Is God Safe?

Is our world safe?

Is God safe?

Am I safe?

A lot of people say “no, our world is not safe.” But “yes, God is.” And “yes, I am.”

After reading the book of Job, I disagree.

If we think God is good and trustworthy because He protects us from evil or answers our prayers, we are in for a catastrophic collapse of everything we thought was “safe”. It takes very little faith to believe God is good when everything turns out like we asked. It’s a whole different ballgame when God doesn’t save us from evil when we ask Him to.

You see, God isn’t safe. At least not in the way we think of as “safe”. He does not always protect. He does not always do what we ask Him to do. Bad things happen, even to perfectly innocent people.

It is not based on our performance. Neither is it based on how much He loves or doesn’t love us.

And it’s not random – though it feels like it sometimes. It’s not mean – though it can seem that way.

I could tell you that suffering is for your own good. (Romans 8:28, you know…) Or that it is for His glory.

But in the middle of the rubble of your world, words are cheap. Cliches are useless – and sometimes downright void of compassion. The nice little quotes that claim to neatly explain your suffering only compound the pain.

I get it. I’ve been there.

If only there was a magic formula. “Do this and this, in this order, and God will heal your pain and take away your suffering.”

Some supposedly exist. I’ve tried some of them.

Nothing has worked.

Except for turning to God. Wrestling with Him. Asking Him questions. Seeking His face. Lamenting. Grieving. Allowing myself to feel the anger and the sadness. Acknowledging what I lost and that I am different.

But most of all, I began to understand that God is good, not because of what He does, but because He knows what suffering – our suffering- feels like. He left everything and came to experience life in a broken world. He chose to sort through the rubble with us.

He weeps with us. He is okay with our anger at the injustice of oppression because He is angered too. He has felt every emotion we feel. He remembers that “we are dust.”

And He gives grace.

In His time, He brings healing.

Not the healing that makes everything go back to what it was before our world fell apart, but the kind of healing that makes us more compassionate, more beautiful, and closer to Him than we were before.

In that way, God is safe. He is safe because He chose to experience suffering – our suffering.

And because of that, I know I can trust Him.

The Fruit of a Repentant Heart

I have no idea where your mind goes when you think of repentance.  Maybe you think about a confession, or the words “I’m sorry.”  Maybe you think about King David and his repentance.

Most of us think of repentance as an apology or confession, with a promise to not offend again.  The offender is given the benefit of the doubt and the time needed to “prove” his/her repentance.  Even in cases where there has been serious sexual sin/crimes committed against women and children, repentance is painted as a vague confession with a promise to do better.

But is this really what repentance is and how it works? 

Going straight to the Bible for the definition opened my eyes to the reality that my understanding of repentance was, at best, flawed.

The Biblical definition of repentance comes from a Greek word that means “to think differently”.  It is a change of mind and heart.  In other words, when repentance happens, it will be obvious.  It is a heart change that is expressed by actions.  Luke 3:8 makes this very clear: “Therefore, produce fruit that is worthy of [and consistent with your] repentance [that is, live changed lives, turn from sin and seek God and His righteousness].”

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Anyone can articulate a well-worded apology, never offend again, and still be unrepentant.  On the contrary, when repentance has taken place, everyone will know – the attitudes, thought process, and actions of the offender will be radically different than before.

Consider the story of the Prodical Son in Luke 15.  After he found himself with nothing to eat, he remembered his father’s house.  Listen to his thought process here: 

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

Sounds pretty good, right?  But is he repentant or is he simply going back because he got “stuck”? Is he remorseful because he sinned, or because he doesn’t have any food? 

Listen to what he actually tells his father upon meeting him: 

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

Do you see the difference?  He acknowledges his sin without demanding anything in return. He has hit “rock bottom” and does not even ask to be a hired servant so he can at least have food.  He just says, “I’m sorry. I have sinned.” 

We all love redemption stories.  We want to hear how God turns lives around and makes something beautiful out of the ugly.  But in some cases, we overlook the fact that repentance is different than an apology.  We prefer a fast “fix” and as little messiness as possible.  Consequently, we don’t look for fruits of repentance. 

