Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Weighted Down By Sin & Shame


Almost as early as I can remember, I was an absolute professional at sidelong glancing. I was chronically ungrateful.
 
I became a Christian in college and felt liberated from my sin and joyous because in the people of Christ Church I had my people; I felt like I was truly home for the first time in my life. But my bad habit -- that sidelong glancing -- rather than being rooted out, sent up some taproots.
 
Anger grew at God for not placing me in a Christian family. Further, bitterness grew at God for giving me my specific parents {insert laundry list of grievances alongside true neglect and emotional abuse} . . . they were not the caricature of what I thought a perfect, sinless Christian family would be.
 
Though they had many, I was blind and ungrateful for their genuinely good qualities.

I wanted to totally reject them. Mentally, I misapplied the verses in Scripture that talk about being willing to leave your family and follow The Lord. I wanted to ignore that commandment to honor your parents. I sought counseling for how to "deal" with my family; instead Doug Wilson helped me understand that I should love and be grateful for them, and could still seek to honor them -- with a simple guideline to follow their requests as long as those requests weren't unbiblical: for example go home for Christmas break per their request, even if I wanted to go skiing at a friend's in McCall instead.

Family life had been a confusing balance of horrible and wonderful. Though my dad was not perfect, life with my mom had been especially rough: for us kids, both my dad and later my stepdad, and extended family, too. Also one aunt in particular was disruptive. Thankfully, I was close to one of my grandmothers, though I leaned toward having a skeptical view of older women.

That view changed drastically, because at Christ Church I was surrounded, welcomed, and befriended by smart, hospitable, confident women of all ages.

Further, at Christ Church I was taught about high standards for women to pursue personal holiness, value financial integrity, seek excellent education, develop a biblical worldview and context for culture, business know-how, along with developing a love and interest in homemaking, hospitality, children and, someday -- after enjoying and cultivating a contented spirit while unmarried -- a husband. For six months I soaked up all this good teaching and fellowship. I bought heaps of books and dove in.

For those first six months, I progressed in my Christian walk, but much of this great teaching only sunk through my thick skull after my slow decent, finally falling those last inches tremendously on my face during my senior year.

As a new Christian, I had tunnel vision, and although I only knew of three young married couples at church, I wanted to join their ranks and join my husband's family and pretty much abandon mine.

Ungrateful and blind to their good qualities, I made a little escape-your-family checklist in my head. It began and ended with marriage.

So, pathetically, I dated the very first guy from the University of Idaho that expressed interest in me -- he met the minimum criteria of also being a Christian (a new one attending a different church).

Almost immediately I regretted it. I didn't respect him, and I wanted to get out, but I felt trapped by a standard of my own creation -- not a biblical requirement/standard: only ever date one guy--your future husband.

Being shy and aloof in high school had been a huge protection. I never dated, partied, smoked, or drank; instead I was absolutely self-involved and self-important, and ungrateful.

So although nobody at church ever asked me if I was  brimming over full of purity with no lascivious sins, I was sure that if I broke up with this guy, that would be the worst. I would have failed a requirement that did not existed.

So here I was: a new Christian, baptized and initially joyful -- growing more and more depressed each day because I was clinging to my sin: I knew I was unequally yoked; I was much smarter than him in several ways, and actually liked his company less the longer we dated, and the longer we dated the longer we were doing stuff.

I got counsel from a friend from church, and broke up with the guy. Further, I was assured by another friend that all sorts of issues like mine had been experienced and confessed by my fellow parishioners. But rather than fully renounce my sin, I embraced pride, and I convinced myself that I needed to salvage things. For 2 1/2 years I went on to have liaisons with him and began drinking -- something I'd seen my parents do often. Though I was living with Christians from three different churches, I was sneaky and avoided accountability. These liaisons were degrading: when we'd been originally been dating he and I were a couple, we were on an assumed-on-my-part path to marriage; now I was just some desperate ex trying to win him back by being flirty and buzzed and available.

I was a huge mess. I couldn't deal with myself. At one point I was sure God didn't want me, but at that low point happened to be reading through a stack of C.S. Lewis titles recommended by a church friend; The Screwtape Letters spoke to me, "If he thinks God doesn't want him then you [the junior devil] have already lost him to Christianity" (that's a paraphrase, btw).

Relief!

