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Tim and I promised each other, twenty-four years ago today, that no matter what, come hell or high water, we would stay and fight for our marriage. Hell has come and the water has risen until it was so deep we had to learn to swim… or float… or doggy paddle; anything to keep our heads above water. We’ve struggled to hold true to those promises in various ways, and multiple times.
Our first baby was born nine months, one week, one day and two hours after that ceremony. (But who’s counting? Especially when eight months and 3 weeks would have raised the eyebrows of more than a few.) In the 6 years that followed, God blessed us with five more healthy children, and carried us through losing two others. We cried. We misunderstood how the other grieves, and at times felt hopelessly lost in this thing we call marriage.
Over the years we both have been in situations at various times that, if we had been so inclined, could have led to infidelity and unfaithfulness. But we communicated and risked opening our hearts to each other. Sometimes it meant one of us seeing the risk the other was in, and sometimes it meant seeing it ourselves and together working through navigating those relationships… and ending them.
We’ve each failed the other. We’ve looked out for our own interests instead of the other. We’ve had to own our wrongs, and say “I’m sorry”. And, when we could have walked away from each other, always we chose to stay and forgive, and support each other.
We’ve had crises and challenges and blessings, all blended together into a sometimes confusing mosaic. But when I step back, I see beauty, love and grace. We’ve hurt each other and been disappointed, and wondered if we’d make it through. Yet we’ve never, even in the hell of life, stopped loving. Even in our ‘fights’ – such as they tend to be with both of us not liking conflict – we have kept our love alive. (Yes, you can be angry and love someone. You can hurt deeply, and love them. And you can look at them and say “I still love you… I just can’t keep doing life this way”.)
I am, by nature – or maybe because of past experience – a hedgehog with rhino tendencies. I extend grace, and more grace, and more grace, and then something tips the building blocks neatly stacked, and it all comes tumbling down. And when it all erupts, we haven’t much choice but to stumble through the mess on the floor and work through it. Tim is, by nature, a hedgehog. That’s how we did the first ‘many’ years of marriage, as two hedgehogs – one with rhino tendencies.
Gradually we have learned (and are learning still) that if we talk about things as they happen – which we have done times since all hell broke loose nearly two years ago -things are so much better. When I’m cranky, I take inventory about what’s happening to my heart. Sometimes it’s just hormones. (Seriously! this middle-aged stuff…!) But it’s not all bad. As my naturopath Dr. Jim Farquarson told me, it’s a time when God invites us to the past and heals a lot of stuff that we’ve ignored. (Okay. I can do that!) Sometimes when I’m feeling hurt it is the result of a subtle little thing that I’ve decided ‘isn’t a big deal’ because I want to be mature. Many times that works and such grace is good. But sometimes, if it lingers, the best thing for me to do is to tell Tim. I’ve learned that often if I tell him, it breaks that negative power, and it’s over “just like that!” with the little things that build up and cause explosions. So we have less and less ‘Mt. St. Helen’ moments in our marriage all the time, and more peace.
Through it all, we’ve never stopped holding and loving each other. Sure, a few times there were several days of space and distance while we sorted ourselves out, but rarely did that stop us snuggling, even if in silence, and often falling asleep in each other’s arms. That intimacy of physical closeness – with or without sex – has been critical to us thriving. (Please understand, Tim has never violated me physically or sexually. Not in word, not in deed, not in an affair, and not by using pornography. This deeply impacts my trust in physical touch. He has hurt me in other ways, but not sexually. If that is your marriage, I encourage you to seek help. And, in any case, please don’t compare with us. Every story is different.)
Our closest friends have seen our struggles, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t know if we’d have survived if we had kept it all secret. (Special thanks to these closest friends who knew the battles and loved us anyway. In part it is thanks to you we survived those times and came out thriving!) I’m good with confidentiality, but I’m not good at ‘hidden things’ and ‘secrets’, so having safe places to process hurt and anger has been a lifesaver for me, and for us. Twenty-four years later, I spend my life with my best friend because we pushed through those struggles, and are pushing through still.
