Don’t Leave Your Mat by the Sin Pool

Jesus healed a man who’d been crippled for decades, a man who had apparently run out of options for getting himself well.

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:2-9.)

The man found the cure he’d been hoping for. Now he could walk as well as anyone else. He must have been amazed to be able to do as Jesus bid him: “Get up!”

Jesus also told him to take his mat in hand and walk, and he did. Wouldn’t you? The person who healed you tells you to do something, you might be in a frame of mind to do whatever they say.

Why did Jesus point out the mat, though? The man knew it was there. He’d been resting on it for years. Perhaps Jesus thought the man was so preoccupied in his excitement that he might forget it. Perhaps Jesus wanted the man to see he was now able not only to walk but to carry loads.

Regardless of the reason Jesus told him to pick up the mat, there’s a lesson here for everyone healed by Jesus.

Staying away from the sin pool

I practically swam in the sin pool and, until Jesus came along and told me to get up and showed me he had made it possible for me to live otherwise, I liked it. I was just like this, and then Jesus came along:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world … . All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. … But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus … . (Ephesians 2:1-6.)

I had my mat–or beach towel, or pool chair, or whatever you want to envision–right there at the sin pool. If this metaphor were literally true, Jesus might have told me to pick it up and take a walk away from the sin pool, too. As it is, the Bible lays out for me what the next steps are.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14.)

If you’re not under the law, how will you know how to live your life? Won’t you need rules? The simple answer is no you won’t. It’s not laws and rules that lead you to staying away from the sin pool. It’s God’s grace in you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age … . (Titus 2:11-12.)

But you’re thinking it might be nice to have a couple of pointers for staying away from the sin pool. You’re right, and here they are:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7.)

… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2.)

Satan flees from you at the sign of your resistance. How can you find the strength to resist? In God’s grace. Don’t leave your mat by the sin pool where you’ll return to lie on it. Sin entangles, but Jesus frees us not only to get up and walk, but to run in a race free from any and all entanglements.

Submit to God and keep your eyes on Jesus. Take up your mat, leave the sin pool behind, and get ready to run.

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The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel Denies the Gospel and God’s Justice

The “Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” came out a year ago and is worth looking at once again. Scrutiny reveals that the statement perverts both the gospel and one of the gospel’s components, social justice.

The first paragraph of the statement’s introduction asserts there is “an onslaught of dangerous and false teachings that threaten the gospel.” This is error. The reality is that the gospel is not threatened by lies, and falsehoods pose no danger to it.

The statement’s introduction then identifies the culprit as social justice but places the phrase in quotes, allowing the reader to assume that social justice is not a real concern for those seeking to live out the gospel of Jesus. Once the concept of social justice is dismissed, the statement is free to list a number of other aspects of life that are supposedly not gospel. The statement slowly builds to sex and race divisions, reaching them in articles XI (Complementarianism) and XII (Race/Ethnicity). The statement’s point is that feeling oppressed is no reason to consider someone to actually be oppressed: “we deny that a person’s feelings of offense or oppression necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.” (Art. XII.)

This is a straw man argument. No one says feelings are necessarily prove anything. The real point–and the one deflected by the statement–is that if a woman or person of color says they feel oppressed or offended they are referring to something that happened to them, not some emotional state of mind. The proper response is to listen and investigate.

If oppression or offense exist, the Bible says to do something about it.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9.)

Rather than dismiss social justice we are embrace it as part of the gospel of Jesus. (Luke 4.) Did the authors of the statement have good intentions? It doesn’t matter, since they deny the gospel in dismissing the pursuit of justice the Bible calls for.

“Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.” (Deuteronomy 16:20.)

Not a bad pursuit indeed.

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Encouragement for Parents with Kids Moving Away to College – the Spacious Nest Syndrome

[From the archives.]

Our son Kyle recently came home from college for a long weekend and brought three friends with him. For spacious-nesters like us it was quite a crowd. (My wife Liz and I figure we’re not empty-nesters since we’re still here for crying out loud!)

Each night after dinner we all sat together at the table and talked. We didn’t necessarily talk about anything in particular; we just talked. There was a lot of laughing as we told stories about Kyle when he was younger. He’s a good sport and came up with a few stories about us too. His friends were very entertained and kept looking at Kyle and saying things like, “Well that explains a lot!”