So I knew I was saved from my sin. But though I had confessed my sin every time I had an encounter with my ex, and really truly thought I was done with it -- and looked forward to church and fellowship. By the following Friday night party night I would have guilted and shamed myself into thinking I had to try and win him back. I clung to my delusions of pride. I didn't understand forgiveness.

At last I prayed God would take away all satisfaction from my sin. I asked him to put me on a short tether, that there would be not even fleeting enjoyment in those sins I had confessed again and again. God heard my cry. He answered my prayer. A December Friday night was the last time I spoke to my ex in person, there was no more delusion,  no temporary satisfaction.

That very next Sunday night I saw Nancy Wilson at a college ladies bible study and asked for her time the next day.

I had two or three excuses to cancel our meeting, but I didn't bail. I was desperate to shed my pride and ask for help. I asked for church discipline. Specifically, I asked to be excommunicated because I couldn't shake my sin alone, and would do anything to be cut free from it.

I couldn't hadn't been able to escape my sin on my own. My path was misery, hell.

Nancy asked me what I thought church discipline and excommunication were. I didn't know; I'd never seen it at our church -- but I'd read The Scarlet Letter in high school. I told Nancy that I thought they'd call me to the front of church and tell everyone what I done and then I didn't know what else . . . and just please help me.

Nancy held me as I cried and reassured me that our church wouldn't ever do anything like that. But that my willingness to accept something that severe showed the condition of my heart. That anyway, church discipline was for people unwilling to repent. Not for people confessing and asking for help.

We talked about the extent of the sexual relations between my ex and me, and although the guy wasn't great, he hadn't taken advantage of me as much one might expect for a two-year relationship. Something for which to be grateful. We prayed that God would give me godly remorse -- meaning regret for the sin and repercussions, but accept full forgiveness, free of guilt, condemnation, and shame.

Nancy suggested I meet with Doug. That week I did meet with Doug, too, and he asked me questions that were specific to sex and my general standards and personal holiness. It was deeply helpful to me to discuss details even though it was physically hard to get the words out. Vocalizing what had and had not transpired was not shaming, or guilt inducing. Unloading details of my sin was like lifting heavy boulders and rocks off my chest -- yes, hard to lift them off, but with each released weight I could breathe more freely. I could climb higher out of that pit of despair.

Unlike abuse victims, I wasn't discussing how I had been taken advantage of, I was there because I had willingly maintained an unfulfilling relationship with someone who didn't even pursue me -- I pursued him for the false high of knowing he would drop everything to follow me into his room.

It was pure joy to know and see that the gospel was freely offered to me -- someone who felt so dirty, ashamed, and embarrassed. "Come ye who are weary" -- my sin had made me weary, but I could come to Jesus. I knew my actions were those of a complete loser's. But no longer would I be like that horrid dog in Proverbs, who returned to his own vomit.

After this I learned how to instead pursue fully embracing my Christian liberty, and enjoyed being a sister to so many fellow sisters and families at church. Before marriage in my late twenties, I spent several years looking forward to being a wife and mother someday, but delighting in all the fun adventure and travel and hospitality of being out of college, with a good job and frequent plane tickets. I had prayed for good, life-long friends and am blessed to be unconditionally loved and forgiven and lifted up in prayer by many dear, long-suffering friends.

Although Doug Wilson and Christ Church have brought great healing to many sexual abuse survivors, he/they have also been a haven for people like me, tormented by sexual sin and general confusion, who were consumed by guilt and shame -- bringing it upon themselves and then terrified or unsure how to let go of it.

When many of us first knee-jerk reacted, "That sin is too heinous! Put him to death!" We were lying about the efficacy of Christ's death and resurrection. No sin can separate any of us from the love of God offered in Christ. If you seek Him, He already has you. Confess your sins, and feel each boulder, rock, pebble lift, and then breathe. Breathe deeper. He who has been forgiven much, loves much. Exhale confession, be forgiven much -- inhale forgiveness.

There is no shame when you are cleansed by the blood of Christ. Dirty sheep made clean -- and sheep are by nature disgusting, so that metaphor is way more amazing than we give it credit for.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Even for That


Prologue: I knew I couldn’t be alone. The statistics on sexual abuse being what they are, in a congregation of several hundred I knew there were others. I still don’t know who most of them are, but I’m glad I can now stand with them to express gratitude for the safety we have found at Christ Church under Doug Wilson’s ministry.

*****

men: n., people who treat me like crap.