Tim, you are my best friend. I can imagine my future a thousand different ways and be excited about it. From continuing in our ‘extraordinary ordinary’ life… to pursuing my PhD (scared as I feel at moments), or being rejected from the PhD program… From staying where we live now, to downsizing as our family continues to shrink… I can imagine staying home more, or working a 9 – 5 job, or pursuing my current line of work more – or some variation of it….
I can imagine my future a thousand and one different ways and be excited. But I cannot imagine a future without you… without my heart breaking.
You are my best friend, my lover, my constant support. In the past two years you have carried me through deep loss and grief. When my heart was so crushed it physically hurt to breathe, you held me. I don’t cry easily, even when life hurts like hell, but in your arms the tears unlock and I am comforted by your love. You have healed me and built confidence in me. You’ve showed me that amazing men exist; men who don’t worship sex, porn and control. (And as I said last week… thank you for staying away from that stuff. In this you honour our marriage so well, and spare me the shame and betrayal many women feel.)
Because of you I generally view men as trustworthy in spite of my past, and because of you I feel respected by all men. You have taught me the stability of faithfulness through the certainty of your love. You call out my strengths, you challenge, you encourage and above all, you bless me. You have learned to fight for me… for us. And you have, in all of these things, showed me the heart of God. Because of you, I trust Him with all that I am… because you have showed me that He is trustworthy. Your faithfulness replaced fear and terror of Him, with love and trust, and helped me see that He adores me.
And if next week some hell hits, or the crick begins to rise, we will paddle and swim and float… And we will fight our way forward. I love you, with all my heart! Happy 24th Anniversary!
~ T ~
It was Sunday evening when the text came in asking me to listen to some ‘Father/daughter’ dance songs for the wedding. In the seven months of wedding prep, I’ve been shockingly composed. In fact, I was starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me because I’ve not been all weepy about seeing our first daughter get married. I feel good about it, actually, having observed them these past few years, and how they accept each other, idiosyncrasies and all. And, yes, they do have some. We all do. I’ve observed how Andrew cares for Alicia, and that detail stands out above all things. So maybe it’s okay that tears haven’t been a big part of this journey. Still, I was a bit worried it would hit out of the blue on wedding day.
And then the text came in. A list would be on the way shortly, which I didn’t realize, so I searched the web. I should have expected it, but I didn’t. I found “Daddy’s Angel” and the emotions started. The memories…
Alicia used to come into our room and make a bed on the floor beside daddy when she couldn’t sleep at night and I had other babies, and with five in seven years plus to miscarriages, it was pretty much always. She would show up at our bedroom door, or beside our bed, blanket and pillow often already in hand. Daddy would reach his hand over the bed and hold her hand until she fell asleep, and her little heart would be at rest. As she grew to independent adulthood, through successes and struggles, Tim loves the little girl who made him a daddy for the first time.
It all took me back to the healing of my heart as I watched him, first with her, then with Nicole. An independent soul from the day she was born, and he patiently worked with her persistence and determination. That’s not said she didn’t win her fair share. In fact, one day she announced to her siblings, when she was six or seven that praying to God we have to be kind of like with Daddy, and keep coming back over and over again, until He gets tired of it and gives us what we want. While her theology wasn’t 100% accurate, she spoke with sincerity, celebrating her own determination. And she should. God made her with that determination for His purposes. And always Tim loved her, as generously as he loved his first.
And then came Bryan with a curiosity that led to a thousand and one answers to the question”Why?” and a whole new kind of rambunctious. An opposite to his daddy, with my spunk and crazy, he challenged and stretched his daddy in the rough and tumble of life. Rough-housing, which had never been something I saw in Tim, wasn’t optional. Granted, it tested his patience at times, but seeing them wrestle and roll, was delightful. It ended several years ago with Bryan sitting on Tim’s chest, having finally overthrown him, and having tested that patience to a whole new level, Tim looked up at Bryan, clearly at his son’s mercy, with arms pinned beside his head, and sternly said, “Have you had enough?!” And we all erupted in fits of laughter, regretting only that there was no video camera. In it all, with oreo cookies flying against the fridge like a hockey puck, and a soccer ball shattering the one and only expensive candelabra in our home, and the teasing and laughter, Tim loved Bryan well.
