation that I was worth something. And I thought if I stayed in this relationship, Two things. One, if I stayed and people knew, I didn't feel embarrassed to tell people how he was to me, and I thought it was how quirky I am? Why do I tell people this? Well, now I see the need was; I wanted someone to say, wow. Sarah, you're amazing; like, what unconditional love you're staying in this, you're loving someone that's treating me like that. Like, wow. That's amazing. Right? It was this twisted sense of what unconditional love is. I was so, you know, I just had no idea. And the second reason was, well, maybe if someone sees my bruises, I wouldn't hide it, but, you know, I had many on my arms and just kinda grit marks where he had grabbed me. And I thought, man, what is wrong with me? I'm like, most people hide that they're being abused. I'm like; I'm fine showing it.
And it was because I was consistent, all always looking for someone to say, oh my goodness, sir. You deserve more than that. Where is he? I'm gonna beat them out of town. Yeah. I was looking for a protector. Who's gonna protect me and, like, who's gonna stand up for me and, like, where is my worth in life? I was looking everywhere. Where is my worth? Where is my worth? Who will say I'm worthy, you know?
And so I want people to hear that because maybe there are people that just don't understand there's so much, and all of it comes down to what is our belief system about ourselves. You don't have to go through horribly traumatic things to have a belief system that's not serving you. This filter system that we develop just as simply as my parents didn't pay attention to me. That's it. That formed my belief system that then created the cycle in my life that created more and more, you know, dramatic things in my life. And so I want people to hear that it can be as simple as your belief system, or it can be, you know, into traumatic things that have happened to you that shouldn't have or things that you've caused that you're carrying shame and guilt about. So, after all that period of time in my life, it was around four years of my life. You know, I just kinda carried on and, you know, left him eventually. You know what? God showed up in my life.
Right at the end, when I left, I remember I went on a mission strip. My parents called me up, and they're like, you know what, Sarah? We wanna pay for you to come on this mission trip to Mexico with us. It's fully paid. Maybe it's not your thing. At that point, I would have said I hated God. He just causes pain in my life. I don't even want him in my life. And they called me up, and I said, well, I don't really know, like, come on. I'm not gonna go preaching on any street. Like, what kind of a mission trip? Do you know where I'm at? And they said just said come with us. It's paid. It's in Mexico. And so I ended up going.
Going to Bible School
And, you know, there were a few people on that trip that really just started, I felt seen. There was one other person that was trip she would just she would be with me. She would spend time with me. She would come and sit with me. She would talk to me. And she started to say, like, Sarah, I'm just, like, I think you should come to the bible school next year. There's this bible school in Regina, and you should come next year to bible school, but in my head, I'm like, F. No. That was my attitude at that time. I asked F. No. I'm not doing any of that. I was like, what is that? But I would just, like, yeah. Yeah. Hey. I'll think about it. I'll think about it in my head. I remember journaling, like, thinking about bible school, but what the heck is that? I'm not doing that.
Anyway, finally, I was getting so annoyed with him asking me. I finally said you know what? Okay, here's the deal. I'm gonna pray about it. I told him I was going to pray it. Alright. Alright. God. So I pray. I said, here's the thing, God, like, we haven't talked in a long time. And I really don't wanna go to go to bible school. You know that, but you know what? If you want me to go to bible school, here's the deal. You're gonna have to tell someone that doesn't know me you want me to go to bible school, and you're gonna have to figure out a way to tell me that. And so then after that, I said, okay. I prayed about it.
Well, after Mexico, we went back; it was still kinda on the tail end of this relationship with this abuser. And I think it was about a month after the trip. I got a phone call. Out of the blue, the phone rings, and I answer it. And this lady on the other line said, hey, Sarah, you know, so lovely to meet you. You don't know me. My name is Shannon. I actually live in Regina, but I felt I had a message for you. You're gonna think it's weird, but I have a message for you. And I just felt like, God, like, put it on my heart. And she said, you know, God wants you to know He's been in pursuit of you. And He's been in pursuit of you your whole life. And He wants you to come to bible school next year, and she's like, I know it's gonna sound really weird. And I was like, on the phone, I was like, no. I was like, oh my word.
