Thanksgiving: God Within The Storm


With all that has taken place over the last year, finding things to be thankful for has not come as quickly or as easily as it has in years past.  My heart and mind have been dominated by the traumas I’ve experienced this year and their nearly equally traumatic fallouts, so it takes awhile to find God within the storm.  At first thought, it seemed like this Thanksgiving blog was going to end up as a snarky rant against those things, but as I reflect on what good there has been, no matter how small it may seem in comparison, I realize there may be more reason to be thankful than I thought.

It’s true that this year has seen the deepest wounds, the worst betrayals, and the biggest traumas than any other year.  Ones that have set me back, completely re-set my course, and changed me in ways I’m still figuring out.  But it has also seen some miracles that, while maybe small and inconspicuous, did serve to create even the possibility of survival and sanity.  For instance…what would I be doing right now if two certain friends had not taken compassion on me, offering me a safe place to live when I was completely desperate?  Where in the world would I be without the detective who has listened to every detail of my trauma (as well as all the roller-coaster of emotional fallouts of it) with the patience, understanding, insight, and wisdom of a saint?  Where would I be without the only two people in the entire world I can call ‘mom’ and ‘dad’?   Where would I be without the few friends who have stuck by my side throughout these storms…weathering them alongside me with compassion, encouragement, prayer, and support?  Where would I  be without the voices who have spoken for me when my own voice was terrified into silence, or simply just ignored by everyone that mattered?

I don’t even want to think about the answer.  I’d be homeless or in a bad living situation.  I’d have committed suicide in the dark pain of not having anyone understand what I was going through.  I’d be without the inherent feeling of safety knowing that I always have a ‘home’ with people who genuinely care for me, even though they aren’t obligated to.  I’d be lost, alone, or most likely just dead.  I’m not sure if ‘alive’ is the word you’d describe me now, but it would be so much worse without these people and their gifts to me.

And I realize that maybe that isn’t saying a whole lot.  Maybe it doesn’t sound like the most overwhelming statement to say “well, I guess I didn’t die this year….”  But it IS…because I probably should have.  On quite a few occasions, actually.  And it’s because of a handful of very specific people that I didn’t.  And for them, I have more gratitude than I will ever be able to express in words or deeds.

If you know me at all, you know I’m not the most emotionally expressive person in the world.  I feel a lot of things and am even pretty dang good at analyzing them.  But they always seem to get shown in ways that don’t get noticed.  Even so, for what it’s worth…I genuinely hope these people know the depth to which I feel their actions for me.  I hope they know that I carry them in my spirit and it gives me the strength to keep waking up…to keep trying…to (on whatever measly level I can manage) keep hoping.  When everything else is just so wrong, there are a few rights that keep me going.  And for those, I will always be so thankful.  You are God’s gifts to me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.



After We Were Killed

Last night, one of my best friends was raped by a guy she thought she could trust.  The pain…the fear…the confusion…the shock…the anger…the sorrow…I couldn’t tell which was hers and which was mine.

So many similarities…me…a year ago.  The man I trusted and believed was a friend…suddenly became possessed, taking pleasure in the terror that pinned me to my bed.. unable to move.  Too afraid to speak….why didn’t I fight?  My mind told my body to fight, but my mind and body had suddenly disconnected.  It told my mouth to speak, but there was no connection there either.  I remembered that I had already spoken…dozens of times…and yet here I was, still pinned to the bed.  My words didn’t matter anymore…and apparently never did.

My friend was stronger than me.  She spoke out, she made him leave…but not before it was too late.  She called the cops right away.  They told her it was “90% consensual” and they wouldn’t take a rape kit because it “wasn’t violent.”

Anger….rage wells up in my soul….

What part of “NO” is a percentage of consent???  Since WHEN does unwanted penetration come in forms of percentages??  She said NO.  NO IS ALWAYS 100%.  But not only that, she had discussed her boundaries about sex with him multiple times previous to the incident.  He knew.  He KNEW.  He knew exactly what he was doing.

So did my attacker.  And don’t think for a second that just because he didn’t jump out of the bushes with a gun or a knife that it wasn’t an attack.  That’s only for the movies.  This is far more insidious.  These snakes come to us as friends.  They earn our trust.  They tell us they respect us and love us.  They act safe and understanding until we let them close…and as as soon as we realize what’s really happening…it’s over.  They’re in and out before we ever saw it coming.

