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How soon it was, after we moved to Canada, that my parents bought that old daisy clock for our kitchen, I don’t recall, but I was enthralled by it. In my little mind it was the prettiest thing on earth, just like the real daisies outside. I would have one just like it when I was all grown up. Mom liked it too. So much so that when it stopped working, sometime around my late preteens, she set out to fix it. There was also the little issue of not having money for frivolous things so what Red Green’a duct tape couldn’t fix, my parents found a way to redeem. Whether it was lack of finances or love for the clock, now useless, mom took it upon herself to fix it. She pulled it apart, every little piece, and put it back together again. And, sure enough, it ran again. Backwards. We kids laughed and joked about that for a long time.
Now, at 47, I look at the picture of that daisy clock and think to myself, if but for a moment, how I’d like to take the ‘clock of my life’ apart and put it back together differently. Maybe go back and do some things differently with a second shot at it. Especially as a mom. That’s me and almost every other mom, with presumably a few exceptions.
Not because of Mother’s Day, but just because of mothering and humanity, this topic has toyed with my mind more than enough lately. My failures stare me in the eye, time and time again, and more so with age. I see who my children have become and are becoming and I am amazed by God’s goodness in spite of my failures, but the awareness of generational sins, cycles and dysfunction are pretty glaring at this stage. So, yes, if I could pull down the old daisy clock, reset it, and go back with all that I’ve learned and…
Truth told, Adam and Eve would eat the apple again, and I would fail as a parent again. And we mothers would look back with regrets, losses, and wonder how God will ever redeem the impact of our generation, and the generation before us. Somehow he just would. Because God is amazing that way.
So that old daisy clock, which looks much less appealing today than it did then, can keep moving forward and I will choose to trust God to be enough for this generation and the next, even as He continues to redeem our generation and the ones before us.
And I’ll take a step back and look at the messy parts with new hope. More like that cake mom made when I was around 8 years old. The old yellow bowl was filled with batter and mom stirred enthusiastically, trying to beat out every lump. (So help us God if cake should ever have a lump in it…) And just like that, having been a bit too enthusiastic, she sent the bowl flying and chocolate batter spread everywhere on the counter, running down the counter and onto the floor. The bulk of it stayed on the counter, fortunately. We were not wealthy by any means, and wasting a cake would never do! So, after much fussing and gasping and exclaiming – while her children watched in humour – mom scraped the batter from the counter back into the bowl, cleaned up the rest of the mess, and baked a lovely cake for us. We kids who witnessed it, and those who heard the story, laughed many times over that moment.
Life is hard. Really hard, sometimes. And we moms have a habit of beating ourselves up pretty good. We look at our failures and see only the batter running down the cupboard and the mess on the floor. We forget that the bowl with batter running down it’s sides still has much in it to give, and what is spilled on the counter, God will redeem and make something beautiful out of it. The spills, He will wipe up.
Mother’s Day is the hardest for me to blog about, or write about, and I pretty much never speak publicly about my mom. There are so many unanswered questions, so many pains left in limbo, so much loss that I must give to God constantly, that it would be easier to look the other way. That is true in my relationship with my mom, and it is true in my own journey as a mom. And I’m not alone. I hear story, after story after story. I’ve chosen to forgive even where the story has never been acknowledged. When I see mom I hug her and tell her I love her, but my arms feel empty even as they are wrapped around her, knowing some things have never been and will likely never be. Mom is old now, and because she is still living, I carry the story quietly within me out of respect. It’s something I did for dad, and it’s something I will do for mom. And when she is gone, I will speak, but I will speak respectfully as I have about dad. I bless her as she lives out her remaining days, months, years, and possibly decades (in fact probably decades… she’s pretty stubborn, or determined, depending on point of view). And I trust she has made peace with her God. I hear it in her, and bless her. But there are scars that cannot be addressed. So I trust God to wipe up the spills, scrape up the batter that remains, and make something beautiful.
This Mother’s Day, if you grieve for whatever reason, I pray for you. If you are the mom who failed and feels beyond redemption… If you are the mom who never had babies, or lost them all, or lost any… If you are the mom who is unappreciated, abandoned, or used and abused… If you are the mom who is in the thick of the mess of those early years, or struggling through difficult teen years (not all are, but some are)… If you are daughter or son who is estranged, rejected, or manipulated and repeatedly wounded… This day you are worth being celebrated.
And, this Mother’s Day, if you are the mom whose life is idyllic, beautiful and ‘perfect’…. You are worth being celebrated.
