In the Hand of God
Dear SBC Leaders,
There are words that I would love to speak to you, however perhaps they should wait. Perhaps you do not understand the magnitude of the decisions that lie before you. Perhaps you only see the numbers, the statistics, and the urgency of addressing the media. Maybe you don't see them as people. Perhaps you fail to remember that these victims are image bearers of God. Perhaps it would be different if you placed their photos on the wall and looked into their eyes. Maybe if you could see them as children. Perhaps you are like me and have never suffered sexual abuse at the hands of another person, particularly one considered to be a Christian role model. Maybe you have never loved someone who was abused. Maybe some of you truly want to understand but you don't know the questions to ask the victims. From where I stand it doesn't seem that this has been important to you to investigate, but maybe you didn’t understand the gravity of what had occurred.
Maybe if you only knew the questions to ask the victims, perhaps then you would be better prepared to make a responsible decision. In case that is the case, here are some questions you might try to ask.
• Did the abuse cause them to be behavior problems in school?
• What hindrances did the abuse cause in their development?
• Did they grow up having nightmares with flashbacks of the abuse?
• Did they try to tell someone in an attempt to get help but no one believed them because it was somebody at church?
• Did they act out at home and other places only to be punished rather than anyone to question why?
• Did they avoid sports because of the locker rooms because they feared someone could tell that they had been abused when they changed clothes?
• Has it been hard for them to form friendships and other relationships?
• Were their teenage years clouded by confusion about their sexual identity?
• Were they promiscuous as teenagers and as adults?
• In those churches where abuse occurred, how many committed suicide? How many considered it?
• How many of the victims struggle with their view of God and church?
• How many of them have trust issues?
• How many of the victims have or currently identify themselves as homosexual? Bisexual?
• How many struggle with addictions? Alcoholism? Drugs? Pornography?
• How many of their marriages have ended in divorce?
• How many of their marriages suffer because their spouse cannot understand the depth of their pain?
• How many of their spouses were first given a clue into the depth of that pain because they ended up holding them in their arms as they cried on their honeymoon?
• Do they still cry in their sleep because of the flashbacks?
• Do they harbor hate? Shame?
• Do they overwork themselves because they have to stay busy to keep the memories at bay?
• Do they have children of their own now and is the fear to protect them so overwhelming that they are almost paralyzed by it?
I've been told that as a convention that you have done great things to advance the kingdom of Christ. I'm sure that this is true, however by allowing these things to happen and to continue to happen for decades, what have you done to hurt the witness of the Church? What have you done to hinder the cause of Christ? When God looks at the Southern Baptist Convention does He see your good works as far exceeding the current situation or does He see their faces as He watched them suffer at the hands of the very ones who claimed to be His? How does He feel about where we are? Does He understand that there must be deliberations as to what must be done next or does he remind you that He has already spoken to that point when He pointed out that it would be better to have a millstone hung about the neck and be drowned rather than hurt one of His little ones?
My prayer is that you search the heart of God as you make plans for the future. I pray that as you consider not only registries, but that you also consider sources of support for all abuse victims within the church. I pray that you see a need to educate our churches to understand sign of abuse, to teach their children what abuse is and provide a channel where they can report it, and to provide support for abuse victims and their families.
Your Concerned Sister in Christ
It's time. He's been whispering that in my ear for awhile now, but I push it away pretending that I don't hear. But here I am in the first week of February, and He is singing over me. He is reminding me that it is our anniversary...and that it is time. Every excuse I gave Him that day, He has met with an answer...with preparation...with grace.
The day was February 5, 2014. It was a Wednesday That morning started like any other morning had started for the past several months. I awoke more tired that when I had went to bed. I dreaded my day. I dreaded life. I had went to the doctor on Monday after school with extremely high blood pressure. I was put on bed rest the next day and told that I was headed for a stroke. If I still felt bad on Wednesday, I was to stay home from work. Knowing the pressures at my workplace and the demand for a doctor's note. my doctor made my excuse for both days in case I needed it, but clarified that it was only if I needed it. I felt like going that morning so I did, but only for about ten minutes before I was ordered to leave. I gathered my stuff and was ushered out the door being told that someone was coming in for me.
