Dear Church Lady,
I’ve been asked a lot of things by God. Asked to trust Him, with no guarantee that He will come through in the way I so desperately want Him to. He’s asked me to forgive those who destroyed me. He has asked me to trust Him to restore things that, in my opinion, are irreversibly damaged. I have fought this battle with Him for my whole life, but especially the past year and a half over the physical pain that is sidelining me and threatening to eat me for lunch every single day.
I had a revelation recently about that pain. I’m not in control of it. I know, earth shattering. I can’t control what happens to my body. I imagine a lot of people struggle with that. For me, it sends me into a spiral of hopelessness because it triggers all of the other times and ways that I could not control what happened to my body during the abuse – especially the part where I willed myself to die, and then still lived anyways.
Pain is a flat out trigger for me. So, when He asked me a few weeks ago if I was finally ready to fully surrender the pain to Him, and allow Him to decide if, when and how to heal me, I was terrified. But I noticed that I wasn’t getting anywhere holding onto the fear of drowning in this pain. And I don’t have any other ideas about what to do with it.
So I surrendered it.
And there was peace…..for about a day. But then I found that this is a thing I have to surrender daily: my right to control the pain or figure out how to “handle” it or what to do with it. He so graciously gave me the ability to dissociate from the physical pain for so long. But then one day, He took that away, unleashing this furious storm that has caused me to press into Him for more healing.
But I wasn’t ready for the next thing He asked me to surrender.
I had this vague idea that I could not go forward in the healing work because the next place I had to visit was going to destroy me if I remembered, processed, felt, owned and asked to find Jesus good there. So I have been stalling on this. For like, 12 years now. I don’t want to go to this place. It is the processing of the worst 2 days and nights of my life. I’ve made it through the first 5 or 6 hours maybe, and I am so undone that all I want to do is curl up and hide forever. It took me 17 months to get to the place where I could even begin to do this.
So now, in order to keep moving forward, He has asked one more thing of me: to surrender my fear.
Fear? What am I afraid of (other than going forward in this memory and looking for Him in the most fatally hopeless hours of my life)?
I got angry, I have to admit.
I don’t want to give Him my fear, but worse than that, I can’t. He may as well have asked me to surrender my breathing to Him and to just choose to stop breathing. I would gladly do that most days before I would ever figure out how to give Him my fear.
But then He so graciously and lovingly showed me that He was not asking me to choose to stop being afraid.
He was asking me to name my fears, one by one, and, like the physical pain, to take my fears to Him – to surrender them to Him, not in such a way that I am suddenly without fear, but in a way where I can trust Him to help me with the fear. This might seem obvious to some, but I have spent my whole life, claiming to trust Him, while simultaneously figuring out how to survive on my own, frantically trying to stop my fears from coming true.
So, I took a deep breath and sat down with my husband and answered the question, “What am I afraid of?” To my surprise (not his), I listed 34 things in 3 minutes or less.
I was afraid to even say them – afraid that if I voiced them, God would capitalize on my weakness and use it against me to teach me a lesson. And that in itself was lesson 999 on “how Jesus is not a trafficker.”
The things on my list were not the typical things I think of people being afraid of. I forgot to even mention those. I read an article today that listed the general population’s top 10 most common phobias, in this order: snakes, bugs, closed in spaces, public speaking, heights, the dark, thunder and lightening, flying, dogs and dentists. While some of those things I am afraid of, only 2 of them made my list.
You see, I wasn’t thinking of the things I’m sort of afraid of.
I was thinking of the things that pulse obsessively through my thoughts almost daily.
Things like watching my children be tortured and killed, being violently assaulted, being pulled over by a cop and being handed over to my traffickers, hospitals, drowning…. and 29 other extreme fears that play through my head daily in vivid detail, all related to my trauma.
It’s just that I have lived for so many years with these things playing out in the background of my head, that I had not really captured them and named them before.
So, Church Lady, you might be wondering where you come into all of this.
See, here’s the thing. I know you can’t possibly know what is going on with me, because I look normal to you on the outside and you can’t see the pain that is turning me inside out or the fears that are silently stalking every waking and sleeping moment I have. I know that you can’t see that I am fighting for my life and that I have been walking through the fires of hell my whole life.
However, that is NOT AN EXCUSE for looking upon me and measuring me according to your standard of good Christian behavior, and then judging me for not measuring up.
Just because you don’t know what is really going on, does not make it ok for you to call my family out in public for not regularly attending church – to publicly chastise my family, including my children, for not “submitting to the authority” of a pastor (read, in my language, someone who will potentially abuse me, or rape my children, or require me to harm someone else at their request).
In fact, what I would most like for you to hear is this: DO NOT judge me or my family, or openly and publicly shame us for not being in church unless you are willing to ask why we are not.
Because, in your own damned self-righteousness, you have missed the opportunity to be the kind of person you think you are condemning me for not being.
YOU. ARE. MISSING. IT.
Our family has quietly served the Lord in your ministry, not because you offered us friendship, kindness, or anything else Christ-like, but simply because we believe Jesus is worthy of being served this way – worthy of our time and talent. And because this seemed a small, obscure, safe place to teach our children to love Jesus and to serve Him.
And yet, now we are rejected again, because we don’t measure up to your pharisaical standards.
These are not standards of the heart, for if you measured our hearts, you would not find us lacking.
Instead, you have chosen to measure us by your legalistic, compassionless set of rules, and we have failed your self-righteous test.
You have a chance here. A chance to act like Christ instead of a Pharisee. A chance to glimpse our hearts and hear our story and our pain, if you would only but ask and listen. But your ears are deaf and your eyes are blind, and your heart is closed.
You are also afraid.
Afraid that your God is not big enough within you to hold your own pain, let alone mine. Afraid that your ministry will crumble without everyone dogmatically following your safe system of do’s and don’ts. Afraid that you will be judged if those under your leadership don’t follow the rules set up by a man in a pulpit who is also afraid of all of the same things.
Here’s the chance you had:
“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert….” (Isa. 35)
It was a chance to see God better. To glimpse His heart in a new way, and a chance to grow.
But you missed it. Because you decided to follow the rules of a Pharisee instead of the heart of God. And this time, I am not sad for me, or for my family…..
I am sad for you.
I have been asked a lot of things by God. And now He is asking of me something new. He is asking me to surrender my fear of you to Him, and confront this abuse. To place my hand in His and to not quietly slither away, silently condemned, once again, without confronting you.
He is asking me to speak the truth to you about how you have used your position of leadership to harm, and how that is never going to be acceptable to God.
This is new for me, and scary, of course. But I will not be silent anymore. And I will not teach my children to silently take your judgmental abuse, as I have done my whole life.
For me and my family, it stops here. No more abuse without calling it what it is, directly.
Am I afraid? Yes. But in comparison to all of the other things I am afraid of….and in comparison to the hell I am already enduring……your reaction, your words, your abuse – they mean little to me.
I will do it because He has asked me to trust Him with this and walk this fear out with Him, and that is all.