Can we know if someone is repentant by how they act when confronted with sin?  Can we know if an offender has godly sorrow?  

I think there are some clues as to where the offender’s heart is if we are willing to look for the fruits of repentance.  Here are a few of them:

Complete Acknowledgment of Sin

One of the most important aspects about repentance is truth.  The truth must be told in its entirety.  Unless there is full acknowledgment of sin and wrongdoing, there is no repentance.

No Excuses

Along with the acknowledgment of sin, there must be no excuses for why the offender sinned. If the offender’s confession has excuses in it, it is questionable whether the confession is genuine or if the it was only done to “save face”.

No Minimization of the Action or Damage the Action Caused

Any kind of minimization should give us a bunch of red flags.  When the offender says things like, “What I did made him/her feel hurt…” that is minimizing the damage.  The survivor doesn’t just feel hurt; they were hurt.  If a sexual offender describes his/her sin using terms such as “moral failure” instead of “I raped her” or “I molested him”, there is a problem. Repentance never sugar-coats truth.

Acceptance of all Consequences (including civil consequences)

If the offender isn’t willing to accept consequences for the sin, then there likely hasn’t been repentance.  Repentance understands the “sowing and reaping” principle.  An offender who “confesses” but is not willing to pay the consequences of his/her sin, is not repentant.  Repentance is far more than a well-worded apology.  A repentant offender will willingly turn himself/herself in to civil authorities for the crimes committed.

No Forced “Forgiveness” or a “Get over it” Attitude

If an offender tries to “make everything all better” by begging or forcing the survivor, the survivor’s family or their church family to “forgive” (which is often used by offenders to get people to “shut up” and forget), it’s safe to assume there hasn’t been repentance.  A repentant offender understands the depravity of his/her own heart and the damage his/her actions caused – enough to realized he/she doesn’t deserve forgiveness or mercy.

By the way, the survivor’s forgiveness doesn’t wipe consequences away for the offender. But that subject is for another day.

Respectful Obedience of the Boundaries set up by the Offended

A repentant heart will welcome boundaries and respect them.  Repentance says, “I hurt you deeply and I understand why you can’t trust me.  If you never want to see me again, I understand.  If you need space, I get that.”  When an offender violates even small boundaries set up by the survivor, their “repentance” needs to be questioned.

Attitude of “Godly Sorrow”

Any time there’s repentance, there will always be Godly sorrow.  There’s a big difference between being sorry because you got caught OR being sorry because of the pain you’ve caused the offended and your own family.  An offender who has godly sorrow grieves for the hurt and pain that he/she caused, while a sorrow of being caught is focused on escaping consequences and polishing a fasade of godliness.

In repentance, the truth about the action and the pain that action caused is held up and valued highly.  Truth is key.  In unrepentance, truth is discouraged and even actively hidden.  When there is deception instead of truth, repentance hasn’t taken place.  When there is an effort to “make” the offended forgive or trust the offender, the “repentance” of the offender needs to be questioned.  When an effort is made to keep a good “Christian” reputation intact, there has not been repentance.  Repentance kicks self-preservation in the face. When there is no acceptance of consequences and boundaries, the fruits of repentance are not there. 

”By their fruits, ye shall know them,” Jesus once said.

In other words, when there is repentance, you will know it.

It’s that simple.

 

Note: If you wish to study Repentance for yourself, compare Saul’s confession with David’s confession. Ask yourself why God accepted David’s and not Sauls.  

The Word That Makes Me Cringe

I have a confession to make.

I cringe when I hear the word “forgiveness”.

I know. I hear you. You probably think I’m crazy, or that I’m just one of those people who are triggered by truth. Maybe I am. I’ll let you decide, but I respectfully ask that you keep reading before making accusations of this sort.

A few times when I’ve been vulnerable enough to admit that the word forgiveness makes me cringe, I caught a glimpse of narrowing eyes. And I understand why: to people who’ve never had forgiveness thrown in their face, it makes no sense.