Motherhood is a beautiful thing, made up of more joy and more pain than any human can possibly imagine exists in this world. Nothing has made the miracle of God and the wonder of spiritual life more real than motherhood. Nothing has broken my heart in deeper places. And nothing has caused me to reach out to Someone greater and say, “I need You. We need You!” And I trust that Someone with my life, my children, my mother and our intertwined stories, to bring something beautiful out of all things.
Happy Mother’s Day!
© Trudy Metzger 2017
Life is overwhelming, from time to time, for victims of sexual abuse and violence, when past memories haunt the mind, or trauma threatens to spill its pain in blood red all over our present. When flashbacks intercept the sweet wonder of a lover’s touch, and run like a thief with a moment blessed by God in marriage, leaving black footprints all over the marriage bed.
Or when the single heart longs for relationship, desiring that friendship of marriage, but fears of past loss invade those desires, and shut down a beautiful heart with lies. Maybe, for another, the desire itself has been covered over with feelings of worthlessness, hate and resentment. Desire, too soon awakened and having robbed little girls of sweet dreams, and little boys of adventures, has fled, leaving them empty with hollow eyes.
Life is overwhelming, from time to time….
Only God’s mercies keep us from being swallowed up, because His compassions never fail us. They are new each day and as fresh and tender as the morning sunlight that carresses the earth each day; Your faithfulness is boundless. Lamentations 3:22-23 (Paraphrased)
~ T ~
Don’t come to Church!
There comes a time when an individual can be asked not to come to church. But it is not the right answer every time.
The identity of a teenager who offends, in many countries if not most, is protected. While there should be vigilance–always, always–public exposure is not usually an option, by law. The teen needs help and guidance and whatever ‘judgment the courts determine to be appropriate, but banning from church is not one of them. At least not most times, though there may be an exception.
The adult who has victimized people in church, people who must face their offender and be continually traumatized, is a different story. In my opinion, an offender ought to have enough remorse to choose to go somewhere else, to protect the child. It’s easy math. And every now and then they do.
But, as it stands, more victims leave churches than abusers, based on the people I deal with, because the ongoing trauma becomes overwhelming. They forgive, they try to move on, but Sunday morning, when they should be hearing the truth of the Gospel, they are confronted with the trauma of flashbacks to naked genitals or breasts, or some other sexual exploitation in the past. A wife goes home with her spouse after church, and struggles all week with intimacy because the flashbacks make her feel gross and disgusting. The husband how remembers being molested, goes home and withholds himself, and possibly turning to pornography, feeling completely inadequate. (Let me inject that, surely we can try to understand that this is not about a lack of forgiveness–as is often the accusation–but about post-trauma anxiety and flashbacks.)
Why would an adult who has molested someone choose to impose such a thing on a victim, Sunday after Sunday, robbing couples of intimacy and forcing them to relive the violation? Is it not reasonable, in such a situation, to encourage the offender to find a church family elsewhere?
Instead, it seems victims are the ones who eventually uproot and find some other church family, or simply stop attending, spiritually stripped, having endured accusations of being unforgiving or making things up. The lack of healthy care and understanding for victims, combined with religious demands to ‘forgive and forget’ has done it’s share of damage, and has in essence told victims to either ‘shape up or get out’, while offering little in the way of healing.
I spoke recently with yet another victim of a now-church-leader; the third that I am aware of, who eventually just left, while the offender went on to become a leader. The victimizations ranged from coercing a peer in early teens to reaching under skirts, yanking down panties to molest–something I recently discovered is/was a very common occurrence with hired ‘maids’ in some homes–and grabbing and groping… well into his twenties. And in every case the victims ended up paying the price, while the offender managed to fly under the radar, with nothing more than a mild slap on the wrist for ‘sexual immorality’. That should not be. And yet it happens repeatedly.
If an offender refuses to take ownership, and comply with the laws of the land and church-imposed boundaries, or if there is any indication they are causing ongoing trauma, it is not asking too much to tell them not to show up. There is no repentance in self-preservation and rebelling against those boundaries, and that person should be deemed unsafe in every way.
Feel Free to Attend, but with Supervision and Boundaries
In the case of the church I worked with in 2014, a team of people met with the intent of creating accountability. There was no agenda to cover up or protect the offender, but neither was there any agenda to destroy. In all my life I’ve never seen such a healthy approach as I saw in that meeting, and in the months that ensued.
A recommendation was put up for discussion, to allow the offender to attend church, but to always have someone supervise. Every trip to the bathroom, every exit from the auditorium, every event, someone would be assigned to watch over the offender. There would be zero opportunity for offending again. There would be guidelines of not working with children, or being involved in any way that would compromise their safety. Had his presence made victims vulnerable, I might have felt differently, but as it was I thought it was brilliant.
