I thank Mary Demuth for sharing this story on her Facebook and Twitter pages. Mary is a gifted writer and being greatly used by the Lord to bring healing to those harmed by sexual abuse. Read more by her here: http://www.marydemuth.com
I’ve just finished Mary Demuth’s book Watching the Tree Limbs. This amazing book communicated to me so much understanding of myself and my abuse. If you haven’t read it and you’ve suffered from abuse, it’s an absolute must read. Throughout the pages of this book, God’s Holy Spirit whispered words of comfort to my soul that I’d be OK, God was with me, and most of all that there is hope…words I so needed to read.
Forgiveness is accepting that your past isn’t going to change, Mary says in the book through her character Zady. These words have stayed with me. I wonder how much emotional energy I use up wishing the past would change.
I realize a huge part of forgiveness is recognizing that the past won’t change, and I must move forward somehow living my life with this knowledge.
It’s easy to be a victim and wallow in the false comfort of self pity. Easy to veg out at the end of the day on a bag of popcorn,a glass of wine, and a Hallmark movie and think this is the best that I can do in my life. Just maintain the status quo and remain a victim.
But this is not what I’m called to do.
God is calling me to be a survivor, be healed from my past, and one who finds strength in my weakness through reliance on Him.
This means a journey on the narrow path where the reality of my past is not going to change travels with me. It’s about taking the burden of this reality and placing it on the back of Jesus.
There’s so much to give Him. Both, the things that have been done to me and the things that I have done, and Jesus wants me to know He died for all of it.
So what am I left with? His righteousness. Hope, peace, healing and every good and perfect gift He has for me.
Maybe it just seems too easy. But that’s what Jesus said, “His yoke is easy. His burden is light.”
I can accept my past. All of it. Because He is going to carry it on this narrow path for me. All I am required to do is forgive others and forgive myself.
Sometimes I think I look at forgiving as a legalistic rule where Jesus is pointing His finger and shaking His head saying, “Shame on you for not forgiving.”
But I know Jesus is not doing this at all, rather I believe He is telling us to forgive others so we CAN forgive ourselves.
The truth is we are all capable of the worst kinds of evil and even our best efforts at righteousness are filthy menstrual rags. Yuck!
If I can’t forgive others, then how in the world will I ever be able to forgive myself?
Mary Demuth shares on her blog the story of how she was horribly abused as a little girl. She also shares a letter of forgiveness to those who abused her. Reading her letter, I was inspired to do the same thing to my abusers.
I yearn for the freedom and healing that forgiveness brings. I know this is a small part of a big process, but I am encouraged through Mary and others like her that there is abundant life even after abuse.
Dear Abuser #1:
You called yourself my father. You told me stories time and time again of how you and my mom worked so hard to adopt a baby, and you were thrilled when you were able to adopt me. You treated me around everyone else like I was your most priceless treasure. But in the darkness where no one else could hear, you whispered something else through your abuse. I was a worthless piece of trash to be consumed by you and your friends, tossed to the side along with the empty whiskey bottles in the trash. You lied and said this was what everyone did. You told me no one talked about what happened in the dark. Everyone pretended. I believed you.
I realized in my own sins a few years ago, when the memories of what you did came to me, that I was just as sick as you were.
I have this vision of you as a little boy watching your father inject himself with heroin to ease his own psychological pain. I never heard anymore of the story, but I have to wonder what else he might have done with you to ease his pain while he was on his heroin high. Did you feel like everything was your fault? Did you think you didn’t deserve any better? Did doing the same thing to me give you five minutes of relief but later would only heap on more shame that just demanded more sin for relief? Maybe so. Or maybe you were just dark, evil, and enjoyed bringing me pain? If that’s the case, then I pity you all the more.
No matter what your motives, you have gone to another place now. I watched you die a most horrible death from a brain tumor. Day after day your family watched your body shut down before you finally breathed your last breath. During those final days I slept in the same room with you again, so that my mom could get some rest. The nightmares were horrendous. I felt like every demon in hell was after my soul as you chased after me in my dreams. I didn’t understand at the time why I was having such dreams. My mind still wasn’t ready to remember the trauma suffered at your hands, but I feared for your soul those nights, and I still wonder if you ever found the redemption you so needed.
