I have shared a little about my daughter being sexually abused.
We know who the man was. She named him. He is a couple of decades older than she is. He was a friend of a family member who had been in and out of our family home for years. More on this in a later post… I am writing a letter to him. He will probably get it, as we know many people/have social circles that overlap.
Her life will never be the same, her innocence was shattered. To this day she daily suffers with sexual confusion, fear about certain places and situations, and her worth as a person.
Almost every night, sometimes multiple times a night, she wakes up from horrific nightmares shaking, crying, sweating. I have laid awake with her for hours praying over her, speaking truth to her while she clings to me, her eyes huge and round with fear.
Growing up I too had multiple experiences of being taken advantage of, molested, manipulated, and date-raped. I know the spiritual Face of Darkness. I know the fear. I know the brokenness. But… The suffering I experience with my daughter… this dwarfs everything I went through.
I cannot take away her wounds. They will likely not be healed at their roots until she grows enough, matures enough, in Jesus to be able to accept the soul-surgery only He can do.
I am beyond grateful to know of countless resources for those who have experienced sexual abuse. Entire communities have rallied around abused children and women and there are even completely free, long-term programs like Mercy Multiplied available to those in need.
I thank God with all my heart for women like Beth Moore, Christine Caine, and countless others who share openly about the abuse they suffered, and about our faithful God who heals, and redeems, it all.
My daughter is faithfully prayed for by an awesome small group of prayer warriors at my home church, and I know many of you have prayed/still pray for her, though you don’t know her. Thank you!!!
Yet… This last year has opened my eyes to a heartbreaking truth about the church, and myself. And, to be clear, by “the church” I mean the group of individuals locally, state-wide, nation-wide, world-wide who have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Those of us who know He is real. He is good. He is a Healer, Redeemer.
We are the ones charged to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves”. We are the ones called “ambassadors for Christ”. And our entire life-ministry, regardless of the various forms and functions, is supposed to be a “ministry of reconciliation“.
The heartbreaking truth my eyes have been opened to is this: There is no ministry of reconciliation, that I can find, for those who have committed, or are still committing, sexual abuse/offense.
Maybe it’s just my local church and the networks of believers I follow online — or maybe I’m googling the wrong search engine words and phrases — but in this last year I have not been able to find one ministry, one blog, one person who is speaking up for the desperate soul-needs of sex offenders.
What I have seen and heard is predominantly an off-with-his-head mentality for the entire range of sexual offense — even if the offender committed an offense as a child to another peer child.
A few months into grieving my daughter’s loss of innocence I began seeing on twitter a stream of Christian women I admire, who I know love Jesus, calling as loudly and persistently as you can through text for the take-down of a certain online article written by a former youth pastor about the inappropriate relationship he developed with a teen girl in his youth group.
I finally clicked through to see for myself the words that were causing so much hurt, so much offense, to the scores of women who had suffered at the hands of an abuser(every commentator that I read shared of her own story of abuse).
The article was written from the youth pastor’s perspective, to other men who may find themselves in similar circumstances. He wrote about how he ignored “red flags”, what those “red flags” were, how he allowed privacy, and then secrecy to become a part of his relationship with this girl. He wrote about the spiritual consequences he experienced/is still experiencing, and the external consequences he experienced/is still experiencing — he was writing from jail. He had lost his job, his wife, his friendships, everything. He was remorseful, repentant, and advising and encouraging men to seek help, and to follow God.
I was extremely saddened, though not surprised, by the complete lack of grace shown this man by the Christian women I was following. They said he shouldn’t be allowed a voice — didn’t the editor of the site (a well known Christian website) realize how hurtful this was to the victim and her family? (They were not named or identified in any way.)
They cried — why shouldn’t a voice be given to the victim? What about her perspective? What about her family? Why should an **insert every awful descriptive word you can imagine** offender be allowed to share? Etc. Etc… the article was eventually taken down, with an apology from the editor stating the intent of the article was never to wound those who had suffered from abuse, but as a warning and witness to other men.
If we overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony — don’t we need to know these testimonies?
Friends — church — we need this witness. We need the entire, vast army of men who have committed sexual offense, and have been redeemed by the Lord to be able to say so. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.
I cannot express the countless ways I have been helped by the transparent testimony of others who have struggled, failed… listening/reading/learning how the Lord met them in their failures, their struggles, and offered a way out. How He healed them — gave them new desires, gave them a new life.
The Lord does not scarlet-letter brand us with our sins, no matter how heinous. He took them upon Himself, and nailed them to the cross.
We need to stop sin-branding one another.
This is something the abused, and the abusers have in common — they can both feel that this deep wrong defines them. (I am not saying the abused have sinned in any way, my point about common ground is the feeling of being defined by an action).
I love how theses brave women who suffered abuse from their grandfather say it on “Say it, Survivor“: “I wish our story was shocking. It’s not. The only thing that is different about our story is that we are telling it shamelessly… As a victim of abuse we all carry this dark, dark shame and we don’t want anybody to know about it. You get told that it’s unspeakable — so you do just that. You don’t speak about it and you carry it around in this little pocket in your heart and it infects *everything*. ” They go on to say it’s not the totality of who you are. Such. Beautiful. Necessary. Truth!
This same truth applies to those who did the offending, especially because there is shame in their wrong actions. Carrying the wrong you have done around in secrecy and silence will infect everything. But it does not define you. It is not the totality of who you are.