The thought of being ‘babysat’ was offensive to the perpetrator, saying he felt the church was not proving forgiveness. As a result, and of his own free will, he chose to leave the church and find a new church family. If my memory is reliable, the pastor felt it his responsibility to contact leadership at the new church to inform them of the situation, not out of spite, but for the protection of the children there.
All in all, the situation was handled responsibly, and in the best interest of the victims and church family.
What About The Law?
The law was involved early on, in the case of the church I worked with; even before the church was made aware. So, for an example of law, I will share from a conversation I had with a police officer in the past month.
My conversation with the officer led me to believe that when it comes to religion, she is on the outside, looking in, and trying to make sense of it all, and she wondered at the driving force behind that behaviours of churches and Christians, as it pertains to obeying the laws of the land in regards to child abuse. I tried to explain–not justify–from my perspective, what I see; fear, pride, the belief that we Christians are subject only to God’s law and not the laws of the land, among other things. I’ve had the same conversation with 4 police officers since May, where they talk about the religious community covering up and not getting victims or offenders the help they need, and it leaves them shaking their heads. It should.
But what this last officer shared, didn’t stay there. After questioning, she mentioned how several years ago she had a case unlike any other. A pastor, she said, had walked in one morning, accompanied by an offender who had molested his daughter. Immediately after having done so, he went to his wife, and told her, packed his bags and left so his daughter would be safe. The pastor was drawn in, and that is where the man stayed until morning, when they stood in front of the officer saying they have a crime to report. The entire police staff was flabbergasted, she said. Not one had experienced such a thing before.
She told me how the man ended up doing jail time, getting counseling and was eventually reinstated in his home, but is not allowed to be with children unsupervised at any time. He is humbly compliant, and understands that this is to make 100% certain it never happens again. This situation, is the ideal, when it comes to handling abuse cases, she told me.
I wasn’t involved with that situation, and don’t know the people, but from where I stand looking on, I see redemption, while complying with the law and facing consequences. The church is aware of what he has done, and works to make it a safe place for children all around, while allowing him to be part of his family and the church.
A Tragedy Cannot be Undone, only Redeemed
There is no way to make a bad thing good. It can’t be done. There is only redemption of evil in the lives of God’s people, and in the working of society. What our enemy means for evil, God will use for good, but the wickedness can never be made good. We have to accept that, and call the wickedness what it is.
That said, we undermine the grace and mercy of God, when we refuse to extend the work of Jesus on the cross to all sinners… including those who molested a child, or children. There must always be forgiveness for them. While the practical working out of healing should be done with great wisdom and seeking God’s heart–and God always fights for the children and the vulnerable–to sentence offenders to hopeless judgment, doesn’t sit right in my spirit.
I’ve worshiped in prison with those who murdered someone. And I’ve hugged them if they wanted to be hugged. It makes zero difference to me, at the foot of the cross, what you have done; you are my brother and my sister. Besides, I remember that “but for the grace of God, there go I”. And I mean that. Coming out of the sexual confusion of my childhood, it is nothing short of the grace of God that kept me from growing up to be in prison with the murderers and pedophiles. When it comes praying ‘thank God I am not like the sinner beside me’, the words choke heavy in my throat and I cannot spit them out.
Instead, I thank God for His liberal grace and generous wisdom so that we might be forgiven, extend forgiveness, while still choosing to respond carefully in every situation. Bitterness and hate destroys lives, as does overlooking sin and neglecting to address and deal with abuse. Somewhere, in seeking the wisdom of God, there is a better way…
We were molested, many of us, and we inevitably hurt and grieve the loss of innocence. We need to be given space to do that, and to express that hurt without being judged. But, horrific as that moment was, or the thousand times over, none of us really want to stay stuck in that darkness. Advocating for other victims, fighting for the safety of children and creating awareness are some of the many ways to take back our freedom, our God-given voice, and to bring good out of evil, without empowering evil through bitterness.
Together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope, if we avoid the pit of bitterness, and a sense of being entitled to live in it and speak out of it. Our life purpose is not defined by what happened to us, but it can empower us for greater things. The choice is ours. Always. And I, for one, want to care for the hearts of all, but I want only to partner with those who bring hope out of darkness…
Yes, together we are a powerful force for good, for redemption and for hope!
~ T ~
The Crime and the Calling
Standing against sexual abuse and violence is a noble and godly thing to do. It really is. And I applaud anyone who does so with a pure heart. Because I cannot think of many topics that stir deeper feelings than child molestation. And rightfully so. What is more horrendous than an innocent child or young person stripped of sexual innocence by an adult? I can’t think of a thing, really, that does the thing to my stomach that such a story does.
