The Relief of Exposure


Last week I read a few articles about Josh Duggar on Facebook. I felt so many emotions; anger, sadness, compassion, loss, and even relief.

Anger, because some people have made what he did so simple and have missed the severity of the pain caused by it. For these Christians, it’s another example of the world against us. We are being persecuted for believing in God. We are being picked on. One friend on my Facebook page declared we should leave Josh Duggar alone. He wasn’t perfect. He’d just been another pubescent teen that “felt up a few girls.” In the comments section beneath what she said, I saw a comment from my own high school English teacher agreeing with her that people were taking what Josh Duggar had done way too seriously. There were several other comments declaring emphatically Amen and Preach it, Sister.

That’s when the sadness came. I remember myself in high school being backed into a corner and pubescent boys grabbing my breasts like they were something that belonged to them. I can almost feel their hands on my backside as I walked by and they grabbed me howling obscene comments. I can still hear them calling my name from across the room trying to get me to look at them as they unzipped their pants and exposed themselves. I felt like a piece of trash. I got so anxious that I didn’t want to go to school. Their behavior only stopped when one day I reached my limit and threatened in front of the whole class to kill myself and attempted to throw a chair at one of them. They knew that day I’d had all I could take.

But what about the girls who don’t stand up for themselves? What about the ones too young to know any better or too afraid to speak up? Obviously my former English teacher had no idea what these guys were doing to me or certainly she would have stopped it? Or would she have brushed it off that they were pubescent boys who were just doing what pubescent boys do?

My heart breaks over this mentality, because if one believes this where does just being pubescent stop?

When I was in high school a younger friend called me in total distress. She’d spent the night with her neighbors while her family was away, and one of the pubescent teenage sons had come into her room and “felt her up.” It had happened before. She’d been too afraid to scream or tell anyone except me. After much encouragement from me, she reported it to the authorities, but when the social worker came to talk to her father about the incident he asked the social worker on a date. My friend stopped talking about the incident with me and nothing was ever done to the boy who’d abused my friend. Maybe the social worker thought the same thing the English teacher did and certain things were allowable because boys were in puberty.

But what about my five year old daughter who was victimized by a 14 year old pubescent teen, who denied it and never faced any consequences for what he did? My daughter suffered many consequences, she was severely depressed at 12 and couldn’t eat. When she tried, the acid churning in her stomach caused her to throw up. She lost so much weight she to be hospitalized. She was having nightmares and developed psychosis. Scary figures appeared in her dreams and beside her bed. We withdrew her from school, because she couldn’t function around others. Then the memories of the abuse from the 14 year old cousin had done to her returned the summer that followed her hospitalization and she began to heal. I’ll never forget the pain on her face as she screamed out in devastation seven years after the abuse, “Momma, I remember!”

I cannot describe the deep pain of loss and devastating regret I felt the moment when she spoke those words. The realization that I’d caused my daughter terrible harm by not reporting this incident years before was crushing.

My pastor was one of the first people I called when I learned that my daughter was victimized. He listened to me patiently and then said calmly, “Boys will be boys.” I was livid. I screamed at him. I was so angry that I can’t even remember what I said. Then he told me he’d just made that comment to calm me down.

Please, please. please, leaders in the church, report abuse to the proper authorities!

I was so confused that day. My husband was, too. We reached out to family for help, and got no support. Another pastor questioned the 14 year old boy who’d abused my daughter and said that he didn’t believe the boy had done what my daughter had said. It was her word against his. Another family member believed my daughter had made it up and continued to allow my daughter’s abuser to hang out with his own kids, which involved them driving in front of our house to their property so many times that we had to put up a gate to keep them out. Somehow they got the gate code and entered again one day. We finally moved.

There are no words to describe the devastation my family has been through as a result of sexual sin.

I look at all this mess involving the Duggars and the chaos it is causing just on social media. It’s difficult to see how anything good could come out of it.

Yet God has allowed this sin to be brought out into the light for a reason. We can point fingers of blame, choose sides, or ask God what He wants us to learn from all of it.

I feel a deep sense of compassion for everyone involved. For the victims who’ve had all these shameful sins committed against them exposed and for Josh Duggar who has had all of his sins exposed.

I know what it feels like to be both the exposed victim and the sinner. To pour my heart out about abuse I suffered, and to have others to misunderstand and judge and not protect my identity. Also I know what it feels like to confess my sin and to suffer the consequences of having that sin exposed to everyone. It’s a terrible place to be and I pray for God’s abundant grace for everyone involved in the Duggar exposure.

Finally, despite all the chaos and confusion that this whole exposure has caused I am also feeling relief. This might seem like a strange thing to feel. Because how can something good come out of something so bad? It’s been a long and difficult journey to see the truth behind all of this pain, but it is there.

My story, my daughter and my family’s story, and Josh and his sister’s stories all help me to realize how desperate and broken we all really are. The bright light of truth cast upon all of us reveals there is “none good, no not one.” We can try as hard as we can to cover up all those things we are ashamed of by doing or saying the right things, but the truth is even our best acts of righteousness are only filthy rags.