I remember standing by your bed one day when your mind was pretty much gone. I touched you on your foot and told you I forgave you. I didn’t understand at the time exactly what I was forgiving, but I do know and I hope that somewhere in your life you met Jesus and He took your sins like He has mine. I hope that day when you told me you were throwing your Bible in the trash, that you reached for it again and found the words that healed you. I hope you aren’t spending an eternity without Him, because even after all the hurt you caused me hell isn’t a place I could fathom anyone going. If it gets any worse than what I’ve experienced here, I don’t want anyone to have to go.
I look at your life. I think you were the unhappiest, most miserable human I’ve ever met. I can only think that the time you spent harping on how bad your mom and your brother were were an attempt to escape the knowledge of who you were and the evil you’d done.
The truth is if we don’t give our sins to Jesus we have to find somewhere to put them and your family was the place yours went.
I thank God that He’s showing me the truth that blaming you for all I’ve done is not the place for my sin. Because I know as long as I blame you I can justify any bad behavior on my part, and more than anything else I want freedom from my sins, so no, the blame cannot rest on you, so I’ll accept responsibility for the choices I made and thank God that His death covered it all and made me clean.
Though you are dead, I’ll hope you found redemption, because I know how I’ve hurt others with my own sin. The pain I’ve caused others has been too heavy to carry when I have seen it. I know what a welcome relief God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of others has given me. It’s saved me from taking my own life. Therefore I pray to God you found this forgiveness in Him.
Teenage boy who’s now a man not much older than I, I don’t know much about you, but I know you had that same warped desire in your heart as I do in mine. That need to feel in control and find your five minutes of pleasure. You took me to that weight room that day to meet your own needs. Did you know I’d be left to feel your grimy hands up my blouse and on my zipper for the years to come? Did you know I’d ask myself a million times what was wrong with me that boys wanted to put their hands on me? I was only in the third grade!
What was your story that made you think it was OK to steal from me what you wanted? Did your parents ignore you like mine did? Did you find comfort in the pages of a porn magazine? Did those women tell you you were important to them? Did you think you’d be doing me a favor to give yourself to me?
Whatever it was, I know what it means to escape the pressures of life. To get so tired of feeling nothing. To wish that you mattered. I don’t know what kept me as a teen from abusing someone else, but I thank God His hand prevented it, because it wasn’t because I didn’t think of it.
Maybe that day my escaping that weight room before you could do the worst, and screaming profanities at you as you ran away, scared you to death that I was gonna tell. Maybe it helped you to see I was a person and not something for you to consume and throw out. Maybe you never did it again after that day…I hope so. Maybe my running was evidence of God’s hand in your life keeping you from going so far it’d be almost impossible to go back. You needed that mercy just as I did. So since I’ll probably never see you again, I’ll pray that wherever you are right now you’ve found freedom from the hold sexual sin had on your life. I’ll forgive because God forgave me, and not because I have to, but because I need to forgive you so I can forgive myself.
You were the town’s dirty old man. Your hands wandered up the shirt of my own mom when she was a teen and on the body of an older distant cousin. Obviously, your abuse had been occurring for many years. How many of those girls that you knew wouldn’t scream did you push into a corner and steal their innocence? I shudder at the thought.
Your hands on my body that night caused me to feel even more like a filthy piece of trash. I was only in the eighth grade, that time when hormones are going wild and you struggle to understand who you really are. You communicated to me once again that I was a person who didn’t deserve to be loved, but rather used. You were bold and confident to do it while my parents were on the other side of a wall.
It’s certainly true that predators know easy prey, because you knew that about me.
I think of what I knew about your story. You lived in a modest home with a kind wife who knew how to bake some of the most wonderful food I’d ever placed in my mouth. I still remember how good her tea cakes were. Christmas time and other holidays that I visited at your house seemed to be filled with love and plenty. Why did you want more? I really have no idea. But once again, I am forced to look at my own desperation and the way I chose to meet my own needs outside of the boundaries that God had for me. I have to imagine that you were driven out of some sort of desperation of your own.
