A friend of mine, who has been on a long and painful road of healing from past sexual abuse, reached out to me and shared that she needed a safe place to heal…a place where it was ok to not be ok.
Her words struck me as odd at first…
“A place where it was OK to not be OK.”
When she said it, I thought, “Well, what about your church family? Shouldn’t the body of Christ be a safe place to not be OK?”
But, in my friend’s experience the church has been a place of abuse, judgement, misunderstanding, conditional acceptance, and what feels like a subtle undercurrent of, “Aren’t you healed, yet?”
Over the past four years I’ve spent a great deal of time talking with women who have been abused, in different ways. I’ve heard stories of childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, verbal, physical, and emotional abuse from a parent and even a spouse. I’ve also heard many stories of spiritual abuse and maltreatment coming from the body of Christ, and it all grieves my heart.
Many of these women have either found Christ in their healing journey or have run as far from God as they possibly can.
Through this experience, I’ve asked myself…“Am I a safe place for someone who is hurting?”
Do I really listen well and do I really care like I should?
I want to think I am…I’d like to think I do.
But, let’s be honest. Being a safe place for someone who is hurting, no matter what the hurt is, can be messy. It takes time and energy. Sometimes it’s inconvenient. Sometimes it means we have to hear the same story more than once, or perhaps we have to hear things we cannot begin to understand or relate to.
In light of all the men and women coming forward today and sharing their #MeToo stories, I believe it’s so important for church to respond in a way that honors God. To be a safe place for the hurting to find hope and healing. This should be obvious, and it should come naturally to a believing community…but I’ve seen enough posts and comments on social media by professing Christians to conclude that maybe we all need to be reminded of the posture of grace Christ called his disciples to take, when he said…
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:37,38 NIV
So, how can we be a safe place for the hurting to heal?
It’s starts by being approachable and willing, and when someone confides their hurt to you…
– Don’t be a judge and jury.
– Be patient.
– Be a good listener.
– Believe them, even if you don’t understand.
– Love them and let them know they’re not alone.
In doing so you will point them to the One who truly heals: Jesus Christ.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to have all the answers. You just need to be willing to admit that and connect them to the right kind of help.
My friend ended up coming to visit me for a while and was able to get some needed rest and time to reflect. She continues to work towards healing from past abuse, and will be for a while. I wish it could be different…that she could just be healed and move forward, but the truth is there are no quick fixes or simple solutions to healing from sexual trauma. It’s complicated, messy, and it takes time and care.
I’m going to stop here, but I have more to say on this…perhaps in a later post or a video. As always, I invite comments…and would love to hear your thoughts and insight on this, too.