I have mentally struggled with this issue for awhile, and decided that perhaps it might be beneficial to put it on paper. Or, technically, screen. I'm hoping that by doing so, I might find some sort of camaraderie or advice. I'm not quite sure where to begin. I don't really want to begin, as this topic isn't light or humorous or even easily understood. But, as they say, I will just jump right in.
I heard a story a few years ago about a horrific incident between a pastor and some of his congregants. This man abused several of the younger members of his church. This would be a horrible story if that was the end, if there was no additional information. But unfortunately, this very true story had more facets. The 'pastor' brought three young girls on separate occasions to the church when nobody was present, and molested them within the doors of the house of worship. After violating and abusing them, he then served these poor bewildered girls Holy Communion. To add to the shame and confusion, this man was also the physical father of these young girls.
I listened as those girls, now grown women, talked briefly about their road to recovery. I can only imagine what horrible things they have had to go through in order to lead a normal life.
But as someone who believes in Jesus, I had to wonder: will they ever want to know him?
I know that we can all tell stories of hypocrisy. I certainly have my share of people that have let me down. Youth leaders that were secretly selling illegal drugs to kids, pastors that had addictions to running naked through football fields filled with people, and other little gossipy tidbits.
Even the simple realization that those who lead us in spiritual things are still human is a difficult truth to swallow, particularly for the first time. We want our pastors and leaders and Sunday School teachers to be set apart somehow, to blaze a fiery trail that we can see or at least feel. How hard is it when someone you look up to gets a divorce or admits to an addiction?
But as we like to say in the church world, 'nobody is perfect'.
And this is a true statement. We do have to realize that we are all just trying to muck our way through the junk of life. We have ups, downs, and everything in between. So we just have to give everybody a break, right?
Well, yes. But then again, no.
It is one thing for my small group leader to battle a porn addiction. This tells me things about her life; she has struggles, perhaps she needs some counseling, she needs support. But thankfully, it doesn't have to say anything to me about who Jesus is. I can know that she is still trying her best, just as I am. Jesus is Jesus. All is well.
However, when you are violated in the way that these girls were by their pastor and father, I think that the stakes jump up a few levels. On this level, the person of Jesus gets twisted into something that he is not; someone that he could never be. This is a level of abuse that does more than disappoint; this is a level of abuse that destroys.
I cannot imagine how any of those children could ever receive Holy Communion again without having flashbacks and thoughts of fear. This is not the intention or purpose of this sacrament, so what good would it do them to receive what is not being given?
I would assume that if they ever walk into a church, their bodies react in terror and their minds begin to race. How could it be any other way, when they have been so mistreated?
We know that Jesus is the healer, and it is true. He heals minds, bodies, marriages, hearts. But if you expect healing to equal forgetfulness, you are wrong.
If I sustain a physical injury that crushes my leg, it may be fixed by a doctor. I may regain some use of my limb, but perhaps always walk with a limp. I can ask Jesus to heal the leg entirely, and he may or may not choose to do so. I would hope that my faith would sustain being told no, though I am not so cocky as to proclaim that as fact.
Similarly, I may sustain an emotional injury that crushes my spirit. I may be 'fixed' by a doctor, my friends, my counselors, my family. But I might always 'walk' with a limp, a reminder of things past. I can ask Jesus to heal my emotional/spiritual injury.
Will he heal it?
I hear the Church (in general) saying that Jesus will indeed heal all of my hurts.
But what does this mean? Why would Jesus heal emotionally what he does not always do physically? This seems inconsistent to me, and if I believe the Bible to be true, then I know that God is consistent.
I'm leaning slightly off topic, but I do struggle with the many intricacies in this tangled web of confusion.
What I wanted to talk about was the way to show Jesus to those who have been hurt. By 'those', I do not mean the people that are upset when they hear that their pastor read a book that they do not approve of (unless, of course, that book is covered in brown paper and can only be purchased by a legal adult in the dead of night at the Hustler store).
No, I am referring to those whose lives have been greatly altered by the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing.
When you do something using the name of Jesus, you had better be doing something he would do. When you use the sacraments, such as Communion or Baptism, you should tremble with fear if using them other than as a conduit for communication with the Divine.
What if these girls, now adults, can't bear the post-traumatic stress of walking into a church and partaking of the wine and bread?
Can people like this find a holy place?
If so, what does that place look like, and how will they find it?
I'm sorry that these thoughts are so underdeveloped. I feel so strongly and passionately for these, the very worn and beaten souls that don't show up on our 'Church Radar'.
If you are like me, you might grow tired of hearing people lug those insults of hypocrisy at the church. I almost automatically disregard those who tell me that they don't believe in God because their pastor let them down by uttering a curse word.
If you don't want to believe in God or don't want to go to a church, then the path is pretty simple for you: don't.
However, if you do want to believe in God but just can't bring yourself to meet with a being who has appeared to be 'responsible' for your being abused, molested, ridiculed, ostracized, or worse, then oh...
How I hope you can find that place where you can.