The night you died, I hadn’t spoken to you in years. But strangely enough I had a nightmare about you. You were chasing me with a knife and angry because you were going to hell. I will never understand this dream, but the next day hearing about your death at school I didn’t know what to say. You were gone and I couldn’t help but wonder if in some way I’d seen your destiny. I hope this was not the case. I hope that Jesus met you before it was too late and that you accepted the gift of His forgiveness. I’m sorry for whatever was lacking in your life that you thought you needed to get it from me. If I saw you today, I’d have to think of my own sins and tell you even though you never asked me for forgiveness that I had to forgive you because God forgave me. Forgiving the worst in you, makes it easier for me to forgive myself.
Boys in my class…I just don’t get what you did. Some of you had way more than I did, or at least appeared to have more than I did, yet you got your kicks from bullying me and placing broomsticks between my legs and whispering my name from across the classroom, hoping I’d look your way and see your pants unzipped. A couple of times I glanced that way, but quickly turned after seeing what it was you had to show me You guys disgusted me and once again had me asking the question, “What is wrong with me?” And I thought that somehow I brought out this bad in you. Those days you stuck your hands down your pants and then rubbed them on my neck, declaring that you were rubbing pubic hairs on me, I went home feeling sick and disgusted. I’d give anything to go back and grab and twist between your legs and let you know exactly what I thought of your private parts. But it took me a long time to stand up for myself. I just went to school everyday and tried to avoid you, tried to act in the most unnoticeable way to keep you away from me. Finally, one day you guys pushed me too far and I screamed at all of you. Threatened to throw a chair on the top of one of your heads. You saw the anger and desperation in my eyes. I think it scared you to death. I ran out of the room screaming that I wanted to die, and you left me alone after that day. Maybe hearing those words something rang true in your own hearts about how much you hated yourselves for what you were doing to me. Maybe you were afraid that the next time the chair would hit you in the head, but nevertheless you stopped and I am thankful. Thinking of your stories, I think maybe I understand the desperation that drove a couple of you to do what you did. One of you were just plain spoiled. Your parents gave you absolutely everything that you wanted. I imagine without any boundaries in your life, somewhere deep inside maybe you didn’t feel cared about. One of you was abused by his father, evidenced by the black eyes I saw you and your brother have, and the fact that I worked with your mom in later years and she told me as much. I imagine you were much like me and seeking some kind of control. Once again, I’m reminded that we are all the same in desperate need of a Savior in a fallen world. You need forgiveness just as I do. I will forgive you, too.
This letter is going to be the hardest one to write. Perhaps, because tangled up in all of this abuse is so much of my own sin. The sin that caused so much pain on my family, your family and our church. Yet it is the most important one.
You were my pastor. You should have known better. What in the world were you thinking?! Or maybe you weren’t. Or maybe you were. Did you set out to abuse me from the beginning? There are times I look back on the situation and it seems that way.
I was so clearly vulnerable and weak. The neon sign on my forehead screamed abuse me. It is a well known fact that predators can sniff out easy prey and I was as easy as they get. You had had years of seminary training. Years of studying scripture. Years of counseling other women. You even told me your relationships with other women involved emotional attachments that did not take away from your relationship with your wife. You reiterated to me in an email that an emotional attachment was OK with someone of the opposite sex.
I should have known something wasn’t right, but I didn’t. When you told me you had an emotional attachment to me, words cannot express the emotions I felt that day. You see, I thought you were right up there with God. I believed you were good and that I could trust you. Someone like you wasn’t supposed to treat someone like me like I mattered. Someone like you was supposed to be afraid of me. I was the woman who brought out the worst in men.
But you kept talking to me, reassuring me, and finally declaring love for me. I felt like a treasure when I was with you. I idolized you. You were everything I thought I needed in a relationship. You were the man who was going to fill that gaping hole in my heart that was screaming out for a father who would love me. By the way, you were that person for my husband, too.
Then you told me about loving me like a wife, and you should have known that was coveting, but you were good at straining out gnats and swallowing camels. It was only coveting if you thought too much about it. It was only wrong when it eventually led to all out sex. What in the world was wrong with you? Didn’t you know you were supposed to be teaching me to rely on God. Didn’t you know that all these secrets you were asking me to keep were not God’s way? Didn’t you know that talking to me on the phone all that time took me and you away from our devotion to the families that God had given us?
