We live in a world full of people with as many backgrounds as there are people. No two are completely alike. In this mix, there are abusers, abuse survivors and the unaware.
The category I fit into is abuse survivor. I was molested as a child, harassed as a teen and young adult, and raped as an adult by someone I believed I could trust.
It’s been quite a few years since it all happened to me, and it surprises me to see how it still affects my thinking of myself.
So, I’m going to address some of those things that I’ve learned, and some of the attitudes I’ve dealt with.
1) Rape and sexual harassment is never funny to a survivor. It’s never a light topic, it’s not something to be joked about. Words do matter— they conjure up memories— sometimes traumatic ones with deep emotions attached.
2) No, we can’t just get over it. Something was stolen from us, trust was violated, our spirit has been bruised. Healing over time happens but, often invisible to the natural eye, emotional scars remain.
3) We grieve over the robbery of our innocence.
4) Our body was attacked, and our bodies react to that— often through eating disorders, or even gaining weight in an attempt to self-protect. Stop the body shaming, they probably have some history of sexual abuse!
5) We are often more sensitive to criticism because many of us have an unconscious belief there must be something wrong with us for someone to hurt us so badly.
As a Christian I rely on God to be my Comfort and my Strength, but sometimes I wish I could rely on my brothers and sisters in Christ more. Relationships aren’t often easy for me to form because I still, even after so many years of God restoring what the locusts had eaten, I still have trust cautions.
All I hope to get across through this post is to encourage others to become aware. Be kind and sensitive. Hold back on criticisms.
Over the past 20 years I have been moved from place to place, sometimes by God, sometimes for personal reasons.
That is why I’m writing this.
I am no one special. I have no title, no grand purpose or calling. I am like many within your flock, under your care– part of your Divine calling and purpose.
I am a member of the Body of Christ, and that means something more to me than merely being a member of a local church.
I have been given talents by God, and I strive to use them to help further His Kingdom purpose. I have been given a heart of flesh that longs to please God. I love people, I love Jesus, and I love serving God as He calls me to.
I have seen where church leadership has some blindspots. I am asking you, humbly, as one who loves God and people– please– drop all defensiveness and listen.
I believe that God has called Pastors and all church leaders to love His people as He loves His people, not to just instruct us about the Word of God. Not one of us is in the same part of the narrow road, nor have we walked with the same steps or strides. In fact, there are some who are crawling, there are some who are stopped– waiting on God to give them clear direction– direction that oftentimes comes through you.
Every Pastor wants the congregants who are running the race perfectly, with all the energy necessary to carry out the plans and purposes of the ministries churches offer. There are people who are called and able to fulfill those Pastoral dreams.
I want to tell you, many simply are not. Many are trying to work out their Salvation with fear and trembling. Some want to please church leadership, but they are burnt out by doing so. Some feel weighted down by life. Some have been crippled by life’s circumstances, and they can’t “perform” as is often necessary. These are the people you are leaving behind. These are the ones you are hurting. Some of these equate how you treat them with how God wants them to be treated– and that is breaking God’s heart.
I want to encourage you to look at every person as the individual that God has created them to be.
We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and God has entrusted you with the loving care to help nurture and grow even the most unloveable Christian.
I believe God wants to release His healing within His Body. Hurts caused by our own family in Christ. Reconciliations. Letting go of offenses. Repentance for how we all treat one another.
I believe He wants to begin from the top of the leadership down through the entire congregation.
What does this look like? More ministries for congregants, not just opportunities to serve. Listening more carefully. Being approachable, a healthy relationship attainable outside of jumping through specific hoops to prove worthiness of your time, attention and appreciation.
Removal of any “hierarchy” mindset that in any way belittles your congregants in your eyes.
There are millions of Pastors, and every one of you is a unique individual created by God, just like all of your congregants are.
I pray you will read this, that you will seek God concerning this. Not because I am asking, but because God’s Judgment begins in the House of The Lord. We all need to be far more sensitive to God’s Spirit than we are to the opinions of ourselves and others.
God’s love is not tough, it’s full of compassion, patience and deep understanding.
Some are easily seen. Like the one on my hand where I got stitches from grabbing a knife out of a distressed friend’s hand. He was threatening self-harm.
Some are hidden. I have scars in my scalp from an attack by a playful young mountain lion my aunt kept and adopted from a hunting trip. When my fingers locate the indented bite marks my hair now hides, it seems as though the scars remember the trauma– the pain. All that blood… I can still almost taste the metallic flavor as it as gushed out of the fresh wounds, covering my face. The rush of fear– I had no idea how to get away from Tonka cougar’s implanted teeth in my scalp. The tears. The shock as my aunt just stood there, watching, with what I remember as being a curious and possibly slightly amused look on her face. Her husband grabbed a towel and somehow got my head out of Tonka’s clenched jaw. I don’t remember being separated from my new “friend’s” grasp. I vaguely remember being in the ER, having my head bandaged. The rest is hidden in my memory, deep beneath those still sensitive-to-touch scars.
