Where is God in Abuse?
Updated: Mar 14
"God sees the broken as the best, and He sees the best in the broken, and He calls the wounded to be the world changers." Ann Voskamp
You've probably heard a lot about the awful Ravi Zacharias sagas of abuse, and how his victims were treated when they tried to speak up. Many other people have written so well on this - so I'm not going to. (If you want to read a really good post, go to Tanya Marlow's here)
In response to a lot of somewhat naive comments on the whole sorry affair, I put out a couple of tweets that caused some shock. That wasn't reason I posted them - I wanted people to see a very real problem that is still alive and well in some of our churches. I wanted them to see the knock on effects that women have to live with.
This is what I said:
"Some say that situations like the Ravi Zacharias one can't happen in a church.
Mine's a much longer story, but I'm alive because it does.
I was born because a youth leader abused my birth mum & his position of trust.
She was not believed.
She left the church for good."
"I'm not saying this for sympathy, but because it [abuse in the church] only tends to come out when 'big name' people are found out.
Everyday, women are not believed & have to live with the consequences.
I may write more in the future...
But for now @Tanya_Marlow puts it much better than I could!"
It shocked a lot of people because they had no idea I was born as a result of rape. They knew I was adopted, but not the rest. I didn't know until I was thirty because the Christian adoption agency chose to cover it up, to ignore what my birth mum said.
The church in question didn't deal with the issue and chose to just move the youth leader to another church...without telling them what happened. It was hushed up.
I will say at this point that I am loved by my birth mum - very loved.
To quote another tweet I wrote that day (in response to a friend who was concerned): "Personally speaking - I'm at peace with who I am & what life has made me. I already a campaigned before I knew due to other stuff in my history. Knowing has just made me speak out more - although quietly & in person. I don't normally say much on social media. Today warranted it."
The other reason I have now started to speak out more publicly about abuse in the church (bullying, emotional, spiritual, gas lighting and the rest) is because people I trust and who know some of my story have been encouraging me to do so. And then a few weeks ago I had the surprise of someone who didn't know my background saying (totally out of context) that he felt I needed to sing out my story.
It will come out in bits and pieces, and some snippets are below. Some of it I'm not ready to tell, and other parts have the power to cause total devastation for some. What I tell at the moment will be those parts that will help people who are struggling. I don't want to tear people down or cause unnecessary hurt. (Due to deaths of people - there is no safeguarding risk by being silent on some areas)
So as I hinted in my tweets, my story didn't end there - the church I grew up in allowed known paedophiles free reign in the church (I still have occasional nightmares about parts of that building, but my brain has blocked whatever happened there - and for that I'm grateful)
In many contexts, including church, I was bullied, gas lighted, and abused emotionally and spiritually. The one lady who had the courage to raise some of what was happening to me (and my brother) with the leadership of that church was accused of being hysterical and ignored.
It was so bad that I tried to take my own life aged 9 because I felt I didn't have the right to live... I failed (obviously!) and walked away thinking "I couldn't even get that right".
This is what abuse of trust and power can do.
"If they had just listened....... "
That sentence still comes up in my head occasionally, but I have to leave it with God. And on the subject of God? This was not His fault.
Where was He in this? He was right in the centre - holding me, carrying me, loving me.
I was always aware of God with me, hating what was happening - and not just happening to me.
When I finally had the courage to leave and find another church I was broken. But there I found friends, I found prayer, I found wise people who knew how to help put me back together.
I also found the ability to forgive. Not an easy thing when hit with memories at the least expected moments, but none the less a deliberate and courageous "I will forgive with God's help".
I mourned what should have been, I've lamented, and I've thanked God for His love and faithfulness to me.
And I've learned some great skills though it all - especially diplomacy and the ability to use words wisely. But that's probably a story for another time.
I'm going to post a song below. It's wonderful and I love it. It was played at a recent conference, and as I heard the words about God's love being fierce and unending I remember thinking that this is how I describe Steve's love for me. The moment I thought that, I heard God say "You ain't seen nothin' yet! (I love you more)"
But there's more to this song: "I smiled when I made you - I find you beautiful in every way" takes on a whole different perspective when you are the result of rape. But I find it wonderful and amazing that at the point I was conceived - God saw the beauty of who I am. Yes he saw the evil of the act and hated it, but also the beauty of the person that was created in that moment - I am not to blame.
I am not shameful because of this history - I have every right to own my belovedness. Enjoy the song!
A PS: Do remember that this is my story to tell. Do share the post, but don't turn it into a matter for gossip. If you know me - I am still the person you have always known. Also - if you know me, you may also know the church I'm speaking of. It's a very different place now and the last two pastors (Including the current one) have been - and still are - great pastors, most likely unaware of the difficulties of the past. Please don't turn them into a subject for gossip either, instead pray for those who need healing from the past.