Yesterday one of my “get-me” girls shared a thought that I’d like to start with today. For backstory, this all started with the following that I shared before writing yesterday’s post:
“I’m loving reading all the posts y’all are writing, about the hurt, the redemption, being at the table…
the fire in my bones wants to tell another side of the story. the side i can contribute to right now. But i’m afraid.
i want to write about how abuse needs to be labeled. normalized. how we need to be able to say “abuse!” when something happens because if you treat cancer like a cold, you don’t get you don’t get the necessary intervention for the malady you have, you treat a symptom that is far from the problem.
and i want to write about how, in that, we are called to love abusers.
which holy hell and God almighty, that means a lot of things.
what i want ot write here is that i am NOT NOT NOT calling anyone to a blind forgetting that others would label as forgiveness. I am NOT diminishing anyone’s story.
i want to talk about my struggle in this, in fighting what i want to do, which is take a bat and kick the shit out of abusers and get survivors out of there. I want to talk about how violence breeds violence and i want to fight to stand in the gap. to somehow use Christ’s call as an instrument of change.
what i’m saying here is: I want your thoughts and reactions. the real ones. and if what i write hurts or stings or offends, i want to know. because it’s all so sickeningly complex.
so… now i’m going to go try and write about labeling and loving abusers. im sure it will be a series.”
to which I got a lot of amazing, encouraging replies. The one that I’m chewing on right now is this:
“I love your heart. I love your honesty and your gift. Like E said, I trust that The Spirit is working this out in you. And you’re right- it’s a complicated issue. Have you read Wounded Heart? My honest first reaction is I’m glad it’s you and not me being called to this (how is that for honesty). If I’m not mistaken, the biblical definition of abuse is to treat or use someone for a purpose other than their created purpose; aren’t we all then, abusers? I believe we need to find ways to love the very worst offenders. But, I don’t believe it’s a general call on all Christians to love their OWN abusers (not to say God won’t call one of us specifically to do that ). Of course, we now need to define ‘love’ and on and on it goes. I think it doesn’t really matter what I think. Go write.”
So for today’s post, I want to just say that as I chronicle some more musings on this, I am not suggesting that anyone feel or act out of the burden of facing his or her abuser with open arms. Like my friend said, God may call us to do that. But if he calls you to that, he will also equip you for the task.
The specific message I am trying to send in this series is that as people, as groups, as a society, I think “we” would all benefit each other by taking the time and effort to look at people who abuse as just that: PEOPLE. A person who abuses is a person. A human, made in God’s image, with unique traits to bame, I need the time to step away, put down the bat, and remember who my enemy really is,
and who it isn’t.
To be practical and transparent, I’ll use myself as an example again. In my life, I have found that some of the abuse I survived was committed by persons who I have learned to love well and freely(ish. boundaries are actually the key to my ability to act out of love toward this person). But some of it was different.
When I was 4, 5, and 6, a tiny, innocent little thing not much for sticking up for myself or making a fuss about…anything, really, I spent the summers with my daddy in Tennessee. We were neighbors with my Pawpaw, whose mere memory brings me so much joy that it’s quite difficult to put him in the same sentence with the following the other people living with him: his wife and stepson, the latter who was just 10 years older than me. During this time, I spent a not-unusual portion of my days at and around Pawpaw’s house. Around his stepson. Where he lived. Where he has access to me. Where he would hurt me. The sexual molestation I faced in that time was just the beginning of the pain in my life as a result. The years and years of aftermath, or lack thereof, created a deep and ugly place in me. And God gift of healing has touched it. That place is, by his mercy and through counseling and the love of others, mostly rebuilt into something strong, something beautiful.
But if I ever saw this man, at this point in my life, I would have to fight to keep vomit down. It would take all my strength, and no small amount of the strength of my support system, not to let rage boil in my heart. Because I am finite and weak, in the grand scheme of things. And it is too close a thing to my heart, the deep and treasured parts of me, for me to handle with a necessarily-detached grace.
And there is freedom in that. In knowing my heart is not yet strong enough for a call I have graciously not been given. So if you are here, and you are hurt, please know: that is not what this is about. Maybe you cannot love your abuser, no matter what that means. May you are not ready to receive love for the abuse you committed. Okay. It’s okay. We’ll get there, loves. God is not through with us yet.
More tomorrow on what I do actually mean. :)