Ruth Hovsepian: Be careful what you pray for. Right?
Sarah Wohlgemuth: Oh my word. Yeah. And so I was like, well, it's true to my word. You know, and so I remember calling up all of my friends, and I'm like, well, guys, let's party hard tonight because tomorrow I go to bible school. And we went out and partied, and then the next day, I packed my bags, and off I went to bible school.
So God really showed up in my life, showing me that, like, there is a God. Like, that is undeniable to me, like, how in my brain do I pray, and that happens? I was like, whoa. Like, there is a God, and he clearly cares about pursuing, you know. All of that led to bible school. And I felt like I had peeled a few layers of what I had walked through, but really not a lot.
Getting Married to Childhood Friend
Maybe about five years after this I, you know, I'm getting married. My husband was actually my childhood friend; at sixteen, we were best friends, and we dated for a few couple weeks, and then we broke up, and it had been quite a few years. We hadn't been in contact. Anyway, we got back in contact, and we're now married.
Now I went into the marriage carrying all this woundedness in life. All this woundedness I had not dealt with it. It was still there, and he was coming into the marriage with a lot of woundedness as well. So we were two broken people trying to make a marriage work. We had our daughter before we were married. So she was maybe almost two when we got married. And so we tried to make this marriage work, and in year seven absolutely exploded.
After I feel that God gave me this picture of, like, when we're wounded, when things happen to us, essentially, it's, like, as if we got shot, So if I got shot and there's a bullet lodged inside of me essentially, that's what woundedness is. It's like these bullets that are lodged inside of us. And what I did for how many years was take a little finger bandage, put it over my wide wound, and then try to carry on in my life. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm good. Like, I'm okay. What's happening? The bullet is lodged inside literally, if you just think of it in a literal sense, that is completely poisoning everything inside of you. You can function for a while. But eventually, that poison is gonna shut down every part of the body.
And so, in year seven of my marriage, I had shut down. I had become so cold and hard. We had tried to connect, and it just wasn't working. We were hitting a wall, hitting a wall, hitting a wall. Unknown to me, he had been hiding an addiction for the whole seven years of our marriage. He had said he had quit. He had been clean of alcohol. That had been something he had quit. But unknown to me, he had carried a pornography addiction, and he was really been lying for seven years. The pornography addiction he had hidden. He was lying a lot about little emotional affairs at work. And so we were hitting the wall. After our marriage exploded, it all came out. He's completely transformed, by the way. Good news. We're healed and redeemed.
But I had shut my heart down until the end of seven years. In the last two months, I had an opportunity present itself. And I remember thinking, I think I wanna go after this opportunity. Another man texted me, and I remember thinking, this is gonna end our marriage. But the belief I still had in my head was, well, Sarah, you were gonna screw it up anyway. And why do you think anything good happens to your life? You're gonna screw it up anyway. You might as well screw it up now so you at least you're in control of how the marriage ends because it's gonna end anyway.
So I pursued for two months going outside of the marriage. And there came a day when my husband and I both said we needed to talk. We had been like roommates at this point. Where he was doing his thing, I was doing my thing, and you could tell something was going on. And we shared with each other. And he said right before he shared with me that day, that morning, he really would have never said he had a deep relationship with God, but somehow he felt this almost audible voice say, Matt, you need to come clean to your wife. You need to tell her what you have been hiding for the past now eight years.
And at this point, he didn't know what I had just been doing for two months. And so we go for a drive, and here I am ready to share, like, this is what I've been doing, Matt. And I know our marriage is gonna be over now. We're done. Like, I have no more feeling left you. I hate you. It's actually what I remember feeling. I hated him.