They also asked us questions, mostly about God and faith and the Bible. Apparently Kyle told them ahead of time they should feel free to ask us whatever they had on their minds when it came to God. He knows us well, because Liz and I are not likely to back away from a discussion about God things.

Eventually the conversations turned to their plans for the future. Kyle is the only one graduating this year, so the others were talking about what to do this summer, whether to apply to study abroad next year, what their major might finally end up being. In all of this there was a subtext of faith. At times it became explicit such as when talking about opportunities to serve on a summer mission, but even when not so explicit it was always there under the surface. These kids know that their lives are wrapped up in God.

They left after dinner on Monday, and the next day I was reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I know it’s enough to have lost count by now. Yet every time I get to the part where Aragorn and his friends Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf meet Eomer, I am struck again by the timelessness of the tale.

Aragorn explains to Eomer that they are traveling through his country on a quest to save their Hobbit friends from a large band of marauding Orcs, and he seeks Eomer’s leave to continue their pursuit. Eomer struggles with whether to help these strangers or not and says:

“It is hard to be sure of anything among so many marvels. Elf and Dwarf in company walk among our daily fields …! How shall a man judge what to do in such times?”

“As he has ever judged,” said Aragorn. “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among men.”

DSC07467

That’s what got me thinking about Kyle and his friends. They are all judging what to do with their lives, even if that’s not quite how they’d put it. But his friends are in just their second year of college. Where are they supposed to get the ability to discern good from ill, right from wrong? Well, as timeless as Tolkien’s portrayal of good judgment may be there is an even more timeless resource for them (and us) to turn to for guidance.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3.)

God himself is the one we can trust our plans to. Does it matter whether the plan is to go to summer school or serve on a mission to South Africa? What about making a final decision on choosing a major? Is a choice of roommate and housing for next year something to exercise good judgment over?

The answer to each of these questions is the same: Yes. How is this done, though? What does it mean to commit our plans to the God? The Bible tells us. “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31.) We’re also told that God’s will is that we “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.)

Those are our guides for committing our plans to God: seek his glory, and do it joyfully, prayerfully and with thanksgiving. On top of all this, the Bible also gives us a wonderful reason to trust God with those plans: his eternal and unchanging nature.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8.)

Even more than Tolkien’s assurance about the unchanging qualities of good and ill, we can rest assured that God himself has not changed since yesteryear. That’s why committing our plans to him is always the best plan we can make.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21.)

I’m planning on it.

***

[My thanks to Adriana of Classical Quest for creating the LOTR quote-graphic for this post.]

***

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All Sins Are Not Born Equal

A Christian with a huge Twitter following quoted his friend saying “Once we realize that we’re all equally awful and equally loved everything changes.”

That’s not what the Bible says.

The Bible does not say all people are equally awful. It says no one is righteous and everyone has sinned. (Romans 3:10 and 3:23.) This doesn’t mean all sins are equal. It does mean that any sin is a disqualification from righteousness.

As for love, the Bible says God is love. (1 John 4:8.) Since God is infinite, I’ll go along with limitless love. (Romans 8:38-39.) It also says God became human because “God so loved the world” and he gives eternal life to “whoever believes in him.” (John 3:16.)

So the concept of being equally loved is actually subsumed by the fact that God’s love is infinite. Great news.

But equally awful? That’s just not true. Equally undeserving, perhaps. That concept has biblical support. Equal awfulness does not. It’s unscriptural hogwash.

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Racists and the Rejection of God

[Updated from the archives.]

Some people are racist and embrace the label. They honestly think there’s a reason to feel that their own skin color makes them superior to people with a different skin color. Some of these racists even think they honor Jesus with their racism. But why do I care? After all, I’m a white male in America which makes me one of the most privileged people on the planet.

I care for two reasons.

First, mine is what some call a blended race family. When you talk about people of color, you’re talking about my wife, my son and my daughter. And if anyone accuses them of not being worth as much as other Americans, that person is not only wrong but stupid and ignorant.

My wife is sixth generation American. How many racist people can say the same? And on my side, my kids can trace their family on this continent to 1680. One of those racists want to beat that? And yes, my kids’ skin color is darker than those ignorant racists’ skin. So here’s my advice to the racists: get over it.

Second, the Bible is full of instances where racism is rejected by God and his prophets. We all know Paul’s statement that in Christ there is no male or female, Scythian or Jew or Gentile, no barbarian or slave or free. Jesus just doesn’t see our skin color the way that racists do. The problem with racism goes back to a time long before Paul, though, and God dealt with it severely.

