Easier said than done

forgiveness2It’s great to talk about redemption and forgiveness — Christ did it all the time. The tough part, though, is to really do it when called upon.

I am a survivor of child sex abuse. My abuser was someone my family loved and trusted and he went to his grave with “our secret” intact.

Ten years ago, a man in our church was convicted of raping his 9-year-old grand-niece and sent to prison. On Palm Sunday that year, our pastor preached a sermon about redemption and forgiveness. He said the man is still a child of God and we are called to love him.

My thought was, “God forgive me, but no way!”

Later, I sent an e-mail to the pastor to tell him about what survivors of childhood sex abuse face for the rest of their lives, and explaining why I wasn’t ready to love this man. Leave it to God to love him, I said, because I can’t.

As a Christian, I knew the pastor was right, but I wasn’t there yet. I know what that little girl will have to deal with for the rest of her life.

Then on Friday, I ran into someone I know from around town, who gave me a big bear hug. We began talking about the book I’m trying to write about my son’s life, and he offered me some advice about the writer’s block I’m trying to get past. I have reached the part where Mike moved to Savannah, but I know what happens next and on some level I don’t want to write it.

“Just write,” my friend said. “You can go back and rewrite later, but you need to keep moving ahead. Don’t allow yourself to be stuck.”

He showed me a book on grammar he just published and mentioned he had sent it to a couple of people at the paper, but hadn’t heard anything back.

“They have issues with me,” he said. “I can’t blame them. I had a scrape with the law a few years ago.”

He spoke as though I would know what it was, and when I didn’t, he reminded me: he had been caught with child porn on his computer. I could see the shock on my husband’s face and hoped mine didn’t show the same.

“I did 10 months in prison,” he said. “I went through a lot of counseling, did a lot of self-examination and I understand a lot about myself now.”

So, he’s in recovery much the same as my son was after he quit drugs and alcohol.

So now I am faced with a real person who has done something abominable. Do I believe the words I have preached all my life about people who have done things wrong and then sincerely repented, or am I a hypocrite?

This man could have run to a town where people didn’t know him or his past. He could have walked away from here, except this is his home. He has faced the consequences for the terrible thing he did and now is trying to rebuild his life.

It would have been easier if he had robbed a liquor store and shot someone. Part of me wanted to ask if he had any idea what happened to those children he was looking at, but then I realized that’s part of what he deals with every day now as he tries to move ahead in his life.

If I am to get beyond what happened to me — which I can not change — then I have to allow others to get beyond their past as well.

I can rewrite portions of my book, but not my life. I can’t bring Mike back; I can’t retrieve my innocence. I have to look ahead. Just as my friend is trying to do; in fact, it’s all he has now.

Perhaps the best way to heal myself is to walk with him as a friend so perhaps we can heal together.



One comment

  1. David LaMotte says:

    Thanks for that, Leslie. Candid, honest and challenging. It’s serious business being called to love people, and you’re right that we’re not all up for it all the time, but it is what we’re called to. And forgiveness isn’t about releasing people from accountability. We need to hold each other accountable, but do so in love, which isn’t an emotion, but a choice to hold up each other’s value and dignity, sometimes in spite of how we feel rather than because of it. Blessings on the journey…

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