That’s the definition experience tried to teach me, starting with the father who made my childhood household a place of constant fear and the brother who used my body to experiment with his newfound sexual knowledge. A part of me believed it, but another part of me had read the right books (including the Bible), and knew that men weren’t meant to abuse, abandon, and neglect.

Through years of counseling in my 20s, the gaping wounds were stitched up. Eventually the constant suicidal thoughts, which had persisted daily for over a decade, became less frequent. (They’d eventually disappear.) I don’t remember most of those conversations except for a sharp disagreement about whether I needed to repent of anything. She insisted that the abuse was one hundred percent on his shoulders, which it was, but I knew that my younger self was hungry enough for affection to have been complicit. I could have stopped it. Eventually, I did, and I suffered the rejection I’d feared. Mine was certainly a much lesser sin, but I needed to confess it and be forgiven for it. Of course not every victim has anything to repent of, but some do, and if they refuse to do it, they will never be able to heal.

I didn’t quite get past the temptation to people-pleasing, though, and it occasionally got me into situations where I let myself become an emotional punching bag to a teacher or an employer or a church leader in exchange for a few scraps of what I thought was kindness. At the same time, it was still hard to be confident in Christ’s love for me. I went through dark periods of doubting my salvation altogether. I was a crazy mix of distrust and too much trust.

The worst of this happened with a church leader who seemed to be confused about what a shepherd’s staff was for. Things there went OK for me until he figured out what kind of sinner I was, and then he implemented his “The beatings will continue until morale improves” leadership style. I wasn’t the only one who felt those harsh, graceless blows, but I put up with it the longest, reasoning (not unlike a battered wife) that I must deserve it. I was pulled back under into shame, darkness, and despair. The old wounds were open and bleeding again. This man had the gospel right in theory, but the practice didn’t line up. The walk didn’t match the talk, but I believed for too long that the talk was the reality.

Finally, God delivered me from that situation, and, somewhat to my surprise, I found myself joining Christ Church not long after. Was this going to be an out of the frying pan, into the fire situation? The guy at the last church had, after all, supposedly agreed with Doug Wilson. (Of course he’d also supposedly agreed with Jesus…) But what if Doug’s critics were right about him? What if he were the worst sort of hypocrite, or what if his teaching was all just rotten at the core? I trusted Doug a lot, but would it be one more incidence of badly misplaced trust?

Things went well until, once again, my flaws and foibles began to show. Now, I worried, would I be in for it? I cringed, waiting for the blows, but they never fell. Doug and his wife, Nancy, and others in the congregation have shown me incredible patience, kindness, gentleness, and generosity. They’ve believed the best about me and for me rather than the worst. Like one of the ladies who shared here a couple of days ago, I’ve never had one-on-one counseling with Doug about my past abuse. But I have had many conversations with Nancy about many issues, and I know that Doug is standing right behind her, that her counsel is his counsel, too. I have received many blessings from both of them. They are in no way quick to crush a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick. Rather, they’ve come alongside to support that reed with gospel strength and breathe gospel oxygen onto that wick.

Doug doesn’t fit that definition I’ve long resisted. And, substantially because of God’s grace working through Doug, there are many other men in this community who don’t fit that definition—fathers who show me how our heavenly Father leads and provides, brothers who show me how our Brother Jesus cares and protects. I thank God for their faithfulness and for His. I have never felt so safe.

*****

Epilogue: This quote showed up in my Facebook feed yesterday, and it struck me how applicable it was to the stories we’re telling here:

“Some people are given more on this earth and some are given less. Some people spend their days in pain with bodies that keep the yearning front and center, that keep loss always in the mind’s eye. Widows. Orphans. The sick. The damaged (by birth or man). Know this: God has special promises for you, and He loves bringing triumphant resolutions to those who have tasted the deepest sorrows. And this: Gratitude is liberation….See the gifts. And if they seem sparse, start counting.” (N. D. Wilson, Death by Living)

This is a blog by women freed. I found that freedom, that liberation, when I learned to thank God for every part of my story. Even for the really ugly parts—for the pain, the damage, the deepest sorrows. Even for the abuse. Even for that.

I’m grateful for the beautiful parts, too—for the escape, the healing, the forgiveness received and extended, the cleansing from shame, the restoration to wholeness and beauty, the special promises, and the triumphant resolutions. And for the church where I keep being reminded of these things.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sorrows to Joy

My story is not out of the ordinary. I came into the church with a past. A past filled with partying. Boys and more boys. An alcoholic father. A family maimed by divorce. I came into the church wounded. And more so than I thought.

