The War Drums Beat


On Sunday morning, I arrived early for an appointment and stopped at a local park to drink some coffee and wait.  This is what I saw.  Immediately I recognized this scene from the last dream I had (see Dream Of Martial Law).  This is almost exactly what I saw in my dream, except in my dream the moon was much closer and bigger.

I sat here praying.  Praying for God’s Spirit to move upon His people to bring them closer to him and to protect them.  Praying for God’s Spirit to move and convict the lost and bring them into the fold of His protection.  Praying for my own heart and soul.

The last two days have felt very heavy in the Spirit.  A seriousness and solemness along with a sense of alertness.  The Spirit has been convicting me of sin in deeper ways and bringing my own heart into a deeper sense of repentance.  The urgency feels tangible.  The heat of the Spiritual battles going on right now are intense.

I pray that all those who are marked by Christ be found safely in the shadow of His wings.  I pray that all those who are lost will run full-speed into that safety…before the Spiritual battle reveals itself in the physical…because it’s close.  So close that if you put your ear to the ground, you can hear the war drums beat.

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Sexual Assault Awareness Project

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I wholeheartedly agree.  Photography has the power to convey an emotion or experience in ways that words simply can’t no matter how many are written or said.

Part of healing trauma is finding a way to process the painful emotions in a way that breaks their hold on the mind and body.  One of the best ways to do this is by finding creative, non-linear ways of expressing the painful and frightening emotions that are quite often too painful (or buried too deeply) to access in a more direct way.  Music, poetry, painting, dance, photography, etc..these are all very common creative expressions that can prove to have powerful healing effects for victims.  For me, well, I’ve always been partial to photography…

Last winter, my therapist noticed I was stuck in my ability to move past the sexual assault I experience a couple years prior.  While I was beginning to understand what really happened to me, I just couldn’t shake the pain and despair of such seemingly senseless violence.  The injustice of everything I experienced, including being silenced and shamed by police and “friends”, brought confusion and pain that lingered in my body and haunted my every thought.

In a stroke of brilliance, my therapist suggested that I connect with Liz Gilani, a photographer, to create a photo story to externalize my emotional experience with the assault.  The purpose being to not only process and resolve the trauma for myself but to also bring purpose to the pain.

I participated in this project in order to heal, but I’ve decided to share it for many more reasons than that.  Sexual assault is an absolute epidemic that is overwhelmingly ignored, denied, or at best met with indifference by our society.  One in four women are victims of sexual assault and those numbers are even low due to a severe lack of reporting.  Women fear reporting for many reasons including fear of retribution, being re-traumatized, shame and blame from others, self-blame, lack of support, and the most heart-breaking…because they see stories like mine where the police simply don’t care and they know their own fruitless efforts will only cause them more pain and suffering.  Of all issues, sexual assault is one of the most prevalent, relevant, and yet oddly one of the most ignored by society.

This photo story is my way of bringing justice to a situation that never found justice. I want the friends and family of my fellow survivors to truly understand the emotional and spiritual damage that is done through sexual violence so they can show more compassion and support to those who have been victimized.  I want our culture to understand that this issue is not to be taken lightly and that instead of blaming and shaming victims, we need to start holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

More than anything, I want victims to know they aren’t alone.  I want them to know that God did not want their experience to happen anymore than they did, and that He is on their side.  If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual assault and you feel like they would benefit from this story, please feel free to share.

Many blessings,

Ruthie Grace

** Before clicking, please be aware that some of these photos are very graphic and could be a potential trigger for some victims of sexual assault. **

Photo Story

Spiritual Abuse and Forgiveness

Forgiveness-and-Freedom


For many, the idea of forgiveness brings with it a feeling of inner peace, comfort, and freedom.  For those who have walked the road of deep remorse and regret for their own wrongdoings, forgiveness can taste very sweet.  As Jesus says in one of his parables, “…he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:36-50 ESV).  Likewise, he who is forgive much, loves much.  Forgiveness is, and should be, a wonderful thing.  But it isn’t always…

Like any other inherently good thing, forgiveness can be misused.  It can be taken out of context or used selfishly to further one’s own ends, or it can be applied inappropriately in ways that bring about harm instead of healing.  In these cases, forgiveness does not bring freedom at all, but rather further harm and in some cases, psychological and emotional trauma.

