Some posts leave you breathless. This is one of those. No words - just tears at the bravery of my dear friend who decided to share.
::Trigger Warning - Rape Apologism, Molestation, Spiritual Abuse::
It's a miracle I survived at all.
No one wants this story. No one signs up for it. No one volunteers. When you hear stories of abuse in the church it seems like this far off horrible thing that is happening. You may pray and ask God to protect and heal, you may even shed a tear or two...but what do you do when it is not so far off? What do you do when it is someone you love? What do you do when it is your brother, sister, daughter, or friend? What do you do when it is you...?
I didn't want to share this story. Not in the least bit. Others who have walked where I have walked don't need me to speak up for them...I need to speak up for me. They haven't lost their voice, but somewhere along the line I have seemed to have lost mine. So this is me. This is me taking it back.
It's hard for a 12 year old to decipher the meaning of "Spiritual Abuse" much less point it out when it's happening. Who am I kidding, its still hard for me to even think this could possibly qualify as spiritual abuse.
The church I grew up in looked like any other small baptist church on any given street corner in the Bible Belt. Pretty stained glass windows, nice pointy steeple, and enough floral print dresses to last a lifetime. For the first 11 years of my life there was only one pastor at this small church and he was a man who deeply loved Jesus and his people. He was kind and generous. Humble and strong. He was a great man that would be greatly missed as his family moved north to lead another congregation.
After the search committee brought in the rounds of young guys vying for their first pastor gig the church finally decided to "call" a man in his early 40's with the "cutest little family you've ever seen". Things started off normal I suppose. I mean, what 11 year old can tell the difference in preaching style when almost every southern baptist preacher sounds exactly.the.same. I thought it was odd that he often spoke of himself in the third person. He loved the praise of people and most times took credit for all those amazing "church programs" that were put into place. He was oblivious to the fact that everyone hated those damn things. "If you really love Jesus..." he would say in order to get every bible believing person to exercise their "gift" of service and hospitality. And sure enough, in order to get those jewels in their crowns, people lined up. Hook. Line. Sinker. For some reason, people adored him. I could never figure that part out. I was 12 and AWKWARD...but even my awkwardness didn't seem to compare to the trouble he had in regular conversation.
Enter stage left: the pastors kid. For the sake of story, we can call him Andrew. (This is not his real name, so no worries, my goal here is to tell my story NOT to throw him under the bus.) He was the star athlete. Not just football player. Athlete. If it was a sport and it was in season, he was playing and he was "the best out on the field...who knows he might even get a scholarship." Just like his father, everyone adored him. He was cute and funny and smart and talented. I mean, really, what wasn't there to like about him.
The youth building that sat right behind the main church building was old and constantly smelled like sweaty teenagers. But for some odd reason I couldn't wait until I was "promoted" and got to enter legally. There were pool tables, foosball, tons of awesome couches, video games, and loud music. Who wouldn't want in on that, right? 12 years old. Finally granted entrance. I told you, I was awkward, so I was drawn into the small back room with the big screen television and mario kart racing. The room was probably only technically big enough for 4 or 5 people but often there would be 8 or 9 crammed in there, packed like sardines, in order to successfully complete a video game tournament. "This is the life" I thought. "It doesn't get much better than this."
Andrew was welcoming. Very much so. He was the pastors kid he had to be, right? On quite a few occasions I was paired up with him in one of the "epic" video game tournaments and we got along quiet well. It was hard not to like him. Then one day everything changed.
He invited me out to the youth building one Wednesday afternoon under the guise of video games. I was in. Who in their right mind would pass that up? Things seemed all well and good...until they didn't anymore. I wasn't entirely sure what was happening, but I knew that it wasn't right. I remembered my parents saying something when I was younger about "the places your bathing suit covers" and how those places were off limits. So this, ALL of this, was strictly forbidden. When it was all over - sometimes I wonder why I didn't fight more, why didn't I do something, why didn't I run screaming out of that back room, why didn't I punch him in the face - he told me that I was now dirty...ugly...must have really been a disappointment to Jesus now. He told me that if I ever said anything that he would hurt my dog. I guess he knew how much I loved that dog...because I didn't say a word. Not at first anyway.
I lived through this nightmare only a couple more times before I decided I would gladly sacrifice my dogs life in order to be rid of this burden. Because my family was not a safe place, I, through broken sentences and vague words, explained as best I could what happened to a trusted youth intern. In order to keep matters "in the church" and allow him to get help that "won't ruin the rest of his life" I was advised to take the matter to the pastor and let him decide what needed to be done.
"You've had a rough year, surely my boy didn't..."
That has got to be some sort of conflict of interest, right?
Over the next several days, weeks, and years I was led to believe that somehow all this was my fault. Somehow I did or didn't do something in order to allow "sin into my life." This pastor found a way to leverage my parents sins and shortcomings against me, as if I had some part in the dissolving of their marriage, reinforcing the lie I had already come to believe.
There was sin in my house. I wasn't to be believed.
Sure, there was sin in my house...
but the part he missed was THIS SIN...this was in HIS house.
I wish it was more subtle. I wish there was a way I could convince myself that it wasn't a big deal, that it doesn't really matter. But the thing is, I know it matters. I just don't want the label. I don't want to be the girl who was molested repeatedly by a pastors son, believed the lie it was her fault, and then refused to speak of it because of guilt and shame over sins she DID NOT COMMIT. I wanted this to be a far off story that I would pray over and cry over and ask God to change. I never wanted it to be my story.
With these words I am leaving behind the guilt and shame I feel for his mistakes. I am walking with a limp, sure, but its a limp that I earned from long nights wrestling with God about who He says that He is and who He says that I am. It is not a limp that any boy gets to boast in.
I love Jesus so much it actually hurts. Despite all the proof-texting that reduced him to an angry father or a disappointed one, He somehow showed me how much he desperately he loves me. And for that I am grateful.
So yea, it's a miracle I survived the church. I am learning that the Church is so much bigger than a bunch of fools trying to get it all right. It is the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, in all its misery crying out to the God of healing. For it seems that we have wounded, and still wound, ourselves. So I'm begging Him to do some work.