I first came to Christ Church with a friend, and I was immediately struck by the kindness and friendliness of the congregation. The preaching. And the singing. The church felt alive.


I was not living a Christian life at the time, but within a short time, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I was on my knees asking the Lord to save my soul. He miraculously did, and I have been been a member of Christ Church since.


Fast-forward a few years…


After marrying my husband and having our first child, I took a trip to see my parents. During my visit, my mother and I went out for dinner with some friends. An unexpected guest joined us, and his name was “John”. He was a co-worker of one of the ladies in our party, and he had heard that I was in town. “John” had been a part of a group of people that I had spent time with in my college days.


That evening, while we were all visiting, a remark was made about the "crazy times" that “John” and I had had. I replied that we had not been that crazy. When “John” pushed the "crazy" claim further, I turned to him privately and protested. He then unrepentantly informed me that he had actually drugged me and had forced himself on me. I was speechless. My mind went numb. Drugged. Raped. I couldn't believe it.


My husband hopped on the next plane to come and be with me, and lovingly brought our small family back home. After trying to work through this on our own, my husband and I decided to seek help and ended up in Pastor Doug Wilson's office.


In stories like mine, so many different feelings can flood the mine. For me, it wasn’t anger or resentment. I felt filthy. Dirty. Unlovely. I felt like a whore. One man’s words shot straight through my heart. Sending me back. Forcing me to remember my shameful and ugly past. The past I had just said goodbye to. Now I was a wife and a mother. To have my past come back, and have it hit them was too much. I was broken-hearted for them.  I had let them down. I felt sorrow. Deep sorrow and grief. And I mourned. Mourned for my new husband and for our new growing family. And mourned for the new life that we were building. I had done this. And I was undone.


But from our first meeting, Doug Wilson preached the gospel of forgiveness to me. He spoke to me about the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. He encouraged me in the newness of life that I had found in Jesus. And I believed him. I did not question the goodness of God, and I did not hold on to the filth I felt. Being a recently born-again Christian, I had seen for myself the richness and beauty that life in Christ provides. And so, I turned to the Lord with Doug Wilson's steady guidance, and laid my burdens at the cross. I laid down the ugliness I felt inside about what had happened to me. I laid down the noise in my head of the past, flickers of an old life. And I laid down my sorrow. With Pastor Wilson's counsel and my husband's support, I was then able to extend forgiveness in my heart to “John,” and I even prayed for his salvation. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I was able to confess my sin. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). Companion of fools, that was me. I had to face the fact that I had chosen that fast crowd, and I had loved it. Repentance and peace. Cleansed and renewed. I felt freed.


My point in sharing this story is that Christ Church was there for me. For my husband. For my child. The church was a safe harbor where my husband and I and our little one came for help, and we got it. Doug and Nancy Wilson were there for me. It was directly because of their wisdom and  faithfulness that my husband and I were able to work through this horrible experience.


There is a story out there that this church is not a safe place for victims or for women. This is a bald-faced lie. For those of you who have believed that story, please hear our words. Listen to our stories. Reconsider.


Doug Wilson helped me to see that all I needed was Christ, and that I had Him -- and He had me. And so, although my wounds were real, so was the healing. Thank you, Pastor Wilson and Nancy. You helped turn my sorrows to joy, and I am forever grateful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nothing but the Blood

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This hymn by Robert Lowry is brilliant. It addresses those who have committed grievous sin and those who have had grievous sin committed against them. Both are true of me. And the solution to both is the same: Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

That is the teaching I get at Christ Church. Jesus forgives. Jesus heals.

I was sexually abused as a kid. I've never had one-on-one counseling with Doug Wilson (for that issue). I came to Moscow years later. What I have had is solid, unapologetic gospel for 15+ years.

It was from Pastor Wilson that I first heard that the Bible emphatically does not teach that women are to be submissive to men in general. (I was actually surprised. That's what I thought it taught for many years). But rather to one man (her father or husband). And for the first time I learned that no earthly authority is absolute. So if those men are abusive, get help!

Sexual abuse leaves an indelible mark. But it does not define me. It breaks mind and soul. But I am whole. I've been given a blessed life through Christ Jesus and His cleansing blood.

Being in the Christ Church community full of joyful, gracious believers with my wonderful husband and children has been a blessing that I cannot be thankful enough for! I am witness to the result of generational faithfulness to Christ through the whole Wilson family and many other families at Christ Church as well. And if my story doesn't center on my sexual abuse, well, there's a reason for that. That's not who I am now. The reason for that? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Sister, Not Victim

I don't often share my story. 

