Megan is the Founder of Give Her Wings, has an MAR in Pastoral Counseling and is certified in Crisis Response with the AACC. She has also written the book Give Her Wings: Help and Healing After Abuse.
After witnessing yet another Christian leader who is “too famous” to acknowledge the pain and suffering of the “little people”, who are women who were abused in the most conservative of churches, I realized, today, that I would never ever be able to get them to see our point of view. Its frustrating. But, when you feel you have done all you can, and still they don’t listen, acceptance brings peace. They are not going to listen. And I might just need to stop trying.
I found out, this week, that a man who knows nothing about abuse is going to write a book, commissioned by a publisher (Lifeway?), about abuse. This man has ignored my pleas for years. Its painful to see that. Once I stopped crying, I prayed. I prayed for this man. I prayed his book will not do more harm than good. I prayed God could use it. Like Paul, I want to believe that God can use anyone — no matter how unqualified — to speak truth. I hope this is the case. God also spoke to me. He said to forgive him and others (this is a big deal for me) and I decided to write myself a letter. Forgiveness has been a painful, yet beautiful, process for me over the years. And something I have had to do over and over. What I have written below is what I wish I could have heard all these past seven years. I’m going to stop wishing for that, although it would bring tremendous healing to my heart and countless others. Its just not going to happen.
I’m going to write a letter to myself and then give all of this to Jesus, knowing that He knows; He cares; He sees; He is just. Tears are running down my face, right now, as I write this. It is so hard. Its so hard, friends.
So, here goes . . . .
*Disclaimer: There have been two Christian, leading men, in my life, who apologized to me, personally. Gary Thomas apologized to me when I told him how my ex husband and others had used his premise of “marriage is to make you holy, not happy” against me. Danny Akin apologized to me for how my ex used his book “God and Sex” to sexually abuse me. This brought healing to my soul. I admire them for their humility.
We know what we did to you. You came to our seminary, looking for Jesus and trying to be a good wife so that your husband could pursue his “calling” of being a missionary. You gave up a successful career (you were a concert pianist!) because you loved Jesus and believed that your husband was “specially called”. We affirmed that. You never felt that anointing, you only felt love for God and wanted to know Him more. You were kind of just a “regular Christian”. We understand, now, that God lives in everyone. Everyone who wants Him to! You had lost your parents in a car accident a few years earlier and you were searching for meaning and truth. You embraced theology and doctrine and graduated with three babies, one on the way, and straight ‘A’s (a B in Church History — we’ve all been there). It took you six years. It took you six years because we were indoctrinating you on how you would not be a fulfilled or purposeful woman unless you abandoned birth control and homeschooled. And yet you pressed on. When you were graduated, we didn’t acknowledge you at your church, where you had served for several years. We gloried in the graduation of the men. But we were silent about you. In fact, most of us didn’t know you were studying. You felt we would judge you for doing something outside of motherhood. We see that now.
We also recently discovered that the man you sat by in church for 11+ years was abusing you in every way possible. He was also a porn addict. When you spoke about it, and took that risk only a few times, we judged you harshly. We told you you were not giving him enough sex and were not submissive enough. We told you that it is “every man’s problem” and you should show compassion. We are sorry. We are sorry that we made you the bearer of his sin. We are sorry that we held you responsible for an addiction he has had since he was eleven years old. That was wrong.You were quiet and alone. Your husband was telling you you deserved it and it kind of looked like we thought that, too. We unknowingly aided in the total destruction of your esteem.
He told you that if you told anyone, you would ruin his ministry, as appointed to him by God. We affirmed that many times. Your livelihood and that of your children was completely dependent upon your silence and masked cheerfulness, while he worked as a pastor. We put you in a lonely prison.
When you finally left, we started harassing you. It wasn’t even a matter of withdrawing. We were aggressive. We made fun of you on social media, when we were not calling you out. We didn’t listen and we didn’t believe you. Because you were on your own with four children, your main concern was supporting them. We didn’t help you; we told you to obey God and go back. We made you believe, for a little while, that God wants you to be abused . . . that you were in the wrong . . . that you were deserving. If we acknowledged the abuse, we coupled that with how we all pay the price for our “poor decisions” so you still had to go back. We wouldn’t recognize his charm during dating. We didn’t recognize your vulnerability. We didn’t see that a person could actually fool people and pretend to be godly — until the wedding night. We cannot imagine the horror you have suffered. We caused you tremendous psychological pain as we would not help you (only condemn you) and you had to look for other resources outside of our church in places you had been taught, by us, were not of God.
