Love For The Long Haul
I didn't know what I needed back then. I didn't know how to ask for it. I knew people were whispering, I could feel their eyes on me. I remember sitting in church, week after week, wondering if that was the day someone would come and put their hand on my shoulder or ask me how I was doing, if I needed anything, or maybe if they could just give me a hug. It never happened.
A few months after I'd gone public about the sexual abuse, I received a letter from a friend: a guy who was also friends with my abuser. He told me I should forgive my abuser and then look for the ways God was revealing sin in my own life. I felt angry and misunderstood. I threw his letter away. Over the years I've wondered if he ever regretted telling me that. Perhaps those words were easy for him to say and then forget, but they stayed with me. His words and so many others. Seared onto my heart.
I didn't know what I needed back then but now I know. I needed love, the kind that doesn't go hand-in-hand with judgment. I needed empathy and compassion. I needed people to be mindful of their words. I needed a community that understood abuse so they'd understand how to be there for me when I needed them. How to not look at me like the piece of refuse I felt I was.
I needed the kind of love that would reach into my soul and begin to undo what my abuser had done to me. It's a kind of love that doesn't always know exactly what to say or do, but is committed to just being there. It's a kind of love that's in it for the long haul.
Every victim is worthy of that love. Let's begin to learn how to give it to them, even, or perhaps especially, when they don't know how to ask for it.