Porn Addiction Exposed
And he says, stop, before you say anything, so he said I have to share with you something, and he said, you know, here's what I've been hiding for the past for all of our marriage. I've been lying to you, and I remember just being, like, oh my word. Like, I thought I was gonna be the one, and you've been hiding this for eight years. I just was so, like, how dare you, our whole life has been a lie. Like, you know, now I'm glad I at least have something against you, but God got a hold of my husband that day.
Like, that day, God got a hold of him in such a way that he just felt God say, Matt, you need to stand up and be the man that you are not the man you've been. The man you are is a man who is a good father and husband. And you need to obey what I ask you to do. And so from this day forward, you step up into the place you're supposed to be, and so my husband said to me, Sarah, I'm not ever going to blame you for what you've done because I realized I left a marriage for eight years. Like, I literally left you. I lied to you. I haven't been the father or the husband, and so I will not be angry with you. I take responsibility as a man. I didn't cover you, love you, and be there for you. And from this day forward, even though I know you hate me and you don't wanna be with me, I'm gonna step up and be the man, the husband, the father that I need to be. And if we're done, we're done, but I still have to be who God has asked me to be. And, I mean, that were words for me. I didn't care less. I only thought this is BS. I don't believe this.
Transformation and Redemption
Well, he really did. He transformed. He started going to meetings. I would get up in the morning, and he'd be downstairs reading his bible at five in the morning with books on how to be a Godly husband and father, and he was starting to get up on Sunday to take the kids to church. He was changing. He was meeting his mentor. He was going to therapy. And I was just carrying on this hard, like, I don't believe that this is true. This is not true. This is not happening. He's gonna, at some point, go back to who he was before. And he did it. He really, really, really transformed. He just started to love me and show me that he was there, that it was solid.
It ended up that my heart of stone cracked open, eventually. And I remember the day my husband said, I will fight for our marriage. I'm gonna fight you; no one's ever stood up for you. I know that God told me that. Like, God said, Matt, you are not going to walk out. My husband said, if you want us to be done, you're gonna have to be the one to leave because I will not walk out on you. There have been too many things in your life where you've been abandoned and hurt, and I will not be the one. Even though I know I've lied to you for over eight years, I will show you that I have changed.
And that started to show me through my husband that there was an unconditional love that was not what I thought it was in my abusive relationship; I had to put up with the abuse to get to the high. I started to see that there's an unconditional love that values and treasures you even when you're the one that's, like, screw you. There's an unconditional love that goes after you. And I started to learn who God is through how my husband showed up for me in that period. It was incredible.
A Powerful Hug
And from the start, I remember him saying, Sarah, I believe that you need someone to just hug you. And I know I'm the last person you want to hug. And he said I'm just gonna offer you every day a hug. Every day, I'm just gonna ask you, Sarah, do you need a hug, you can say no, and I'll carry on with that day. And so, every day, he would wake up and say, hey, do you need a hug? No. Hey, do you need a hug? No. Hey, do you need a hug? No. I told you, stop asking. He's like, okay.
And the day I broke, I said, you know, Matt, I really need time to process it. It was a few months after the explosion; he had been doing his thing. I had just been staying cold and hard and still in contact with the other guy, and I just felt so ashamed and guilty because here I was still being like this, and my husband was shaming me. I was like, who am I? Like, I am so ashamed of who I am. And I said, please leave the house with the kids. Like, take them somewhere so I can have a day for myself. I need a day. And he left.
And I remember I had shut music out of my life for quite a long time because music makes me feel, and I didn't want to feel. I wanted to stay cold and hard. But that day, I was like, I need to release stuff. My heart is cracking. I needed to release it, and I pressed play on my iTunes. There was an album that I think my mom had given to me. I was like, some worship thing, which I was, like, no. I'm not listening to that stuff. And I pressed play, and it was Kim Walker-Smith, an album called Alive. And the words were, you breathe your life into my lungs, and you bring to life these dry bones. You bring me to life. And I just cracked. I could feel it was him saying, Sarah, I'm gonna breathe my life back into you. I'm gonna bring you back to life in dead places. I just felt that it was his voice saying, I am here. Like, I don't care how you've been. I am here to bring you back to life. I'm here. And I cried and cried. I cried for twelve hours that day. I cried and journaled and screamed and yelled and then had the song on replay. I was crying and screaming and yelling and again and again and again, and I just released and released the shame and that who am I? How did I get here? This is not who I saw myself being as a child. I had dreams. How am I here? How am I so broken? And I just felt him wrap me up, saying I am here.