From the time I could toddle till around the age of seven I was sexually abused by two men. One of my more vivid childhood memories is being locked in a room as a little girl, wanting to go to the bathroom to pee, and not being allowed out until I had performed sexual acts for them. I didn't want to wet my big girl undies. I just wanted to use the bathroom. I was so scared. The fear, the guilt, the shame from those years was heavy and clinging like tar. It made a 3-year-old feel it was her fault, even 15 years later. I failed to see any further damage that could be done to someone as broken as I was. 

I was wholly unsurprised when I was raped by a classmate in college.

Rape seemed the price of living with female parts; it seemed that this was what men did if you, as a woman, made a mistake. Porn, sex, rape, violence -- this was sexuality. Ugly, dirty, frightened, painful, shameful. Diseased.

I learned that broken things can be, well, broken worse. What followed strikes me as so stereotypical -- sex, drugs, and alcohol -- that I hope my testimony doesn't sound trite. It's certainly not a fresh take on failed coping mechanisms. Some months later I reached peak unrecognizability. I was not the sort of person I wanted to be, and even convinced as I was that I didn't deserve better, I didn't care anymore -- I wanted better. So, weeping on the floor of my apartment, I begged God to make me well. Actually, that night I just begged him for sleep without fear. And I slept. To sleep without anxiety, without terror, without nightmares pulled from reality, was life changing. And so I was saved. 

Shortly after that, I met my husband, and after we were married we moved to Moscow, Idaho. I was pretty sure everyone could see my gross past on me, like visible scars. In hindsight, I think that the wiser folks could see I was functionally a new Christian, and that's probably why we got so many kind words and dinner invites. How funny and narcissistic I was, thinking that my sins were so novel and precious. What would 22-year-old me think of me now? I'm a happily exhausted mom, so I don't really qualify for having a salty past, right? Unless I'm wearing my "Raped in '03" shirt, I assume I'm safe from speculation, but I hope that other young women have more wisdom than I did. Wisdom enough to know that they are not alone, not when the statistics have us at such high numbers, not when Jesus Christ washes it all away.

It's hard for me to write the ways my church has helped us. It is all given to us so freely, so abundantly, it has been easy to take it for granted. Unless the help someone wants is constant back rubs and perpetual victimhood. To say that there aren't consequences -- that would be facile. Sin has consequences -- my sins and the sins of my abusers and rapist. Yes, there are consequences. So God gave me my husband, a man of incredible compassion, patience, and discernment. Not just any man can be part of the forgiveness and healing that comes after abuse. Someone that can hold me and comfort me, be my protection, my safe place. More precious, someone unafraid to tell me the wonderful truth: that it's done, it's over, and it can't get me now. The lights are on, the bogey man is not under the bed.

When you, Ppl of The Internets, claiming authority on the topics of abuse and recovery, tell the world and me how I should feel, what I should be afraid of; when you turn a gaze of pity, mark the words and things that must necessarily traumatize me, demanding that I see the bogeymen where God shines only light, you are highlighting pages of my history. You are looking at me and seeing a moment of my life and insisting that I live in it. You are putting me back in that locked room. How dare you. 

When you put limitations on God's grace and forgiveness, when you point out sins as though they are simply too much for our Lord and Savior, you are calling into question all the grace and forgiveness poured out on me. Think, think what the proposition of limited grace and forgiveness means for people saddled with the guilt and shame of abuse. How dare you. 

It is God's grace that I am in Moscow and a member of Christ Church. God gave me a church community of faithful men and women -- full of men that love and cherish their wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers. The type of men that, a decade ago, I thought were as real as the tooth fairy, here becoming husbands and fathers, looking after their wives and daughters with so much love it makes my heart burst. Women with so much joy, compassion, and ferocious will...I am so happy to be bringing up my daughters here. God gave me Pastor Wilson and his family, who have been a blessing at every turn through wise teachings, faithful examples, and kind friendships. It's a community where I am a sister in Christ, not the heap of shame and pain that sin made of me. A church where I can share my experience in safety and comfort, but it's not demanded of me, because they know I'm more than that. A pastor that doesn't tiptoe around me as a victim, but treats me as one stronger for having survived the fire.

All I wanted was to sleep, and God woke me to a life so full of blessings I can't think of it without tears of gratitude and joy. 

