I have not used it for fear of other people’s response. It has been dominating my thoughts lately but I have kept it to myself. I know the “F” word is the right word for the times but even as a pastor I struggle using it. What will people think? What will people say? In times of volatility words and concepts no matter how acceptable at one time become taboo. Still, no matter how I might be treated, no matter how many people I offend, I must use the “F” word. In a world that says it needs to change, it needs to seek out justice and equality if we are going to make everything right, the “F” word is the only word that will truly make everything right. Some seek revenge, others compensation, but no amount of getting people back, of settling the score will address the injuries inflicted both physical and emotional like the “F” word will; we need to Forgive!
It’s easy for a “white privileged” guy to tell a black person to forgive – you have no idea what we have been through.
He was 7 or 8 years old, not a care in the world. He took the dog for a walk down to the park as he often did, it was one of his chores. As he walked by the forest, an area off limits to him under his parent’s rules, a high school boy and girl invited him to come into the forest with them. He did, after all high schoolers wanted to hang out with him! Things happened, things that no young child should be involved in, things of a sexual nature but who could he tell? He had gone into the “no go” zone so out of fear of punishment he told no one.
He had just turned 13 when he met a Bible college student/cabin parent at church camp. He enjoyed the attention of an older guy. It was great to have someone listen to him and make him feel important. After camp they kept in touch. He would take a bus to meet up with his new friend. They would talk about everything and the more they talked the more territory everything covered. It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to sex. They attended a youth rally later that year at an out of town church where his new friend arranged it so that they would be staying in the same room with only one bed. Things happened. After the “grooming” that had been taking place he was willing to do stuff he would not even thought of doing before because this guy took an interest in him. It didn’t go as far as it could have because he got really nervous. As a matter of fact he felt guilty and would have done it again to make up for his “lack of performance” but not long after, the Bible college student was struck and killed by an out of control tractor trailer.
I was talking to my wife one night about these stories of sexual abuse.
Fragmented pictures rushed through my mind as I talked. I wasn’t sure if all of them were real as some of the faces seemed to be blocked out and although what was going on seemed familiar no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t remember exactly who or where it happened. The rest of the images, like the two stories I just told, were clear as day, they definitely happened. My wife interrupted me and asked, “Did you forgive him?” I answered, “Why would I forgive him, he did nothing wrong, I should have said no.” It was then that I realized that my view of my sexual abuse was a distorted mess, that I needed to start applying the “F” word and it would have to start in a surprising way.
Forgiveness is a process that reaches far beyond those that hurt us.
The first thing I had to do was forgive myself. I was victimized by people in power but I had to forgive myself for disobeying my parents and going in the forest, for not saying no to the Bible college student and for the damage I had done to my marriage because of the distorted view of the relationship between sex and love that I had as a result of the abuse. Then I had to forgive those that hurt me, abused me, took advantage of me.
No amount of revenge or compensation or getting people back to settle the score will address the injuries inflicted both physical and emotional like the “F” word but that doesn’t mean I could do it once and it would be over. Forgiveness is not a moment but rather a lifestyle. In times of self-loathing I need to forgive myself all over again for my bad choices. When the memories come flooding back I need to forgive those who hurt me all over again for what they did.
It’s not as easy as you may think for a “white privileged” guy like me to tell a black person to forgive.
You had no idea what I had been through until now and this post cannot even begin to paint the full picture. Our stories of hurt are different but one thing we have in common is we need to decide whether we are controlled by our faith or by our abusers. I have heard the anger and the calls for action but whether someone used their position to hurt you emotionally, physically or sexually, they remain in that position of power no matter how it all plays out if you don’t start with the “F” word. If we as Christians won’t make the “F” word the cornerstone of our approach to hurt then are we really followers of Christ? It isn’t easy and it isn’t a one shot deal but forgiveness is the only way to truly be free of the hurt.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)