Todd, the fourth son, came with a quiet temperament, and eventually we would discover an incredibly busy mind. A youngster of few words, big deep eyes, and unspoken curiosity, he gave us both a run for our money on more occasions than one. Whether daring to explore a big department store alone, the instant we turned the other way, and scaring the life out of us, or hiding in the back of our friend’s van at four because he so badly wanted to go along with them, or curling up behind a chair and falling asleep, he kept us on our toes. Through the scares, the laughter and a whole lot of affection, Tim loved his fourth with the same dedication as the first three.
And about the time when we thought we were done, and ready to solidify our family of six with surgery, it happened, that thing I said I would not do. It all began when we dated, and discussed our hopes for having a family one day. Tim said four was a good number, and I wanted six. But, if not six, then four would have to do. Tim suggested a compromise, that maybe we could have five, but I had a list of reasons why five wouldn’t be a good choice, not the least of which would be the loneliness of being the odd number out.
It was almost three years after our first four–all of which were less than two years apart–and my feeling about odd numbers wouldn’t have been any different than during courtship, if I had contemplated a ‘plan’. Fortunately for us, God had a plan that superseded my logic.
Kordan was, from the start, a content and affectionate child. Physical touch, from day one, comforted him, but on his terms. One adult finger, held in tight grip, offered him the security he needed to relax and falling asleep. He was fortunate to be the fifth, and three years on behind the others, because practice and experience, not to mention age, relax us parents, so he faired well. The bumps and scrapes were fewer and farther in between, and life was a bit easier for him than for the others. And through it all, Tim loved Kordan as much as he loved the first four.
“Daddy’s Angel” plays in the background and my heart is full of thoughts from yesteryear. Memories of a handsome young man fathering so tenderly our five children, wrap around my heart and squeeze so tight that teardrops spill from it. Thoughts of yesterday, working side by side with that same man, attaching barn board, twinkly lights, burlap and lace to wedding things, creep in, and I am as crazy in love with him today as I was back then.
I told a friend about the song… about the tears and how it took me off guard to cry like that. “And it brings back memories of your own father too,” she said. And that’s when I realized those painful old memories of an abusive father, though long replaced by forgiveness and grace, were now officially replaced with memories of a kind man loving is children well. The man I married 22 years and five months ago this week.
This father’s day I honour Tim above all men I’ve ever known. And I’ve known some pretty amazing men in my lifetime. But not one holds a candle to the kindness of my husband. Sure, he’s imperfect, and I could point out some idiosyncrasies. But the one thing Tim taught me over the years, by his example, is to focus on the good and the strengths, and loving well. Thank you, Tim, and Happy Father’s Day! You’re the best!
And because of my own broken childhood, and not having a daddy to run to with safety and confidence, I can’t go through this day without thinking of those whose daddies are missing, for whatever reason. Tim can be many things in my life, but he can’t be my daddy. Watching him parent can warm my heart, but I’ve learned that I have to let my Heavenly Papa fill that one place that only a Papa can fill. This comfort is my prayer for all lonely children
For the fathers with empty arms, having lost children to death, miscarriage or due to infertility, and those whose children have turned their hearts away without just cause, I pray for you, that God will be near and that people will be compassionate and sensitive to your loss and loneliness.
My prayer is that if you are lonely and hurting this father’s day, whether you are a father, a son or a daughter, you will find Him faithful and feel His love in your loneliness. And if your heart is full and everything is perfect, that you will feel blessed and celebrate that joy this Father’s Day.
In memory of my father who has been gone fifteen years now, I’m listening to ‘The Living Years‘ by Mike & the Mechanics. It’s pretty much a tradition now, to think of Dad on this day and listen to that song… among others. There are things I would say, if I knew what I know now and had a day with him. I would keep the same boundaries, and I would still hug him and tell him I love him, in spite of all the abuse. It’s how I’m wired, a part of who I am, to be able to do that. Not everyone has to make themselves do these things. But if I had that one day, I’d tell him how much it hurt, and I’d ask more questions about his story, not to excuse what he did, but to have a better understanding. And I’d take him out for a day to some outdoor event with old machinery. But he’s gone, and what I have is the memory of God’s grace in his life and in mine. And that’s enough in a fallen world, where things are not as they should be. It will all be different on the other side of this life.