The next song that came on was, I can feel your healing, oh, yeah. Running down. My God. I envisioned this warm, beautiful lovely oil. I can start to see it down over me, and it felt so like love, and it just started to push away the shame and started to just, like, so clearly. I just felt that it was, like, his love is like, I am here. You get to be free. Of the guilt, the shame, the anger, of all the things you carried.
And the next morning, my husband came back. He left the kids at our in-laws. And he came back the next morning, and he came in the door, and I was different. I was cracked open. And he came in, and he said, hey, Sarah, do you want a hug? And I said yes. I wanna hug. And he wrapped his arms around me, and we just cried and cried, and I said I'm so sorry, and he said me too. And we just laid on the couch for I don't know how long it seemed like an endless amount of time, and we just cried, and our pain and our betrayal, and all the things that happened. We just felt God there at that moment. And it was powerful.
You know, God, the unconventional love of a father, the Father God, is so different than what we see in the world. The belief systems that we have that I'm too far gone. I am so ashamed of the things that have happened to me. How could anyone love me? God showed up to show me that he pursues. He pursues. And yes, things happen; there's evil in the world. Things happen. It's not explainable. Why did I have to be raped? Why? God can't stop all that, but he can walk alongside you and help you heal and deal with you. He's there for you.
He showed up; he pursued me when I was still going outside of my marriage. He was like; I'm going after you, I'm going after you. You're worth something. And maybe there's someone listening who is saying, who am I? What am I worth? You are worth gold. You are a diamond. You have so much value, and it has nothing to do with your belief. It has nothing to do with the road you want. It is everything to do with who the creator God made you to be from the time you came out of the womb. And who you are when you came out of that womb was a beautiful, unique, incredible person. Who has life and worth and purpose, and that's who he's made you to be. And that's the God that I believe in because he showed up in my life. So no one can take away that there is a God who goes after his kid in life.
And that was the day we decided we were doing it, and my husband had already decided and said I'm in. And, you know, obviously, we cut off all of the things and started our own journeys. We were both going to therapy and group and had mentors and support, and we worked, and we worked, and it was freaking hard. It was hard. We had to walk that road of, like, forgiveness and healing, but it's worth it. It's so worth it. And being able to release the shame of the sabotage I had caused within myself and forgiveness towards myself.
Face It, Feel It, Heal It
There's a line that says, face it, feel it, heal it. It's a couple of years later; we're finally in such an amazing place in our marriage when God brought up that I needed to deal with the fact that I had been raped. I hadn't dealt with it yet. It was a couple of years after. And that line, face it, feel it heal it, God really used that. He brought to my attention that it was time to face that.
It was an incredibly powerful journey of facing what had happened to me. Because look, we can't feel it if we haven't faced it or if we don't acknowledge it. And we can't feel it unless we feel it. And there's just been so much healing and incredible growth with God taking you on the journey of the steps of healing, you know, unwinding, figuring out my past, my filter system. Facing, feeling, healing, and releasing. And then the last thing that speaks to me is there's a saying by Morgan Harper Nichols, and it says, be willing to tell others how you climb your mountain because that could become a page of someone else's survival guide one day.
And you know, all of the journeys that we walk. There is power in our pain. There is breakthrough coming from brokenness, God desires to turn our ashes into beauty, and I took the bullets out. I was able to take them out. They will clear out the inspection and allow those that could be properly healed. And now I can be someone who could turn around and say, hey. I was there. I was where you are. I see you on that road and, hey. Like, there's hopes still. I promise you there's hope. I promise you God can bring life back into dead places.
