I Was Raped As A Child. That Influenced Me.
Preface: This is a follow-up to “Miniblog #307: Shouldn’t Personal Conflicts Be Kept In-House?“
Today I write a post the content of which I never thought would be made public. Unfortunately, it has become clear that my approach to life, ministry, and blogging will never be fully understand until people know. So here goes… In criticizing my public sharing of personal conflicts, a number of people have said something to the effect of “if you’d been raped, that would be one thing. But this is different. There’s no need to air others’ dirty laundry.” Such comments are well-intentioned but unaware of the facts, so let’s set the record straight: I was raped as a child.
The guy was part of our church but I do not wish to disclose his role or prominence. The abuse finally stopped when I fought him off by literally punching him in the balls as hard as I could, then stabbed him in the scrotum with scissors. I stood over him with fire in my adolescent voice and declared, “Don’t ever touch me again, you son of a bitch.” It was the first time I ever recall swearing. It put the fear of God in him. You could see it in his eyes. He died some years later. It sounds like something out of a movie, but it’s part of my life story.
Please respect that I don’t want to discuss any more of that. I know a lot of people will want to know who he was and whatever else, but I don’t care to rehash the details. Because I have such a strong and vivid memory, especially when it pertains an emotionally traumatic event, talking about those events (whether sexual abuse or verbal abuse or my ordination twice being canceled at the last minute) brings me back there in a very tangible and intense way. In the case of the sexual abuse, talking about it makes me feel like I’m back in that room. It’s a dark place that pulls me down–heart, mind, soul, and strength. I’ve decided to put those experiences behind me and no longer look back because I don’t like them lingering in my thoughts. “Set your minds on things that are above,” right?
Concluding the first paragraph with “I was raped as a child” rather than “I am a rape victim” wasn’t haphazard. It was intentionally communicated with precision. I wrote it for a reason. This is no longer a source of recurring nightmares, anxiety, or whatever else. I’ve gone through the counseling, haven’t embraced a victim mentality, and it was through the Holy Spirit combined with sheer force of will that I overcame. I do not define myself as a victim of rape but as a follower of Christ. I embrace the healing instead of the brokenness.
It’s important to state that I don’t believe we’re merely a product of our experiences. That would be the psychological determinism. It’s clearly unbiblical and I adamantly disagree. At the same time, it’s inevitable that our experiences influence our perspectives because they’re not wiped from our memory (like C-3PO at the end of Episode III). I’ve embraced that reality. The question is, how will those experiences be channeled in our emotional, intellectual, relational, and spiritual formation? Though I’m certain my efforts have been imperfect, I’ve sought to channel mine into healthy means.
My healthy way of channeling those experiences is through an intense passion for truth, justice, and reconciliation. A lot of Christians seem to misunderstand that final term, so I’d like to be clear about my meaning. I do not mean détente, or the lessening of tension. I do mean shalom, which is not merely the absence of conflict but the presence of full love, peace, and unity. Moving along, I’ve virtually no patience for abusers of any sort. I’ve even less patience for “nice” people who try to protect the comfort and privacy of abusers. This reflects my strongly held conviction that truth sets us free while avoidance, deceit, and fear enslave us.
Last night I attended “Mosaic: As It Is in Heaven.” It was a worship service presented by Baylor’s Center for Christian Music Studies. It was superb and brought me to tears just like last year. This year’s service contained many prophetic themes regarding social justice and our future hope of Christ’s setting everything to rights. One Nelson Mandela quote particularly struck a chord: “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.” Amen.