And, finally, a very special Father’s Day blessing to Tim, who is preparing his heart to watch his first little girl walk into the arms of another man, this Friday, for the rest of her life. Alicia will give up her father’s last name, and take on Andrew’s name to become Mrs. Martin. And there’s a thing about this whole process that tugs at a Daddy’s heart. It is a good thing–we know from experience–but the adjustment is worthy of mention, even while we bless her. Praying, Tim, that God will be near you this week and always. Thank you for loving your children well, and teaching me what a father should be. xoxo
~ T ~
There isn’t much that worship can’t soothe in my spirit, in the day to day. The key and the challenge is to be diligent in setting aside time for intentional worship in the chaos of this thing we call life, which can quickly feel more like a slow and painful death if we’re not careful. Especially for people in ministry, whether pastors or other ministries. There is something spiritually and emotionally draining about ministry, apart from taking time to refuel and ‘drinking deep’ from the well of God’s love, whether through worship music, meditation and prayer, or reading truth.
Hearing horrific stories of child rape, or watching adults weep or go into shock to the point of physically going pale and clammy, as they recall someone forcing themselves or some harsh object inside of them, tends to wear on the soul. In the past year I’ve heard so many of these tragedies it leaves my head reeling, and my heart aching…. though, in honesty, something of my ability to ‘feel’ was destroyed in childhood, so it is usually more of a ‘factual’ pain, than a feeling one. That is, until it is incorporated into art or music… there, and in God’s presence or Tim’s arms, I am able to feel pain. Rarely any other place. But back on track…
In recounting details with a local police officer regarding the third or fourth case involving forcing objects inside children or youth, the officer looked at me and said, “Yeah… what’s with that about forcing objects inside kids? That’s just crazy!” I couldn’t agree more. It’s insane, actually. And I realized when he asked, that this and molestation is the horror I listen to or deal with, in one form or another, almost daily. And when it gets too much, or hopefully before it does, I escape into a place of worship, filling my heart with a truth greater than the wickedness all around. If I didn’t do that, I would burn out relatively quickly.
And I’m not alone in the intentional battle against burnout. While painful to hear, I’ve listened to pastors confess the struggle that goes with their role. I’ve heard the admission that sometimes it seems atheists are more at peace with life than believers, and live to the fullest with greater kindness than those in the Body of Christ. I’ve listened as they told how difficult it is to be attacked or back-stabbed by their congregants. While that is not something I am familiar with, since I have no congregation, my imagination works well enough to know it would be hard; much harder than ‘distant’ attacks from those who oppose what I do, I imagine.
That is one of the things that has given me the courage to press forward in ministry, knowing the deep appreciation of clients. At least most of them, and most of the time. I’ve been very blessed with good outcomes in working with clients, walking them through to healing and developing longterm relationships. In five years of 1:1 ministry, most clients continue to keep in touch from time to time, letting me know how they are, and sharing struggles and victories from time to time. In fact, only one case has truly gone wrong, either due to sincere misunderstanding or blatant lies–and I am uncertain which–and it is the one case that made me realize how blessed I am that attacks are virtually never part of my life, with clients. (Attacks from strangers, or from ‘friends’ behind my back, and attacks on our ministry don’t bother me much any more. They’re par for the course.) Nonetheless, initially it is jolting to be thrown into a world of unfamiliar accusations and it can feel like God has let you get hung out to dry… Giving 12 hours in one day, and extra time and expense over a period of time, all pro bono, to the person who ends up stabbing you in the back is disheartening. And in that moment, questioning why I would continue, the thing that carries me through is the knowledge that God knows the truth… that God sees all our hearts–not only mine, not only theirs, but everyone of us… And, again, my heart is drawn to healing worship and I am refreshed.
In contrast with the ‘fatigue’ of fighting against the darkness so often covered up, a man spills his story without being confronted, and tells how as a teen he molested numerous children. We end the conversation and of his own accord, as I prepare to leave, he says he would like to talk to a police officer.
