Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c) 2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
Fifty has-beens and wanna-be-agains gathered in a small, gray room. At the front, three men faced the crowd from behind a table. They represented the made-its, the yes you cans. Their stories offered hope.
One after another, people stood and spoke of failure, consequences, struggle, and joy. Those further along in progress took full responsibility for his or her behavior. Healing and new life sprouted from that honesty. This Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was meant for just that – a chance to encourage each other through hard truth.
Across the room, I spotted a dark-haired young woman sitting with a friend. She looked uneasy as if her heart was heavy. After asking God what to do, I planned to speak with her as soon as the meeting ended.
We were strangers, but as happens often at recovery meetings, I found her open and ready to spill. She told me she’d been raped repeatedly by the youth pastor at her church. The pain in her eyes blended with confusion. She was in agony.
Then she said, “How could God let that happen. I mean, he was a man of God.”
Taking her hand and looking her straight in the eye, I said “He was not a man of God.”
“Have you heard the story in the Bible about wolves that dress like sheep so they can sneak in and destroy?”
“Yes, I know that one! Is that what happened?” Her eyes were earnest. She was like a bucket without a lid, inwardly begging to be filled. There was no doubt my next words held life or death for her. The responsibility weighed heavy, and I asked God to heal her as I spoke.
“He was a wolf. He came in sheep’s clothing. God did not send him. He was not a man of God.”
It is often said that eyes are the windows to the soul. Hers exemplified that to perfection as hope visibly appeared. She turned to her friend and said, “He was just a wolf. God didn’t send him.” Her friend nodded, and they hugged.
I walked away knowing God had sent me to the right place at the right time.
“Sorry” is never enough
Experience and research had taught me the difference between people who actually walk with Christ and abusers who play the game. Not everyone has that insight. While scripture tells us to show mercy and forgive a person who is truly sorry, Saint Paul had much to say about this.
In a letter to a Greek Christian church mentioned in the New Testament, Paul used the example of a man whose sexual behavior was sinful, recommending he be removed from the church. The mercy Paul encouraged was the opposite of accepting the man as-is. Once held to accountability, correcting his ways was the man’s responsibility alone. He had to want Jesus more than his sin. He had to long for change.
People who break over the pain they caused others, and whose hearts churn over their actions turning Jesus’ name into a mockery, do NOT continue to abuse or pursue excuses. They will submit to accountability and consequences. No one who abuses a spouse and is honestly repentant will demand s/he stay, harass, or otherwise make life difficult anymore. A truly sorry former abuser will make restitution, honor earlier promises, and keep covenants they once broke – even if they get nothing in return.
Does that sound like too much to ask? Yet that is precisely what is demanded of victims, isn’t it? Victims are told to support the abusive church leader, don’t stir up trouble, stay with your spouse, submit to harm, and by all means, keep those promises you made at your wedding such as to stick it out “for better or worse.”
I do not know if the rapes became public at the young woman’s church or if the abuser confessed. I have seen abusers claim remorse and return to their evil ways. So beware. Wolves really do know how to dress and talk like sheep.
Today’s Helpful Word
Matthew 7:15- 19
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act… Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
Sheep picture by JONFLETCH and Wolf picture by MZACHA on rgbstock.com