We can see that picture of you now when you left. You had no transportation and you pushed a stroller to our church on a busy street with a toddler on your back and two small children holding on to each side of the stroller. You were so afraid for their safety but wanted to get to church. When you got there, all four children clung to your skirt. All of you sweating from the journey. Everyone was afraid. All five of you cried during the hymns. Our pastor went to you and lovingly convinced you you could trust him. You walked home, having some hope. When he came to visit, he said that he wanted to get your husband on Skype and tell him to “come and get his wife.” You became terrified and asked him to leave. After that, you couldn’t trust. And we don’t blame you. We did that.
You and your children could not go to church for two years. You huddled on your tiny kitchen floor every Sunday, drinking hot cocoa and teaching your children bible stories. That was our fault. We take responsibility for it.
You couldn’t get a job because you had gone to a seminary from a denomination where women are not hired as pastors (except as “children’s ministers” or something along those lines). We teach that. Your degree was in counseling but you were not licensed, as we didn’t do that. You had no recourse. And other churches did not want someone who went to an SBC seminary. You had been a homeschooling mom or stay-at-home mom for 12 years. Your resume wasn’t stellar, by any means. We took away your options. We made you dependent on your abusive husband who only sent money when he felt you might come back to him. We didn’t get it because, as men, we were always able to be pastors. We didn’t think about how much we were hurting you by putting you a box and stamping it with the words “God’s will”.
After that, he stopped sending you any money (it was only about $6000 total over the course of a year), once he realized you would not leave the country, again, and put yourself in forever-isolation. For three years, he justified not paying child support. And we supported him. We kind of saw him as a victim for a long time. We don’t, anymore. But, that probably doesn’t assuage your pain. We are starting to understand. But it is just the tip of the iceberg.
You had to leave the church you had loved because you were constantly judged for leaving an abusive marriage. Somehow, others knew better than you what happened in your own home than you did. That was pretty crazy of us.
The fact that you clung to Jesus, still, despite all that His people did to you — passively and aggressively — is miraculous. We think we know still . . . we still think that we have a corner on truth. But, we’re starting to look bad for it, so we’re jumping on the band-wagon and writing books and holding conferences about abuse. But, you’re still not invited. We’re not sure why . . . maybe you remind us of what we did. And we can’t handle it or admit it, yet. You’ve always been uninvited because you don’t fit our cookie-cutter, Christian woman thingie we have going on. We don’t listen to you, which is unkind. We admit it. When we look at you, we see what we did and we can’t take it. Our consciences would be overwhelmed. Because it isn’t just you . . . its thousands of women that we silenced. And we are deeply grieved.
We are so glad that a godly man came into your life, adopted your children into his heart and proudly gave them his name (of whom you won sole custody of — yes, we see you fought that battle alone, as well, in the midst of our persecuting you) and now adores and provides for you all. He is a hero to us. David helps you run your non profit and, as a result, hundreds of women have seen that there are good men out there — men who care. And that’s been going on for seven years now.
Sometimes, it is best to start over. Instead of covering up or doing some mild form of damage control. Sometimes, its best to say something like, “Wow. We really really screwed up big-time bad. Before God, we silenced 50% of His children when we shouldn’t have. We let His daughters and His children (little ones) be abused and kept sending them back into abuse. We fed them to the lions in God’s name. God, have mercy on us. What can we do now? What is wrong with this? What have we done?!” And you do it in a big way. That’s what God’s people do sometimes, through space-time history. They do a big, giant repentance. Instead of just seeing “a little bit of sin”, God’s people have, in the past, seen giant lifestyles of sin and torn their clothes. What little bit of “woman stuff” we are doing now must feel to you and to others like a greater wound. We’re still leaving all of you out — you who have faithfully and painfully ministered to the abused for years and years now; you who lived in poverty for years yet still ran a non profit for women ignored or, worse, attacked by US (without pay) and helped hundreds of women be helped by the Church, when we refused to help them or listen to them.
Megan, we humbly repent of this. We see it now. We see what countless others have done because we failed, as a people. We acknowledge you. We see that we were just too famous to acknowledge you before. But, now, we acknowledge you and your pain, and that of your children. We also acknowledge ______ and ______ and ______ and so on . . . . We were tone-deaf. We had Marie-Antionette syndrome while we cozily and comfortably preached from our pulpits.
We are sorry. Please forgive us.
All the churches that persecuted me,
All the christian family members who persecuted me,
All the friends who persecuted me,
The seminary that knew my husband was abusing me and shut me down,
The church that said I was anti-God because I wanted to help women who were destitute
All the church leaders who ignored my emails,
The people who showed up on my doorstep to tell me to return to my abuser,
The pastors who called me to try to get me to go back,
And those who ignored facebook posts and tweets about what was happening on their watch.