“Are you sure you want to do this? What if he has to charge you?” I ask, feeling a sense of duty to let him know the potential consequences, and to see if that changes his mind. “I thought about that before I said anything,” he continues. I tell him I will talk with an officer, and get a time set up and other details if that is what he wants. “If it takes making an example of me to stop this, then I am willing,” he says. And with that we part ways. A day later I have a time, and all the details of what this will look like. He responds with the admission that it looks pretty scary and overwhelming, and I tell him it is up to him. I don’t have enough information to do anything; it’s entirely up to him. He asks for a night to contemplate it.
The next morning, first thing, a text comes through saying he wants to proceed. And with that it’s a plan. As I type out the message to the officer, tears flow generously. I realize the man is not one of the ones who is a greatest threat to our community. He came forward of his own free will and asked for the police without so much as a hint of it from me. And through the tears, I worship a God who sees hearts and understands my struggle with knowing that many hide vicious crimes while a rare contrite soul exposes wickedness out of a desire for truth and freedom. And that one chooses to pay the price publicly, if that’s what it takes, to help end the epidemic.
Ah worship… it makes ‘right’ a world all wrong. It’s necessary to worship when the heavy stuff of life lands on us like a bucket load of bricks… or worse. It’s easy to worship when things are good. But when we sacrifice and are met with not so much as a passing thank you, but rather an attack, worship is critical. Drinking the toxic sludge of lies, rumours, manipulations and growing bitter quickly sucks the life out of us, so that we have nothing to give. And when the darkness hides in the crevices of Christian cloaks, it is worship that turns my heart back to my Heavenly Papa, and I am again lost in love, clothed in righteousness that is not mine.
So tonight I bask in the wonder of the ove of Jesus, who died to give me life… who died to give life for the one who comes back to say ‘thank you’… and for the one who manipulates and takes for granted sacrifices made on their behalf. He understands each of us with equal affection, and grants extravagant grace for our various struggles and burdens. And suddenly I realize that I have no enemies, only brothers and sister with pain, struggling through their story. And I pray that Jesus will meet each one in the place of their battle, and lift up the weary hearts and breathe life into us, every one, so that His purposes are fulfilled in us.
With confidence I move forward because Jesus didn’t stay trapped in a grave: Christ is Risen from the Dead, and that gives me hope for every one of us. Deep, eternal hope.
~ T ~
This morning on the way to church, when ‘Stand By You’ played, I looked at Tim and said, “I’m sorry… bear with me here…” And with that I cranked the song like a teenager. (I would have said ‘like a boss’ because that’s a cool thing to say right now, but it really was more like a teenager.) I offered Tim an apology like that because I was fully aware if there was anything he hoped to say, it would be lost in the loudness of my moment, and would need to wait or go unheard. In essence I was tuning him out, not because I don’t love him, but because I wanted a moment of indulgence in a catchy tune, with a message that feels like our story.
The song offers a bold declaration that ‘no matter what, I’m sticking with you… we might never attain that perfect relational ‘heaven’, but I’m committed to walking beside you in the ‘hell’ of what you’ve suffered, scars and all”. Tim, who sat beside me drowned out and unable to effectively communicate with me in that moment, has lived that very grace and tenderness in my pain.
Moments later, Hillsong’s “With Everything”played at a far more reasonable volume: a gentle cry for God to break down walls, to help us see the things that touch His heart, to restore hope:
Break down our pride,
We lay at Your feet.
So let hope rise,
Our hearts they cry
Suddenly my heart was drawn to worship, not war…to being fought for, rather than fighting; to a deep inner need for a Saviour , not being someone’s saviour; to breathing in deep, not exhaling; to inviting in, not drowning out. But more than that, I started feeling deeply in ways that the past few weeks have not allowed, and was able to communicate with Tim about my heart, and the emotions welling up inside me.
The moment showed me just how much ‘noise’–even good noise–has filled my life since early November. Intense client situations. Meetings with police and organizational directors to brainstorm on ways to help ‘closed’ cultures–including but not limited to Mennonites and Amish–in a way that honours the culture and works with them, rather than against them. Travel to US. Clients moving here from US. Sitting with suicidal victims and encouraging them, speaking life and hope into the darkness. Inviting Jesus into places long held hostage.
So much noise… So much good noise. Noise that the mind and spirit are not created to hold inside longterm, without a place to release and process, and yet some things must remain private and be processed very personally to protect all involved…
In a moment of worship, I heard God speak. And when God speaks, the darkness turns to light. It doesn’t just scatter; it becomes light to Him. Tears spilled over, releasing the weight of the pain I touch daily.