We are left in wreckage, shock, trauma, confusion, and anguish.  We call the police and they look at us like we’re crazy.  “Why did you wait so long?”  “Why were you in that situation?”  “Why didn’t you fight?”  The answer is…we didn’t know we needed to.  We trusted them.  We believed it when they said they respected us and we had no idea they were coming in for an attack.  We had no idea what was motivating them.  We thought they were friends.  Their intentions didn’t show until it was too late…we were trapped.  We didn’t even know we were being hunted until after we were killed.

People wonder why we are fearful.  We get shamed and rejected for being “too guarded” or careful.  We get scoffed at for asking questions or taking precautions.  We are told we will never get married.  Society shames us for not being open, available, willing…and when we are….we are raped.  We are used.  We are played with and then thrown away.  We are raped and told we were supposed to fight…but we’re not stupid.  I wasn’t that stupid.  The man was 6’2″, ex-military, carried weapons, and fought MMA.  I’m 5’2″ and 110 lbs on a fat day and have never had so much as a self-defense class.  I had previous trauma…my instinct was to freeze and pray for it to end as quickly as possible.  The paralysis of fear does not equal consent.  We get told we are bitches when our anger comes out and we are damned either way.  The police don’t believe us and the detectives won’t help us.  Some are good…but others don’t even care.  Some are on the wrong side.

It all just feels so hopeless.  So helpless.  So…much…anger.  It was not just our bodies that were raped.  Those men (if that’s what you can call them) raped our hearts, our minds, our souls, our identity, our femininity, our trust, our vulnerability, our courage, our friendship, our strength, and our personhood.  They took it all and nobody says anything.  It’s against the law for a reason…and yet we are the ones who get questioned while they move onto their next victim.  There is no justice anywhere and the harder we fight for it, the more we are rejected.  We’re just supposed to “lay down and take it?”  But then we are blamed for the crime if we do?

Lord, who will help us.  Who will love us…who will take these chains from us.  Help us, Abba, You are our only hope.

The Lies We Tell



So many lies.  Lies we live in, lies we believe, lies we speak.  Perceptions we cling to with no more truth than the fairy tales we make up, with egos and feelings creating the constructs that support our lies so we can live with them in peace.  We invent realities that conveniently cater to the most selfish, lazy, ignorant parts of ourselves and then we lie some more to negate responsibility for the damage they create.  We focus on everything but the sickness in our own hearts.  We are lazy, we are selfish, we don’t like seeing truth, and we’d rather discredit it and the people who speak it rather than move beyond our own ignorance.

We cling to our lies with our lives.  We love our fantasies about who we are and what the world is like.  We harbor them, foster them, and we protect them.  At best, we avoid the people who don’t follow along with them.  At worst, we seek to discredit them.  We either take the cowardly way and become passive aggressive, or we outright destroy them with gross displays of power and dominance.  Both are equally sick and evidence of our disease.  The slightest break in our self-deception, we turn into ravenous lions ready to spill blood at a moment’s notice.  Sometimes only moments after we’ve portrayed ourselves as innocent little kittens.  How deceived we are.  In one way or another, we kill the seers and their truth in order to protect our lies…our self-image…and the made-up constructs that keep us safe from admitting fault or taking personal responsibility.  In our most authentic core, we are murderers and liars.

We wonder.  We wonder why the God of the Old Testament was “angry” and why the God of the New Testament had to die.  We do not see that every ounce of His anger is just and that we are this sick from the moment we are born.  Jesus died because He spoke the truth to people who did not want to hear it…people who held the power to put Him on the cross to shut him up…and did.  It was the only way to create a possibility for us to be cured and God wanted that more than his own comfort.  Without the cross, we would be lost in our sickness forever.  Because of the cross, we now have a choice…a possibility to be cured.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

~Luke 14:26, 27 & 33

Whoever said that salvation is free was not being very clear.  Perhaps we did not pay for God to create the cure, but it will cost us everything we have to get it.  It costs our flesh, our comfort, our pride, our self-indulgence, our laziness, our cowardice, our lusts, our greed, our egos, and our false self-perceptions.  It costs our safety and our security.  It costs us being “right” and it costs us every worldly thing we love.  He loved us enough to tell us the truth about who we are, even though He knew we’d kill Him for it.  Even though He knew that most of us would look the other way and not believe it.  But He still did it, because some of us would be broken by the truth instead of hardened by it.  Some of us would struggle in our pain and reach out to Him…desperate.