Especially now, as a married woman who understands what sex was supposed to be in the first place, as designed by God; a beautiful and fun bonding between husband and wife. For an adult to impose such a thing, and impose a life-sentence of struggle on an innocent child… to rob that victim of unhindered marital joy…
Even writing about it, like this, creates inner angst and tension on behalf of that child that the makes me want to vomit. And that’s not exaggerating. That’s how the mind and body should respond, with powerful resistance, against such a thing. And the instinct to protect children should rise, immediately, to the surface.
The Danger in Fighting Against Abuse and Violence
But that is the very thing that makes it such a complex thing to stand against. Those feelings, legitimate and justified, must be acknowledged but cannot be the driving force, in and of themselves; there has to be a deeper goal to be effective. Those feelings must not be it, lest we move out of hate and bitterness. Because then the very thing we fight against, gains power over us, and makes us slaves to it. When we become bitter and hate-filled, and out to make the offender(s) pay, on our terms, a toxicity sets in that does nothing–not one little thing–to protect victims or change the world.
Bitterness is counterproductive in every way. Besides rendering your voice empty and irrelevant to those in positions to help change the world, its toxic poison will suck your soul dry faster than any hurt imposed on you. Every time. And not only that, it will suck dry those around you, if they don’t leave before it poisons them. In either case, it will leave you empty and friendless, or empty and lacking healthy support. It’s not worth it.
As Believers, What Do We Reach For?
There are good and positive things that can be done in dealing with molestation, without turning to the venom of destruction and the poison that is so prone to dribble from our lips. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve done it. I’ve lost sight, in the past, of what my heart really longs for in all of this; redemption, justice, boundaries, mercy, truth and ultimately restoration with God… even in situations where the last thing that ever could happen (or should, for that matter) is reconciliation between offender and victim.
In religious settings it seems often there is a dreadful imbalance in situations where an abuser is exposed, caught or turns himself or herself in. It is either carefully guarded and covered up in denial, or the individual is abandoned and thrown under the bus. Most often it is the former. And, to the latter, many ‘justice seekers’ would shout a hearty ‘Yay… serves them right’ and jump on the bandwagon that finally someone is listening.
At the risk of receiving hate mail, I will say publicly that I think both are corrupt; both are wrong. That’s my view. Justice and truth without mercy is barbaric. Mercy without truth and justice is endorsement of evil. As I watch the two sides play out around me, in various situations, I think surely there must be a better way! Surely there is some humanity, somewhere. Humanity that says, “Enough is enough!” to the senseless victimization, and humanity that says, “we are all broken and need help, so we’re going to get you that help.”
And then, beyond humanity to Christ-likeness, that says, “Someone died for my sins; He died for yours too.” To offer the grace and love of Jesus to my offender is the most freeing thing I have ever done. Freeing for me.
To not share that truth with others, is to keep them in bondage. And yet, as angry voices–and yes, they should be angry–shout around me, some with bitterness and hate, I find myself retreating, publicly, for fear of tomatoes… or worse, thrown at me. It is not the healthy anger that makes me cringe, it is the hate and offensiveness. And I am not alone. Other victims have written me, saying they are afraid to publicly state they have forgiven, for fear of being judged or ‘hated on’.
What Then is the Solution?
While abuse angers many of us, as it should, the greatest headway in change will come from calm, composed persistence. There is a time to expose, but doing so with venom will stop the ears of people we want to speak to; it is overwhelming. Furthermore, if there are defenses already in place–take for example a pastor, parent or other person of influence–where the person feels it is an attack on them, the attack and raging approach will trigger subconscious response–either tuning out or defending.
An approach that lacks attack, and rather appeals to the intellect, the heart and compassion of individuals in positions of influence, will produce a much healthier response. Reasonable dialogue is necessary, and exploring healthy solutions without demanding the heads of abusers on a platter, will go much further than raging and bitterness. And if we want to really make a difference, then we need to manage those feelings with honour.
What Can the Church Do?
When a molestation case comes to light in a church, there is inevitably much upheaval. In 2014 I was hired by a church several hours away, to work with a very difficult situation. I learned more in a few months, about what pastors and leaders go through, than I had learned in the preceding 44 years of my life.
When a pastor cares for his church and wants nothing but the best for everyone, abuse and molestation allegations cause heartbreaking struggle. When the offender owns up, admitting to the crimes, and it is confirmed reality and not allegations, the truth is harsh and offensive. The crimes need to be dealt with, and the person needs someone to walk with them, and the victims need to be protected along with all vulnerable church attendees, children in particular. How is a pastor to do all of those things, and not be harshly judged by some, if not all involved and aware?