Here are some honest aspects of forgiveness and how they commonly get misused.

  1. Forgiveness is both a free-will choice and a process.  Forgiveness is misused when it is demanded, guilted, or otherwise manipulated from a person who has been wronged.
  2. Forgiveness requires a full acknowledgement and assessment of the wrongdoing and its effects.  Forgiveness is misused when it is equated with or implied to necessitate condoning, excusing, forgetting, or denying the wrong that has been done.  (As Pastor Mark Driscoll states, “forgiveness does not come with a side of amnesia”).
  3. Forgiveness is the process by which rightful emotions stemming from wrongdoing are resolved.  Forgiveness is misused when it is spiritualized in a way that dismisses the need for emotionally processing valid feelings of anger or pain associated with being wronged.
  4. Forgiveness is a personal process that takes place within the self.  Forgiveness is misused when it is equated with reconciliation with another person, especially when the other person has neither acknowledged nor repented of their wrong.

Forgiveness is, essentially, about our own heart and our own actions that flow from our heart.  It’s about not exacting vengeance or seeking retribution for the wrongs done against us (which is different from seeking justice, which should be pursued if violent or criminal activity is involved).  Forgiveness is the process through which we are able to both process and effectively resolve anger, pain, loss, and even rage resulting from harm that has been done to us.  The only emotion we are to look out for is that of resentment, which is simply the unresolved, unprocessed anger that has taken root in our hearts.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “be angry, and do not sin.”  It actually says “be angry!”  Anger is healthy and necessary to feel and process.  The only thing we aren’t supposed to do is use that anger as a reason or excuse to cause more harm.  But the emphasis of that scripture is on controlling our actions and responses, not in denying the initial emotions themselves.  Clearly, scripture expects anger (Jesus got angry a lot), especially in the face of wrongdoing.  However, scripture does expect and implore us to control it and handle it in healthy ways.

Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable with the emotions of anger and rage, hurt, or grief.  Yet these are healthy and necessary emotions to feel, especially in the wake of loss, betrayal, or abuse. The full range of emotions need to be felt and acknowledged in healthy ways which, depending on the severity of the offense, may take anywhere from weeks to years to fully analyze, assess, and process.  And while it’s true that dealing with hurt feelings isn’t always easy, expecting a person not to have them when they have been harmed (or dictating how long you think they should last) is not only irresponsible and ignorant, it is further damaging.

If the rightful feelings of hurt, pain, loss, or anger are not allowed to be communicated or expressed in healthy ways, the only alternative is for them to settle into resentment or repression…that’s just how it works.  Allowing people around us to feel and healthily express the full range of emotions, especially in response to wrongs done against them is necessary and good.  We must understand that the entire concept of real forgiveness was hijacked for many people, not being used as a healing balm to restore but rather as a battering ram meant only to control, shame, and manipulate.  We need to understand how to help those people work through their feelings without further traumatizing them.

When people have been abused this way, they may hear the word “forgive” and, quite naturally, have a negative reaction.  Conscious nor not, the body and mind remembers former attempts at manipulation or psychological/emotional abuse and will respond instinctively to avoid it again.  What emotionally battered people need is compassion, a listening ear, and the freedom to both feel and communicate their emotions in healthy ways…not more dismissal of, shame about, or demands to feel or not feel their feelings.  This, as one can expect, only pushes a person into resentment…not lead them out of it.