I just don’t know what to do with what you did sometimes. I think about the talks I had with you. I told you everything about my life. You gave me what I’d always wanted – total acceptance. When I was panicked I could always call you. You reassured me time and time again. You told me you loved me time and time again.
But what we had was sick and it wasn’t love. It was codependency at it’s worst. You got angry at me when I told you I was too dependent.
It would just be so easy to blame you for everything. But you know better. I pursued evil with you, too. I did my share of rationalizing and straining out gnats and swallowing camels. I’m as angry with myself as I am with you.
I can’t blame you for everything. I knew something was wrong. My heart felt like it was torn in two. I spent the majority of my days in chaos and you were my only source of peace. I just wasn’t willing to give you up, even though I knew what I had with you was causing tremendous damage. I just kept turning to you for relief. I thought so many times of reaching out for help to someone else, but I never found the courage for fear of the fallout. The worst of which I thought would be losing you.
I’m so very angry that you allowed this to happen. My faith was the only thing that kept me going after all I’d been through.
Now the one area that I thought was safe has been infected.
There are days I just don’t know what to do with this pain I feel. Days when I don’t know whether to be angry with you or feel sorry for you. You were always too proud to want to hear from me that I was sorry for what you were going through, even after we talked about the problems in your family that were causing you so much stress. You always had to have it together. But I know you had a lot of pain. I heard it in your voice, saw it in your demeanor all those days I worked with you and talked to you on the phone. I knew deep down something was missing, even though you’d never acknowledge it.
Maybe you truly believed I was what was missing. I know that I believed it for a long time. But I know now that Satan used the abuse I suffered in my relationship with you to steal me away from the only One who could fill the emptiness in my heart. You took God’s place. When I first came to the church you pastored, I was seeking God and He was working in my life. After a few months of knowing you, you took His place.
There is so much I don’t understand. In my final conversation with you, you told me that you didn’t need any help, that you loved me and couldn’t help it and that was just the way it was. I told you I wanted space, but you just wouldn’t leave me alone. Do you realize what a tangled mess we were in with your family and with mine? It was almost impossible to get out of. And all you could think about was having a retirement party for my husband?!?
I want you to know I had to get out. I could not live in the lies anymore. I don’t know if you think what we had was really love and truly believed that, or if you just really set out to abuse and control me from the beginning. Maybe I will never know. I know that you deny being a predator. You told my husband in your letter to him that you were not.
Here’s the thing, whether you acknowledge that you were a predator or not, I still have to forgive you – for me if for no one else, and part of forgiving comes by naming the evil that I am forgiving. And the reality is what you did was predatorial whether you set out for it to be or not. I have to accept and acknowledge that you were my pastor, the one that was supposed to bring me closer to God and instead you took me for your own. You were selfish, but so was I.
I think we both believed the same lie. That doing things our own way was our salvation. That we could be the captain of our own ships.
It’s the same thing Satan whispered to Eve. God’s holding out on you. He told you not to eat it, because He doesn’t want you to have what’s going to give you pleasure.
You and I missed the boat sailing our own ships…the boat was that God’s boundaries are what’s best for us.
I was desperate. God had everything I needed. But I couldn’t see Him. I couldn’t touch Him. Like the Israelites at the bottom of the mountain waiting on Moses, I screamed out for the golden calf.
You, like Aaron, gave it to me in yourself.
I cannot spend the rest of my life being a victim of pastoral abuse, blaming you for everything that is wrong in my life.
I can, however, recognize that I am a sinner in need of God’s grace.
I can learn from this whole big mess that God’s way truly is best and what’s best for us.
I can embrace the truth, because He is truth. There is no lie or deception in the truth. The stuff I had with you was full of lies and deception. I pray to God you see that now, too. We cannot manipulate and fix our lives by deceiving others. It only leads to more and more deception and more dependence on ourselves. It will wear you out. I pray to God that you see that now.
I know that I am going to continue to deal with anger. I know that forgiving you is not just a one time thing. I am going to have to continue to forgive you every time I think about what happened, just as I am going to have to continue to forgive myself for what happened.
I pray for God’s mercy in your life. I pray for His healing and that none of this pain will be wasted. I pray your family is healed and that you can rebuild your life in that community. I pray that you will forgive me, too. I pray for God’s best for all of you.
You will not hear from me again.