There is a Proverb that says– “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6) I’m not sure I can apply this one to what happened with Tonka.
Then there are inner scars that no one person see. The ones that form over our emotions. The ones that guard our hearts. They cover our memories, stretching over wounds as a protective layer. They remind us to avoid people and situations that cause us pain. They encourage research into preventative measures. They might even be what makes us want to build up protective walls– to keep similar pain out.
Maybe they are the walls…
I have hidden scars. From an abusive childhood. From people who called themselves my friends, but never really followed through. From a devastating first marriage.
I have other scars I call regrets. Wow did I do stupid things! I had no self worth. I was beat down by the words of my dad on a regular basis, convinced what he said about me was how everyone saw me. Worthless. Good for nothing. In the way. Why was I even born?
I am thankful that God swooped down and rescued me the times I almost gave in and gave up.
He was my Comforter. He was my Rescuer. My Protector. In later years He also became my Shield.
He brought people, one at a time, into my life. He worked through them to help me. He helped me find the path to trust and healing.
My list of traumatic life experiences is longer than many people’s. I hate that so much! Not because I would ever want anyone to experience more. Because each situation where the scars have sealed-off painful memories, is horrible.
I have fought a tremendous uphill battle just to be normal. I fought to have a healthy mind. I’m fighting to have a healthy body.
I have hated my life for most of my existence. Except where God made the changes that delivered me from being bitter, hate-filled and angry. I love that He has healed and transformed me to the me I am now. Believe me– I was beyond repair. Consumed by anger for my dad. Filled with hatred for my neglectful, abusive, rapist-coward of an ex-husband.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real. I look at who I was before I allowed Him to walk with me, and I feel a sense of shock that He didn’t just have me removed from the face of the earth.
He healed me. He revealed a deeper love for me than anyone had ever shown to me.
All I ever really wanted was to be loved, to be welcomed– to be wanted.
God has given that to me.
The scars remind me.
One of my scars is sadness. You can’t walk through all I have and not still be affected in some ways by it all. God healing me does not erase those circumstances or all of the emotions still attached. I was still robbed of a healthy relationship with my dad. I remember the horrible words he said to me, how he hurt me in so many ways– physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually.
It all still happened.
It all no longer defines who I am.
Jesus has scars. Crucified on a cross. Nails the size of small railroad stakes pounded into His wrists and feet. Scars on His scalp from the crown of thorns. Scars on His back as His flesh was ripped apart by a whip called the “cat of nine tails.” He endured that for me. His scars remind me that His love and compassion are so deep, He willingly went through everything He did for me. I couldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have been able to look at my abusers and say to God the Father, “Father. Forgive them, for they know not what they have done.”
Jesus did that.
Divorced people also hate divorce. It’s ugly. It’s destructive. It tears apart what God put together. It turns a peaceful union into a war zone.
Moses gave permission for divorce because mens hearts had hardened against their wives. A hardened heart makes way for cruelty and abuse. Moses was protecting the wives by allowing it.
As one who went through a Scriptural divorce– it sucks! It hurt!
Divorce rips apart lives, hearts and families. It destroys reputations, confidence and dreams.
Divorce is Hell on earth. It separates two people who were once bonded together by love and agreement.
Every divorce is different, it happens for different reasons. It’s a deeply personal experience that cuts through the one-flesh union down into the marrow of our spirit. If you have ever had to have a bone marrow biopsy done, then you know how much that cutting hurts the spirit of those split apart by divorce.
Divorce is more destructive and devastating than losing of a loved one to death. It’s cancer to marriage.
Going through a divorce is pain-filled dying yet still living.
Can we as the Church, the Body of Christ, just stop? Stop judging our wounded family. Stop throwing stones. Stop rejecting. Stop pouring on our salt… Just stop.
Can we just love one another?
Can we just reach out and encourage each other, especially those in our church memberships that we haven’t taken the time to really get to know?
Let’s trade rejecting for compassion. Hatefulness for love. “Tough love” for gentleness, kindness. Anger for patient listening. Judgment for hugs and healing words.
We can do this. We need to do this. We’ve got to stop wounding our wounded.
I hope to see more teaching to couples and congregations about the difficulties of marriage and the solutions God provides through His Word and through praying together. I hope to see less rejecting of divorcées, and more kind and gentle ministries offered compassionately towards them.
Come on, Church. We are better than this ugly, hate-filled rejection of those who are hurting and struggling to get the pieces of their lives together, alone.
What Would Jesus Do? What does He expect us to do in His Name?