When I was about seven years old a friend from school invited me to a “Good News Bible Club” where I heard about Jesus and what he had done for me. I remember the feeling of hope that accompanied the thought that someone might actually love me that much. I was eager to know Jesus and excitedly prayed the “sinners prayer”.
It was about that same time that the sexual abuse from my dad ended but unfortunately there were others who put their hands on me. I learned that sleepovers were almost never safe and being alone with grandpa was a bad idea. I was very shy and quiet and must have looked like an easy target to those whose goal it was to victimize a child.
I made myself a pair of cut-offs before heading to the beach last week, only this time I cut them to hit a whole four inches above my knee. Gasp! Scandalous, I know! But for me this is yet another step in my freedom from the life that I was once bound to; a life of rule keeping, list embracing, and a shame-based moral code with no room for error.
You see, for a woman like me who once donned only skirts and dresses that fell below my knees, believing that pants were immodest, that I should wear shirts with neck lines up to my ears. I also had a heart that believed I was doing it all right; shorter shorts are a big step in a good direction. For a woman like me, and maybe like you, modesty has been yet another mask of the imposturous self; another link on the chain of imprisonment.
First of all I need to clarify that I am not a medical professional, counselor, or even a Lenten expert. This post is in no way trying to convince you to go out and get on meds. It’s simply an outpouring of what God has shown me through my weakness and in my need for him…and for Xanax.
I went to my doctor sometime during Lent this past year. I told her how much I have struggled with anxiety my entire life. I told her about how exhaustion exasperates my anxiety and during very stressful times I tend to spiral out of control. Or at least what feels out of control to me. I told her about the depression that comes; the demon that waits for me at the end of the paralyzing tunnel of fear I live in. I told her how my mind never stops. Like never. Like, I end up watching TV all night long to numb my racing thoughts.
I’m tired of telling people how to be good people. When I do it, I feel like I’m preying on the low self-esteem of those who just want to do the right thing and are berated for inevitably failing. When I tell them how to do the right thing in the right way, I’m just preaching the law to those in need of grace. Sometimes I feel like I’m just encouraging the lie that if people get their acts together, God might deign to throw some acceptance their way.
In that scenario–at best–I’m a self-help guru, not a pastor. When we become exclusively obsessed with morality and getting better, we become self-proclaimed culture warriors, and the pulpit just becomes a pedestal from which we throw out weekly gripes at the audience: Too much side-boob on television, a gay guy sold me my coffee, kids these days! Clang, clang, clang.
To say that my husband and I were having a chaotic season was an understatement. We were finally settling into our new home here in Denver after two major cross-country moves earlier that year. I was halfway through my pregnancy with our third child and chasing after two other littles who were 2 and 1. We wiped butts, went on date nights, and laughed (a little) when looking back on how difficult that time truly was. As close friends would, we gave each other a high five and looked forward to a slow down.
Slowing down to enjoy life sounded dreamy, but in reality it came to a dead stop. I was going along business-as-usual on a sunny Thursday afternoon when turning on my husband’s computer revealed a betrayal I didn’t see coming. He was cheating on me with another woman.
Mother’s Day. I kind of love it and I sort of hate it.
My kids are so sweet; they make me cards and I always enjoy at least one piece of toast in bed. And if life hasn’t been too ridiculous, my husband will have endured a trip with four kids to the dollar isle at Target for a new pizza cutter or a dish towel. I love the homemade cards that tell me that I am the “Best Mom Ever.” I proudly hang them on my fridge. I just wish they spoke the truth.
Let me tell you a story about a young boy.
This boy, at a very young age was sexually abused by two separate family members, one male and one female. Both were old enough to know they were doing something wrong, but young enough to not be considered adults. This young boy was made to think that he was playing a game and it never dawned on him that there was anything wrong. Though it stopped short of anything occurring that might be considered medically harmful, it was emotionally and psychologically damaging for him as you can imagine. “It was a game and people liked him”, thought the boy. They wanted to spend time with him. In some weird naive sense, it made the boy happy. Then, it stopped. The boy doesn’t remember the exact details of it, but he just knew that it stopped and it left him with a weird feeling inside. For sure, it was good that it stopped, but this boy being so young, didn’t know how to process that. From here on in, like a curse, the boy and his view of intimacy would be forever slanted by his experience. Continue reading
What is Grace?
“Shut up!” How childish that sounds coming from a mother of four. Immature, cutting words passed through my lips, taking flight as they hit the air, piercing my eight-year-old’s tender heart. Before I knew it, the words were gone, a vapor I could not grasp and stuff back in. The regret came fast and lingered through the evening. I’d done it again.
These events occurred during the Winter (2012-2013)
I stood there watching my friend put my clothes on hangers. I had no energy, but attempted to “help.” I looked at her for any sign that there was still hope for me. She didn’t look me in the eyes when she said, “You’re a good Christian, BUT…” And then she spewed out a list of things I needed to do better. I replied sobbing, “I am NOT a good Christian. I am NOT a good steward of what the Lord has given me, and I have hurt so many people. I have to get my act together.” I don’t remember her response; I just remember retreating into my closet trying to hide the tears—all I could see in her eyes was that I was a failure.
Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have done it again. As with their earlier work on sexual assault, Rid of My Disgrace, their most recent book Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence, goes where most Christian authors can’t or won’t go. Justin and Lindsey have the unique pastoral ability–and the theology to back it–to shine a light in the darkest of human experiences: abuse from the hands of another human. Truly, the Holcombs are lights in the darkness. Continue reading