Monday, July 28, 2008

Forgiveness, Pt. 1

I was inspired recently to write about forgiveness. So this post will contain at least two parts. I have a feeling that this first part is not going to be easy to read, and at first, it may not sound much like forgiveness. It may even make some of you angry. I'm cool with that. Comment if you feel so inclined, but before you get completely enraged at me or at anyone else, let the second part get posted...and maybe even the third part.

David Holthouse, a victim of child sex abuse, was once a man plotting murder, planning revenge. “I arrived at a point in my mind,” he says, “where it seemed to me that murder was entirely rational, justifiable, and even a morally responsible course of action.” That, my friends, is sanity. I should take a moment to clear up that what is right is not necessarily what is sane. What is legally acceptable is not necessarily the same as what is rational. We like to think that morality and legality are both synonymous with rationality and justifiability.

Let’s think for a moment about battered wives. Many of the women serving long-term or life sentences in the prison system were abused by their husbands until one day they couldn’t take it anymore, and whether in self-defense or out of the helpless feeling of being trapped in a dangerous situation, they killed their husbands. That’s rational. That’s almost justifiable in my mind. And it’s certainly sane. Insanity is staying in an abusive situation. Granted, that was not the best example, because for battered women there are safe houses and other programs available, though the women do not always see those as viable options.

But let’s get back to Mr. Holthouse. He was sexually victimized by an eighteen-year-old, when he was just seven. The perpetrator? The son of his (Holthouse’s) parents’ best friends. Holthouse never told a soul. He spent the rest of his childhood avoiding the guy.

Fast forward about twenty five years. He became a journalist and moved all around the country. While he was living in Denver, Colorado, his father called to tell him that the same guy, the one who abused him as a child, was living in Denver too. And he had a wife and kids. And so, quietly, and without leaving a trail, Holthouse began to make plans to have this guy murdered. There would be no motive to link it to him, because no one knew about the abuse. It seemed to be the perfect crime.

But, as fate—or whatever you’d like to call it—would have it, his mother found his childhood journal and figured out what happened. His plan was thwarted. Now, though, Holthouse was forced to confront the man he calls “The Bogey Man” instead of just doing away with him.

Let’s stop right here. It seems to me that when you do something wrong, you ought to feel some guilt, some remorse, some negative emotion as the smallest of consequences for your actions. Perpetrators have a conscience too, right? Why is it that while a victim is racked with guilt, shame and emotional trauma for years on end, the perpetrator goes on to have a family, lead a productive life? Or worse, offend again?

Being a child and being victimized instantly makes the crime unlike any other. Child victims are different from other victims for multiple reasons. First of all, the adults around them do not always believe them, so the child quickly feels isolated. Second, if the case even gets to court, the child is often considered an unreliable witness, prone to mixing up facts or getting easily confused by the cross-examiner. Third, and most importantly, the child will likely never come forward because the perpetrator is in some position of power or authority: a parent, an older relative, a teacher, a coach, etc. The perpetrator’s abuse the trust and authority they hold with the child/teenager, and not only is that ability to trust any other person altered, but there is fear of what sort of “retaliation” could come as a result of telling someone about what happened. There are, as with most other victims, also negative emotions involved, such as guilt, fear, and shame, and often those are so burdensome that the child may feel at fault for what happened and be unable to see the truth and do something about it.

Holthouse often tells other victims of child sex abuse: “Not only do you have the right, but arguably, you have the obligation to exact some form of revenge on the person who sexually assaulted you when you were a kid.” Why? Because you know a predator. Although I still do not condone murder or any other form of revenge, I can certainly sympathize with this. There were many days when I was sure that the only way I could ever move forward with my life was to see the permanent incapacitation of my abuser. I wanted him to suffer. I wanted him to regret what he had done. I wanted him to spend time in jail or feel remorse… Something, anything, to even partially compare to the trauma I had experienced at his hands.

I was sixteen when I was sexually abused for a series of days by a man. Until I had become a victim, I didn’t understand the power of hate. I didn’t understand how passionate rage could drive you to feel so out of control. I didn’t know what it felt like to want deeply to see someone else’s pain come full-force and want to witness their suffering.

Again, I’m not in any way excusing people who kill. But I am also not about to say I haven’t been in a place where I was sure that the only way I could move forward in life was to hurt the person who hurt me. That’s sanity. And sure, what is sane is not actually “right,” but it makes perfect sense if you follow basic human reasoning. The best way to ensure the hurt never happens again is to eliminate the source... the source of so much pain, physically and emotionally in my life, the source that has forever affected who I am and who I will become.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Natalie Grant

I have been the wayward child
I have acted out
I have questioned Sovereignty
And had my share of doubt
And though sometimes my prayers feel like
They're bouncing off the sky
The hand I hold won't let me go
And is the reason why...