But for those of us who’ve been told that forgiveness is a quick-fix-cure-all for deep emotional pain, it is a trigger. For people who’ve been told that they are bitter because they do not trust the person who hurt them, forgiveness is a trigger. A huge one.

I know I’m not alone. Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things for a survivor to hear, particularly if forgiveness has previously been used to buy their silence or “fix” relationships.

You need to understand that I have not closed my heart to forgiveness. I haven’t and I won’t. In fact, I decided to study it more closely. I wanted to see for myself what forgiveness is and what it is not. I should know by now that when one seeks the Lord’s view on something, He brings clarity and peace.

I started with the verse in Ephesians 4:32, which states that we are to “forgive one another, even as God through Jesus Christ, forgave us.” And so, my first question was, “How did Jesus forgive?”

I went to the crucifixion story. Yes, Jesus forgave. He did so by putting the immeasurable injustice done to Him in the lap of His Father. He said, “Father, forgive them; for they don’t know what they are doing.”

So, did Jesus’ plea to God for the forgiveness of the people who nailed Him change the consequences they faced for doing so? No. Not unless they chose to repent.

Did Jesus’ forgiveness of the thief on the cross who saw Jesus as an innocent Man change the consequences the thief was facing for his crimes? No. Not at all. The thief still died for his sin.

Did Jesus’ forgiveness take away His pain? No.

Did Jesus’ forgiveness “fix” the relationships between Jesus and His offenders? Did His forgiveness (by itself) bring restoration? No.

Was Jesus shy about showing His scars? Did Jesus’ forgiveness prevent Him from speaking about His death? No.

Jesus’ forgiveness, was an outpouring of His Father’s love. He begged His Father to have mercy on His killers. He longed for them to see the truth. To believe. To repent. To embrace His Father, instead of turning away from Him.

This, my friends, is forgiveness.

Unlike the things many abuse survivors have been told, forgiveness does not entail silence; it tells what God has done for you, even when that includes the messy stuff. Forgiveness is not a quick fix for the pain, though it likely will be part of the process of healing. It is not a one-time occurrence; it is an attitude – a desire to see your offender turn away from sin and turn to God. Forgiveness is not covering up sin; it is exposing it for the good of the offender. By itself, forgiveness is not reconciliation, restoration, or trust.

I wonder if Jesus understands why the word “forgiveness” makes me cringe. I wonder how He feels when it is twisted into something it was never meant to be. I wonder if He begs God to forgive the people who use so called “forgiveness” as a weapon to harm the wounded.

Just as Jesus pled for mercy for the souls of His killers and continually intercedes for us, we too can pray for the people who’ve hurt us. We can desire repentance while we grieve and long for truth even in our pain, just like the Man of Sorrows who carried our own sin and pain so many years ago.

If there’s Anyone who understands pain, it’s Him. May we choose to forgive like He does.

Just a Season

It’s winter now.

The trees are bare.
Sunshine rare.
The Earth is cold
The wind bold.
No flowers, no leaves
No birds, no bees
All color has fled
The landscape dead.

It’s winter here too –
In my heart.

My tears fall down
To the ground.
I shiver. It’s cold.
The wind is bold.
I am so weak
My body speaks.
I hurt everywhere.
My heart bare.

But winter is a season.

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One day soon
The flowers shall bloom.
The sun will shine,
Buds on the vine.
Color will appear
On the cold sphere.
The birds will sing
For it will be Spring.

The winter in my heart –
It’s just a season.

One day soon,
I too, shall bloom.
I will shine,
New growth on my vine.
The crippling fear
Will disappear.
I shall sing
For it will be Spring.

He promised. And I believe.

In the scope of time,
Winter is fleeting
Yet in the grime,
It feels like a beating.
So I patiently wait
Like the sailors of late
Watching for Light
In the stormy night.

“For The Time Is Come…”

I have been vocal about sexual abuse in the Anabaptist church for over two years now.  Maybe you’re wondering why I don’t talk about abuse in the public-school system, the foster care system, or the Catholic Church.  Why do I focus so much on sexual abuse in the Anabaptist church?  Does abuse in other institutions not matter to me?  Am I trying to make the church look bad?