Moses, the great leader of Israel, married a woman from Cush, a region in Africa to the south of Egypt. That meant she wasn’t an Israelite and had darker skin than the Israelites. This bothered Moses’ brother Aaron and sister Miriam. In fact, his decision to marry the woman caused them to question his ability to lead the people and they pointed this out to their fellow Israelites when speaking of their own qualifications to lead the people in his place. That was a big mistake and led to one of the most chilling verses in the whole Bible:

“The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.” (Numbers 12:9.)

Their racism incited them to speak against God’s chosen prophet, and it angered God so much that he left them! Moses married a woman whose skin color did not mean a thing to God when it come to who is allowed in his kingdom, and when someone questioned this God got mad.

I’d like the racists who claim to be Christians to think that over. Then I’d like them to repent and follow Jesus.

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Girls, Boys, Men and Women – Whose World Is It?

[Today’s guest post is from Cristy Tice, who writes of her childhood debates and grown-up lessons on the equality of women and men serving Jesus in a world that doesn’t yet get it.]

The Great Debate

I remember my first involvement in a debate. When I was eleven, we neighborhood kids had taken a break from whatever activity we were up to, riding bikes, jumping ramps, Frisbee, backyard baseball, football, hide-n-go seek, who knows. In my Nashville neighborhood right on the outskirts of downtown, kids close in age lived in every home around mine, what bliss. Seven of us (three girls, four boys) were a really tight group. We shared everything like bikes, baseball gloves, snacks, you name it.

Sipping water that hot afternoon, we piled on a front porch and out of nowhere someone posed a question, “Is it a man’s world or a woman’s world?” Each gender took their own side, explaining why one was more important than the other, who deserves to be boss, who makes the world go ‘round. It went on forever, was sloppy and interesting, and had a tone of nana nana boo boo.

Until that point I hadn’t been challenged to verbalize how boys and girls, men and women are culturally sorted into stereotypical categories. (Not to mention the insensitivity this pink and blue debate could be to people of a beautiful array of orientations.) Thinking back, with the experiences and observations I have now, I believe we are interconnected as human beings, we all need each other, and it is worthwhile to uncover biases that prevent healthy interaction, compassionate understanding, tender intimacy and life-affirming love.

Standing Up to Man Culture

This debate from childhood stuck with me, and life filled in the gaps to wrestle with the answers, and find even more questions along the way. As a woman, I’ve experienced mutually respectful, kind, loving friendships with some great men. These great men take risks of being shamed, shunned, laughed at and misunderstood for the love they give.

I’m grateful my husband didn’t buy into rigid gender roles or want to dim my light. In his fierce resistance to cave under the pressure of Bible Belt man up culture—holiness with a capital A, I’ve come to understand he was fighting for us. Where some might say he was taking the back seat, weak and not fulfilling his role as a spiritual leader, he was actually fighting for kindness, respect, dignity, equality, intimacy, and love. It’s life-giving to be a valid equal, a trusted collaborator, a partner, a team.

As a woman, I’ve also experienced the power of men used over me to exploit me or dampen my spirit.

  • A boss threatened to take away my vacation time if I didn’t do something unethical for the organization.
  • A boyfriend used his hugging arms as a measurement tool to judge my waistline, and say “you’re not quite there yet” and “If you could just believe in x, then you’d be marriage material.”
  • A leader invited me to write teaching content for ministries as an anonymous team writer, but the audience assumed my material was written by a man since it was used to teach men. Some slaughtered the writings with reinterpretation and I kept the secret of female authorship instead of defending the message, as the author.
  • Even though I don’t doubt their love, a few family members also joke that I “break all the rules” when I exhibit strength or joy in areas that are typically considered masculine. These are only a few examples.

I’m not rebellious or sorry for my love to cook on the grill, use power tools and equipment, work hard, break a sweat, have an opinion, ask a hard question, take up space, lead something, speak up, or exist. Men can do these things and be respected as great leaders. Women can do the same things and get called “bossy”, “sassy” or “angry.”

A woman who reveals desires, thoughts, and ambitions does not need her “leash tightened.” She is not an animal who needs to be tamed and caged, or subservient in word and action to the man telling her to “get back where she belongs”, and telling other men to “get her under control” or to “chop off her legs” so she can’t get to the voting booth with her unapproved political angle. I know these are jokes. But the heart of some jokes aren’t funny. A vintage ad announces “new men’s underwear, for women” describing how they are easier to launder, for women, because women do the laundry. Humor is often used to ease and cover discomfort and pain, which can be a gift, but some jokes reveal what’s in the heart when you follow the logic all the way to the light.

Breaking the Frame

What if the stereotypical framework we’ve been handed is what is limiting us? What if what we’ve assumed and considered a godly position of how to view men and women is dividing us, carving wedge-shaped stumbling blocks, and truncating the flow of life between the sexes? What if some of our concrete beliefs we champion as God’s way, are actually sin? What if our inherited definition of “godly leadership” is misogyny, both blatant and disguised? What if scripture’s occurrences of men ruling over women is a description of how the curse plays out, and not a prescription for a man’s obligatory leadership role? What if we didn’t know what we were doing, can we be forgiven? What if we did know what we were doing, is forgiveness and change possible? What has Christ redeemed between men and women, and what freedom and progress can we lean into?

Over the past five years or so, I’ve begun to ask myself hard questions that shake me at the core, that move me to change my mind, to uproot my comforts, shift my perspectives and invite what the Spirit would do to keep my heart tender, curious and earnest. So many questions.

It is difficult to see what has been ingrained in us, the perspectives, experiences, and common attitudes that we accept as the way it is, and the way it has always been. We tighten our stubborn grips, seal the deal on beliefs with theological proof texts, and excommunicate our doubts (or anyone who challenges us) in order to maintain some semblance of peace, even if it is killing us. Taking pride in an immovable, unchangeable, unshakeable mindset or belief system may become an obstacle from being able to see and be in awe of what God who is alive in the universe, moving in history (past, present, future,) active, and involved, is doing in our lives. What if the Spirit is calling us to be moved, transformed and off-kilter to make room for something vital and new?

Misogyny is defined as “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” I would also add, that it includes dislike, contempt and prejudice against anything that is perceived as feminine. Misogyny is a form of sexism that views patriarchy as normal, moral, and best for everyone. “The man is supposed to be the spiritual leader” is a myth passed down by an oral tradition of unquestioned religious catch phrases. Misogyny is an abusive ideology that dehumanizes and objectifies both women and men. It dehumanizes men who have gifts that misogynistic men consider feminine or weak. It seeks to diminish the value of women who have traits and gifted abilities that abusive men consider tough and masculine.

We remain divided, at odds, in the dark, and hiding from true intimacy when we continue to uphold stereotypes and prejudices. When we ban full expression of gifts, in honor of a societal totem pole, we categorically keep each other in bondage and we suffocate the freedom of love, joy and delight.

Often men who benefit from a patriarchal system will have dominance, authoritarian and conquering language in their mission statement, and slap an “ism” label on anything perceived as feminine in order to dismiss their complicity in oppression. They awkwardly struggle to engage beyond the borders of “manly” comforts. In a misogynistic culture, if a man is scared, upset, or crying, they are made fun of for being too emotional—“emotionalism” is the tag. If a leader is confronted about the need to approach a situation with sensitivity, tenderness and Christ-likeness, the label of “legalism” or “That’s performancism and Christ isn’t my example” becomes the excuse to bow out of facing and working through problems.

A society that forces men to lead, idolizes male headship, and offers it as the only godly option passes along a hierarchy that puts women in second place, (or last place, less than human such as animal, robot, or alien) and limits both genders from expressing their God-given gifts. The triune God doesn’t operate from hierarchy. When we do, we distort his/her/their reflection. Jesus didn’t play by human rules and expectations of him, but he went against the grain for love, to display good news. We are forgiven, God is good with us, we have freedom, and stand equal in the sight of God…now go out and live from that in how you love one another. Jesus crossed borders to commune with ostracized people groups, he faced problems, touched wounds, met needs, fed the hungry, and gave indiscriminate inclusive love. Maybe these types of love in action sound like a “social justice” label, and will be disregarded, but I hope not. Maybe we too can cross the borders of gender barriers, like Jesus, for love.

I’d like to imagine together what could be, if we could welcome bringing everything into the light? Maybe it would open hearts for a kind of love we never knew possible. To make room for words like “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I hurt you. I couldn’t see it before, but I do now. How can I help? How can I ease the pain? Let me show you with my actions that I never want to hurt you again. I carry the weight of my responsibility, I own my wrongs against you…and feel a sense of how heavy you have been.” Maybe interactions like this would present the need and appreciation for Jesus and his words “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” To lighten our burdens, we need to acknowledge that the burdens are real. To not acknowledge them doesn’t make them go away.

Misogyny is a burden for women and men living in a “man’s world.” Exposure to light, finding good news that overcomes fear and shame, and discovering Love’s power, can reset the unbalanced axis of a world tilted in favor and credit to man, and can become “our world.” We can share a space where we can be loved and love from the heart and not worry about a binary impulse of fitting characteristics into inflexible boxes of male or female, masculine or feminine.

In our world, there is room for all humans, who are equal image-bearers of the source of love and beauty that is God. All of our human qualities are direct gifts, not inferior leftovers. If God was standing in front of a mirror, I don’t think the image-bearing reflection would be a man standing in front, and the woman behind. We were formed rib to rib, to be arm in arm, by each other’s sides, with equal footing before things went awry. Jesus worked to secure a curse-reversal between us and God and now we get the opportunity to imitate and participate in putting enmity to rest, in preference to and consideration for each other as precious, beloved, humankind.

So to this generation, and the next, and every one after that of sweaty kids, playing hard, sharing everything, navigating through life one wheelie pop at a time, holding onto wonder, enjoying being neighbors, making room for and celebrating each other, it is my hope that what will remain is Love.

***

Cristy is a Nashville native who enjoys time with loved ones, especially her husband and three kids. She’s outgoing and friendly, but digging in the garden or into a good book, thrifting, cooking, bike-riding and creative projects are welcome activities of solitude and reflection. Cristy’s a fan of earnest questions, wonder, and wandering in pursuit of the Spirit of Jesus, truth and love. She cares about seeing both the humanity and divinity in the eyes of every soul, especially the marginalized, forgotten and misunderstood. Cristy has been volunteering at the Nashville Rescue Mission Women’s campus and Hope Center life recovery program for 14 years, as well as a regular volunteer for a local elementary school of the Metro Nashville Public School System. You can connect with Cristy on Twitter.

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Patriotism Is Not Even Close To Being The Highest Virtue

Soon after I became a Christian I had a conversation with a youth pastor. July Fourth was coming up and he said that he thought patriotism was very Godly. I asked, “What about citizens in Nazi Germany?”

“Ummm … so maybe not always,” he said.

I said, “Maybe not always even here in the United States.”

Dual Citizenship

Don’t get me wrong. I know I am so blessed to live here, and that there are a lot of worse places to live in this world. I’m glad to be here. On top of that, it’s biblical to be under the authority of earthly rulers and act accordingly. (See, for example, Mark 12:13-17, Romans 13:1-7 and Titus 3:1.)

But we should not think that this is the ultimate good. As Jesus told Pilate when facing earthly judgment:

My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place. (John 18:36.)

Paul explained that for those who belong to Jesus, our citizenship too is in heaven with our Savior Jesus. (Philippians 3:20.) That is good news for us all, and it gets even better – if that is possible.

Because did you notice that word “now” in Jesus’ statement to Pilate? “But now,” he said, “my kingdom is from another place.” Jesus qualified his statement because in the future he’s going to bring heaven and earth together into a single kingdom:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15.)

So it turns out we can love our earthly home eternally and above all others. And it’s all because of Jesus.

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The Garbage We Say to Survivors

[Today’s guest post on abuse and surviving is from Cyndie Randall.]

Think of a man you know and trust.
A person you love or admire.
A person with whom you feel comfortable.
Comfortable enough to hug, even.
Maybe you look up to him for spiritual or emotional guidance.
Turn to him for advice and connection.
Maybe he’s been kind and tender, giving you attention your heart has needed and deserved.
Is he your pastor?
Maybe he’s a boss or mentor or group leader.
Your father, grandfather, uncle, teacher, coach.
This guy is somebody you should be able to trust simply because of who he is in relation to you.
Other people are drawn to him, too!
He is so lovable, charming, helpful, talented – he’s been respect-worthy in so many ways.
It feels so good to be accepted by this important man. So good to be in his orbit.

Picture him in your mind, would you?
Do you have him?
Good.
Imagine him coming near to you to embrace you.
You open your arms because … well, because it’s him!

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

But instead of embracing you, he stabs you.
Literally. With a knife.
Right through your gut.
He was able to get close to you with a knife because you trusted him.
Because you thought you should be able to trust him.
He made sure of it.
He’s been so … good to you.
You didn’t even see the knife.
You didn’t even think to look for one.
But now you’re on your knees and gushing blood.
Paralyzed by what is happening.
He seems fine with it, though.
Said he loved you while the knife was going in.
Said you were special.
Are you supposed to be fine with it, too?
The confusion is paralyzing.
What is real?
The words coming out of his mouth are kind, but your gut is on fire.
You can’t run.
You can’t scream.
Your body won’t work.
You feel like you’re dying, so you give in to death.
You don’t see an alternative.
You close your eyes.

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Miraculously, you survive.
How you survived is a bit blurry.
You can’t remember the details.
You know you got to a hospital.
You didn’t tell them what happened.
You were too afraid.
And overwhelmed – a torrent of overwhelm.
Many people had questions, but you didn’t know how to talk about it.
But slowly, your body began to heal.
Your heart, not so much.
You aren’t sure what to do next.
The confusion keeps getting worse.
You keep seeing this man.
He seems “normal,” so you try to act “normal.”
Nothing makes sense.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

But your family and friends know something happened.
His family and friends know something happened.
Mutual friends know something happened, but nobody says anything.
Better to keep the status quo, they figure.
Some have heard about the bandages, others have seen them.
You are sure they’ll be horrified if you tell them what actually did happen.
You are hoping they’ll believe you. Help you. Stand with you.
Why wouldn’t they?
Obviously you were harmed – there are surgeries and scars to prove it.
Everything has changed, right?
So everything will change.
You begin to tell the story of the day you were stabbed by this man you once trusted.
Your email inbox fills up with words. With replies.
Your phone begins to ding with text messages and voicemails.

You open them all, and this is what you read and hear:

He is innocent until proven guilty.

It’s in the past. Move on.

You’re hurting his family.

Is that really how it went? You probably tripped and fell on the knife.

That was before he was living for the Lord.

Everything happens for a reason.

He’s a changed man.

I’m not interested in what’s true and what’s not true.

Did you fight back?

Women who get stabbed are being too sensitive.

You are gossiping.

What did you do to make him so angry?

Other women who’ve been stabbed are probably lying about it.

You should have _______.

He was a knife addict, so he couldn’t help it.

You’re just saying this for attention.

You shouldn’t “slander” him.

I’m sure he’s sorry.

Why were you alone with him?

I know him, and he would never do something like that.

We have to offer grace.

Please don’t talk about that here. We’ve worked hard to build our church’s reputation.

You need to forgive him. I have.

He wants to join our ministry team. Is that ok?

Did you say “no?”

Why didn’t you go to the police?

Is that even considered a stabbing?

You should have told us right away and warned us about him. What if he had stabbed us?

He probably stabbed other people because you didn’t tell soon enough.

How much had you been drinking?

The details are too hard to hear. Can you stop talking about it?

It might be healthier if we all forget him and try to heal.

I was stabbed too, but I don’t go around talking about it.

What were you wearing that made him want to stab you?

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If we wouldn’t dare say these things to a stabbing victim, why in the world are we saying them to victims of sexual abuse and assault, to victims of sexually violent crimes? God, forgive us for our garbage words.

TO THE SURVIVORS:

I believe you.

I believe you.

I believe you.

You did not deserve what was done to you, or the worthless words about it.

It’s not your fault.

We’re so sorry that happened.

Some of us are here to listen.

What would you like to do next?

How can we best love you right now?

You are not alone.

You are not alone.

You are not alone.

***

Cyndie Randall is a writer, therapist, and song-maker living in Michigan on land that once belonged to the Potawatomi people. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, or on her blog to follow her published or forthcoming work or just to say hello. If you’ve been sexually abused or assaulted, there is help and hope. Contact RAINN for more information, next steps, and resources.

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Getting Schooled by My Wife on Teacher Appreciation Day

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, and since my wife’s a teacher I figured I’d tell you how she’s schooled me over the years. Here’s what I know about teachers:

Teacher Appreciation Day

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Rachel Held Evans, Biblical Womanhood, and Diligent Interpretation of Scripture

Rachel Held Evans passed away May 4, 2019. This is my favorite photo from her blog, and the quote I pulled from that blog post to add to the photo reflects one of my favorite things about her: she challenged people to read the Bible and read it well in order to understand who God is and what it means to have faith in God and live in that faith.

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