|Holy Healing for Abuse Scars—Tom Lemon, Board Chairman Emeritus|
Let me begin with a very broad generality. Males in positions of authority have been taking advantage of females regularly for millennia. More bluntly: abusing women in their spheres of influence. Even Adam was, in the simplest terms, a wife abuser. It happened very early on when he blamed Eve for tempting him into sin. Abraham, Isaac, Samson, David, Solomon, and other men the Bible describes in very glowing terms, were abusers of women at one point or other in their life journeys.
Abraham lied about his relationship with his wife Sarah, twice. In both instances he put her in grave real danger to save himself from a perceived threat to his life. Isaac did the same thing with Rebecca. And there was so much intrigue and macabre behavior in the stories of Samson so as to more than exhaust the space allotted to this essay.
In every case, the feelings are not difficult to picture. Can you imagine the stabbing heart pain Eve endured as Adam laid the blame for his sin at her feet? Can you imagine the embarrassment of Sarah as she is taken into the housing unit used by Pharoah’s harem? Can you imagine the terror in the eyes of the women deceived by Samson’s promises, and then betrayed by his incredibly weak strength? Or the helplessness of Bathsheba? Or the feelings of worthlessness by any/all of Solomon’s women? Or the despair by the woman taken in adultery in John 8? And we could go on. Abuse of this sort is so painful; it hurts just to imagine it.
And we have said nothing about Lot’s daughters or the gang rape and murder of the concubine in the last chapters of Judges.
It happens so often in the Bible that it would almost seem “normal.” But in every case, the abusive male (or males) was called to account by none other than God himself. None of them “got away with it.” And the conversations that occur between those men and God as recorded by the Bible’s scribes almost always employ judgment language. In every case there was a price to pay. A very heavy price.
Abraham was kicked out of Egypt and sent back to Canaan in the middle of a major famine; his lack of faith embarrassingly exposed. Isaac was forced to leave the well-watered pastureland of East central Canaan for the parched, rocky Negev near Beersheba. Samson was doubled-crossed by Delilah but only because as an enemy agent she beat him to the punch. He lost his eyes and eventually his life. David lost four sons violently and he totally forfeited the respect of his people. Solomon would have been far better known for even deeper wisdom if he had applied it to himself personally.
No doubt if you are reading this you have been abused or know someone well who has been abused. In our day it is so common as to seem almost normal. And yet when it comes at the hands of a pastor or teacher or spiritual leader, it seems to cut with a little more pain, even a lot more pain. With a spiritual leader inflicting the hurt, the temptation is to think that God caused your suffering or at least was or is indifferent to it. More than one person has come to me over the years with the concern “does God really love me?” It is a question that lurks in the back of the mind of every victim of clergy sexual abuse.
I want to assure you that it was not God’s will for you to be abused. Any more than it was God’s will for David to take Bathsheba and murder her faithful and loyal husband. But having been abused God, by his Spirit, is more than willing to walk with you through this valley out of the darkness and into the light of healing grace. In fact, without that grace, getting past the pain will take a very long time, if ever.
The Hope of Survivors is a ministry whose existence is to provide a friendly place, an emotional home as it were in which to experience that grace without fear of any kind. Having been through abuse of the most debilitating and discouraging form, the leaders (and volunteers) know what you are dealing with.
If you are a victim, please know that even if your abuser has appeared to have escaped human accountability, there is still the divine judgment ahead. And yes, while we all want justice to be served, it is also important to recognize that your healing is not dependant on what happens to your abuser. Your healing will not come because he “gets his” in the end. It will occur because you have come into the presence of One whose very nature is to restore, rebuild, and remake our lives into His divine image all over again.
It is significant to note that not all males abuse women even though it may appear that way—even in Scripture. But what really matters is to recognize that healing is available; over time the heart is restored; the mind is transformed; the emotions are calmed; and hope is renewed. At The Hope of Survivors we pray that for you.
Tom Lemon is currently serving as V.P for Administration of the Mid-America Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He and his wife, Jan, have been married for 34 years and they have two adult children.