I will stumble
I will fall down
But I will not be moved
I will make mistakes
I will face heartache
But I will not be moved
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
I will not be moved

Bitterness has plagued my heart
Many times before

My life has been like broken glass
And I have kept the score
Of all my shattered dreams
And though it seemed
That I was far too gone
My brokenness helped me to see
It's grace I'm standing on

I will stumble
I will fall down
But I will not be moved
I will make mistakes
I will face heartache
But I will not be moved
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
I will not be moved

And the chaos in my life
Has been a badge I've worn
Though I have been torn
I will not be moved

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want
Than take what You give that I need.
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls,
Now I’m falling down. I’m falling on my knees.

I have always struggled with surrender. I don’t want to lose control, even if I know that God being in control is far better than me. It’s like that line in the Casting Crowns song: “Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?” I would begin to give God control over small aspects of my life that I felt like were “destined” to go well, but when He would demand control over the more scary things, like my future, or a relationship, I would fight Him for it.
Last Sunday, after Laura Jo and I had hung out, and said goodbye, I was heading back to Raleigh with a heavy heart. I wanted desperately to be in Greensboro because I associate Raleigh with negative emotions, with hurt, etc. I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to go home, and I admitted that aloud. As I was driving home it started to rain. And then I started crying. And then I started praying out loud. I looked up and I heard God ask once more for control. I knew that giving control wouldn’t make everything happy and wouldn’t solve my problems, but it would simplify them. Not because they would become fewer in number but because my desire to “fix” everything and everyone, including myself, would lessen. I relinquished control on I-40 and something has changed this week. I am freer than I ever imagined possible. I think I understand now that verse that says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Somehow I’ve always viewed the idea of giving up control as becoming apathetic. It’s quite the opposite, though. I haven’t stopped caring about the things or people in my life, in fact I care so much about them that I know I must release my desire to control them in order to love them well. When I live under the assumption, or when other people believe, that me being in control is healthy and ultimately good, we’re fooling ourselves.
I also realize now that I was my own false infinite. You know how people are always saying, “He alone is God?” I always think of that in terms of idols, like a golden calf, but I was my own God in a lot of ways, and my own false infinite. Although surrender isn’t natural for me, I truly have traveled down enough other roads and seen the ultimate destruction they lead to. And I know where true life is found.
And the surrender thing? It’s a daily prayer. I didn’t just pray it once on the interstate last Sunday. I pray it daily, because daily I am tempted to take back control over things when they seem hard.
And my guess is that that innate reaction is born out of a lack of trust in God. But that’s a whole other post.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Long overdue...

for not only a blog post, but a reality check. Last night, I was unhappily reminded again of the reality of college life. I'm going to make relationships and inevitably, people are going to move away. I've simply never been okay with this. It's a serious flaw. I get easily and comfortably attached to people and I often find that they leave, with sincere promises to keep in touch, but the reality is that more often than not, I lose a very close friend as distance and time and experience separate us.

I don't know if it's a general inability to handle change, loss and abandonment, or a result of experience, or just a genetic, inherent character flaw, but I deal horribly when people decide to "leave." In fact, I often will unconsciously distance myself emotionally from people if I forsee that they will leave. And my freshman year of college, when I began to form close friendships, (when my intention was to keep my distance so that, at the risk of being lonely, I couldn't be hurt), I would make my friends promise that they wouldn't "leave" until I got to see them again.

So I've been reminded again that the unfortunate reality of college is that people are all in different stages of life-- whether they're just older than I am and graduate and get real jobs sooner, or whether they transfer out, or whether I work with/for them and they find another job somewhere else-- and I will have to choose in the next two years to continue to form relationships and be real with people, even though I may end up feeling hurt when those relationships change or end, through no fault of anyone.

After tears and long conversations last night, I'm feeling at least a little better about people leaving. But with each person, the sadness is reopened and revisited, although I couldn't be happier for these people as they discover passions and pursue dreams; I guess that's part of love too. Being so happy for someone because that's what they want and so sad that you have to say goodbye.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It's How I Know We're Best Friends

Laura Jo and I are sitting in her room-- or the one she's renting for the summer-- the night before her birthday. Nick (her boyfriend of five and a half years) calls her. He apparently asked her what her favorite type of candy is. 

Laura Jo looks at me and says, "Hey, Linds, what's my favorite kind of candy?" It wasn't a joke. She was asking me. 'Cause she knew I'd know, almost better than she would.