the Hope of Survivors

Healing the Craziness—Tom Lemon, Chairman of THOS Board and President of the MN Conf. of Seventh-day Adventists

(From the January 2009 edition of HopeSpeak)

Tom LemonIt was hard to remember when life started going crazy for her. It had been a long time ago, and there was a nearly completed cone of sand in the bottom of her hour-glass. No, it wasn’t that she was so old, she just felt that way; tired, helpless and old. But while the details of the early memories eluded her consciousness, there was no mistaking the bruising, the cutting, the split lip, the torn clothing, the pulled hair, the black eyes, and the taunting jeers in her ears as she was dragged through the dawn’s early hours toward the place of execution. A rock pile, kept for that purpose, was just outside of town.

She was too exhausted from the previous night’s abuse to put up much of a fight, and besides it was a whole gang of grown men, pious men, righteous men, leading men, triumphant men against one tired, worn out woman, what could she do? She didn’t have a prayer’s chance of surviving this one. 

It seemed odd to her at the moment, she had actually at first gone to one of them seeking some help, seeking spiritual encouragement and enlightenment. She had been referred by a friend. But even her friend had no idea what would happen.

And at the beginning she seemed to get what she wanted; an understanding heart, a wise, even common sense level of advice. What she didn’t know until it was far too late, was she was not really getting the help she sought. Instead, she was being used, set up really, for one of the weirdest most desperate plots human deviants could concoct. As her counselor got more and more information from her that he could use, he began to subtly apply pressure for payment of a different type. And then he referred her to others and to still others, all of them going after the same thing. No, not her healing; but her total subjugation in an attempt to trap the man they knew would take her side.

So while it started with prayer for her, it was ending with her becoming the prey and the unwitting victim. It had become crazy making in her head. No longer able to trust the churchmen, no longer able to trust their version of god, no longer able to know if the real God even cared or had a will for her, a plan for her life, if she was even on his radar; no longer even wondering too much anymore. 

She could never have foreseen it all ending in a lethal hailstorm of large rocks. And suddenly, those dragging her by the hair, those laughing at her disheveled and torn rags, those leering at her embarrassment, stopped. Was this the end? Were they at the place already? She looked out from behind her bloodied, matted hair and all she could see were men’s robes from the ground up to the knees and they seemed to be negotiating something, she couldn’t quite tell what. But she was still alive, the pain told her that much.

One of those robes knelt down at the edge of that circle of church leaders and began to trace letters in the dust. Smooth dust on a hard surface. Looking more closely she identified the location as the temple itself. She wasn’t far from the very place she had first gone for help. 

Yes, her mind interrupted her, she deserved to die. After all she had committed the “A” sin and more than once with more than one of them, more than once. It had seemed so much to be part of the process, part of the healing they promised, healing she desperately needed. But it was sin, they said, and sin meant death. Hers, not theirs. Now they had her where they wanted her and began to shout and jeer again as the man tracing his finger through the sand obviously and pointedly ignored them. His determined silence infuriated them. But it gave her some level of hope or time—or did it?

Finally looking up for a moment he said, “Yes the law says stone her. So go ahead and stone her.” She cringed awaiting that first chunk of limestone. Would it hurt very badly? Would it take very long to die? Would she die of blood loss or blunt force trauma or both? “Yes, go ahead and stone her, but…” And a pause that hung in the air for what seemed like a lifetime and then “…but the first rock must be thrown by the one of you who has never sinned at all.” Again she ducked her head and gathered her rags about her trying to die with some last fiber of dignity. And the stranger kept writing…

Nothing—she waited and still nothing. Her only sensory input was just the sound of shuffling shoes on the dusty rocks of the temple area. She looked up again, the crowd had thinned. And then, in fact, they were all gone. She was alone again—alone with the only one still there. The only one who could have thrown the first stone, the one would never throw a stone at all. Only the two of them. He spoke kindly… “Where are those who would condemn you? Is there none left to accuse?”

For the first time she found her voice; it cracked softly with tears. “No sir, they are all gone.”

“I don’t condemn you either—go and leave your life of sin.”

And in His voice, in His grace, her life was restored, her value made real, her future given back to her and a new life to live. Instinctively, she knew He knew the truth—she had been victimized. He knew the real story—she had been set up to get to him, to test and trap him. He knew her heart, her soul. He knew that what she had suffered was not her inner identity. He would never let it become her identity. Yes she had been victimized, but in His voice, in His grace, she was a victim no more. And in that she found a Friend, a Savior, a King; a God who loved her without condition, and in that love her emotional/spiritual sanity was restored. Her life returned.

John 8And so, with varying details, twenty-first century victims of clergy sexual abuse suffer what this woman in John 8 suffered. Seeking emotional/spiritual help, they become victims of clergy predators. They are victims who are then blamed for what was done to them in an attempt to mask or distract attention or somehow justify the perpetrators. No they are not taken out and executed with stones, but they are often treated emotionally in much the same way. One victim said to me when she had lost every church relationship that mattered to her, “This is crazy making.” 

But then along comes Jesus, and those who truly follow in His footsteps. Yes, believe it or not, there are church leaders in whom you can trust, who won’t use you, who won’t condemn you, who will point you to healing. You can go to places like The Hope of Survivors and be put back on track with the Savior once again. 

You can be sure that this woman in John 8, like so many down through the ages, found in Jesus a new start, a new opportunity, a whole new life. At The Hope of Survivors, we wish that for you; we pray that for you; we offer that to you. 

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18