And the relief comes when I recognize that we all need Jesus Christ and He is there. His grace is abundant and flowing and plenty and He invites all who will to come and receive it. Those sins committed against us and those sins we have committed are bleeding and painful and cause so much shame, until we come to Him and He covers us with His righteousness. “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

I have referred to the exposure of my own sin as a train wreck. I was bleeding and broken for my whole church to see. Lies were told, judgments were made, and we moved from yet another town. And to the visible eye it has indeed been a train wreck. One that at times seems impossible to heal from or ever make right. But Jesus saw me wallowing in my blood, had compassion on me and told me to live. And slowly but surely with the help of Him and my counselor I am learning to do that. And so is my daughter and husband as they go through counseling. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

After years of feeling like I was dying in the darkness from my own sexual abuse and secret sins, I realize exposure to the light is the only way to heal. Light being cast upon sin is the only way to stop it from growing and causing more pain. Jesus is the light of the world and the revealing of our sins is a clear evidence of His mercy, and we in the church have a responsibility to expose the darkness.

The pastor at the church we’ve been vising challenged us last week to think about these verses and what it means to be the light of the world in an ever changing culture. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I have not stopped thinking about this question since he asked it and with all the attention the Duggars are now getting I am challenged all the more.

Many people have seen the Duggar family as a light in the dark world. They’ve become heroes to many, because of their high moral standard. On a much smaller scale, my former pastor was exalted and thought of in the same way until his abusive sin of infidelity with me was exposed. As the church secretary, people had expected more of me as well. But after ten years of hiding in the darkness I felt like I was suffocating and came out into the light.

But what I expected to happen stepping out into the light didn’t happen at all. My husband, who was hurt probably more than anyone else and whom I expected to leave me, showed more grace and mercy than I ever imagined. The exposure of a ten year deception against him and our family revealed the bright light of Christ shining from him. I was blinded and stunned by His love and forgiveness and still am. He’s been a refuge for me and a true example of grace. Because of his love and forgiveness I’ve seen more of the light and love of Christ than I’ve ever known.

However, exposure to the light made many uncomfortable. There was an urgency to get the sin in the camp out into the light and give the church carefully edited facts from its leaders, so that it would lessen the severity of gossip about the church in the community. I was asked to resign, because it might be too difficult for others to see me there. The pastor was quickly deposed. My impression was that the church wanted to put the whole thing away as quickly as possible so they could move on.  The church felt like an unsafe place for a sinner and a victim of sexual abuse.  So many opportunities for healing and grace were missed.

Light exposes both darkness and beauty. For those who desire to live in the light there is nothing so dark that God won’t transform into His likeness. For those who love the dark, they will continue to avoid the light at all costs. Those who desire to live in the light run the risk of having their most painful secrets exposed. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sometimes this exposure feels like we are being scorched, but I’m starting to see if we stay in the discomfort of the light we begin to see an amazing metamorphosis. For His light transforms everything into light. And in this light we see the shimmering beauty of the splendid, royal gown of His righteousness that He has dressed us in. In this light we can live, breath and grow truly good fruits that come from His righteousness alone. In this light we will shine His extravagant love into a world that is dark and in need of hope.

In the Light by DC Talk

6 thoughts on “The Relief of Exposure

  1. Thank you for your brave story and the powerful truth it reveals about how the Light sets us free! Some may wonder why you refer to your own story of abuse so often. I know it is because you never want to forget what it was like then, what it is like now, and your hope for the future. Your pain has already allowed you to help your daughter in meaningful ways – you give your calendar time and her’s to be filled with eternal meaning, not just the reality of the events in your days. The only way to stay out of the bondage of darkness is to bravely live in the freedom of the Light. Thank you for reminding us that the confused power of a 14 year-old boy over the innocence of a little girl can be life-altering. And for reminding us that it is in the Light’s exposure of the ruins of our lives that God’s presence abides.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Can I just say, I hope young women will read this post and know that they’re not alone, and that your brave testimony can be that light in a dark world for them… I hear God reminding every girl, every woman, that they’re worth speaking up for, worth cherishing, worth being treated like the treasure He’s created them to be… and we don’t care how young or old a guy is, private touch like that is simply wrong on every level…. keep shining the truth for Him, Liz!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with Sharon, you are so brave. In some ways, I’m still hiding in the shadows, not even willing to tell my family about the hurt that I suffered as a young child. I know that God is working in my life, bringing healing. I will just have to trust in Him to reveal to me if and when that is His desire. For right now, it seems not a safe thing to do. Keep shining for Him, sweet friend.
    Blessings and hugs,


    1. Kamea, I’m right there with you. Most of my family doesn’t know. My mom would be devastated and I can’t bear to put her through it at her age. I just don’t see the benefit in it. I honestly believe she didn’t know it happened and cannot change it. My brother kinda knows and understands a little bit, but we have talked very little. So you aren’t alone!

      Liked by 1 person

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