I cried all the way home. I don't know what my blood pressure was that morning, but I do know that I was having chest pains as I went upstairs to change and text to let my husband know the events of the morning. He told me to rest, but I cried for a couple of hours occasionally begging God to just let me have a stroke and die. Things were really hard at work, at home, and at church. Other than my kids and my grandmother, I really didn't see a reason to stick around and live life like that every day. I spent my whole existence wishing to be somewhere else...somebody else. I had given up my Sunday School class that I had taught over a decade and the role of organizer of our church's nativity. Those were my gifts to God, my worship, my ministry. I had been raised to believe that women were not made to lead and so therefore my role was to support my husband in his roles within the church, but now he no longer had roles...he no longer wanted roles. I wasn't sure where that left me. We were at a new church warming a pew. That wasn't who we were. At work I had just received my fourth write-up in less than six months. The conference of concern was scheduled for the next week and although I knew the policy numbers applied to my offense, I truly had no idea what I had done this time. Our marriage was in a rough place which comes with being uprooted from your church and facing new conditions at work and just life. I didn't have a place where I felt safe and my body was feeling it.
The chest pains were increasing as was my desperation. The thought of facing another day was more than I could handle. It hurt to breathe. And on top of all of it, I was failing God. It had been almost a year since The Dream. I didn't understand it at first and I had misread what it held for me, but I was starting to understand it. God had a plan for me still and it wasn't like anything I had known before. The days of holding a Lifeway quarterly with notes scribbled on the sides were over. He was asking for more. He was asking me for what I felt was impossible. He was asking me to write...to speak...and to lead women in ministry. I didn't know how to do that. I just used a teacher's edition of the quarterly to teach a small Sunday School class. I was afraid to speak in front of a group. But I had tried to walk in the direction I felt He was leading me to...at least a little. I had started a blog and enrolled in a writing course. I wasn't exactly being totally disobedient, but I couldn't understand why He was asking me to charter waters I had no knowledge of journeying. I didn't know how to publish a blog...how to write a book...how to speak to a group...how to organize a women's event...how to lead...how to do an online Bible study. How was I supposed to do these things that I knew nothing about?
The events of the morning...the pain of my chest...the feeling of failing God...I found myself so very desperate. I had felt desperation before this moment, but today was different. I just could not go on like this anymore. It was just me there with Him, and so I made my way to my bed and knelt on my knees. If you know me, you know that my knees haven't been strong since a wreck we had several years ago and to kneel can be excruciating within minutes.. But today it didn't matter how bad my knees hurt. My heart needed God to see me there pleading with Him for answers, for strength, and mostly for grace. I'm pretty sure all I did was cry. I don't remember any words for a really long time...just loud sobbing and a lot of tears. Finally I just asked Him to hear whatever the Holy Spirit spoke on my behalf and I went to my sitting room to sit down.
In less than thirty minutes, my phone rang with a Kentucky number. I wasn't going to answer it but something told me that I was supposed to and so I did. It was the husband of Christian author and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs. He had ran across my name and number from a question that I had asked earlier and felt that he was supposed to just give me a call. He spent almost the next hour educating me on the world of Christian speaking, organizing a women's event, how to publish, and women's ministry in general. He even told me that he felt he would hear my name again someday and to organize a couple of women's events and then give Liz a call. Absolutely nothing was different in my life. The problems were still there. The fear of the unknown still lurked beyond the corner where I couldn't see. But I was different because the God who I begged to help me understand how this was to be had asked a complete stranger to call my cell and give me an introduction to the world of Christian women's ministry. And not just any stranger but the husband of one of my favorite Christian speakers and authors. God wanted me to know that He was there...He would equip...and He heard my heart.
So here I am five years later in a very different situation. That very same week I would get an appointment to speak to someone and my situation at work would change. The thing that I thought would kill me was used to move me to a new job with new friends. Those new friends would lead me to a new church and one of those friends would invite me into a women's jail ministry alongside her. Five years later I have experienced training in how to write, how to speak, how to lead, and how to wait. I now understand more about blogging, have met with acquisition editors from major Christian publishing companies and have learned a great deal about publishing. I have learned about how to monetize a blog, create an online Bible study, organize women's events, and lead women in ministry opportunities. The girl who knelt sobbing by her bed has not been unnoticed by her God.
So as I approach this week, I feel the need to remove my shoes for the ground I walk on in my mind this week is holy. It is a Bethel of sorts. It is where I met with God. As I write this partial list of the training and experiences that He has allowed these last five years, I am in awe. To know that I know. To know that no matter what has happened or been said, regardless of what will happen or be said...I have been called and He is equipping me. I don't pretend to understand why and I don't really know how or when He will use it, but it is real. Just remembering the confusion and the pain of that day and now to realize what He has made come to pass...it is beyond words.
God, on this fifth anniversary...let it be said that Your grace is truly sufficient...Your power is truly made perfect in my weakness...and may the power of Your Son work through me to accomplish what it is that You would have me accomplish...whenever...wherever...anything. As long as You are with me...that's all I need.