Contrary to what you may think, I love “my people.”  I love the Anabaptist church.  And that is why I will not stop talking about sexual abuse.  You may think I’m exaggerating by referring to sexual abuse as an “epidemic”. But Anabaptist counseling centers across the country tell me I’m not.  They put the stats even higher than the regular sexual abuse statistics, which say that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. (See those statistics here.)

The abuse that happens in other institutions and cultures does matter to me.  However, the biggest reason for my targeting of the Anabaptist church has to do with our commitment to follow the Word of God. We say we take the Bible literally and that we follow it.  But when it comes to sexual abuse, we have greatly misrepresented God and His heart.

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Photo credits and website

I fear we have separated the Bible and the Holy Spirit. To understand the Bible, we must have the Holy Spirit.  Because we shy away from the doctrine and work of the Holy Spirit, we are not able to identify the hypocrisy in the lives of perpetrators whom we called “brothers and sisters” in our church.  They look good on the outside, but on the inside, there is nothing but “dead man’s bones”.  Jesus said we will know if a person is right with God by their fruit.  But according to us, if someone obeys the church rules, they’re okay.

Our hearts can be full of sin and we can still “look good” on the outside.  “Looking good” does us no good if our heart is not right before God.  You see, “hypocrisy” is not saying one thing and doing something different.  The Greek meaning of the word “hypocrite” as Jesus used it, is actor.  An actor plays a part.  In other words, a hypocrite acts like a Christian, but the “Christian” part is only skin deep.  Hypocrites are super good actors.  They know how to create and maintain a “good name”.  They are smooth talkers who know all the right stuff to say in devotions and Sunday School.

But underneath the facade of godliness, is a heart full of deceit and evil.  And that façade has caught up with us.

If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ve heard about the abuse in the Catholic Church.  The PA Attorney General was instrumental in releasing a report from the Catholic Church’s own records that details the horrific abuse of over 1,000 children by 301 priests – and the whole epidemic was covered up by the church.

The Anabaptist church is next.  The amount of abuse and its cover-up by the church is far worse than the Catholic Church.  It is going to shake the entire Anabaptist community, and it should.  We have been good actors.  We’ve covered up abuse, because no one was watching – or so we thought.

But there was Someone watching.  He is watching. These are His words: “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.” Mark 4:22

All through the Bible, God promises the exposure of sin.  He sees it, and in His time, He exposes it. He told the children of Israel to be blameless, then added: “But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out.”

In Eph. 5:11, God comes down hard on people who know of evil, but choose to hide it.  “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”  In other words, we take part in the unfruitful works of darkness when we do not expose evil.

If we had any idea what God thinks of abuse, we would fall on our faces and beg for His mercy.  If we understood how God fights for the weak and the hurting, we would be shaking with fear.

Jesus is coming soon, and He is not coming for a beat up, unclean Bride.  The exposure of sexual abuse we are about to witness is nothing other than God cleansing His church of evil.  He is judging the house of God.  We must not fight it. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” 2 Peter 4:17

We must repent.  We must acknowledge our iniquity without excuse and without minimization.  Part of repentance includes accepting the consequences of our sin, even if it means going to jail.  What is a jail sentence compared to eternal Hell?  It’s nothing.  And by the way, going to jail for covering up abuse is not suffering for Christ.  It is God’s judgement for not following His Word. 

Don’t talk to me about the fall-out.  The fall-out happened when innocent children were overpowered and used for the unnatural, evil desires of the perpetrators.  The fall-out deepened when we, the church, chose not to get the civil authorities, also known as the “ministers of God” in Romans 13, involved in the punishment of evildoers.  By resisting their God-ordained authority to punish evil doers, we have resisted God.

No one, not even the Anabaptist church, is above the law of the civil government.   When we obstruct the justice of God, we will face that same judgement. If we do good, we have nothing to fear.  If we do evil, we will be afraid, for the sword is not carried in vain. (Romans 13:1-5)

Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 23: 23-28: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

I can’t help but wonder if that is what Jesus would say to us today.  We deserve to be punished.  We deserve to be “brought low.”  We have sinned.

