A few years ago, I received a phone call from someone who got my number from a friend. She was at a point in her life where everything seemed to be falling apart. Marriage issues, kid issues – just stuff.
But, as I listened to her, something in me felt like I needed to take the conversation another direction. I quietly heard God encourage me to ask her about what happened to her when she was 14. He gave me that specific age and told me to focus in on an event that happened that year.
I waited for a pause.
I then asked her, what happened when you were 14?
You could have heard a pin drop on the other end.
She slowly said she hadn’t talked about that year since it happened. Like at all.
I gently asked again, what happened?
I could hear her voice shake as she recounted a horrific event where she had been kidnapped and held captive while she was sexually assaulted – repeatedly for days.
Tears are stinging my eyes as I am writing this because I can still feel the pain in her voice as she talked for the first time about it…she was still broken. Still so wounded. The damage was affecting her every day life.
But, God wanted to heal her.
It was time.
She and I spent time a lot of time together that year. There were many tears. There was a lot of anger. But, friends, there was a LOT of Jesus.
I watched this strong, amazing woman blossom into a mighty warrior. If you could only see her now….burning holes in her livingroom floor in prayer, praying over her children, sharing her story with young girls, impacting the world around her. She’s amazing.
But it isn’t her.
Everything amazing you see in her is Jesus.
Like ALL OF IT.
This story is my point of reference when I think about rape. This is where my mind goes. It pierces my soul because I’ve seen firsthand the long term damage it brings.
But, while meeting this friend, I was confronted with questions like:
Anna, what about verses that say, “you must forgive*” and “love your enemies and those who despitefully use you?*” Seriously this CAN’T APPLY TO RAPE?!?
*Matt 6:14-15 and Matt 5:44
I will tell you what I told my sweet friend.
Rape is horrifying.
Rape is ruthless.
Rape is violent.
Rape is demonic.
Rape is one of THE WORST forms of assault.
I hate that it happens. I hate what it does to it’s victims. I hate it. ALL of it.
And, so does God.
God doesn’t excuse the rapist’s behavior. No matter if the judicial system defends them or not. God sees. God hears. And believe me, sisters and brothers, HE IS A JUST GOD.
One thing that has been very misunderstood inside of church is forgiveness. (WOW. I could write a book on it. Oh wait I already did Forgiveness is not an Option) 🙂
Forgiveness has been so watered down. So legalized and so distorted that it’s almost unrecognizable.
One character trait (of God) that has helped me understand so much of scripture is His primary goal in sending Jesus: to bring healing (Isaiah 61)
That’s it. No strings attached, no clauses. Just to heal you. To make right everything that this messy world has made wrong. It’s just that beautiful.
He is the most patient, gentle, loving healer I’ve ever met.
He is in it for the long haul.
He’s in it for restoration.
He won’t stop until you’re better than you were before those wrongs ever happened.
I’m trying to become like Him in this way….it’s difficult because our world isn’t set up like that. Everything is quick and harsh. Everything is categorized and put into a box with a label on it.
BUT HE’S NOT LIKE THAT.
When you look at scripture through that lens, with that God motive behind it, it starts to make a whole lot more sense.
Especially with forgiveness.
When He encourages us to forgive, it isn’t because he wants us to say that we’re now suddenly okay with what that person did. Nor is it about us “forgetting” what happened. (In fact scripture teaches very much the opposite)
He desires our freedom. Remember, his motive is our healing.
Forgiveness allows us to open our hand and release that event. So that we are no longer tied to it. So that we no longer have to relive it. When we are no longer attached, He can begin to heal us.
Those painful events, whether rape or something else, are toxic. It’s like holding a bag of poison inside your hand. It will rot and decay everything around it. Eventually the decay will spread from your hand to your entire body. Eventually it will cause your system to break down.
God loves us.
He doesn’t want that horrific event to steal your joy, your peace, your wholeness or the life He has planned for you.
He wants us healed.
He wants us free from what happened.
When we forgive, we are simply placing that toxic event into His hands. We choose to let go of the outcome. We trust Him to be the judge, whether on this side of heaven or the other. He trust Him to deal with our offender.
And we release them and the event to Him.
Isaiah talks about this exchange beautifully:
(Jesus will bring)…comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
I’ve lived this passage.
I’ve watched others live this also.
I believe this exchange is one of the most powerful things that happens earth.
When I’ve personally walked through forgiving painful events, my prayer goes something like this:
“Father, they hurt me when they did _________. It made me feel________!!! But, I trust you. I choose to forgive them. I want to be free from what happened. Please heal what they did to me. Please heal me and set my heart free”
This prayer sometimes only takes me once. Sometimes, I have to say it multiple times throughout the day, depending on the gravity of what happened. Every time I remember the event, I say that prayer.
Friends, it is LIFE CHANGING. It moves that person or event out of my heart and mind, and places the most loving, kind, healing presence in it’s place instead.
Okay, Anna, but what about loving that person. Seriously? You can’t love a rapist.
My friend and I walked through this. It was a slow journey. But, this is where we landed: she prayed for them.
It was painful.
It was extremely difficult.
But, she forced her lips to do it.
She didn’t do it for those people.
She did it for herself.
And it set her heart free.
Man – I can’t even contain what’s going on inside my heart as I’m writing this….
If we, the church, could grasp this. If we could really understand this. If we could really live like this. We could then maybe impart this to the hurting world around us.
What a different church we would become.