Some want the offender banned from attending. Some want the church to ‘forgive and move on’. Others want boundaries and protections in place. Some want it taken to the law. Others say that’s not biblical, even when the laws require it. The latter, for me, is not optional; a crime must be reported. The Bible says that the law is for the lawbreaker, and if that lawbreaker happens to sit on a church pew, he or she is no less a lawbreaker.
How to handle incorporating the abuser, or banning, as the case may be, is something each church family must fumble their way through. Each situation and solution presents complexities that make a black-and-white-blanket-solution nigh impossible to implement. And while the protection of victims should alway take precedent over the abuser, I hesitate to judge harshly when I see a church trying to care for both.
I say that as someone who instigated inappropriate sexual interaction with a peer in my early teens. Sure, she came into agreement before we did anything, but I will always see her as the victim. I was a few months older and I suggested it, therefore I feel I need to own that. To this day, it is more important for me to know that she is cared for than to have my pride protected. She deserves that; I made her vulnerable. And any offender who steals innocence should pursue the well-being of the victim, over their own comfort. It’s the least any of us can do who have wounded another.
So what, then, should a church do? What are some options?
(To Be Continued…)
~ T ~
The headlines of Pastor Tullian Tchividjian committing adultery kind of hit me in the gut. If it was Joel Osteen, it would have far less impact. I am probably about 350 degrees removed from Joel; I don’t know anyone who knows him personally. If it was Joyce Meyer, that gap would close somewhat for reasons I won’t get into. And, while Pastor Tullian is less known than both, it had greater impact; he is one degree removed, and the ‘man in between’ is someone I deeply respect.
My first thought when I read it wasn’t, “Hmmm… another mega-pastor has fallen…” or some such resigned rhetoric. My heart squeezed a bit tighter in my chest, and I choked up a little. Not because of personal disappointment, but because of what sin has cost him; what it costs every one of us. Relationships take a hard hit, when ‘spiritual giants’ fall. Faltering Christians are confused and feel lost when heroes and mentors ‘betray’ what they teach. Husbands and wives struggle and ache. And the children… they always hurt like hell. Every time. When leaders fall, their children and young Christians under their leadership pay a high price. And that price is even greater depending on our responses… and the responses of believers at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
I will never forget that feeling… In my early twenties several women in our church took me under their wings, so to speak, spiritually and emotionally. I had started working through the aftermath of sexual abuse when they stepped in and mentored me. One on one, I talked as openly as I knew how then. Several years went by, and our connections had weakened, by the time it happened, but after all I had shared, it still felt very personal. Tim and I were dating, and the husband of one of these women was his Sunday School teacher at the time….
It was a Wednesday evening when our bishop rose to make the announcement, disclosing that this couple had fallen into sexual sin. How much detail was shared there, and how much was shared with me after I am not sure, but I knew more than I needed to know. I was crushed. Tim was stunned. And after church we sat on the grass, under the stars–a young couple wanting to save sex for marriage–and had a numb conversation, our minds reeling. It was a moment of grief at having trusted so deeply. “I talked with her about my struggles… the abuse… I had coffee with her… I trusted her…” It all spilled out like a cup of tipped coffee, hot and scalding, as I absorbed what it all meant.
Hard as it was, those were not the defining moments of that event. Thank God. The defining moments came when I heard the couple sought counselling. The defining moments came when someone believed in grace enough to say, “It’s not over. God will redeem this mess.” My heart still felt hesitant, granted. It still needed time to heal from the shock of it, but the greater message was in the redemption. And I watched as God turned that evil into good, and now uses the woman to bring healing to others.
Pastor Tullian and I never met for coffee. He never sat and patiently listened to my broken story, reassuring me. And he was never Tim’s Sunday School teacher. But I have been blessed by his wisdom and words of grace, ‘from afar’. (A grace I pray he and Kim will hold onto most tightly, in this time.) But, more than that, he is a brother to the man who wrote the foreword to my book, BETWEEN 2 GODS. And, if Pastor Tullian was one to do book reviews, I would have had him do one of my book in instant. (I checked into it.) Because he believes in grace and redemption, I would have trusted him with my story.
