At the end of the year we are hanging out with my in-laws in Colorado. Knowing I would (hopefully) have a little space, a friend sent me with a quick read called A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. The intent was comfort and reflection after a rather brutal year. He too has had brutal years and we share parallel ministerial experiences. In other words, we’ve both been screwed by other Christians at different points in our lives. Not just the “gee, I had a bad day and took it out on you” kind of screwed. More like the life-altering, God where are you in the midst of lies and abuse by those who are supposed to be your people kind of screwed.
Before you rush out and buy this book, please note I first and foremost would NOT recommend it. That said, I love the heart of the man who sent it with me for the holiday break and firmly believe that even the author had pure motives and intent.
In short, Edwards repeatedly suggested that those who have been abused in any way not cry out, but rather should dig deep in order to learn what manner of lesson God might want them to learn. I could go on but there are plenty of Amazon reviews that point out the flaws and extreme Calvinist positions that even most Calvinists would reject.
I was transported back to a time while I was in seminary and the Continental Singers were at our church for revival. They sang beautifully, but I walked away thinking they were crazy based solely on the preaching. In particular, the guest preacher said, out loud, that marriage needed to be shored up and those who struggle or suffer in abusive situations needed to go to their prayer closet and ask God what she should learn, how could she be more Christlike to endure the trials set before her. He warned against speaking out, talking of the enemies plan for division in the house.
Back to A Tale of Three Kings… Much was written about walking with dignity, about taking the high road, about how God does amazing things in spite of the poor treatment inflected by others. All true, and yet no accountability for the abusers. No hope for victims apart from how they have no need or option to question or cry out. Only admonishment to “not divide the house”.
This year our theme at church was “water.” I didn’t get it at first but with each passing day I find I am leaning into scripture and the advent lessons of this year. I find I am sharing passages and the hope of God with friends in ways I have been unable to do in years. I sit with those who have been screwed, sometimes by pastors, bishops or other church leaders. Sometimes by close friends or even family members. As we talk of water, we talk of being caught up in God’s current. We talk of the fear that can ensue when enveloped. We talk of the bumps and bruises in the path of the flow of water, but also of the rough places made smooth. We talk of the difficulty when we plant ourselves firmly trying to avoid God’s direction or worse when we seek our own agenda over His.
Edwards no doubt leans into scripture (2 Cor 5:17), calling for us to become new creations in Christ as the old has passed away, using David as the ideal model. He writes of Saul ruthlessly abusing David over time leaving him humiliated, deeply wounded, having his inner being mutilated, personality altered and left barely recognizable as if this were a badge of honor worn only by a select few.
God desires that we are open to become all He intended for us to be. That He is the potter and we are the clay. That we may come to Him in every state not to be told to buck up, rather to be encouraged and lifted up, that His will may come on earth as it is in heaven and this includes in our own lives.
If you have been or find yourselves suffering under someone in leadership who should know better, cry out to God. Do NOT remain silent. Do NOT absolve abusers of their abuse! Surround yourself with those who will speak truth deeply into your life, this means both praise and critique. What you don’t need is to suffer in silence and solitude. God would never blame the victim. He is on your side and will bind up the broken hearted!
Here is to no longer putting up with the old ways and looking to a new year where we seek all that God has to offer for us and through us!