I believe it’s our job as Christians, friends, parents, pastors…or just as compassionate people in general… to understand what it means to have suffered from spiritual abuse and learn how we can help and not further hinder those who have suffered it.  And whether intentional or not, callous dictates to “just let it go” or “move on” or “forgive and forget” can, and often do, deepen the emotional and spiritual damage of an already battered person, pushing them further away from healing than ever.  I hardly think that’s the goal of any well-intentioned individual, Christian or not.

If we are to truly help those who have been wronged or spiritually abused, we need to properly understand the emotional and psychological ramifications of that abuse.  We need to learn how to walk with people through the turbulent waters of emotional, psychological, or spiritual trauma so that we can patiently, kindly, and compassionately lead them to a place of healing and peace.  Then, and only then, is true forgiveness possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Same, But So Different

I’ve been back from Africa for a couple weeks now.  Two days off the plane and my world was hit with an unexpected whirlwind of change and so my focus was immediately redirected.  As a result, I haven’t been able to reflect on and process my time in Kenya as much as I’d like; however, there is one particular memory from my trip that keeps running through my mind.

One of the most impactful moments for me during my time in Kenya was when we asked the older school girls to write down any question they wanted an answer to.  We promised to answer them to the best of our ability.  The questions all remained anonymous and we read them out of order so nobody would know who asked what.  I  wasn’t entirely sure how it would go or if they would open up, but I certainly wasn’t emotionally prepared for what came next.

The questions were real…raw…and utterly heartbreaking.  They revealed in such a stark and unfiltered manner the realities of these girls lives.  There was no sugarcoating, no stammering, and no apologizing.  Just real questions from real girls who needed real answers to the issues they face every day.

Some of the questions were ones I could have expected.  They were practical and asked how they could get money for school fees, materials, books, etc.  Some were theological and asked about God and Jesus.  But others….others were so difficult to read and harder to answer, I felt almost paralyzed with a heart-wrenching pain.  Questions asking what they can do when their mother yells at them or when their dad drinks and abuses them.  They asked what to do when their dads bring home different women to sleep with every night…kicking out their mom and making them sit there and watch/listen.  Many of the girls wanted to know about HIV and what to do if/when they are raped.

Their questions were so honest…so real.  And nobody in the room (besides the new Americans, probably) seemed taken aback by them.  As I read the questions out loud, I searched the eyes of these young women staring back at me and none of them were surprised at all.  This was just their life and they wanted to know what they could do….simple as that.  There was no shock or shame or anything else that would have certainly appeared in the faces of children in America, had they asked the same things.  But I did see something similar in all their faces.  They were all….hungry.  Hungry for answers, hungry for advice, hungry to be heard and cared for.  Hungry for answers, help, guidance, provision, salvation…anything, really.

We answered the questions as best as we could.  Obviously, we couldn’t force their parents stop beating them or make their fathers stop kicking out their mothers to sleep with other women.  We can’t prevent them from being raped or taken advantage of by ill-intentioned men, but we can…and we did try to…give them hope.  We gave as much practical advice as possible, but also made sure they heard the truth about who they are.  We encouraged them to focus on their studies, stay in school, develop their talents and skills, and make something of themselves before pursuing a husband or a family.  We encouraged them to value themselves and their future over the generations of cultural mandates telling them to drop out, have children at an incredibly young age, and continue the cycle of poverty.  We encouraged them to value their hearts and their minds and their bodies instead of giving them away to those who would only abuse them and throw them away.

And this is where everything started to sound and feel so very familiar.  I realized these women are not facing anything terribly different than what many women in America face every single day.  The fact that America is a 1st world county and Kenya a 3rd makes absolutely no difference in the amount or level of moral depravity, sickness, or abuses we face.  It makes no difference in the level of self-esteem and self-worth we have.  When a man or woman is abused, what does it matter how expensive their clothes are or what kind of car they drive?  Human nature is human nature.  And evil is evil…regardless of how it’s dressed.

