What if the Improbable Was Somehow Possible?

Coming to terms with the concept of forgiveness in relation to sexual abuse.

Many of us think of sexual abuse as an unpardonable sin. Its effects are so far-reaching. We have been told repeatedly that abusers can’t change, and recovery means acknowledging that fact while no longer permitting what happened to control us. We hold on to the hope that change is possible for us, but we believe that it is impossible for them. And, somehow we suspect that a just God agrees with us. So, victims become survivors after years of recovery, while we imagine perpetrators eventually end up in hell.  What they did to us and those we love is so evil, we would never want that to happen again to another living soul. Society needs to be free from people who abuse the innocent, we reason; justice demands it!

Now close your eyes and imagine God saying that He wants to give your abuser a new heart and a new start. This new heart would enable him or her to respond to you and the world differently from now on. He or she would never abuse anyone again. What type of thoughts flood your mind? Do you hear, “Hell no!” Do words like “impossible” demand a hearing? Do you feel panic, not wanting that to happen? Does it interfere with your sense of justice? Could you trust a God who allowed that? Continue reading

How Knowing God as “Father” Informs My Understanding of Prayer

Father Knows Best was a popular television show when I was a child. It was about the Anderson family whose dad offered sage advice whenever one of his children encountered a problem. The image of a caring father who acts in the best interest of his children is an anomaly for victims of sexual abuse who knew their abusers as “dad.” For them, dad was a self-serving man they dared not trust. It is no wonder that abuse victims sometimes struggle with the image of God as a Heavenly Father. Even those of us whose perpetrators were not our dads, can still struggle to relate to a good God. Trust can be difficult, especially if safety was lacking in our formative years. Rather than trust anyone to care for us, we have often fought for some illusion of control.

Even though I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior as a teenager, my walk with God has been a long journey. Even now, forty years later, I am still learning to really trust Him. As a young Christian, the discipline of prayer became very important to me.  I was so excited to see all the ways God answers prayer! Now I also recognize there were times I trusted more in the power of my prayers than in the One I prayed to. It’s a subtle distinction.  Continue reading

Repressed Memories: Why Didn’t I Remember Sooner?

The day my heart shattered was one of those moments frozen in time, much like 911. She was in her late twenties when she told me about the molestation that occurred 15 years earlier. She shared it in snippets over the following year with each revelation cutting deeper than the last. How could this be? How could my older brother have sexually abused “my baby”? How could I have missed the signs? Continue reading

My “god” had No Arms!

My god had No Arms: Overcoming a distorted image of God resulting from sexual abuse

As a prayer counselor prayed with me after my mother’s death, I remember how shocked I was to hear myself exclaim, “My god had no arms!” It came in response to a childhood memory of my mom accidentally scalding me as she washed my hair. Such words would normally never come from my lips, but obviously, the child in me felt unprotected. There were other times the god I thought I knew seemed to have failed me as well, like when I awoke at night to find someone standing over my bed touching me in ways that no preschooler should experience.  And of course, what does that little girl think when she hears a mumbled death threat not to tell anyone? Where is God in such circumstances? Continue reading