Monday, August 11, 2008

The Jesus Blog

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.

Grow up.

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.


Stargazer said...

I hope so too, Tiff. There are lots of thoughts that are running through my head as I read this, and I'm not sure which ones to type.

I guess I will say that I hope that more people within the church will adapt your process of thought when interacting with those under-the-radar people.

Thanks for taking the time to write this. It is important.


GingerSnaps said...

I am referring to those whose lives have been greatly altered by the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing.

It is important to remember that what some may perceive to be a trivial grievance in their own mind may be a situation that "greatly altered" another person's life. So to say "grow up" causes me to question if you truly grasp that each person's individual walk is so much more complex than what we see on the surface.*

I believe if we step outside of our complacency and actively remember that, the world will be turned upside down with the compassion of Jesus.

*(I believe when you really think about it of course you do, but you are probably oversimplifying for the sake of this blog post.)

Beatrice Blount said...

Well, in response...I stand by my statement of "Grow up".

If someone has allowed their life to be greatly altered by something such as knowing that their pastor watched The Simpsons, then they really do need to grow up, both mentally and spiritually.

I think that as far as anyone can grasp that everyone is unique and that spirituality reflects this, I do appreciate this personal distinction. However...

If we give way for everyone's ideas of what constitues lifechanging circumstances, then nobody would be able to teach anyone else. Sad but true realization of the church world. We can't pet and pamper everyone who feels that the church owes them something.

I'm only 26 but I've had a heck of a lot of church time, and I know that some people just want to be offended, and will pick apart a leader or pastor just for the fun of it or because they have nothing else better to do. I would much rather use my resources and love on somenone that really has been hurt.

Personally, I'm just really done with all the claims of hypocrisy from people who really are just looking for an excuse to leave the church.

palmahome said...

Thanks for sending this. Insightful and well done, as usual.

I was reminded of reading "The Shack" as I read this and how we have to realize that God is not responsible for the crap that happens to us, though that is, of course, our gut reaction because we are taught from early on that God will protect us from all harm and danger. I would guess that the biggest roadblock for all of us is to try to understand that God is good. Period. While we live in an evil world, He is constantly working things for our good Рeven things too hideous to mention. Our finite minds can't really grasp this concept. We see such a small part of the big picture. We all want someone to blame and God is usually a really great target. I've done that Рstill do sometimes. How can we possibly grasp the concept that a child being abused or murdered can be for good? What about a young mother with small children dying of cancer when we know God could heal her? I share in your struggle. As clich̩ as it sounds, our limps and our scars are often the very things that help us help others and do ultimately work out for our good. I say all this because in all my struggles with my faith and my questions about God, I get so worn out sometimes. It's my choice to believe or not Рthe beautiful gift of free will. I think it's our responsibility to be sensitive to the hurting souls that you are talking about and not to be so quick to condemn them for not being able to walk into a church building, etc. but to show them Jesus Рwho can meet them where they are Рand will, I believe, do just that.

GingerSnaps said...

I think it's our responsibility to be sensitive to the hurting souls that you are talking about and not to be so quick to condemn them for not being able to walk into a church building, etc. but to show them Jesus – who can meet them where they are – and will, I believe, do just that.


Beatrice Blount said... I being misunderstood?

GingerSnaps said...

No, in essence we are all on the same page.

It's just that... I am one of the "hurt" ones. Some might say the final straw of what put me over the edge was trivial, but I can tell you that when it was piled on top of years of other things piled on top of underlying issues I was dealing with from emotional and physical abuse as a child, everything finally came crashing down on me. It has taken literally years for me to finally try and take baby steps back into the church.

It pains me to know that the deep-seated pain I have felt is seen as trivial by some when I know how much I have grieved.

That's where I'm coming from in my comments.

I just wanted to give you another perspective, that's all.

That's the beauty of blogging. :)

Beatrice Blount said...

Ok. I have other thoughts, but I'm going to be done for now.

GingerSnaps said...

Ok...I apologize if I made you feel uncomfortable. I just thought it might be interesting to open up the dialogue. Peace.

Beatrice Blount said...

No, not at all.
The one drawback to the written word is the inability to completely express one's feelings/intentions. I just didn't want to beat a dead horse, as the saying goes.

Beth McDermott said...

i feel i am just way too unprofound to respond, but wanted to say... this is one of the very hardest parts of faith to me. trying to relate the necessity of christianity to someone who has had such different and horrific life experience than i. let me know when you find the answer...