Statistics show that one in six women in America are sexually assaulted while 99% of perpetrators never go to court, much less see a single day of jail (see stats here).  Women are objectified and used and then, metaphorically or literally, thrown away here just as much as anywhere else.  America has a massive porn problem (see stats here)and sex trade industry that is trafficking countless women and children through our states as sex slaves (see stats here), drug and alcohol addictions running rampant, children growing up being physically, sexually, psychological, and emotionally abused and/or neglected, huge amounts of homeless people in every city, etc.  We are simply not that different, and certainly not any better, than any other country on the planet.  We have the exact same problems here, so what does it matter what brand of clothing we are wearing or how much our houses cost?

The only difference I see, culturally, is that Americans (yes, I’m speaking generally here so don’t hammer me with exceptions to the rule) are so wrapped up in our image and the pursuit of personal comfort/gain that we refuse to acknowledge the moral depravity that is destroying lives all around us.  We insulate ourselves from every uncomfortable truth to the point that we can’t even handle hearing about it or looking at it, and we actively look away when it arises.  We choose to live in woeful ignorance of reality instead of facing it as it is.  Only a few groups here and there are even acknowledging our problems, much less trying to change them.  The rest of us are either blindingly unaware of them or actively choosing not to look at them.  Why?

Well, we wouldn’t want to be distracted from our nightly sitcoms or reality TV binges would we?  We wouldn’t want to feel  ::GASP:: responsible for helping or making a difference in the world.  No no…we don’t want to feel anything but the numbed out bliss of being a grown up pseudo-adult without any real responsibilities to anything or anyone.  Certainly not the responsibility of making a difference in other people’s lives.  No no, we want to drink our beer, chase our Pokemons, watch our TV shows, and still somehow hope to climb the social ladder.  We don’t want to…heaven forbid…look at reality or deal with it once we do.

In this way, I admire the school girls I had the honor of meeting in Kenya.  Yes, they have horrendous problems.  No, they do not live in the best of conditions.  But you know what they have that we don’t?  They have honesty.  They have integrity.  They have the strength capacity to look reality in the face and call it what it is.  They have the freedom to admit their problems, the humility to ask for help, and the eagerness to accept it…which is head and shoulders above what most attitudes are like here in America, despite the fact we face the exact same problems.  They had no shame in admitting their realities, speaking about the truth of it, and asking for help…something us Americans are so weak, prideful, and pathetically indifferent to do more than half the time.

I immediately felt an overwhelming admiration and respect for those girls.  In fact, I kept the notes they wrote with their questions and I carry them in my purse.  I look at them and pray over them.  I remember their beautiful faces, their searching eyes, and ask that God would empower each and every one of them to live lives free of abuse and oppression.  More than anything, I ask that we would all have that kind of courage and humility before God and before others, to admit our true state and ask for help.  Those young women are absolutely my inspiration.

 

 

 

A Diamond, Perhaps

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When it comes to faith, the Grand Canyon feels like a smaller rift than that which separates what I know to be true from the emotional realities I experience every day.  One is no less true than the other, but neither do they agree.

In my life, faith has felt a lot more like hauntings than tangible realities.  It has seemed more of an unseen and entirely intangible truth.  However, a truth none the less.  And actually, sometimes the hauntings feel far more real than anything else I feel or even experience firsthand.  Sometimes misunderstood, unnerving, inexplicable, and maybe even frightening…yes.  On one hand, they’re easier to deny than material things I touch and feel, and yet, harder… because, like hauntings, they never allow me rest.  Always gnawing on my insides and in the back of my mind, demanding attention as though constantly whispering (which sometimes sounds like screaming) in my ears.

“Okay, okay…” I say to myself.  “What are you trying to say?” and I turn to face the whispers.  But as I face them, they stop speaking.  “What do you want??” I demand.

…they flee…

Apparently, faith doesn’t respond well to the insolent and angry demands of those it provokes.