So no, I don't often share my story, but it's not because I am ashamed. It's because that shame is a world apart from the woman I am now. I have a story of years peppered with vile things that happened, foolish things I did, but by God's grace I am not bound to those foul moments. I get to be so much more. I get to be a friend, a sister, a wife, a mother. Through God's grace my identity is in Christ alone.

"Shock Jock" Victim Advocate

I came to Moscow, Idaho, during my college years with a history of sexual abuse that I had not yet dealt with or talked about. I was a mess. I had been molested when I was 11, and the fallout from that had been pretty incredible, as one can imagine. I was teetering on the brink of leaving Christianity and that's when, in God's kindness, I came to Christ Church.

It was “shock jock theologian” Douglas Wilson who became the first person to ever tell me that I was, in fact, a victim. I tried to make excuses for my abuser. I tried to say that it was my fault, though I was only 11 when he pinned me down. Even now I can feel the absolute panic, the claustrophobia from his weight, and his one hand pressing my stomach into the back of my ribs as his other pushed into other places. Or the time he slammed his body on top of mine and slid his Super Soaker up my shorts and then his horrible hand. I laid there completely helpless again and had a sort of out of body experience where I watched what was happening and was filled with anger and loathing at myself for letting it happen again.

With that in mind, I can tell you that the place I felt the safest was around the table with Doug and Nancy Wilson. And that's where I finally spilled my story after a few years of meeting them for the first time. They were ready for it. They knew it was coming. There was a cinnamon roll on hand and a box of tissues on the counter. They saw the visible marks of self harm on my arms and legs, and the fact that I would often only have half an eyebrow that I pulled out in my distress. I even remember one of their daughters very kindly offering to draw it back in with an eye pencil without ever asking me to tell her what happened, though I'm sure she knew. I am getting choked up just thinking about how they protected me and gave me such a comfortable space to eventually reveal my darkness to them. They just sat and listened to me. They let me tell them all about it and then they let me know that it wasn't my fault. They were the first ones to tell me that I was a victim. That I was a victim. I could hardly believe them.

I've called on them many times over the years. And as I look around at my Christian sisters in the church who were also dealing with this same thing, I realized I wasn't the only one calling. Doug and Nancy have dealt with a lot of people, but they always made me feel like I had their undivided attention and sympathy and love. They could have taken the easy way out, especially in light of the way others have so badly treated them. But they never do. They’re not in this for personal comfort.

With Doug and Nancy’s help, I dealt with my issues initially and moved on. And I’ve built a wonderful life with my husband and our children and that would not have happened apart from Doug and Nancy. And I haven't had to rehash my sexual abuse until recently. I have been appalled at the way my pastor, friend, and victim advocate has been treated by ambulance-chasers like Boz Tchividjian.

These people have been the worst. I don't know what victims Boz has helped, but he and the other “professionals” have been the bane of this victim’s existence for the entire fall of 2015. I would never go to him or recommend that someone go to him for counsel on such complex and incredibly sensitive issues as these.

I am here to go on record for Douglas Wilson. He helped bring the light of the Gospel to my darkness. He helped bring the grace of Jesus to my disgrace. I almost let my abuser run me out of the church. But God used Doug to keep that from happening. I am very grateful to Doug, the person who truly deserves the title of pastor, a true defender of sheep, a faithful servant of Our Great Physician, Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Imported Abuse, Healing at Christ Church


The Palouse
I moved to Moscow many years ago as a new Christian to get away from my hometown. I attended Christ Church from the first week that I arrived. I had a history as a victim: sexual abuse as a young child, various degrees of this as a teen, violence from a male as a teen, and many situations that were far worse because of my foolishness, lasciviousness, and disobedience to my parents. 

I naively thought that being a new Christian meant that my past would be erased. A man attending the church began to date me, and after a faithful courtship we got married. My soon-to-be-husband knew about my past, but neither of us understood at the time how it would affect our marriage in the years to come.

A few years into our marriage, it was becoming evident that my past had not been dealt with. My husband had us go see Doug Wilson for counsel. We were both committed to being faithful. Mostly, I was just hurting and had stuffed a lot instead of dealing with it. I had no idea where to start. We particularly went in because of my bitterness toward people in my past.
 
Pastors sometimes have to walk a long road with people, being patient and kind for the long haul. This has been the case for me at Christ Church over many years (sometimes frequent, sometime sporadic) of faithful counsel.
 