By the time we pulled into the parking lot, I was appropriately composed, knowing well that later I will listen to worship, meditate on the truth of God’s promises, and the tears will spill again. Because God will speak. And when God speaks, burdens grow wings and become butterflies, and my heart releases its burdens. When He speaks, tears of gratitude water the soil of the heart, creating a tender place where we are touched by needs around us, and risk emotional pain to help others.
Rising from that place of worship, my heart will be strong and the identity of the One who first spoke purpose and promises into my life will fill my spirit with all that I need for the week ahead…. Because I already know that this coming week will require more courage, more dependence on the Spirit of God, and more resilience than any other week in ministry, so far. God has called us to places that are uncomfortable and that come with great risk to us and to others. Meeting with victims and abusers is not something I do lightly, and the ripples that follow often turn into full blown waves that threaten to destroy people… regardless of the grace and gentleness we exercise in that moment.
I know that God is with me. I know He goes before me, to protect from harm and to guide; and He comes behind, wiping up the ‘spills’ and redeeming the places I fail or am failed. Learning to trust Him at this level has been a journey of faith, and one that I continue to grow in. In it all, a most critical piece is turning the noise low, hearing His voice and allowing Him to restore my heart and strengthen me.
We say we cannot hear God… that He isn’t speaking to us. But the problem isn’t that God is silent; it is the very nature of God to desire relationship with us, therefore God speaks with constant loving invitation. The problem is we can’t hear Him, because we’ve turned up the volume with an “I’m sorry… bear with me here…”
My prayer for you this week is that you will turn down the noise in your world, so that you are able to hear God speak love and affirmation over you.
~ T ~
It is a word many victims of abuse don’t understand, experientially. At times the word is merely a mockery of that thing we crave and cannot attain. Our spirits scream for it, our minds are desperate for it, and our bodies ache from their wanting… But peace evades us at every turn.
Unfortunately I cannot simplify it into one quick anecdote for the turmoil, fear, pain and anguish.
It is a rise and fall… A learning to hold onto it a little longer before it slips away… A persistent leaning into a sheltered place… Staying intentionally in the Rock that hides us in the storm and covers us… Learning to abandon the need to prove a thing at all… Abandoning the desire for approval and perfection…
And resting in the One who defines us… Loves us… Accepts us…
Ah… sweet Love…
Because there is no fear in Love. And where there is no fear, there is peace.
Peace… that inner quiet… surrounded by a world with chaos all around…
~ T ~
The need for love and understanding is universal. Particularly the need to be loved by our parents, and supported by them. But so often at a time when children who have been molested reach for parental support and compassion, they find themselves neglected, abandoned, overlooked or even told they are making things up. At a time when they need love and affirmation most, these victims are forsaken and left to navigate through the fears and trauma alone.
They pack up their fears, pain and grief and set out on the ‘life journey’ in search for a place to be loved, a place to have their pain validated, a place to be believed… and ultimately a place where it is safe to unpack the whole bit, and heal. Too many search their whole lives, and the ‘whole world over’, only to never really find that place.
King David understood the one thing we all need so desperately… that God–whom we are given permission to call ‘Abba Father’, meaning ‘Daddy’ or ‘Papa’–stays where even parents turn away. He takes care of the abandoned and brokenhearted, and is near to them.
Those of us who have experienced this, have a gift to share with those around us, to live out the love of God in a practical way. A listening ear, a heart that does not judge the victim’s pain, a safe place to speak and grieve, and a place to be reminded that they are valuable, loved and accepted, a place where they rediscover hope, freedom and purposeful life…
That is one of the ways that the Father ‘stays near’ and loves the wounded, as His love flows through us into hurting hearts. So often we are the only way the wounded know His hands as loving, His feet as running to us not away, and His voice as one that offers hope.
Today I will tell at least one person that they matter, their pain matters, and show them the love of God in a practical way.
~ T ~
The Cross is a symbol of Jesus love and death; offering mercy, grace and forgiveness of sins. The rainbow is a symbol of promise; offering hope, mercy and God’s love. The dove is a symbol of the Spirit of God; offering peace. The olive branch is symbolic of peace and extending grace.
