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. 



Comments

  1. Character is not given per-se but earned in the trial of everyday life. In the everyday, people are harmed, children are routinely abused and Monday becomes Tuesday. What reveals character is someone who has lived through the everyday I am noting here, someone who has taken a beating, has been abused and left alone, someone who has cried out and not been heard, or cried out and not been allowed to even hear the truth of their own misery (have blamed themselves), and yet survived and gone on.
    As we begin to know the harm done, we have the chance to do something about it. Doing something about it is what real character is about, not conforming to Doug Wilson's library armor and bully patriarchy but standing up and telling the truth over and over again while the Lie refutes it with their passed offering plates and clever avoidances.
    I admire your character, Natalie Greenwood. It means alot to many many people.

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  2. Even or perhaps especially when they don't know how to ask for it. Instead of looking at the girl gradually retreating, "isolating herself from the community" and sighing a little while shaking your heads sadly, you could notice what's happening and think, I wonder if she's okay, I think I will pursue her rather than wait for her to somehow know what she needs and how to ask for it. Christ the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes out in search of the one. Love calls us to be pursuers not wait-and-see-ers.
    Having been the girl needing to be found (and I mean really found, not just "brought back to church") who never was found by the community I was part of, I attest to the need of reaching out to the troubled rather than judging them for "not giving us the chance to help." Havingd been the fearful friend who failed to pursue my dear friend who was battling anorexia, I attest to the temptation to give in to fear rather than to allow ourselves to be transformed into vessels of Divine Love. Having then in God's great mercy been given the gift of a second chance and been privileged to be transformed into a vessel of Divine Love, into heart and hands willing to be His heart and hands, in becoming a true though yet imperfect friend and victim advocate, I attest to the reality of God's redemptive power in our lives. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend - this is the Love that we are called to, a love that is so much more.
    -April V

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  3. I was not raised in faith but lived in a very conservative area and thus encountered many lovely people made ugly by their doctrinaire, hard-core, patriarchal faith communities. People who honestly loved their kids and offered me family when mine was fractured, yet beat their kids on advice of their pastors. People who claimed to love Christ and walk in his example, yet were filled with nothing but hate for those who dared to walk a different path. People who claimed to be charitable by their faith's command, yet withheld all love, grace, and support from the abused and maligned. Reports of rape -- so rare already -- were inevitably met with questions of what the victim did to deserve it. Evidence of profound poverty was proof of god's wrath -- people of faith receive *prosperity* as their reward, when the oldest Christian doctrine is deeply suspicious of the wealthy and claims confidently that the meek shall inherit the earth. So much hate, waste, and human wreckage results from faith leaders promoting legalism over compassion, and smug sanctimony over humility. Thank goodness for brave voices like yours lifting the veil from the face of all that horror -- I can't imagine the price you've paid. Your reward? Helping others who have suffered similarly and living a more honest and humble life, the very qualities Christ promoted so passionately. I'm still no Christian but am thankful to the spirit connecting us all -- the best of us, our pull to altruism, love, and protection of all that is vulnerable and beautiful in this benighted world. Take care, sister: this is beautiful work you are doing, and you are needed. Much love to you!

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