He did it for the some who would desire His salvation and for them, He promised that His work on the cross would be enough.  And it is.  It is the hardness of His love that breaks the lies we tell and believe.  And it’s softness that, once broken, will reconstruct us with the skill and precision of a surgeon.  We will be made new, but it will always come at the cost of the lies we tell.






Love And Justice


“By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness…And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness- the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven- a senile benevolence who, as they say, liked to see young people enjoying themselves’…”

-C.S. Lewis; The Problem of Pain

The idea of God loving me has never been a particularly emotional reality.  To me, it has always been a fact – no more emotional than the sky being blue or the fact there’s a mall within driving distance of my house.  It’s a simple reality with associated realities that are logical outworkings of the first.  They make sense, and none of them require emotions in order to understand and accept, so I’ve never understood the people who get so worked up about it.  I confess I tend to stay away from those types – not because I think they’re wrong, but because it’s weird.  Getting emotional about uncomplicated facts means I’m likely to respond as though they’re acting like idiots (which I have not found to be a particularly helpful response with more emotional people…).

A big reason I don’t emotionally respond to love is that whenever I encounter the subject, it is usually completely separated from other equally important characteristics.  Like C.S. Lewis says, when talking about God’s love we usually just mean His kindness or desire to see us happy, but ‘senile benevolence’ is not really love (as much as some may like it to be).  Lewis goes on to say that God is not content with our personal happiness while we are deplorable creatures needing discipline, training, courage, maturity, or seeking after things that take us away from Himself.  Despite our objections, love necessitates that He stretches us, disciplines us, and grows us into more lovable creatures.  Additionally, there is no way to separate love from justice without them each becoming fundamentally different and undesirable.  Love without justice is mere pity.  It’s effectually worthless sentiment.  But justice without love is just plain cruelty and so the two must coexist in order to be good.  The truth is, if you want me to feel God’s love then we must begin the conversation somewhere other than kindness or benevolence.  We must begin with His truth.  We must talk about justice.

When God’s justice comes into question, so does His love and goodness.  Almost everyone I know who does not believe in God holds such beliefs because they cannot reconcile a loving and omniscient God with the amount of pain, suffering, and injustice they see or experience in the world.  And even though I understand the emotional hang-up, there is no direct correlation between human action and God’s goodness.  Instead of blaming people or ourselves for sufferings, we blame God and demand answers:  “If you’re so good and loving, then why did you sit back and allow (__Fill In The Blank__) to happen?”  “If you’re so good, then why didn’t you stop (__Fill In The Blank__)?”  We see a tiny picture and don’t understand the bigger one.  We demand explanations without actually wanting the answers…  We are fools.

The first time in my entire life that I questioned God’s love, I was really questioning whether or not He was just and good.  I was 24 years old and had been raped two years prior.  I had always been told that God was my Heavenly Father, but that didn’t make any sense.  I couldn’t process how God, who I assumed to be present during the rape and capable of preventing it, could be good (or just) if all He did was sit there and do nothing.  If He had been human and had sat in the corner and watched it happen without interfering in any way, how could anyone say that he loved me?  I literally could not process it and could not feel God’s love (or more accurately, I couldn’t feel His justice and goodness). I’ll never forget the day I genuinely asked, “God, if you love me and are my Father, how could you have just sat there and done nothing while he raped me?  That isn’t good or loving.”  I did not ask the question as an accusation, but rather as a desperate plea to understand the truth.  The moment I asked the question, I heard the answer in my spirit:

“Bethany, if I had interfered with him in that moment, I would’ve had to overrun his free will.  I would have had to take away the very thing that makes you and everyone else in the world human.  I would have temporarily forced him to be a mindless puppet, and then released him back to free will.  Taking away someone’s ability to choose renders their actions meaningless.  It renders love meaningless.  I can only love you and you can only love me if you choose me, and that means having the freedom to choose evil as well.  He chose evil, but I could not take away that choice.”

