Though I don’t always like it, I’m the kind of person that internalizes everything. Because of this, I have to be careful about the kind of visuals and information I expose myself to and let inside my heart and mind.
I avoid watching violent movies, I never watch cable news, and I’m pretty stringent about what I read on the Internet. It doesn’t take much to upset me, and to impact my focus on what I need to get done. However, I have been deeply affected by the #metoo, #wetoo, #churchtoo, and #timesup movements, along with the recent attention on women’s roles in the church.
These issues are deeply personal to me. I’ve experienced some of them myself, and what’s more, they have impacted a majority of women I know in one way or another. The percentages of women who have suffered abuses within the church–whether they are sexual, spiritual, or power-based–are staggering.
And a growing number of people are crying, “enough.”
Power structures within the church are being dismantled. Judgement is coming, and Jesus is beginning to overturn tables in his house.
I don’t feel joyful satisfaction when I hear reports of it in the news. I’m glad, to be sure, that justice is unfolding for at least some of those who have experienced life-altering abuse. But for every good report, there are countless women whose stories remain untold, and countless observers of this whole mess who still don’t get it.
I woke up this morning with a heavy heart and a lament, nearly fully written, on my mind. It’s spoken here in the first person, but they are not my words or my feelings alone. They are written on behalf of every woman who lives with the fallout of abuse.
They come from righteous anger. From defiant hope. From the very real struggle to keep going and keep growing. And these words do not summarize the entirety of our experiences. There is victory and triumph that fall outside the words of this prose, as God’s intervention in our lives has made us stronger, better women for it all. Still, moments of anger and lament arise, as we hear of others whose day of justice and restoration have not yet come.
And it is for these women I write:
While they cast their vision for what’s next,
I’m still here.
As they preach the Gospel, feed the poor, proclaim the love and healing power of Jesus;
as they gather their devoted flock to lead them into greener pastures of wholeness and abundant life,
I’m still here.
In the great spiritual battle that exists in the celestial realm,
I am not “collateral damage,”
nor am I a nameless victim.
The Lord knows my name.
And whether or not they like it,
and even if it makes them tremble and recoil,
they also know my name.
And I’m still here.
I am no victim; I am a survivor, an overcomer.
But make no mistake, that is a hard-fought, hard-won identity,
formed through agonizing hours of wrestling with God.
And He indeed has blessed me and I will praise Him with my whole heart,
yet I’ve emerged with a wrenched hip and a limp that bear their names.
For the good, for the bad, and the ugly, I will never be the same.
I will never look at church the same way again,
or likely feel welcomed in one,
or trust those that lead it.
Their actions, though they have denied and all but forgotten them, still touch most areas of my life:
I do not blame God for what they have done,
but I am full of questions I did not have before, full of doubts and confusion about what I believe.
These things stay with you a lot longer than you’d like to think,
and I struggle with not letting all of this define me.
I wait (no longer holding my breath) for some kind of acknowledgement,
for all of us who have been abused and abandoned.
For them to live out the very words they preach.
For them to measure themselves with the same yardstick of judgement they have measured me,
and for them to allow people like me into the same river of grace they wash themselves in.
They’ve taught in their sanctuaries, seminars, and healing clinics that “forgiveness is not forgetting,” and I’ve learned that well.
I do forgive, but I still remember,
even though they have forgotten me willingly, willfully, and without conscience.
But I’m still here:
a bruised, smoldering wick they cannot snuff out,
however hard they may try to blow.