I pray this post never gets back to the woman who wrote this article for The Gospel Coalition, because the last thing I want to do is pour salt in the wounds of abuse. On the other hand, salt does cleanse, sanitize, and heal…..
I’m walking on eggshells here, because once again I don’t want to attack her or invalidate her pain. As a therapeutic letter, I bet this was really healing, too. She found her voice and that’s always a good thing. There are probably even some pastors who do need to hear her words, who are less than sensitive, bombastic and thoughtless even. All two or three of them…..probably all red pills, but I digress….
As for over-all advice for pastors in general however, this is just not working for me. In fact, it’s so dramatic, I imagine some young pastor-guy eager to please, eager to serve, now absolutely terrified to speak at all, least he trigger someone’s issues. While I empathize deeply, our gal is basically now afraid of……The Word.
In order to make her feel safe, which you can never really do fully, you’re going to have to avoid any discussion of marriage, men, women, authority, any references to Ephesians, Colossians, or Peter. Scratch divorce, family, or love, too, and Genesis is obviously out. Even positive examples of such things are going to trigger, to open up new wounds, to cause regret or sadness.
While you’re at it, if you could just avoid any mention of potential sin on the part of women at all, that would be quite lovely, too…..Sorry, just thought I’d sneak that one in for myself….
She admits to having PTSD symptoms, she speaks of being hypervigilant, she says, “I am filled with dread, particularly if I don’t know you well enough to anticipate what you’re going to say. My heart starts to race, my breathing gets shallower, and I’m sitting on the edge of my seat. I go into “fight or flight” mode.”
Poor girl, she so needs healing, and mentors and discipleship. He is called the Great Physician for a reason, that reason being we are NOT defined by our issues, we are not designed to remain broken forever, we are not called to try to change the whole world so that what ails us can be perpetually accommodated and……embraced as the entire state of our being.
This may sound harsh, but one of the best things a brave man ever said to me was, Suck it up buttercup. You aren’t a victim. I assure you at the time I was quite the bug on more than a few people’s windshields, so I get it. This poor man was an even worse piece of collateral damage than I was, and so his words resonated, they spoke truth to me.
We must not surrender our very identity to what has happened to us. The personal is not political. Our suffering, our grief, our wounding, our sin, is not necessarily an indication of a flawed church or bad teachings. There really are flawed churches and bad teachings, but even being subjected to spiritual abuse and bad teaching requires you to eventually take some personal responsibility, ask yourself why you stayed, why you allowed it to continue to do harm to you. And to others.
When something triggers you in the bible, in The Word being spoken, in something a Pastor says, take it to God right away. Pray, ask Him about it. Often where it hurts, is the precise spot the Lord wants to heal, because He loves us.
I know everyone heals at a different pace, that grief can last a long time, but some people are busy nurturing offense and wounds longer than other people have even been alive, and their past, their story, is now their entire state of being, their very identity. It should not be.
She says of Pastors, “You have the power to trigger powerful feelings of condemnation and shame in me.” This should not be, either. “In Christ there is no condemnation” and no one, absolutely no one, is more powerful than Him. No one can trigger anything in you without your permission, and the Lord’s permission, too. Anytime you are feeling condemned and shamed, take it to the Lord immediately, because He heals. If it isn’t yours, He will wash you clean….or point you to what you need to take a look at and then wash you clean. Either way, you will be clean.
It saddens me that The Gospel Coalition, that this woman, will likely be valued, praised, for what amounts to being a victim, to remaining in a state of brokeness, to having placed her own injustice and the harm done to her, above the healing power of the Lord and His Word. Already I have seen so much praise heaped upon this letter, very few being able to hear what is actually being said.
Our own empowerment as women is not in how much we have been wronged and harmed, or how much we have suffered, but in how much He has made us whole. Part of that process of being “made whole” comes from pastors who stand in the truth of the Word, fearlessly.