For those of us who want to be a part of the healing — one of our primary works will be forgiveness.
If we do not forgive, we will not be compassionate.
If we are not sincerely compassionate, we won’t be motivated to work together towards addressing this complicated mess.
If we are unforgiving, and not compassionate, we won’t care about the offender’s context. We won’t care about his life story — but only how he impacted someone else’s story.
If we don’t care, we certainly won’t love. And if we don’t love? Nothing else we do or say matters.
Love is the core need of every person who draws terrestrial breath.
And real Love is ridiculously patient, and kind. He is kind even to the ungrateful, and the wicked.
And it is His kindness that leads to repentance.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” ~1 Timothy 1:15-16
Paul, who penned these words, was like an ISIS leader. Dragging Christians out of their homes for no reason other than their faith, having them horribly tortured, and killed. Yet — because he met Jesus and became an entirely new creation in Christ — he became a powerful witness to many, including men who thought like he did before knowing Jesus.
But if we will give a voice to our redeemed brothers in Christ who know this sin well, they could be the most powerful witnesses to many, including men who think like they did before knowing Jesus.
I could be wrong, but I can see the American church cringing less and believing more in the complete conversion of a member of ISIS than they would a former, converted child sex offender. The reason I think this may be the case is because it’s easier to forgive an enemy that is nameless, faceless, history-less to us.
But I know many who want to do this — extending the undeserved kindness we have received.
We can love our enemies.
Even the ones we have faces and names for.
This is utterly impossible without Christ. But if we are willing, we can receive the ability to forgive from Him.
I read a powerful story from Corrie Ten Boom about forgiveness. Corrie Ten Boom and her beloved family suffered evils I have no words for at the hands of Nazis. After months, she ended up in one of the worst Nazi death camps, in the heart of Germany. Her precious sister suffered, was beaten cruelly, and eventually died in Ravensbruck. Her beloved, aged father died sick and alone in a hallway, and this heartbreaking fact was shared with her from an unsympathetic Nazi officer.
Some time after her miraculous release, she felt called by the Lord to go back to Germany and preach His forgiveness. After one such speech she found herself face to face with one of the most brutal guards of Ravensbruck. She recalls their encounter:
“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”
And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand… I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt… my blood seemed to freeze.
“Since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, But I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,” — again the hand came out — “will you forgive me?”
And I stood there — I whose sins had again and again been forgiven — and could not forgive. Betsy had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there — hand held out — but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5 “… because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”
~Corrie Ten Boom, Tramp for the LORD
Even your unforgiveness, though it is soul-poison, can be a gift if it brings you to your Healer.
The more you realize you struggle with unforgiveness — and you know it is a sin to not forgive as you have been forgiven — let this struggle to choose right build an empathy in you for others who struggle to choose right even when they know they should, including sexual offenders.
This is one way preemptive love can hit the ground running in America, in your state, in your home church, in your home.
We can love our enemies.
The ones who have wounded us, and our loved ones.
The ones whose names we know, whose faces we can’t forget.
Let’s love these enemies, praying for them and seeking how we can be a part of their reconciliation with Jesus until we no longer think of them as enemies, but as the one Jesus left the 99 to find and bring back home.
A few months ago, after seeing so much cruelty online toward those who had committed sexual offenses, I read an article called “History’s Most Sadistic Serial Killer” because I was looking for one thing: what was his story? How/why did he begin doing what he did? What wounds did he have that, left unattended, played a part in his hurting others?
His life was so void of kindness that when a 26 year old prison guard felt sorry for him and handed him a dollar for food and cigarettes this was a notable event because “no one had ever been kind to him in his life”. Even from prison, this man who committed evil beyond my comprehension, eventually became convinced through his friendship with the prison guard to write his life story because “He tries to teach our future generations not to create more monsters like him”.
Each person is responsible for their own actions. But — we deeply impact one another. We must realize this.
And kindness is the way to repentance.
Now please hear me: It IS kind to enforce consequences. It is kind, wise, right to have boundaries.
We don’t have to lose our discernment to love our enemies. In fact, if we do not keep a firm grip on the Truth, and all the discernment He brings, we could likely do much more harm than good in these complicated situations and relationships. Loving enemies requires much prayer, effort, energy, counsel.
Because it is a given that we are going to go out as sheep among wolves we are instructed to be as wise as serpents.
Kindness and discernement, love and consequences — these should be inseparable in our thinking.
Let’s allow these men to come out of the darkness and into the light. Let’s encourage them to.
Most of my dearest female friends have confided in me various abuses they have experienced. Just in my small circle of people — there are many men who have offended/abused/molested.
I know the stats on sexual abuse. They are staggering.
I don’t think sex trafficking is even included in those statistics — but that information will knock the breath out of you as well.
Then there are also those who have never spoken up, never shared what has happened to them in the dark, in the daylight.
Friends — this is a massive number of men we are talking about. This is as widespread as issues can be.
I know there is no easy solution. But we need to begin working together towards solutions.
All widespread, longterm, and complex issues — like human trafficking — take many individuals and a network of organizations to adequately address.
Let’s start working together.
So. I’ve said enough for now. I will write more soon on some further ways God helped me forgive and love my daughter’s abuser.
I’d love for you to begin praying about all this. Do you see this gap among believers, too? Are there organizations, blogs, speakers, resources that I’m missing that extend hope, truth, resources to sex offenders?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can love and practically reach out to this massive group of men who have struggled, and currently struggle, with sexual offending.