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

What I Learned from Snakes in My Bed

What I learned from snakes in my bed: Overcoming fear related to childhood sexual abuse

When I was a child, I had a recurring dream of snakes in my bed! Often I begged my parents to let me sleep in their bed, or I slept with the covers pulled tightly over my head. As an adult, when I finally understood why my childhood bed wasn’t a safe place, I realized it had nothing to do with snakes (at least not literal ones). My fear was due to an older brother who walked in his sleep and visited my bedroom at night. Continue reading