When the Editorial Board asked me to write this post, I warned them I would go “heavy on grace and redemption”. Chuckles and the rest said that was fine. In fact, they know me well enough to expect nothing else. The gist of the post is to follow up now that Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.) is done with the initial survey at BJU, plus try and bring everybody back to a “center point” given the years of neglect both on Wade Hampton Blvd and elsewhere. Frankly, given the venom we’ve seen by people attempting to intimidate victims and the “gee, shucks, thanks” attitude from none other than Stephen Jones himself – well, it just strengthens our resolve here at Chuckles Travels to be there for all of you who hurt so badly to this day. Oh, and a word of caution for those whose faith has either been pressed to the limit or who don’t believe there is a God anyway. If you’ve read me before, you know I don’t pull punches in that area. You also know I won’t clobber you over the head with my beliefs or my Bible. You’ve seen enough of that to last you a lifetime. OK, here we go …
I’ve been privileged to be part of a team teaching a class on the C.S. Lewis classic Mere Christianity. I’ve read excerpts many times before, but this is has provided a chance to really dig into the book and understand the perspective from which Lewis wrote it. Couple this study with so many other books, talks, and material I’ve come across during the past few years of my journey and I am more convinced than ever that God – and I’m talking the God of Christianity here – is good and trustworthy. His ultimate act of grace and redemption in Jesus is beyond adequate thoughts and words. All the stories we’ve read that talk about some angry, vindictive God who punishes people and causes the strife we see are just plain bunk. Oh, I know he offers correction at times, but it never comes in the punitive form we’ve been taught in so many, many times. He is always the loving Father we long for. It’s the people who have twisted this that cause all the harm. I don’t have to mention names – you all know what was represented to you by some of these monsters. And then the had the nerve to come back at you and say it was all for your own good (or because of your sin) and that you need to “get over it”. Yep – that “bitter card” just keeps coming out of their hands.
But I’d like to challenge you to look deep into your own soul. The very design of it is for a loving relationship. The core of your being longs to be rescued. It shouts out – sometimes into what only seems like darkness – for somebody to care. And I can point you to the answer, but it won’t’ necessarily look like you think it should. I know some of you are asking, “Where was God when I was beaten and abused?” That’s a fair question and I don’t take it lightly. I will offer the answer, “He was right there” but I won’t do so in some flippant way. Much like the author of The Shack came to know in that powerful allegory, the abuse and neglect do hurt God. He had such better designs for our world – but he also wasn’t going to force anybody to love him. He knew that would be a hollow thing in the end. So he gave the beings he created choice. And, as Lewis and so many others tell us, with the choice comes the ability to select both good and evil.
The men and women who abused and accused you would minimize this aspect of God and also the impact of the Evil One. Yes, I believe that Satan is a real being and I believe he is intent on doing as much damage as possible. He is the one who brought your tormentors to do what they do. It wasn’t because of your “bad” – it was because of their choice to see God as a punisher and be agents of evil. They may have even thought they were bringing “God’s correction” but they knew nothing about his love and they were never in a position to help. Their own egos and needs took over and they did not do God’s work, instead choosing to perpetrate evil. But even this dark side of the story has the chance for a happier ending.
You, my friend, hold the keys to your own destiny. You have that same power of free will. You can choose to enter into the Mystery of who God really is and what he has promised to do for us. This is the same God that used even the evil done on poor Joseph to save a nation – in fact, save the known world. This is the same God who stands like the Prodigal Father ready to welcome us, dress us, and feed us lavishly. We can choose to run toward him through our Divine Brother. It will not undo the past. In some cases, those who did the evil things may appear to “get away with it” as even our laws fail to bind them. But I can promise that God will redeem it all and will never tell us to “get over it”. Instead, he will wrap us in his arms and encourage us to look beyond and find Him.
He may ask us to tell our stories to others so that the cycles of neglect and abuse can be broken. He may ask us to seek legal justice so that people are punished for their crimes. But whatever he does, he has promised to be with us and love us. He is not the “vending machine” God of the fundamentalists. He will not be “tamed” like they want him to be. His love is, as Brennan Manning put it, a reckless and ravenous thing. And he welcomes all without regard to what has happened. He tells us we are not some flawed, reprobate beings. He calls us his own children and he laughs and delights to see us come. Looking beyond is possible because he has already provided for it … and he invites us to see things as he does. He invites us to take his hand, experience his grace, and know we aren’t alone anymore.
May you find his peace in a new way today …