I grew up in a family that had a lot going on behind the door, but the outward version of my family was pretty normal. I played sports, went to slumber parties, was in Girl Scouts, went to youth group and Sunday school. It was always required to go to Sunday school, and honestly there was a lot of fun to be had.
I played in the church bell choir, I was an acolyte (lighting candles and other pre-service duties), went on a "choir tour" with my youth group and would attend Sunday services with my family. At a young age into my teens I went to church to be with my friends. Social time was important. I could hang out with my friends at all the different church things I did each week. As the years went on I was learning about the bible, what was expected of me and believing all that was put in front of me. I felt very torn, as my brain tormented over the outward version of myself and the hidden person I had to be. I wondered if God saw what was going on, I wondered if my prayers were being heard.
As the years went on my family went to several churches. The abuse came out in 1993 and my abuser was sentenced in 1994. I struggled with the idea of him being forgiven and given the same opportunities as me. I heard of his thinking he had done nothing wrong and being kicked out of treatment and labeled as the pedophile that wasn't amenable to treatment.
I was married, had kids and put them in a private christian school. I was plugged into a church, volunteered for both the church body and for the children's ministry. But the mental anguish over my "Christianity" and my past continued to eat away at me. How could an all-knowing good God allow for a child to be raped, molested, sodomized, emotionally and physically abused over and over and over again. How is that possible? I grappled with this idea for many many years.
Then came time for his prison release. I filed for a lifetime restraining order and the reality set in that he would be out in society, doing as he pleases. At the hearing, for the protection order, he had two "pastors" write letters on his behalf from the prison. They stated how my abuser had made amends for his choices, how God had forgave him, and that there shouldn't be a restraining order upon him. That he wasn't a violent man and that he deserves to live his life.
The commissioner read my abusers statement. He said how happy he was to be a grandfather and how he wanted nothing more than the family to come back together. He hadn't done anything wrong and that he wasn't violent. That God had forgiven him and that he was walking in path of the Lord.
Again I cringed. I was glad the Commissioner saw through the statements and granted the lifetime restraining order for myself and my children. But what resonated with me was the statements of forgiveness and how he should be able to go on about his life and have his family back.
He made a choice. His choices of abuse, made him lose his family forever. There was no question. There is nothing that he can do or say to take back what he did. I have heard it all, "Of course he's forgiven in the eyes of God." "God only gives you what you can handle." The list goes on.
All of this writing to say, faith, I have it. What is my faith in? Good question. I believe that there is something bigger, I believe that I am who I am today, because of what I have been through in my 45 years on this planet. I believe and have faith in LOVE, for all people. I have faith in strength and community. I have faith in people. I believe that we can come together and do things that no other species can do. I believe in the wonder of life.
I don't know where all of my faith comes from. I have gone away from the church and back again and away again. I have been with God to go away from God and around and around. Although I can't put a name on my faith or tie my faith to anyone thing - I will say that I believe we belong to each other and there there is no such thing as other people's children.
So as I hear of people being treated unfairly, people being shunned by beliefs, people being judged because of who they love, people battling hate and discrimination - I hope and dream and wish and pray for LOVE and acceptance. For those that love and accept unconditionally, those people, impact their families, their communities, their cities, states, nations - those people become the people everyone wants to be with and around. Those are the people impacting the world - being the change - movers and shakers.
I challenge us all to open our eyes and our hearts - and truly feel love. Teach love. Be love.
"Being silent and hidden is no longer an option." -pennie saum