I, too, believe in grace and redemption. And I believe it for Pastor Tullian and Kim Tchividjian. Yes, it is sad, I won’t downplay that; looking at King David’s life there are and will be devastating consequences for such sin… But I hold the atonement of Christ in high regard. The only Gospel I offer is that Jesus is more than enough. I will not judge, but I will pray. I will not condemn. I believe that the Jesus of John 8 is the Jesus of today, and if Pastor Tullian and Kim were brought to Him for judgement, He would again kneel in the sand and begin to write… And in that humble moment, accusers would scatter, leaving only Jesus and the bystanders to witness and hear what the headlines don’t tell you; divine grace, flowing from tender eyes, and lips speaking with Heaven’s affection, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
And I believe that the God of King David–a very broken man whom God called ‘a man after His own heart’–is still God today. Like King David, Pastor Tullian and Kim, and the woman ‘caught in the very act’ of adultery, I too needed grace. And I need grace still; we all do.
I only hope that men and women of God who fall into adultery and sin, rise up again, like King David, to serve God with greater vision and passion… and broken. Because broken men and women are of far greater service to the Kingdom of God than great, strong, unbroken leaders. Our sins do not disqualify us from serving God, if we repent and fall harder on grace than we ever fell into sin. The grace of God is enough, whether alcoholism, gossip, adultery, gluttony, homosexuality, arrogance, or any other sin….
Because Jesus didn’t die for nothing.
~ T ~
10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
The past few days taught me some interesting things…
Firstly, I learned that it is wise to speak with gentleness, always. You never know when words will travel further than you imagined. Secondly, sometimes people–Christian and non-Christian–demand we either blindly support, or blatantly attack/reject people in situations like the Duggar family. (I blatantly reject/condemn molestation/crime, and I believe abusers should pay the consequences; from church and law.)
Thirdly, there are angry people–and God only knows what each one is angry about; no doubt they have painful stories–who will attack, very personally, anyone they see as out of line. They see what looks, to them, like a punching bag, and they swing. (Here I refer to both sides) The thing about anger, though, is that it is always a cover for a deeper emotion. (Helplessness, hopelessness, pain, rejection, betrayal, grief or any one of a host of other things.) To them I say, if swinging at me makes you feel better, have at it. Hopefully, with time the anger layer will strip away enough for you to begin to feel the deeper emotion and heal. My commitment is to try never to stoop to attacking you as a person, or your faith, identity or other tender struggles.
Fourthly, I learned (again) that I must be true to my heart before God. No matter what. I wrote my first blog from my heart, and made some statements based on faulty information, and the side of those who have their stones safely tucked in their pockets applauded and praised me. I was unwittingly dancing to their drums. The other side was a bit less happy with me. Most were not rude, but certainly they were riled up. And one was downright obnoxious. I’ve seen it enough, that it didn’t get under my skin; there’s usually some deep pain and personal bitterness, needing love and compassion. I heard the accusations and attacks, and tried to weed out the legitimate from the poison, and remain true to my heart before God, and acknowledge that I had some details wrong.
I posted the second blog to correct the glaring misinformation that influenced my statement about them ‘having done all they could do’. It seemed to me that making this correction was the right and Christian thing to do, because I was wrong; plain and simple. I want the public to trust that my first commitment is to the truth, as much as one can find truth in anything the media has touched. That means I need to be honest enough to say, “I was wrong.” As Christians, surely we can be humble enough to do that, can’t we? Isn’t that the only way to present Christ well? That, however, riled up some on the side of defending Duggars. Suddenly I was accused of losing all ‘grace’.
My question is, can we not walk in grace–with consequences–and acknowledge that things were not exactly as they appeared? I hope so. Where do truth and mercy meet, if not in our humanity? Where does righteousness kiss peace, if not in our lives? And when does truth ‘springing up from the earth’ ever meet with anything other than righteousness, when all truth is of God? I am convinced, beyond even a hint of doubt, that offering grace (not apart from consequences) in the reality of it all, brings healing and hope… When truth and mercy meet.
Having positioned myself between the two sides–feeling no need to destroy or defend, yet supporting consequences–I found a small group of people who acknowledge the crime, support consequences, yet walk in grace. These people feel no need to defend the ‘dark side’ of the situation. They feel no need to downplay the crime. And they felt no need to attack anyone. Having acknowledged that Josh committed a crime, they support consequences with grace, and pray for healing. Most intriguing is the fact that many of these individuals were sexual abuse victims who chose a path of ‘forgiveness with boundaries’, and consequences. Some, in fact, completely removed the abuser from their lives and are labeled ‘unforgiving’ by family or church. Even with deep personal wounds, they value grace. When it is obvious to me that they do not overlook crimes, and yet want to find a path of grace and forgiveness, their words have credibility. These people have a voice… a quiet one… but a voice that carries authority.
