When I was 16. I was sexually abused.
It took me many years to even say those words:
“I was sexually abused”.
I felt those four little words could never capture the whole story. As if by saying those particular words I was joining a community of survivors far worthier of them, than I. As if by speaking them I could diminish someone else’s experience that was “worse” than mine. Or that forever, in the hearers’ mind would be etched an image conjured from a twisted episode of Law & Order: SVU!
That’s the thing about shame: it takes what is simple, and twists it into an compelling, complicated MESS. In actuality, sometimes, that was as simple as it needed to be:
When I was 16. I was sexually abused. By a pastor. My close friend’s dad. I carried his secret for years.
When I was 19, my boyfriend proposed, for the first time I shared the secret that had mocked, provoked and rotted my very core. As my words drifted into the space between us, filling it with shame and irrevocably changing us forever, I waited for my love to say what I knew he would: he didn’t want me anymore. I searched his eyes to find the thoughts I knew were there: I was inherently broken. I gave permission for him to walk away from me. Shameful, broken, me.
He never did, and I never once saw the look I was searching for. Instead, I watched as his heart broke into a million shards, watched his eyes fill simultaneously with deep sadness for me and tortured anger at my abuser. We have walked a long journey of healing, together. Ten years, two babies and five cities later, we are better for it, I am better for having him. Him who carried me, bravely, who after my wounds were exposed, him who loved me still, fiercely.
What unfolded from that point can only be described as a scandal of epic proportions.
Have you ever thought: “what’s the worst that could happen”. Well, I had tenderly brought my story, and it instantly exploded into THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN!
My shaky and raw story was violently taken from me and passed around, multiplied and dissected and SHARED and SHARED again, out of context, out of my consent and so very deeply, out of my control.
My supporters lost their prominent jobs in global ministries, while my abuser kept his shiny role like a badge, he still wears proudly today, as if it were some vindication, some denial of his gross misrepresentation of Jesus and His church. At that time, I felt like my whole world was dividing, my story was polarising and isolating, I was talked (and preached) about, ushered into back rooms and told to keep quiet, I was confronted and judged and so very messily pulled apart, piece by piece. Scandal had devoured me. Through the love and protection of family, pastors, friends and the Holy Spirit, those pieces have been shaped into a beautiful tapestry of redemption and a testimony of grace. I live forever grateful for the ones who carried me through those days and believed and hoped for the brighter days that were still to come.
Jesus life was often reeling in scandal, polarising and dividing while simultaneously setting free. Mary’s pregnancy, His unconventional birthplace, upturning tables, keeping company with sinners, tax collectors and lepers. Healing the sick and forgiving sins. His life was constantly marked by scandal.
Nothing has the capacity to isolate us and polarise others like scandal, simultaneously, nothing has the capacity to catapult us fiercely into the loving protection and covering of our Saviour's arms.
Nowadays, as a pastor, when I speak of refuge under the wings of out mighty Saviour, or of safety, rest and protection. There is a truth of unshakable faith that rings in my words – I know now that, that is a very tangible and accessible place for every believer.
7 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. 8 I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. PSALM 63:6-8
1 Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me. 3 He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me. God sends forth his love and his faithfulness. PSALM 57
Jesus doesn’t delight or intend for us to suffer, but He takes these healed and healing wounds and gives us grace to share and just like Thomas, pressing his fingers into Jesus exposed marks, I pray our wounds might expose what we now know of Jesus’ deep love, finished work and eternal faith in a way that crosses through our ever-broken humanity exposing the very heart of heaven.
Your still healing wounds carve pathways for connection to the one who conquered wounds forever when He whispered, “It is finished”.
As pastors and leaders, when stories of scandal, sin and brokenness come, l hope we all long to have ears inclined to hear and heart with space for the unfathomable grace of God to prevail. Let’s never allow a future testimony, currently presented as a broken story to be terrifyingly torn apart. That story that will one day testify of God’s undeniable goodness is entrusted to us in it’s most sacred, broken form, it’s my hope that it would land securely, safely and be gently held and carried together to our kind Jesus.
I have tremendous gratefulness and respect for those who have treated my story kindly, by protecting it, they created a safe place on the painful journey to rest my weary soul. I pray that as pastors and leaders and Christians we can find the strength to be dignity-givers, story-protectors, hope-holders and friends through the scandals of life. Let’s save the judgement for the only one with right to judge, entrusting it to the one who holds us in the broken places, in the dark nights, and silent spaces and carries us into our future hope where the happy endings are shared as stories that ring of the forgiveness, and grace and protection of Jesus Christ.
ABOUT LAUREN I'm a mumma of two boys Harlem (5) and Zion (1), wife and lead pastor with my hot hubby DK, passionate preacher and now daunted, but brave blogger!I get to live amongst the salty, windswept headlands of Coffs Harbour (google it, you’ll want to move!), I am so passionate about encouraging pastors, preachers, leaders, ministers and dreamers to rise and live out their God-entrusted destiny with purpose and confidence. I'm excited to be on this adventure with you.
P.S Check out this chicks brand new blog. www.honestlly.org.au
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