We can choose to fight God by fighting the civil authority He has set in place.  Or, we can cooperate with God by cooperating with them.   We can repent.  We can change our culture from being church authority based to being rooted on the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.  We can change our culture from an emphasis on “looking right” to “being right” with God.

But it starts with you. It starts with me.

May God open our blind eyes and clean our hard, dirty hearts.

 

My God is Bigger

I read Psalm 94 the other morning in my devotions, and realized that I am not the only one who struggles with questions about how long until God will stop the evil and pain done by those who do not fear Him.  The Psalmist asked the same questions. I grabbed a pen and paper, and before long, there was a poem.  I sat down at the piano, and within minutes, it was a song.  I may make a music video sometime, but for now, I’ll post the lyrics.  This song reminds me that God is bigger.  With Him, evil cannot win.  Without Him, we can’t win.

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Sometimes it seems like evil wins,

I cry, “Oh Lord, how long?

There’s dying children everywhere

O God, this seems so wrong!

They wonder where You’re at

You are their only Hope

O Father, don’t you see

They don’t know how to cope?”

 

Chorus:  But God is bigger than the evil,

Bigger than the pain.

Bigger than my teardrops

Bigger than the shame.

And though I do not understand

Your timeline and Your plan,

I choose to trust Your heart.

I choose to trust Your hand.

 

Sometimes I wonder just how long

Until You will return.

To the bring the captives healing

And evil overturn.

I’m clinging to Your promise

That it’ll be made right.

By Your power, by Your Word

Through Jesus and His might.

 

Chorus: ‘Cause God is bigger than the evil,

Bigger than the pain.

Bigger than my teardrops.

Bigger than the shame.

And though I do not understand

Your timeline and Your plan,

I choose to trust Your heart.

I choose to trust Your hand.

 

 

Our Love Story

I remember my first impression of him quite vividly.

He was washing dishes in the kitchen at Mountain View Nursing Home.  He was a volunteer, as was I; only I was the “new kid”.  I wasn’t particularly drawn to him – quite the opposite, actually.  He had a great big beard, and as a Mennonite girl, beards were just kind of gross.

He wasn’t my type, either – this Ben guy – as I found out a few days later.  We were camping in the Back Forty.  The conversation around the fire that night revolved around the Bible and church.  And wow! Not only did he think “outside the box”, but boy – was he ever opinionated!

Months passed.  My opinion of Ben didn’t really change – at least I didn’t think so.  I didn’t see him as “husband material” for a looooonnnngg time.  I had long convinced myself that no good man would want me.  After all, I was just a Mennonite girl with a bunch of issues; He was a Beachy guy who was much wiser than his years.

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That explains all the “open mouth – insert foot” moments.

Somehow, we ended up on Night Duty together three times.  Anyone who has worked night shift knows that tongues get rather loose at odd hours.  One night while at the nurses station, we got on the subject of kissing.  Ben told us girls the joke about “going through the briar patch to get to the picnic.”  Without thinking, I blurted out.  “Disgusting! I don’t like briar patches!” Suddenly, I “got” the joke and realized what I had said.  But it was too late.  Everyone laughed and I hid my red face behind the paperwork I was doing.

On a different occasion, we had a discussion around the lunch table about when Jesus would come back.  I made the remark that there is no chance of me getting married, since my mom was sure Jesus would come back before she got married. “So where does that put me?” I half groaned.

Ben nearly snorted on his food.  “What makes you think that?  Jesus might not return for another thousand years!”

“But He could come back tomorrow!”  I argued.

“I’ll tell you what.  When you get married, I’m going to stand up at your open mic and say, ‘See Ann?  I told you!’”

To which I retorted, “What makes you think you’ll be invited to my wedding?”  (Later, he told me: “I thought to myself ‘If I have my way, I’ll be the groom at your wedding!’”)

He was the first guy I trusted.  I remember the night I excitedly told my best friend I had rode the elevator with Ben – all by myself.  It was a big deal!  I had never trusted a man that far.

