Yesterday, I listened to a survivor tell her story.
She was molested in her childhood.
Her pain was palpable.
I wanted to beat up the man who originally abused her
and all the well-meaning Christians
who further abused her by invalidating her story.
Then I read a blog by a Christian woman
who added her own hashtag to the #metoo campaign.
And I felt even sicker than before.
She said she too, had been abused many years ago and now she felt it was victorious to add a new hashtag because she can say Jesus has changed everything. She thought Christians should be moving on to this new hashtag. Now I don’t know this woman and I really want to think her intentions were good, but sadly, her additional hashtag contributes to everything that is wrong with Religious Narcia—making it about looking like good Christians while the wounded are still suffering.
Many Christians try to spiritualize away the shame and pain of abuse by slapping a WWJD band-aid on the gaping wounds of victims. I’m convinced Jesus wouldn’t do that. Why? Because of Mary Magdalene. Jesus forgave her over and over and he didn’t call her out on her mistakes because he knew she needed to heal from them. And while many consider her a sinner, many also believe she was a victim as well. And in the end, does it really matter? Are we not all damaged in some way and therefore acting out at some point in our lives? Mary M. could be our own sister or best friend, perhaps she could eventually say she had her healing, but Jesus never shamed her for her pain. Jesus never “shoulds” on us. He allows us to wake up and heal at our own pace.
When Christians spiritualize emotional wounds, they are in essence sending a message many survivors have heard too many times before—that their story is too messy and must be cleaned up and hidden. They have already been told to–
“Get over it.”
“Oh now, we don’t want to hear that!”
“Were you asking for it?”
“Can’t you find a way to calm yourself down?”
“Stop living in the past.”
Adding extra expectations to the #metoo campaign shows a lack of empathy and understanding for survivors who might have been suffering in silence for years. When someone carries such a burden for so long, their healing can’t be rushed. It will take lots of time and acknowledgment before most survivors can say they are healed and I am nearly certain there will be some survivors who will never be able to say they are healed until they’re safe in the arms of Jesus forever.
It’s great to say “let’s heal” from the viewpoint of a survivor who has found their peace, but let’s not act like those who aren’t over it are failing to bring their burdens to Jesus. Maybe they’ve been talking to Jesus for decades, but they still need humans ears and hearts to help them heal from the unconscionable acts that have damaged their souls. I am willing to bet there are many survivors who are not sure they can trust Jesus because of what was done in the name of God.
What about the girl whose pastor father molested her night after night, swearing her into silence under the threat he would kill her dog if she told anyone. What about the teen who told her father the youth leader molested her and, he said, “That’s happened to lots of women, just be strong and get over it.” Or what about the old man who grabbed and forced a precious and innocent child to lay down in the gravel where no one else could see her, yet when she told her mom, her mother said, “Ohhh, that never happened.”
What about the eating disorders and depression and shame carried in secret for so long because these survivors were never allowed to speak of the crimes done to them out loud? What can a survivor do when members of her own family and church leaders refuse to believe her?
Where can a woman go when she knows what she felt, knows what she saw and can’t stand the smell of spearmint because it was the flavor of gum her abuser gave her as a payment, yet no one wants her to tell her story because it makes them feel uncomfortable? How many girls have been told to give it to Jesus—only to hide under the covers and wish they were dead?
And where can a woman go when she wonders why God didn’t stop her abuser and questions if maybe her sister was right when she said, “If something did happen, then you must’ve been asking for it because it never happened to me?” Where was God when the pastor brushed her off as crazy or the teacher made her stay in longer because she stayed too long in the bathroom trying to wash the stains off her dress and tears from her eyes?
So many hurting women who finally found the courage up to say #metoo don’t need some well-meaning Christian to come along and say, “Now it’s time for you to claim healing in Jesus.” Many of them will say “Where the f– was Jesus?”
On whose bleeping schedule does such healing need to take place? It might be great for those who know they’ve healed to say it, but for many millions of survivors, the #metoo stage has only just begun. We are going to be hearing about this for some time and no one can rush the healing of another. If the church wants to help these women, it will need to listen to the #metoo crowd. This will absolutely require empathy. And these listening and empathy skills might need to be applied and held in place for quite a while much like an ice pack on a burn or a bandage stopping the flow of blood to a gaping wound.
No paramedic tells the victim of a crushed pelvis to get up and walk. From the time the injury is realized and discovered until the moment of healing, there is a journey of recovery. Bones must be healed, muscles strengthened and many steps taken before the survivor of an accident can say “I’m healed.” If it takes so much to finally achieve physical healing, why do so many Christians ignore the need for emotional healing? What if we spiritualized our physical needs for healing the way we often do the needs for emotional healing? We would witness all kinds of bandaged people falling down and hurting themselves every day.
So if you’re a Christian who’s tired of the #metoo stories, maybe take some time out to think about those who have been holding their painful, suffocating secrets. Give them time to find their voices, use their voices and then take some time to shut up and listen to their stories. If she could hold herself together hiding the agony of her untold story for years, surely we can listen for an hour or two without an agenda. Surely we can let her weep and cuss and question where in the hell was God? Surely we don’t want to be just another abuser pushing her pain aside. Surely we want to be the hands and feet of Jesus and allow her healing to begin with us. Surely we want to be safe people who allow hurting people to mourn without acting like Job’s asshat friends.
Let her be.
Let her scream.
Let her yell.
Let her cry.
Let her cuss.
Let her question God.
Let her be angry.
Please allow her to RECLAIM her VOICE.
Let her know she is safe with you.
Let her know that love listens.
Let her know that love has no agenda.
Let her know that she is loved.