March 18, 2013

Sexual Abuse and Forgiveness

This is a very different kind of topic for me to write about, especially as I haven't been sexually abused, but some of the women I have loved have suffered that horror, and I know my reactions to hearing that. This will be a deeply personal post for me to write, and difficult as I feel that anger and desire for vengeance again.

First off, as I write about the forgiveness part, I want you all to know that I am not speaking to the victims of sexual abuse here, that is a subject best handled by well-trained and compassionate people. Rather, I'll be speaking about my experience as someone who loves a person that has suffered that abuse.

Counting my ex-wife, I've been in six serious relationships in the past thirty-odd years. Three of those ladies confided in me about their abuse. For each of them, the scars affected them even up to our relationships. Any percentage is deplorable, but to think that the rate of abuse could be up to fifty percent of women is beyond the pale.

Long before I learned to forgive abusers, I had immediately to learn not to react. Three years after my divorce, I was sitting in my truck outside of my ex-wife's rapist's house, a 12-gauge shotgun in my lap, ready to kill him and his entire family. Thankfully, I didn't do it, but the knowledge of the violence I can be capable of in the name of vengeance has served me well in the years since then.

For those of us who love someone affected by sexual abuse, learning to forgive, even if just in part, is of paramount importance. We can speak all day about how we would never commit violence in retribution, but until the experience and/or opportunity comes to life, we can hardly say for sure. The urge to protect our loved ones is one of the most primal instincts we have.

Even if the abuse occurred years before we even knew our loved one, we still go through all sorts of feelings. Guilt, shame, and fear all rear their ugly heads. Even towards our loved ones we can feel anger and betrayal at the broken trust of them not telling us something that is nearly impossible to discuss.

And so, I wound up at a point in my life where I had to learn to forgive or perish. Anger and guilt were eating my soul away, and I turned it inward. I had to forgive the people I considered to be monsters, even if I thought they still didn't deserve it. I had to forgive myself; for my anger, my failures, my not being Superman enough to have protected them. And, I had to learn to forgive God for allowing such things to happen in this world.

I still get fighting mad when I hear garbage like, "she must have done something to deserve/contribute to it" or "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" or other such vomit. I'll even admit to having the urge to slap a woman that has said those things. But, I have learned to avoid reacting before cooling down (you still might get a few decidedly un-Christian words, though.) I understand that we say such stupid things out of our own extreme discomfort at a situation.

The past few weeks have brought up all sorts of feelings and old tapes in me. From the Prestonwood Baptist Church pedophilia cover-up to Les Ferguson, Jr's story of still seeking God in the midst of unimaginable horror, my heart mind, and guts have been squirming. But I'm glad that I'm thinking about these things during the season of Lent, the season that proclaims forgiveness for everyone.

It's almost unthinkable at times for me to imagine that pedophiles and rapists have the same forgiveness available to them that I do. But they do. If not, then everything I believe about Christ and His sacrifice is meaningless. And if that sacrifice is meaningless, then everything that happens here on Earth is meaningless.

But I've seen that it isn't meaningless. I still can't believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do trust that Jesus can make even the most horrible things useful in some way. I've seen the lives and read the stories of people who have healed and forgiven, and seen their stories multiply His grace into the lives of others.

Lamb of God, you who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment