January 24, 2013
I’ve been trying to write this for weeks. In fact since the 15th November. Since I read the ‘Paedogeddon: of God and Monsters’ written by Sara Kewly Hyde and published on Threads here;
I’ve been trying to respond since then. And I have written and rewritten this blog several times now. And then I decided I would write it, and try and put down in words some of my personal thoughts. The thoughts I had initially.
Because however hard I try to come up with something deep and meaningful, I am not sure I can. However hard I try to come up with something that is ‘seen’ as ‘theological’ I am not sure I can. In fact I am sure I cant.
I’ve discovered all I can actually come up with is my own personal, deep down, gut instinct response to what Sara wrote.
I have been challenged. Big time. I have not been able to stop thinking about it. Since I first read what she had to say, it has played on my mind, and I have thought about it at least once a day, often more.
I am a survivor. I grew up being abused by the people who should have been caring for me. By the people I should have been able to look up to. The man who should have been a father to me abused me. I was abused by someone else who was unable himself to deal with being abused.
I also, as a young adult, in my early twenties was assaulted one day, in the street, just down the road from where I was living at the time. When that happened, that day, my life changed. Forever. Yet another thing was taken away from me.
I had nothing left. It pushed me to the brink of death, because just over a year later, I would try to kill myself (here by the grace of God and all that).
Sometimes I am able to eloquently describe and talk about what it is like to be abused, and raped. And sometimes I am not. Sometimes I am able to put into words the pain, shame, fear and torture that fill your mind. It is torment.
However hard you try to wash, scrub, cry, scream, cut and plead away the pain, the memories, the nightmares, they don’t go.
They will never go. They will always be there. And even though in time, you may be able to try to start living a life, a different life again, those memories will always exist. Sometimes they are more painful than others. But a day does not go by, when some memory surfaces. Somewhere, sometime during a normal day, something will trigger a memory. It could be a smell, a word. Something. Anything.
But what I have learnt as I grow stronger (and I shall be forever grateful to those people who support me in this journey) that life can be lived, and lived well. And that is the journey I am on, learning to live life, and live it well.
I am learning to laugh again, to smile, to be loved, and to love.
And it is going well. I think.
But then every now and then something comes along that halts you. Makes you stop. Makes you remember even more intensely than you already do. Makes you reflect more so than ever before. And makes everything so loud once again in your head.
That has been my experience since the Jimmy Savile expose happened. Since it was revealed that he was a predatory child abuser, and that his victims could be as many as 500 and counting.
Since everyone has been talking about child abuse, and rape. Since it has not left the front page, and Internet, the conversation in the street. Since the topic has been everywhere. And that is why I wrote this:
To put into words, and convey some of my thoughts and feelings that had been aroused so much more than they usually are.
However, reading Sara’s Paedogeddon article made me realise that my response was just that. It was my response. It was the emotional and personal response of someone who has experienced the pain of abuse.
And this is where the clanger kicks in for me: it was NOT a Christian response. And it was not a response that considered the offender. In fact I never really thought about it from those points of views. I never really thought about what it means to be a Christian and a survivor, to the point where I have to then think about how I think about and respond to people who rape and abuse. Not properly anyway. Not deeply. Not with any meaning.
Until I read Sara’s thoughts. Her article was so well written. And it touched on topics I have not wanted to, have not been able to, and have tried to ignore.
But I have no choice but to. I have no choice, as a Christian but to confront these issues.
So how would I respond? If I was face to face, or in the position where I had to be with or engage with an offender.
And this is where I come a little stuck. This is where my head goes round and round in circles, and this is where I have written this blog so many times, and still not managed to write a coherent answer.
The best I can offer is I don’t know.
The best I can offer, after chatting about this to many people, including close friends, other survivors, and my minister is this: I don’t know.
The truth is, I really know how I would respond to someone who I knew was or had been a child abuser, or a rapist. I don’t know how I would love them, or even if I could. I don’t know how I would respond to someone sitting in front of me in church, who was a known sex offender.
Maybe I would want to hit them. Maybe I would want to scream at them. Maybe I would want to walk away and never have to think about them again. Maybe.
Or maybe I would want to talk to them. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe I wouldn’t.
But I ask myself this: do I have a place myself, a place in a Christian community if I am not willing to accept this line that Sara wrote:
‘The church needs to be a place of acceptance and healing for the abuser and the abused’.
But it is true. Painfully true.
If I talk about, and expect, and desire, and wish to see His church, THE church understand, accept and have a place for a survivor of abuse, then surely I have to accept that it is also a place for an offender. I have to accept that there can be/is/has to be a place for them too. That they also need to be part of a community that will accept, love and support them. I have to accept that they are people too.
She says this
‘There has to be grace for those who have committed even the most atrocious, life wrecking crimes , and those cripples by the effects of these crimes, otherwise the cross is a nonsense’.
As a survivor, and a Christian I HAVE TO BELIEVE that Jesus came for the people who abused and raped me too. That He came for people who abuse and rape others. Otherwise, as Sara put it so well ‘the cross is a nonsense’. And deep down, no matter what state my relationship with God is, I know it is not nonsense.
But that is big. That is big stuff to get my head around. But I am trying to. Slowly.
But how does this actually play out?
And again, that’s where I come to ‘I don’t know’.
I could give you the answers I’m ‘meant’ to. The answers where I say I would greet them with open arms, welcome them into my community, my family, and love them. But whether I would or could, I don’t know?
I could give you the answers that I have thought about for the last few weeks, that have gone round and round in my head, the ones where I have tried to be deep and super spiritual, but actually those answers wouldn’t be being true to myself. Because the answer I have is I don’t know. I simply don’t know.
But I do accept that there has to be a place for them. The church has to have a place for them. Because deep down, deep down where it hurts so painfully, I know Jesus has a place for them. He loves them, like He loves me.
Knowing that is not easy. Trust me. I don’t say it in a blasé way.
But it’s the truth.
I have to accept that these people have the right to be engaged with, supported and part of Gods Kingdom, like I do.
But I also have to accept that I do not have to everything and anything to everyone and anyone.
When I threw this topic out on to twitter a few weeks ago, I had a chat with Jon Beech who you can find here: @_jonb
I asked something on the lines of, how as a survivor should I/could I engage with offenders. His response startled me. I was not expecting it.
He asked back whether I should have to.
His point was: I cannot, and not have to engage with absolutely anyone and everyone I come across. I do not have to be all things to all people. I can’t be.
So I have to accept my limitations. Whilst accepting child abusers and offenders may have a place in my community, and probably already do, that I just don’t know about I have to accept I don’t HAVE to engage with them. And that unless God somehow struck me with lightening and convicted me in such a way that made clear that I was meant to, that actually I can keep myself safe.
At the top of Sara’s article on Threads, it says this in a blue box ‘ who has all the answers? Not us, that’s for sure. But ignoring the questions doesn’t make them go away’.
And that’s the truth. Who has all the answers? I certainly don’t, but the questions will not go away. So we must keep discussing them. We must keep talking about them. And we must be honest.
So, I bring this to an end, probably without writing about what I started out intending to. I am a Queen of tangents.
But rest assured, these topics are ones that roll around my head on a daily basis, and are never too far away from my thoughts, so if you ever want to join in the conversation with me, feel free to contact me. I’m open to all thoughts.
June 1, 2012
I had the real privilege of being able to attend Spring Harvest 2012. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve become a proper Spring Harvester (whatever one of them is – I was recently informed by a ‘regular’ that this is what I’ve become) … I’ve been converted to Christian conferences. Well, this one at least.
You may have read some of my blog, written last year about my experience at SH 2011. It was interesting, and one I was not expecting whatsoever. I had gone on the back of a drunken bet, ready for a fight, and ready to find it mind blowingly frustating and annoying. In fact, I actually had secretly hoped it was, because it meant I could spend the next few months moaning about ‘typical’ Christians, who like to spend a week in a bubble wrap and spend time exploring everything that is not relevant to life today. So, believe me how surprised I was to find myself experiencing something so very different. To read more about last years SH do check out this link, where you’ll find the relevant part midway through that blog - another year has gone-goodbye-2011-hello-2012
So, anyway, back to 2012. I went to Spring Harvest at Skegness again. This time, it was not on the back of a bet, drunken or sober. No bet at all. I actually wanted to go. Really wanted to. I remember tweeting someone the week before sometime, while I was washing up one day, standing at the sink reflecting on how the same time last year I was dreading it, whereas this time round I was actively looking forwards to going.
What a surprise eh? Well, it sure was for me!
One of the things I had hoped to do, while at Spring Harvest was blog. And I did. Twice. Not quite as many times as planned.
Thing is, when I am writing I can sometimes spend hours typing, and then going over what I’ve written, and then wondering if its ‘good enough’ before I publish. The other thing is, I always write from what I have going on inside my head. Inside of me. And so, what I write about tend to be things that I could talk about naturally, or that I’m passionate about, or have got laid on my heart to put into words. I often write about things I have been thinking about for sometime. I often write about things that have affected me, or that do affect me, my life, the lives of people around me, and issues that affect our world. But they have to be things that I have processed.
And so, I quickly decided that actually, although I really wanted to blog about my Spring Harvest 2012 experience, it would have to be done after the event. Maybe months after (like this post in fact). Because, I needed to be able to just spend the week there. Experience the meetings, the teaching, the seminars, meet people, have those coffees, sit on the beach, chill and do all the things that people do when they are away for the week at a Christian conference.
And then, most importantly I needed to go away, and process. Think about the stuff I heard. Think about the stuff I saw, felt and experienced. Think about the people I met, and the things they said to me. The things we talked about. Think about my experience of God that week, and life in general.
Having laid all the above out, brings me to the point now, where I’m starting to be able to put down in blogs about the week.
The week of huge privilege meeting some amazing people. Hearing some amazing stuff. And spending some amazing time with God.
Early on in the week, in fact the very first full day of Spring Harvest, I wrote the blog ‘its been exactly 4 years sinceI tried to die …’. It was quite emotional actually, sitting in the coffee shop, on site, writing a blog about how 4 years ago to the very day, I took an overdose with the full intention of wanting to die. Some people think it is a bit morbid to think about it. But I see it as a celebration of life. Because although things did not immediately get better, it was that day that life, my life hung in the balance, and for some reason it was meant to be kept going. I was kept going. I did not die. And, now, 4 years on I am so glad I didn’t. So that is what I mark. That is what I celebrate.
But it is important to me to remember where I was. Those days when I could not get out of bed. When I could not get showered, or dressed, or go to work. Or do anything. The days when all I sit was sit and smoke, self harm or dream about the day when I died. Because remembering those days keeps it real. It does not mean I ‘dwell’ on it as such, but it just means I can recognise how life was back then, and then how different it is today.
Its important to remember those days, and then think about the fact that 4 years on, I have been so so blessed to have had some amazing people put into my life, who have loved me, cared for, and who still do love and care for me. If only I can be even half the blessing to other people that these folks have been in my life, then that’d be cool. They are immense people that I am so thankful for. And that, even now, amazing people, who really inspire me, are being put into my life. And I’m thankful for that too!
My week at Spring Harvest 2012 was so varied, from dropping hot chocolate and swearing loudly in front of the coffee shop staff (who found it firstly astonishing a Christian at SH would swear, but then ending up in a great convo) to bumping randomly into a woman I know from my town, who burst in tears on me, and then spent 3 hours in said coffee shop (I became a regular that week) talking about life and the entire universe, where we both laugh, and cried. From meeting people who were leading seminars and main stage talks who inspired me immensely, to sitting in the Skyline at midnight chatting to an old time friend I’d managed to catch up with. From sitting in lectures that were so relevant to life in 2012 (so much so I ordered the entire teaching on USB – I know, I know, that really IS keen isn’t it?!) to supping wine late at night with my lovely chalet buddy who I had never met before SH. From upsetting old ladies in the toilet queue by talking about my habit of using the mens when the Q’s are too long and tattoo’s to experiencing God in a huge huge quiet and gentle but immense way. And so much more.
One of the many things I came away with from SH 2012 was this:
Despite my weirdness, and my quirks, and I have plenty of those. Despite my mess. Despite the screw up that my life has been and often is, despite my inadequateness and my insecurities I can be me. I can be who I am, and still belong and be loved by God and His people. And that however unworthy and small it is, I can and do play a part in His Kingdom.
I dont quite know how that plays out … right now, but I am assured that somehow I am playing a part in His Kingdom. I am His child. He does love me. And that even though I still have some working out to do, I do love Him.
Maybe my faith is ‘child-like’. But thats ok. I might not be good at the ‘deep’ theology, or the big facts. My bible knowledge may be poor. I might not be as clever as some of the people I have met, but thats ok, because I am me. Not them. And thats good. The world needs them. But perhaps it needs me too.
I am reminded of Jeremiah 29, verse 11. Where it talks about the hope and the future God has for us. For each and every one of us. Including me. So although, I don’t know what the future holds right now, what I do know is, I have one. And that excites me.
And thats how I left Spring Harvest 2012, after a few days, with excitement. About God, life and the future.
(I’m leaving this there for now, as I have said all I want to, but I’m hoping to write more about some of the things I’ve touched on in this blog and some of the experiences at SH more in depth, so they will come in time )
May 6, 2012
Spent some time last night reading my old blogs, something I do occasionally. And I also read an old journal, that I kept, mostly in 2008, and around the months when I was at the bottom of the bottom. Below is an entry I found and read. I spent a long time chatting to my beautiful Godfather on the phone yesterday, and he is only one of two people I know in my life now, who knew/knows my biological father. Its always thought provoking to discuss my biological father. Below is an entry I wrote, in 2008 about an incident when I was young. In fact, one of the tamer times really. My father was an abusive bully, who ultimately broke the lives of the people around him, and the lives of his children. Sadly my brother was to then take on the traits of him, as he grew up, and only knew how to deal with the pain with anger himself. That left me being being in the position of being abused by father, many different times, and in very many different ways, but then as I grew up, also by my brother.
Life really is like a box of chocolates isn’t it? You never know what your going to get, or be given.
Most of the time we were at house ‘on holiday’. I dont really remember exactly how old we were but one week we spent most of the time in the garage with the babysitter, playing games. Or my stepmm would look after us. I think I was perhaps 10 years old and remember missing my mum so much. We were the other side of the country from her. I would cry. At some point I must have done this in front of my step mum, for her to simply say ‘wait until your Dad gets homes’.
When he got home, I was hiding upstairs. I dont know where my brother was. I remember him shouting my name whilst he sat on the the double bed in the spare room. He has taken off his belt and shoes, and I knew I had to go and endure the beating. It was better to go, and get it over with then endure ‘the chase’ so to speak, because then it would only have been worse.
Apparently I had upset my stepmum and disrespected her by missing my real mum. While being beaten reasonably black and blue with his belt and steel capped military shoes he kept telling me to never dare to cry again.
Maybe thats why over the years, crying became such a problem. I never dared to cry in front of them again, and in fact for many years never dared to cry again in front of anyone. In fact I never really cried at all full stop.
That same week my brother and I went skating around the base my father lived on. At the top of this huge hill were the armed guarded gates, and we’d always go to the top to say hello to the soldiers and show off our passes that said we were allowed to be on the site. Maybe we broke the boredom in their day, I hope so, but I know we enjoyed those moments. We would then skate down the hill as fast as we possibly could. Being a child at the time, the hill felt huge (it probably wasnt that good) and it was great fun.
Except for this one time, when I fell. Just by accident, it was no ones fault. Least of all my brothers. But he got the blame. He was made to sit on a chair, when we got back home, in the middle of garden whilst my father towered over him, shouting and berating him. This huge man standing over a very young, skinny, pale faced and scared child. I remember watching what happened, and yelling at the window, even banging at it. But I had been locked inside the house. What could I do? I dont know, but I should have done something.
I had dinner with my mum tonight, and during the conversation I asked her if my Dad had ever hit her. She said no. So I asked her why she thought he did us. Her reply was ‘because you couldn’t hit back’.
I believe my father did what he did to us, because exactly as my mum said, we couldnt fight back. Whatever he did to us, whatever type of abuse he endured on us, he was always the stronger person.
But I am an adult now too. And I can have the ability to be strong too. I loved a quote by Gibbs from NCIS the other night where someone said ‘I am not a victim’, he replied ‘No, your not, Your a survivor’.
And so through it all, I am starting to learn and believe that actually, despite his abuse, the bullying at school, the pain inflicted on my by my brother, the subsequents depression/selfharm and pain I inflicted on myself and then the assault in London which finally finished me off and led to what some would say a bit of a breakdown, that I am surviving. And I can survive.
One of the most important lessons over the last few years I have learned, with regards to faith and God, was given to me by someone who I love dearly, and whose family have accepted me, and love me as I am. Not long after trying to kill myself, I spent some time staying with them, and we sat in the garden one evening and their garden table, talking about the universe. I was so so angry with everything and everyone, and my view at that point of God was that he was a sadistic Nazi (I know I know, I was very angry at that time!) … and I was also frustrated and fed up with people/Christians who would say ‘well, you know God has intended all of this for good to come out of it’. Honestly? Well if you look at it that way, or think off it that way, then how can you not think God is cruel? He isnt this kind loving thing if he deliberately causes alsorts of unknown pain on someone just so good can eventually come out of it can he.
Anyway, Andrew told me this … God never intended the bad to happen. It was not His plan. In the world, or in people lives. But what He can do, and does so is somehow weave the chaos and the hurt, and eventually make something good out of it.
I was so profoundly affected by that, and its stayed with me for a long time, and been a huge part in bringing me back to a real sense of God in my life.
When I first started blogging, years and years ago, my very first blog was quite a faith blinded one. So full of life and a love for God – who was to know at that point my world would be turned upside down, and the very things then I knew i believe in would be broken. I for sure didnt.
But right now, it feels like I’m coming back full circle, but as a very different person. My faith is growing. Deepening. Through it all, even the times when I could barely utter a word to God, or when I did they were just screaming profanities, I never didnt believe in God.
So here I am. A survivor. A survivor who can now cry (a lot at times) but who is learning to live and love life, and God, again.
April 12, 2012
What am I? (apart from weird)
Am I a fundamentalist? Er, no for sure!
Liberal? Yeah most probably …
Evangelical? Whats one of them?
So most of you following my twitter feed/facebook and who read my last blog yesterday will probably have worked out that I am at a Christian Conference.
Spring Harvest to be precise … check out www.springharvest.org if you have never heard of it, or would like to know more, even better want to come in 2013.
Anyway, so yeah, here I am at Spring Harvest, again, after coming last year and being really surprised. Surprised at the week itself, and surprised at how challenged my own attitude was. And that’s not always easy to say is it? Not many people go round with a placard saying ‘I’ve got a bad attitude’. Neither did I, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t mean particularly, I just wanted to come and have a fight. Try and annoy people. Be sceptical. And if anything was said or talked about that did not fit into ‘my view’ that obviously it was wrong. Somehow God really challenged my attitude of being intolerant of intolerance. It took a while to realise I was just as bad as those I disliked for being intolerant because I was intolerant towards them.
So here I am again. Spring Harvest 2012. I had planned on going to some stuff today, and trying to write something reasonably spiritual, intellectual and interesting as a blog, then I realised that isn’t me really is it. I’m not especially clever, and my knowledge of God and the bible is pretty lame compared to the amazing people I am surrounded by, and in total awe of.
I decided I needed a rest day today (I know I know, its only the second full day, but I’m knackered!) and it’s been brilliant. I had breakfast, another nap, a chat on the phone with some friends, and coffee. Time to think and more hot chocolate/drinks/time to think and write. ( I am going to have to buy some if not all the talks, as I think I have missed a few I would quite liked to have been to, plus apparently there was a really interesting lecture this afternoon that I missed on woman in leadership – another thing I really like about SH is its apparent commitment to equality in church leadership. The main preach in the morning is by Ness Wilson, a church a leader, and there are many awesome woman involved in running Spring Harvest, and doing the teaching/talks)
One of the things I have been thinking about is the huge array of people here this week. The huge array of people I have met so far. I don’t know if it is just me, or the friendliness of the people here, but I just seem to end up in conversation with people (don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining). There are a huge variety of folk who have all come away for a week, most of whom want to learn more about God and spend time with other Christians. And that’s great … really great.
But that has made me wonder how many denominations there are here? I have no idea. I don’t know if Spring Harvest would know either. So far in the short few days I have been here I have heard or met people from the Church of Scotland, Church of England, a Pentecostal church, Nondenominational, United Reformed and Baptist church.
I am sure there must be more too.
I don’t know if Spring Harvest is a particular denomination or not, I don’t think it is. But then I got thinking about the terms fundamental, evangelical, and liberal.
They get used a lot to describe people don’t they ?
I’ve often heard people say ‘oh I’m an evangelical Christian’ or ‘ I go to a fundamentalist church’ (that kind of thing anyway, its fair to say I have not met many/know many fundamentalists).
I have spent some wondering today whether it matters or not? After all, there are folk who would say that it does not matter, and the only important thing is that you believe in God and would call yourself a Christian.
I kind of get that … but actually reality is that it doesn’t work that way does it, because otherwise we would all ‘just be Christians’ and there would be no denominations at all – maybe that would be a good thing? I don’t know?
So, how do you know ‘what you are’? How do I know ‘what I am’?
Answers on a post card please – alternatively just use the comment box – i’ve had to put ‘moderation’ on due to some really vile comments coming through but I always approve normal comments, even ones that disagree with me
The other thing I have been thinking about, and plan on spending some more time thinking on and writing about is the 18-30 things.
Spring Harvest has an ’18-30’ venue going on this year (I think they had it last year too) and over the last year or so it has become increasingly apparent, well to me anyway, that doing 18-30 stuff is becoming the ‘thing to do’. I’m experiencing this in the church I am involved in too – they have a passion/desire to try and reach out/create something that includes and involves and is 18 to 30 relevant.
Whenever I talk/tweet about this, it is not just about SH or criticising anything they are doing specifically. Its trying to think about it all in the wider ‘big church umbrella context’.
Now some of you are probably wondering why it has anything to do with me. I’m not a church leader. I’m not a leader of anything. I don’t have any sway, and I am not really able to back up my thoughts with anything solid other than them being just that, my thoughts, and the thoughts of some other people I chat to.
The reason why I am writing about it though, and thinking that it has a little bit to do with me is because I fit into that age group. But the end of that age range. As a nearly 28 year old, I am supposed to ‘fit in’ to the 18-30 group.
But do I? And do the other people who are my age? Do we fit into something that is trying to focus on an 18 year old, just leaving school, maybe going to Uni, maybe just starting work, maybe going on a gap year or on one. Do we fit into the group that is trying to focus on 18 to 22 year old somethings who are students and who are at University? Who are studying and struggling with life choices, careers paths, where next and all of the other things that come along with that life (not that I would know about any of it, having not been to uni).
Do we fit? And should we?
Or does there come a time when we have to admit adulthood and engage with mainstream adult programmes when it comes to events and church life?
Anyway, just a few thoughts from today … just noticed the time, ironically have to dash other wise I’ll be very late for the 18-30 Function event that I’m head to this evening – already late as I should be there now, ops!)