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I saw how he cared for the residents.  Seeing a man show love to those who couldn’t give him anything in return made a huge impression on me.  He had a compassionate heart and my broken heart noticed that.

No, I didn’t “like” him, I told myself.  Not in that way.  I wasn’t his type.

But I did pray for a good wife for him.  I bet God laughed.  I didn’t know I was praying for myself.

Nearly 10 months after I walked in the door at Mountain View Nursing Home, Ben’s term of service was up and he was returning home.  I remember how I felt as I worked those last shifts with him.  I was going to miss him.  I’d never missed a guy before.  It felt…well, funny.

The sad day arrived.  He came up to the Home as I was feeding lunch to the residents. He slowly made his rounds to all the staff.  When I told him, “Good-bye”, I also mentioned that if he ever came back to visit with a big bushy beard and a shaved head (something he wanted to do) that I wouldn’t talk to him the entire weekend.  Not that I thought he’d care…

Ben did come back – quite often actually.  And he did so without a big bushy beard.  One night he dropped in just before curfew.   I made up a good excuse to go back to the mailroom “to say Hi!” It ended up being more than just a “Hi!” I was asked by one of the good friends who watched the whole thing play out: “That was so sweet of him to ask how everything is going for you.  Ann, are you sure he doesn’t like you?”

I dismissed her questions with a carefree “I’m sure!” For in my mind, there was no way I was good enough for him.

One night, my dormie caught me staring at a photo of the guys at MVNH.  “Ann! What are you doing?” she squeaked.

“Oh, I…well…I was just looking at these pictures,” I stammered around sheepishly.

“Come on, who were you really looking at?” she asked.

“Umm…Ben.  He’s got the kindest eyes in the whole world.”

A few months after Ben left, an older man whose wife was a resident approached me with a queer question: “Did Ben ask you out yet?”

“No,” I stammered, with a very confused look on my face.  Then I turned tail and fled to the bathroom.  I stood in front of the mirror and laughed.  Ben?  Me?   What a joke!

But it kept happening.  This dear old man kept asking me the same question every couple of weeks. And I kept giving him the same answer.

It was awkward when Ben came to visit.  Instead of being very carefree in relating to him as I was before, I began pulling away.  I was scared of commitment – scared to hope that there was even a chance he liked me.

It was around this time that I realized something – I didn’t just “like” Ben, I loved him.

I was terrified.

One part of me wanted him to ask me out, and the other part of me wanted to run far away.  God began nudging me with a question: “Are you going to trust me?”

I fought God’s voice for a couple of weeks.  I remember the day I surrendered to God’s will.  I was in the air on a plane, curled up by a widow seat.  I don’t remember the book I was reading, but I remember telling God, amidst tears, that I choose to trust Him.

Less than two weeks later, it happened.

It was my last night at MVNH.   I was nearly asleep when I got a text.  “New text from Ben Detweiler,” the screen read. I gasped.  He was asking to meet with me in the morning.  Suddenly, I was shaking.  I stared at the text for a full 7 minutes before I texted back, “Sure.  What time and where?”

I couldn’t imagine what he wanted.

Maybe he wanted to clear up all the rumors.  “Yes, I’m sure that’s what it is,” I decided.  But I couldn’t sleep.  And Ben didn’t text back.  (Little did I know, that he was asleep.  Yes, asleep!  I have no idea how anyone can fall asleep in seven minutes, let alone when the future of your life stands on the line!)

I jumped as my dormie’s phone crashed to the ground. Instantly, I bolted out of bed. My eyes were big and round as I shoved the perplexing text message into her sleepy face. “Rosemary, what in the world do you think he wants?”

“He’s going to ask you to date him!” was her quick reply. “Oh Ann, I told you he liked you!”

But I wasn’t convinced.

The hours went by.  One o’clock.

Two o’clock.

Three o’clock.

By this time, I was absolutely sure he didn’t like me.  Why else would he wait so long to text me back?  Finally, at 3:15 in the morning, my phone vibrated.  “Meet me in the Back Forty at 8.”