Like, I am a testimony. Look at my scar. Look. Like, here they are. Look at my scar. You can be healed too. Let me hold my hand out to you. God is there. I am there. Let me be a sister to come alongside you. Let me show you that you can get through it. You can. It's worth it. Do the work. Go inward, and allow the healing. Because when you come out on the other side, the incredible joy, the incredible intimacy. The incredible relationship that you get to have if you make that journey. I just wanna encourage anyone listening. Give yourself a chance. But give yourself a chance. Do the work, reach out, and ask for help.
Shame Grows in Darkness
Here's the lie of shame. Shame loves nothing more than lies. To proceed in darkness. Shame wants to keep you small. Shame wants to keep you stuck. Shame wants to keep you in darkness. Don't let shame win. Be bigger than that. Expose. It's okay. You know what? How many of us when we start to expose our wounds? Will be amazed by the number of people that have the same wounds as us.
Ruth Hovsepian: It's true about that. You hundred percent I was, thinking about what you just you're just saying about the darkness and how that is the perfect environment for our shame to grow in. It's hidden. It's dark. It's a feeding ground for it. We keep it hidden. And we see in our churches this thing of hiding our hidden sins. Whether it's extramarital affairs or if it's pornography, things that are not visible. And I think those are the areas we need to touch on and bring to the light. So I'm so glad you shared this journey because it's one that so many people maybe not know the whole story, but there are so many areas of it that we can relate to.
Can you tell me a little bit about your Beauty in the Brokenness? And what inspired you to start that?
Sarah Wohlgemuth: I actually felt God tell me to switch it. So Beauty in the Brokenness has become You Unleashed. Why did I start that? Because I desire that every single brother insists it becomes Unleashed that everything, as I shared, that everything that holds us back, that tries to keep us down that we get to become unleashed, unrestrained, unstopped, we get to be free. That's who you're to created to be, a free, whole, healed being. And if I can come alongside any brother and sister and inspire them to take the steps that God showed me to take, heal, release, step into leadership and abundance of your dreams, and all the connections if I can come alongside and why wouldn't I? That is my mission and passion now. And so that course is to take you through the steps to rewind, figure out the filter system and figure out your love language. Where did that start for you, to face it, heal it, heal it, to just make the journey because you're worth it? You're worth it, and so that's why I had to start that.
Ruth Hovsepian: What is the most important lesson that you have learned through this journey, through this healing process?
Sarah Wohlgemuth: Oh, that's a good one. You know, I really think it's learning what true unconditional love is from the creator God that has been my lesson. What that looks like? There are so many misconstrued ideas of what love is in the world and how love showed up in my life, to God using my husband. It's just this beautiful representation of pure unconditional love. And so the lesson for me is no matter what you've done, what has been done, what you've done in life. You are worthy. You are worthy.
Hearing God's Voice
Ruth Hovsepian: You mentioned a couple of times how you heard God's voice through other people, how your husband heard God's voice; how do you recognize God's voice now where you are? And how can we open ourselves up to hearing God?
Sarah Wohlgemuth: That's such a good question. And you know, I feel like God is so intimate his voice will be intimately different for all of us. But for me, it was like a thought drop, like, interrupted my thought, a very strong thought or not like an audible voice, but that interruption of thoughts that was a very clear sentence that almost like where did that come from? An immediate knowing that it was, like, oh my gosh. That makes sense. Or that is so clearly his voice is the interruption of my own thoughts. Yeah.
What's Next For You?
Ruth Hovsepian: I think as believers and as children of God, we need to be prepared to hear his voice so that when he does speak to us, if it's in the stillness of our mind or quietness or if we're in a busy season, we need to, I think, to be prepared. Otherwise, how do we know or how do we recognize him? I think it's preparedness that we have to be ready to hear him. So at this point, what are you most excited about that is happening?