The LGBT community has chosen the rainbow as their symbol, borrowing from Christianity, to make their statement. (And if there’s some pagan story about a rainbow, coolness. I still attribute the rainbow to the recordings in an ancient book, established long before any pride parades started up.)
My goal is not to stir hate and anger towards the LGBT community, or even from them, nor is it to put a feather in our collective Christian hat. That doesn’t interest me at all. I haven’t the slightest trouble loving them. And I don’t even have such a hard time understanding them anymore. Having spent many hours with Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction, indulge in same-sex pornography and even fall into real live same-sex sexual encounters, I no longer see it as an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ battle. I see it as a ‘them being out’ versus ‘some (or many?) of us struggling and/or hiding’ same-sex relationships. I wish it were not so, but it is. And this isn’t some ‘let’s all panic and throw our hands up’ appeal; it is an appeal to be honest and look first at the beam hanging carelessly from our own eyes, as we point accusingly.
We have no right to point fingers. Far too many little boys and girls are introduced to sex at a young age, in our churches and communities, and have no where to turn to talk, to get support and to report molestation to the authorities–because the Bible does say to be subject to the rulers of the land, and those rulers tell us to report. And those same children come tell me how that took them on a path of same-sex attraction, or other sexually deviant behaviours. If we, the church, stand by and allow this kind of victimization, we have no right to point fingers at the LGBT community. (And, while I believe that molestation and early child-to-child sexual exploring is responsible for a host of homosexuality in churches–at least churches of my background–I do not believe that it is the only reason. And outside of our church circles I have no ‘data’ to back up any such claims, but I do have good cause to say it about ‘us’ based on what I have learned inside church walls.)
In fact, if the climate of society is distressing, I would dare to say that it first went wrong in the church, not the other way around. And I believe this because God says in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from Heaven and I will forgive their sins and heal their land.”
If God’s people repent in humility and seek God’s face, then God will forgive His people and heal… His people? No! “…then I will heal their land!” The land is suffering because of the sins among God’s people. And then we stand back and get our knickers in a knot and wonder how they can do all that. Given what I’ve heard from church people, of what happens in secret, I can say with confidence, we are guilty.
I say this not to shame or condemn, but to invite the church to repent. And I would appeal to leaders in particular. Repent of your sins. Openly and publicly. Not this ‘carefully protect him because of his leadership role’ while dealing harshly with others. Repent like Ezra and Nehemiah, crying out to God, face down, with the people of God. It seems almost every week we hear of another church leader having an affair or some other moral failure, somewhere. And frequently I hear from victims who were blatantly molested or coerced into sexual affair, by leaders currently hold positions in churches. Always I ask if the offender or instigator has ever come back to say, “I’m sorry, what I did to you was wrong”, or if a crime was committed I ask if it was reported and almost without fail the answer is “No”. Sometimes the leaders are people I know, and sometimes even leaders who have blatantly lied, saying they repented and took ownership, and yet sitting with their victims, they tell me they never heard from their offender(s).
Men and women of God, until we start living with some level of honesty and integrity before God, the ‘church’ and the world, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves–and, yes, in this situation I endorse being ashamed–if we place an expectation of holiness on unbelievers that we ourselves do not hold to. And I’m not talking in word, but in our lifestyle, in our repentance, in our transparency with past sin, and certainly letting victims know (through safe avenues) that our sins against them were wrong, and sins against God.
A shake down is coming… Some of us have said it for several years, and we’re seeing it play out all around. And I believe we will see more and more hidden wickedness brought to light, particularly in religion at a leadership level. Again, I urge you, if you don’t want God to use drastic measures to expose you, then expose your sins and crimes yourself, and stop pointing fingers at the sinners who wear rainbow colours, when you drag your own ball and chain through church.
My prayer for the church and for the LGBT community is healing, wholeness and hope. My heart for both is love and the peace of God. Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost, whether in the church or in the world…. But the healing of the land, begins with us.
We all need God’s Rainbow of Promise, or surely we would be consumed and drowning by now, if He had not painted that first rainbow in the sky… We all need God’s Love and Grace. And it awaits, on our knees in reptentance.
~ T ~