“Okay,” I texted back.  But I still couldn’t sleep.  And I was hungry.

So, at 4:30 in the morning, I got up and ate a bowl of cereal – and drank a few glasses of chocolate milk.

As soon as I thought my dad would be awake, I called him.  I told him about the texts.  I wanted to ask him what I should say if Ben were to ask me out…just in case.

“Should I tell him to call you?” I asked.

“Sure,” my dad answered.  “That’s fine.”

Eight o’clock found me walking back the trail to the Back Forty.  But Ben was no where to be seen.  I proceeded to sit down on the bench and wait for him.  Pretty soon I heard some movement in the brush and saw him come out into the clearing.  He’d taken the back way so no one would see him.  He sat down on the bench opposite of me, and proceeded to tell me what he wanted.

Yes, he’d heard the rumors.  And yes, it was true.  He wanted to start a relationship with me. He’d already talked to my dad.

My mouth dropped to the ground.  “But…but I called my dad this morning and he acted like he didn’t know a thing about why you’d be texting me!”

Then, I said what every good Mennonite girl says when a guy asks her out: “I’ll think about it and pray about it for a week.”

Only, it wasn’t a week.  Four days later, I called him up and told him I would love to be his girlfriend.

And the rest is history. 😉

 

How Much?

How much is a little girl worth?

The question hangs in the air.

I cannot help but wonder

How Christians can’t more care –

 

About the stories of abuse

We hear many a time.

I cannot stay in silence,

For doing so is a crime.

 

She tried to tell adults

But no one did believe,

That the man she said had hurt her

Could such evilness conceive.

 

The evil kept on happening,

And each time it got worse.

Till she didn’t know the difference

Between good and perverse.

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She did her best to protect herself,

Though her efforts were in vain.

Because no adults choose to see

And protect her from more pain.

 

But one day, she found Jesus.

It was hard to comprehend

What Jesus thinks about abuse

When abusers they did defend.

 

“How much am I worth?”

She sobbed into His shoulder.

He gently lifted her face to Him,

And this is what He told her:

 

“I am not like the people,

Who turned away their face

From the open wound in your soul –

Your innocence erased.”

 

“I do not blame or shame you,

It was not your fault.

There was nothing you could have done,

To stop the evil assault.”

 

“Rest here, my child, on My lap,

And let me fight for you.

I promise to bring healing,

And in my time, justice too.”

 

And so I ask, again, my friend:

How much is a little girl worth?

Will you be like my Jesus,

Or will more evil birth?

 

*This poem was written for all the little children and women who were not believed when they disclosed their abuse experience to someone who could have taken the steps to stop it from happening again.  My heart bleeds for you.  I am so sorry.  I pray that God would bring someone into your life to walk beside you and show you who Jesus really is.

 

A Jesus With Skin On

“Why can’t you get over it?”

It’s one of the most hurtful statements you and I can utter to a person who has experienced abuse.

There are other ways of saying the same thing that seem a little more spiritual.  “You just need to forgive.”  “That happened a long time ago, and you need to stop letting it bother you.”  “Just stop believing the lies.”  “When are you going to choose to be a victor instead of a victim?” Or “But I thought you already worked through that.”

If there’s one thing I wish people would understand about sexual abuse, it would be this:  Sexual abuse is physically, spiritually, and emotionally damaging.  It affects every aspect of a person’s life – without exception.  It is a traumatic event that literally alters one’s brain.  (Check out this article about trauma and brain development here.)

I am very blessed to have a husband that has never made me feel like I should “get over it”.  I could not ask for a more supportive church and family.  Without a doubt, I would not be as far in my healing journey if it weren’t for my husband, church, and family.  I am not writing this because I feel unsupported in my journey.  I am writing this for the many victims in the Anabaptist culture and beyond who do not have a strong support system like I do.

I wish that we as Anabaptists understood abuse and trauma better. We tend to force or pressure people to be “normal”, which only further victimizes them.  We push them to forgive before they are ready and then expect them to never utter anything about it ever again.