And I do suppose that makes sense.  Actually, it supports everything I know to be true about faith, but it’s no less frustrating.  I’m a foot stompin’, hands on hips, give-me-the-answers-right-this-minute kinda gal.  Faith does not work that way.  No wonder we are so often at odds.

People have often told me they’re shocked to learn how strong my faith is.  “You’re just so….logical” they say, as though that somehow negates the capacity to believe.  Yes, I’m logical…and that’s a large reason why I believe the things I do.  What I believe makes far more logical and rational sense than any other explanation or theory in existence.  It has more scientific support as well.  It’s not a difficult leap at all, as long as you have the information of course.  If you’re ignorant, or have false information, or have petty emotions standing in the way of rational thought, faith may be more difficult for you.  But for me, it is quite simple.

Simple, but not easy.  Faith isn’t even easy for those who already believe, so I’d assume it’s downright impossible for those who don’t.  It is tested at every turn, pressed in on every side, and it seems as though the universe is intent on taking all faith and pushing a person beyond the breaking point, just to see if it remains.  I will not lie and say I’ve never been driven to despair of my faith and of my God.  I have…many, many times over.  And yet…the dust and ashes of what I’ve believed get pressed together in such a way as to create a whole new substance.  A purer substance.  A simpler substance.  A substance I never had before.  A diamond, perhaps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Look

I don’t know if God will make me whole again.  He may not.  People all over the world go their whole lives being broken.  God sees them, God hears their prayers, God chooses not to answer with a ‘yes,’ and still….God does not love them less.  I know He would not love me less if he chose not to heal me.  He didn’t heal Paul, even though Paul asked for it three times.

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

I suppose Paul could have spent the rest of his life whining and complaining that God didn’t answer his prayer, that He must just be a big ole meanie up in Heaven who doesn’t really care.  That sounds like a lot of pseudo-Christian-self-centered nonsense I hear today, anyways.  But Christianity probably wouldn’t have survived if Paul had done that.  Paul submitted to God’s decision, trusted it, and lived with his brokenness despite the setbacks and frustrations it caused.  Despite how people talked and most likely misunderstood it.  Despite whatever judgement from people he received because of it.  He bowed to God’s will even though it meant no healing for him.  It probably meant pain and isolation from others as well.

But God’s words are true for me too, and I rest in them down into the depths of my soul.  I do not worry that my life will be “ruined,” or somehow not be exactly as God designed it, even if I never experience recovery.  I presume God’s plan to have included it, given His tendency to foresee and plan for the future.  You know, like God does….

His love and grace are the same despite the maladies in my soul.  And yet…it doesn’t keep me from asking.  I guess I figure as long as I don’t have a clear ‘no,’ then I’m allowed to keep asking.  Until then, the answer might as easily be a “keep waiting…”  It could be a matter of persistence.  I know I don’t deserve the things for which I ask anymore than the woman did, who begged Jesus for crumbs like a dog asking for scraps from it’s master’s table.  That is, after all, what I am in the grand scheme of things anyways.  And I’m at peace with that.

For now, I believe if I keep asking, hoping, and seeking Him…then eventually He will turn His eyes on me once more.  Eventually…He may allow His gaze to fall on me again.  I mean, I’m not anything like I was the last time I felt His eyes on me.  I’m much dirtier and far more unkept.  (I’ve been drug through the mud quite a bit, you see.)  And today I look a bit more like a beggar who hasn’t been cleaned in so long that she’s forgotten what it was like to have a clean face.  But…I just keep asking.  And I figure if I keep asking…then maybe He will hear me and turn His face to me again.  Maybe He will recognize me through the dirt…beyond the stench…and past the matted hair that covers my face.  Maybe he will recognize me again….if He would only look into my eyes.  Lord, look into my eyes again.  Just one look, Lord, and I’d be healed.


And there was a woman who suffered much and spent all she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.  She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.  For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”  And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

-Mark 5:25-34

Love And Justice

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“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.