We scream, ’empower the victims’… ‘give back their voices’… and yet, when some speak out, they are attacked for not saying the ‘right things’. All victims will not agree. Some will want Josh Duggar hanged. Go ahead and say it. Some of us will cry out for something different; let us speak it too. Of all direct messages, comments and emails I received, where victims identified themselves as victims, the vast majority expressed thanks for acknowledging the crime, and yet extending grace. For some of us that is healing. Let us heal with grace and forgiveness for our offenders. If you need to arrange a pretend execution for your release, feel free to do so. Both sides have the privilege of being true to ourselves. And in the case at hand, the victims deserve that right too, to have their voices.
I pray we learn from this–individuals/churches/government–and live with purpose the life we’ve been given, protecting victims and promoting positive change going forward.
COMING UP: “Mandatory Reporting Laws” & Confidentiality of Juvenile records in various states and provinces.. You may be surprised what they are… I was!
Ultimately, world changers take every situation, and advocate for change where it is needed. For some it may mean encouraging states and provinces to take a good look at the laws, or the lack thereof. There are gaping holes to be filled.
~ T ~
And, after dusting off your Bible and dancing shoes, why not practice ‘feeling’ again? (How can you dance, if you cannot feel the music?) How long has it been? A week… a month… a year? Maybe a life-time ago, since you decided to stop feeling all that pain …that it is easier to shut down your heart, and feel nothing, than to experience that raw encounter with your own mind and heart?
There is no strength in shutting down. I know. I did it for a long time, just to survive. And I learned that denial is not the path of greater courage; it is the path of defeat. It takes courage to walk through the pain and grief that are inevitably part of human experience. We all suffer. The difference lies in facing pain courageously, or pretending it doesn’t exist.
Personally, I vote to bring the Wailing Wall back. We have become so cultured that at a time when weeping loudly, wailing, and crying out would be most appropriate, we sit stoically, straightening our collars, pressing imaginary wrinkles from our skirts and tucking every hair in place, willing ourselves not to experience reality. And then we label it ‘self-control’ and slap the word ‘biblical’ on it because, well, the Bible does talk about temperance.
Yes, yes it does. It talks about temperance and doing all things decently and in order. And I would say that it might be ‘in order’ to fall apart, now and then. King David, a great man to whom a country looked for guidance, was a mess before God (and the people) on more than one occasion. After seeing his own sin and losing his ‘love-child’ because of that sin, he grieved before God. Job sat in a state of depression (for how long?) after he lost everything that mattered to him, except his own soul and his God, and a few miserable friends. Both great men. Yet, both would be judged ruthlessly in today’s society… and church.
How did we get to this image-based-performance way of doing life? God gave us feelings, emotions and the resilience to get through the ‘dark hell’ of life. It is in that darkness, often, and in those times of deep feeling, where we discover the love and faithfulness of God in ways that no stoic performance can offer. Keeping it together appeases the people around us so that they can be comfortable in our grieving and our pain. God forbid that they should awaken and begin to feel their own things, because of our inability to present that image. But what if the anger, frustration or disdain they feel for us is something God wants to break through? What if the pain they hide is the pain they need to feel before they can go deeper? And what if the way for them to experience these encounters is through our vulnerability?
Jeremiah 31 tells the journey to dancing and living with joy, from a place of bondage and loss of identity. The journey begins where many are content to stay, with survival. But, staying stuck in survival prevents us from discovering grace and rest:
2 “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness…
when I went to give him rest…”
But God’s love draws us into a place of newness, of hope, of being rebuilt:
3 The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
4 Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt …”
God doesn’t rebuild in some haphazard, ramshackle, ‘good luck’ kind of way. No, He restores us to that wholeness for which He initially designed and created us. He tells it, using virginity as the symbolism. And we all know, when virginity is lost, it is gone, physically. And yet God…
4 …I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt…O virgin of Israel!
He promises, having restored and rebuilt and seeing us as though we never lost the purity and innocence of relationship with Him, He will take us further. “Dust off you dancing shoes,” He says, “and get dressed up. Grab your musical instruments! You’ve got some rejoicing to do! Sing with gladness! Shout! Proclaim, give praise and say, O Lord, save Your people!” (v 6b-7 paraphrased)
And all of this He says to His people who are in a place of captivity, still waiting for deliverance. They have nothing but His promises and commands to go on. In their bondage, He tells them to give praise and cry out “O Lord, save Your people!” (This isn’t the ‘after party’ to celebrate freedom! It is the ‘claiming of a promise’ and trusting God, our Heavenly Papa, to fulfill it!)
And then He says how He will deliver, and it sounds a little less ‘pretty’ and ‘together’. They will come from every part of the earth, including women ‘with child‘ and those in labour with children. A great throng will come; among them the blind and the lame–those who have a difficult time seeing the way, and struggling to get ahead. Those are the ones God will rebuild and heal! (Verse 8 paraphrased)
Oh the messy walk with God, to places He longs to lead us into!
