What if you let the words in? What if you let the words grow until they screamed to be released? What if you spoke up?
About once a year we would have one of those life-changing services. Someone testified about their life “before The Body”. I could always feel the wind of the Spirit stir when this happened. And sure enough, as soon as they handed the microphone back to the person carrying it around for the service, a sister would head to the piano and another sister or two would head to the microphone.
Normally, the selected song would be heaven on earth. The Spirit would descend and the place would break out in prayer and worship. If you’ve never witnessed a spirit-led alter call, but not an alter call…it’s amazing. It is one of the few things I miss about the place.
However, sometimes the songs were misguided. In particular, one that is probably WAY more dear to others who grew up in Portland than me, made me cringe. I don’t remember all the words, but I can still hear the melody and see the faces of those who sang it.
If you see me stumble…just keep it a secret and pray.
The song speaks of our need to avoid iniquity or gossip. It’s a very subtle way of learning that we shouldn’t judge, but go to the Father and pray. However, it protects those who are doing wrong and puts the burden of sin on those they harm. With that type of belief, how could I even begin to tell others that I had been molested…by my father…a man they all knew ?
Even as I kept my silence from those around me, including my husband, my little girl was struggling to find her voice. What would happen if I just spoke up? The thought was terrifying. So, I began to look for others to rescue me, to save me from the silence.
But where did my help come from? It certainly did not come from others in the church. It did not come from my husband or my husband’s parents. It certainly did NOT come from my pastor. My help came from the ones who prompted me to open my mouth.
I’ll call her Matilda. I’m not very fond of her, but I am thankful for the years she tried to pull me out of the darkness. One of my last sessions with her we discussed telling my mother what had happened.
“What do you think will happen if you tell your mom the truth about your dad?”
I looked at her. Although I had been working with her for 9 years, I was still hedging my answers with her. She had never earned my trust; I was always afraid there was a right answer and I didn’t know it. I measured my words carefully.
“She won’t believe me.”
Now, WHY I thought that about my mother, I have NO idea. One of my mother’s biggest heartbreaks was that I quit talking to her. I don’t ever remember telling my mom I was afraid or upset and she didn’t believe me. I couldn’t answer Matilda why I thought she wouldn’t believe me. So her response was to make me explore my mother not believing me. Which, *MAY* be a great therapy tool, but for me it was NOT a good thing. The idea of hurting my mother, risking losing my mother was not an option for me. It left me angry at the person who was supposed to help me.
Later, I began to explore the idea. Why? Why was I not able to speak up to my mother about what happened to me? Why did I believe that she would not believe me?
Because I did not BELIEVE MYSELF.
What set me free? A blogger named Julie Ann. She spoke boldly about her experience of being spiritually abused by her pastor. As I was trying to unravel myself from the cult, the words wove a path to freedom. As she talked about how abuse had wounded her soul, I began to see my wounds. Through her I connected with childhood sexual abuse advocates who gave me understanding of what happened to me. The language expanded my path to freedom.
In 2014 I broke my public silence. I sat down at my computer and I wrote about The Boy. And then I wrote about my dad. Eventually I would also write about other boys. I spoke up. And what happened?
My momma believed me. My husband believed me. Others believed me.
And others did not believe me. Or, if they believed me, they were not quite sure what to do with what I told. They felt shame. They felt awkward. Apparently, someone felt my words were violating and abusive. I made some of my family angry. At one particular point my momma let me know a sibling was upset because I talked about things they would rather forget. I forced others to admit that the man they knew…he was not who they thought he was. And they were angry…at me. I had others take it out on my husband. “Why do you let her say those things? Aren’t you worried about your kids reading this? Aren’t you embarrassed by her?” Those comments hurt the most.
But I kept writing. Because I knew that on the other side of the mess and angry people was freedom from the pain I felt. If they didn’t like the mess, they didn’t have to stick with me. I was no longer going to be chained by their lack of courage.
I’m on the other side now. I moved on, for the most part, from the raw anger. I have moments where I feel peace and love more than hate and chaos. I love my life. And I am even thankful for the lessons the pain taught me.
It’s why I find myself listening to others and wanting to cry. They speak of freedom, but all I hear is the chains. They talk about their divorce, emancipation, layoff…whatever relationship they have ended. And in their story, I hear the chains of responsibility that is not theirs. They may have left the abuse, but the abuse still holds them firmly in its grip.
I want to ask them: What would happen if you spoke up? What would happen if you told the truth? What would happen if you didn’t allow others to make you responsible? What would happen if instead of hiding the sin, you exposed it?
I want to ask others: What would happen if instead of turning away from sin, you would look at it? What would happen if instead of walking away, you walked toward the victim and stood between them and their abuser/oppressor? What would happen if you spoke up and fought for them?
In Proverbs 31 King Lemuel’s mother teaches her son oracles. Scholars believe this is Solomon. Bathsheba was the mother of King Solomon. Yes, THAT woman. Here’s what she says to her son. For context you can read Proverbs 31:1-9. I am reading from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version (TLV).
“Open your mouth on behalf of those unable to speak, for the justice of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
When I look at my country, culture, and community I see great pain. I see abuse of power and oppression of the vulnerable. I see great confusion and division. And I see those who would rather turn their head away than see. I hear those who would rather speak than listen. I feel those who would rather hide than stand in the light. Yet in the midst, after a decade of a path to freedom, I feel a hope like I can’t describe.
Jesus knew this. “What would happen if I spoke up? What would happen if I opened my eyes and ears? What would happen if I let my heart and understanding grow? ” He found the answer in the scriptures
The Spirit of Adonai Elohim is on me, because Adonia has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of Adonai’s favor and the day of our God’s vengeance, to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Isaiah 61:1-3
What would happen if you spoke up? What would happen if I spoke up? What would happen if we all spoke up? What would happen if truth was told and lies were put to rest? Freedom. Peace. Joy. The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
May we be courageous to speak boldly, humble enough to tell of God’s heart for humanity and strong enough to move mountains.
Peace my friends.