Pastor Wilson called my situation complicated. He has faithfully counseled me through deep and long bitterness toward many in my past, through morbid introspection, self-loathing, disbelief in God's goodness, my second-nature ability to manipulate, control issues, obvious trust and submission issues, a hate for men in general, a refusal to let go of the past, the difference between forgiveness and trust, fearfulness, and owning my sin. The list could go on. There were things that I had to face because I really was a victim. In many ways I wanted to hold the victim card and be excused for everything that I was responsible for. I really had been unprotected and even abandoned at times. I had seen both secular and Christian psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as pastors from churches before I came to Christ Church. The counselor that was able to guide me through all of these things was Doug Wilson. He has coached and worked with my husband and me together, training my husband to walk beside me and know how to love me when he didn't know what to do.
 
At no point did I feel disrespected as a woman. On the contrary, it was through this counseling that I learned how to be a confident Christian woman in spite of my past. Doug Wilson has the highest regard for women, that they should be honored, protected, and loved. This was very evident in how he gave my husband guidance throughout our counseling on how to lay down his life down for me throughout this process.

I am in awe of how God has used my pastor. It has been the work of the Holy Spirit. I am on the other side of this complete deliverance from my past with a new identity in Christ, a healthy and thriving marriage and family, a joyful thought life, and a love for my Savior because Christ loved me first.

Pastor Wilson had worked with us for years. I went through many different stages in dealing with things and this required a great deal of wisdom and patience in counseling. The help I needed to be led to complete deliverance lasted over a decade. Pastor Wilson walked beside us all the way through:
  • I always felt listened to.
  • He was quick to give extensive assurance when things were not my fault. 
  • He did not excuse my sin.
  • He did have a great deal of wisdom on the timing and gentleness of helping me to see my sin.
  • He is particularly good at making sense of confusion and does this using the Scriptures and drawing analogies.
  • He was patient to lead me into the next steps, but also to allow the Holy Spirit to do the convicting. However, he was able to be blunt when I needed it. 
  • He was careful to give me the right kind of distance, encouraging My husband and me to get to the point where we knew how to work together independent of counseling.
  • He assigned timely homework -- books to read, things to write, and prayers to say. This included writing my testimony, writing letters of respect to my parents, praying to confessing besetting sins, and making restitution.
  • He gave us practical suggestions to help me change patterns of sin (manipulation, introspection, a lack of forgiveness, etc.).

He is particularly good at drawing out the root of a problem by asking good questions, knowing the Bible, and walking alongside of people.

At no point did I ever feel that he was unfit to be my counselor. On the contrary, secular and Christian counselors had not been able to help me where Pastor Wilson was able to. 

He constantly pointed to Christ throughout each meeting we had, giving God all the glory.

Christ is doing great work in people here. Christ is using my pastor and church to free people. Pastor Wilson isn't afraid to share the gospel even when it is complicated to help a victim see that they still have sin and a need for Christ as Savior. My pastor is brave enough to work with victims in a different way from the world. He was bold and loving enough to help me to see that Christ is the one true victim. He is bold enough to counsel people that Christ is the only one that brings true deliverance. He did it the whole time being fatherly, encouraging, full of compassion, patient, and available, but never wavering on the truth of the gospel.

It has become clear to me that when people hate my pastor, it is because of Christ's presence in him and his proclamation of Christ's one true gospel. He doesn't apologize for the truth in God's Word, but some people are not willing to abandon their sin when this is proclaimed, and thus it turns to hate and finger pointing.
 
There were times through this process where I was at a crossroads: I could choose Christ or walk away. To be clear, I could have made that choice to turn from God and the choice would have been all mine, and not my counselors'.  There were tricky things to do, like forgiving people that really had done me wrong. Thankfully, God pursued me until He had all of my heart. This did require being obedient to God's Word, even when I didn't feel like it, even when I wanted attention for being a victim, and even when I had really been hurt. I couldn't have had it both ways, only one road leads to freedom. In the end, Christ has opened my eyes and given me that freedom, and He has done that through the ministry at Christ Church.
 
I'm sure everyone at Christ Church continues to learn through their experiences, but as far as I am concerned, by God's grace my situation was knocked out of the park in every aspect.
 
I am in awe of how God has brought me to where I am. I do not have a hard time being thankful for these things.
 
I hope you take from this a success story from a sticky situation where God used our pastor to faithfully shepherd us.