And in that moment, I understood.  And in that understanding, I was loved.   That answer didn’t return what had been robbed of me, but God honored me by speaking truth into my heart and helping me understand Him and that is what fixed my relationship with Him.  I knew that I was loved and the feeling came by being told the truth.  It came from having God speak to me and tell me the truth no matter how hard it was to understand.  From then on, I realized there were bigger things at play than my own personal happiness and that what I was asking God to do by “saving me” from being hurt would actually be an unloving thing to do in the bigger picture.  It helped put my upbringing and all the abuse of my life into perspective.  For all the injustice of my life, I realized that God has to allow for the possibility to choose evil over good because that is the only thing that makes the good worth something.  God gives us the freedom to choose evil if we so desire, even with the knowledge that we will abuse it and use it against one another and Him.  Yet He still offers it, knowing that our choice to love and to be with Him is only made valuable by having the freedom to do otherwise.

God fixed the truth into my heart that day, but Satan was not finished with me yet.  Six years after the rape, I went through a different trauma that made the first feel like a walk in the park.  And this time, the previous truths didn’t apply, nor did they explain the pain I was experiencing.  The second trauma was not my fault, but I blamed myself for it anyways and nothing took away that specific type of suffering. For some reason, the only thing my emotions wanted to do was turn on myself and as the host of self-condemning messages flooded me, I was instantly separated from God – totally alienated from His truth, love, or justice.  Logically, I could tell myself I wasn’t responsible for someone else’s choices and actions, but my feelings and emotions still condemned me regardless and there’s no way to combat that.  You can’t repent for something someone else did – even if you feel responsible for it.  No matter how hard I searched, there was no justice or solid truth anywhere, and the concept of free will didn’t apply.  There was genuinely only one thing, and that was complete and utter darkness.  Condemnation and darkness.  I begged for God to speak to me the way He did before, desperate for an answer or some word that would help me understand how or why it happened.  But the answer never came and I was forced to question once again whether or not God loved me or cared – whether He was just or good.  It took weeks after the traume for me to even think straight and much longer to feel anything other than panic or numbness.   It has now been 8 months since and I can’t say much has circumstantially changed, but I have learned a few things.

I’ve learned there is a level of brokenness that goes deeper than any words can describe, and trying to describe it only cheapens it.

I’ve learned that Satan is real and active in this world, and that denying that fact only makes us accomplices to it.

I’ve learned that ignorant people are just as dangerous as evil ones.

I’ve learned that some people legitimately do not choose their actions, but they give their hearts to Satan and that still makes them responsible.

I’ve learned that I can relate to nearly anyone, but almost no one can relate to me.

I’ve learned there are some things to which only silence can do justice.  Some things can only be experienced, not spoken, and the best way to communicate an understanding is simply in a look, a touch, or a kiss.  But mostly…silence.

I’ve learned that the people who think they know how to help, usually don’t.

I’ve learned that God is not always going to exact justice in my timing.  I’ve learned to trust that in the end, it will come…and it will be worse than anything I can imagine myself.

I’ve learned that Jesus didn’t get justice in His lifetime either, but He still loved God and so should I.

I’ve learned that God isn’t always going to answer my questions, but He is going to love me and sometimes that brings unspeakable pain.

I’ve learned that God loves me enough to break my illusions about love into a zillion pieces.  He loves me enough to walk with me through the pain of that, and give me the experiences that allow me to relate to Him more.  He loves me enough to hurt me with the truth even when it nearly destroys me.

I’ve learned that God loves me enough to turn me into the image of His son.  And His son was betrayed, beaten, bruised, and broken so I should really start getting used to it.

I’ve learned that it is people who are evil, twisted, abusive, selfish, and stupid…not God.

More than anything, I’ve learned that love is not easy.  It does not feel good.  It does not always make sense and it does not equal happiness or contentment.  I’ve learned that love is always in the truth, no matter what that feels like, and that perfect justice will come in the end – even when there is absolutely none within the circumstances in which I live. I’ve learned that God is good, He is Love, and He is just.  I have learned to love him, understand him, relate to him, and believe in Him more now than I ever have before, even if He did allow the gates of hell itself to swallow me whole.  I’ve learned that He is perfect, He is trustworthy, and He is true.  And I’ve learned that love and justice will always coexist in perfect harmony with Him, whether I see it with my own eyes or not, and that I would be a disparaging fool to doubt it.