“9 They shall come with weeping...”
And there, in broken places, God leads them with supplication, pleading earnestly for them to press on. Picture our Heavenly Papa, on His knees, gently encouraging the lame struggling to walk, the blind hardly able to grasp truth, the weary pregnant, vulnerable ones, “You’re going to make it… follow me… there’s a straight path here… trust me… I’ve got you and won’t let you stumble!”
And why does He do this? Ah, my friends, because He is a “Papa!” Like that first time daddy, amazed and intrigued, crazy in love with a first born child…. That’s a daddy heart I trust!
“...For I am a Father …!”
~ T ~
It was a mid-afternoon interruption…
Sound asleep in my chair, March 7, 2014, the doorbell startled me awake. It had been an exhausting few weeks, in my search for an agent to represent my book, and I had signed on with Vanessa Grossett, only days earlier…
In my exhaustion, I sent our son to the door; assuming it would be a sales person, he was instructed to politely tell the person I was not available. Moments later he appeared at my side with a message, “it was a friend of our neighbours’… something about having tea and praying for you…”
By this time I was wide awake. Isobel’s friend… tea.. praying… What was this about? I walked next door, to Isobel Frey’s home, rang the door bell and waited. A bubbly woman, whom I recognized as Isobel’s good friend, Heather Tompkins, and whom I had met several times, answered the door and welcomed me in. She apologized for having disrupted my nap, and explained that a group of five women had been enjoying an afternoon tea, discussing the book I was hoping to publish, and wanted to pray with me and for me.
Isobel welcomed me into her living room, and together she and Heather introduced me to three other friends, whom I had never met: Gladys McClurkin, Mary Bell and Heather Martin. Several were pastors’ wives–which stood out because of the general reticence of churches to broach the subject of abuse–and all were passionate about breaking silence and offering healing surrounding the topic. They shared how they really believe this is a God-thing, and wanted to get behind me on it.
There I was, moments later, surrounded by a group of godly women, mostly strangers, praying for God to open doors and work out the details for the book. Though I sensed the very things they spoke–that God was in it and had a healing plan–I also had fears to contend with.
The weeks leading up to that moment, and the months that followed, were filled with deep soul-searching, as I edited, reworked, prayed and started the process all over again. One fear was that making my story public would not bring the healing I prayed for, and the enemy would take it and bring destruction. Another fear was that I would be so attacked by those resisting exposure of abuse, that it would push me to a place of unhealthy retreat and escape. I even feared that people would read it, pity me, and leave it there. I hate pity! But, little by little, as God brought prayer warriors alongside and around me, I came to a place of peace. I moved from fearing the outcome, to asking God to speak His message, His love, His truth through my story, so that my story would be all but lost in the shadows of His story, His grace…
By May 2014 I signed a contract with eLectio Publishing and by August I was working with a private editor–Eric Stanford, to whom I credit the ‘shaping’ of Between 2 Gods, with deep appreciation–and by October it was ‘finished’ with only minor changes and edits needed. And by early 2015 my five praying strangers resurfaced…
Heather Tompkins contacted me to say that she and her friends would like to plan a Book Launch on my behalf; would that be okay? Would that be okay? Wow! Yes! I was excited, humbled and honoured all at one time! And amazed that a group of women, whom I’ve only met a few times, would go out of their way for this, because they believe God is bringing a message of hope.
So tonight, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm we will be at Gale Presbyterian Church, 10 Barnswallow Drive, in Elmira, for Between 2 Gods Book Launch. I’ve invited several ‘characters’–what do you call them in a non-fiction?–from my book to attend, and one is able to make it, for sure–barring an unforeseen interruption.
I had also asked a client to do an interview, and it fell through, so gave that up until Wednesday… I received a message from a current client, Kim Chapple, asking if I would allow her to come and share. I was taken off guard, as current clients seldom have the courage to speak out and be so vulnerable. After some ‘back and forth’, ensuring she understood both the risks and the feeling of the public eye on our stories, I felt at peace.
My heart in ministry is the same as my heart in my book, that it will never be about me, and that healing will flow to others. For this reason, while I will do a short reading and share a few words, tonight is about offering hope and healing to those present. If I missed the mark on that, I know God could still bring that healing, but I’d so much rather be ‘about my Father’s business’ and work alongside of Him, than to try and steal center stage.
We’d love to have you come tonight and join us! For more information or to ask questions visit: Between 2 Gods Book Launch
~ T ~
(Tax Receipts will automatically be issued for all donations over $20)