It’s crazy. It’s like expecting a person with a traumatic brain injury to get out of the hospital bed and walk, or telling someone with a broken bone that the pain is all in their head.

Do you want someone to “get over it?”  Do you want them to heal?  Do you want them to be “okay”?

It’s really pretty simple.

Be Jesus to them. Show them what unconditional love really looks like.  Unconditional love is never forceful or pushy.  It doesn’t demand forgiveness, though forgiveness is important.  Instead, unconditional love loves at all times and in every circumstance.  Jesus is the ultimate example of Unconditional Love – because He is love.

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Jesus understands abuse much better than you and I do.  He understands the effects and He cares.  I think we could learn a few things from Him.  I wish we’d do better at giving grace to abuse victims.  Jesus does – why don’t we?

Helping the wounded takes time. It takes sacrifice. It means getting dirty. Too often we are like the priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. We walk around the bleeding, broken person lying in the ditch.

Sometimes the reason we don’t stop to help is not because we do not care, but rather, because we do not know how.

There are many abuse victims in our churches who are dying because no one stops to help them.  They don’t feel safe, protected, or cared for.  And then we wonder why they leave the church or suddenly want nothing to do with God.

If you know someone who has been abused, you have an amazing opportunity to show them what true love is. Validate their pain and their feelings. Be a good listener. Do some research on abuse to help you better understand them.*  Care about them and love them well.

Don’t compare their journey with someone else’s. And most of all, don’t try to fix them.

You can’t.

But Jesus can. So show them Jesus.

One of my survivor friends summed it up like this: “Sometimes all we need is a Jesus with skin on.”

 

 

*I highly recommend the book “The Wounded Heart” by Dan Allender.  It is not light reading, but it lays out the damage abuse does and, most importantly, offers hope.

Why I Value Modesty

There was a day, nearly eight years ago, that I came to a startling realization: I no longer cared about being modest.

I was tired of trying to camouflage my body. I was tired of trying to be Miss Invisible. I wondered what the point of modesty was because it certainly hadn’t provided protection.  No matter how plain I was dressed, there still were wandering eyes…and sometimes hands.  The only logical explanation I could come up with was that the female body was inheritantly evil, and therefore, needed to be covered.

I shudder now.  I was so close to throwing modesty out the window.  Honestly, it’s only the mercy of God that kept me from doing so.

Though I am not sure how I got the idea, I grew up thinking that modesty was to protect me from evil.  I thought that modesty was to, more or less, “keep men from lusting.”  If something bad happened to me, it was my fault – I must have dressed provocatively.

Thank God, I was wrong.

I began looking into what the Bible says about modesty and lust, and what I found unnerved me.  The verses that speak on modesty and sobriety say nothing about the need to do so because of a lustful eye.  On the contrary, when Jesus spoke about lust, He said “that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) Funny how the clothing of the woman (or lack thereof) is not mentioned.

Why is that?

It’s because lust is a matter of the heart. “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”  Mark 7:20-23

Because lust is a heart issue, my modesty does not solve a man’s lust problem.

The idea that modesty is the cure for lust degrades both men and women.  Think about it: it gives the connotation that men are sexual beasts who have no control over themselves.  That’s a very warped view of male sexuality.

Likewise, it portrays women as sexual objects, created for the pleasure of men and to be used at male discretion.  How perverse!  If the female body is the problem, why is the book of Song of Solomon in the Bible?

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Please hear me clearly.  Ladies, I am not suggesting that it’s okay for us to flaunt our bodies.  Immodesty is always wrong.

However, I am suggesting we take a step back and ask ourselves why modesty is important to us.

I value modesty because God clearly commands it – not because it protects me or because it keeps a man from lusting after my body.  I could wear a “tent” and there’d still be a few perverted-minded men who’d want what’s underneath.  And while I strive to be modest, I now understand that my modesty doesn’t cure a lustful heart.

You see, the value I place on modesty hasn’t changed.  But why I do it, has changed.

So, ask yourself: “Why is modesty important to me?”

Sometimes why you do what you do is just as important as what you do.