No Sex Please. We’re Married

Everyone knows what the Christian view of sex is.  That it should be “saved” for marriage.  That it’s this precious gift God gave humans and that sex outside of marriage can be damaging.  Depending on who you talk to, the damage ranges from a vague possibility to ABSOLUTE DESTRUCTION which requires a whole lot of prayer to get rid of “soul ties” which some would say mess you up in all sorts of emotional and spiritual ways.

 

Yesterday I listened to teaching on sex delivered to 12-14 year olds at a 2015 national Christian youth event.  Separate sessions for boys and girls.

 

The boys were told the only relationships they should have with girls should be friendships, in part because they can’t “go out and get a job to support the girl” when they’re only 12.  The speaker explained to these 12-14-year-old boys: “If the girl is not your wife, then she’s your sister.”  He went on to explain there should be no touching, kissing etc. until the couple are engaged.  The boys were also told that masturbation is wrong; avoid it by going for a walk or by reading the Bible (because they were told, the Bible isn’t sexy at all).

 

The girls were told “God wants His best for you.  He wants you pure and undamaged and unhurt.”  They were also told, “If you want to be attractive, dig into God.”  The girls were told that girls’ wanting to have sex was a form of seeking love and validation (the boys were not told this was the case for them).  The girls were also told that masturbation was wrong, addictive and the devil would use the shame they subsequently feel from masturbating to harm them.

 

This was at an event that happened in 2015.

 

In the church, we’re very good at talking about not having sex.  What we’re not good at talking about is the awful post-marital sex a lot of Christians endure, especially if they’ve done the “right” thing and waited.

 

If a couple have waited to have sex until they get married (whether or not they’ve had sex previously) there can be an expectation that such a sacrificial and counter-cultural choice will be rewarded by mind blowing sex from the wedding night onwards.

 

Sadly, multiple orgasms do not ensue.  From 12 years upwards they’ve both been told not to masturbate and not to think about sex.  At all.  Until “she’s a wife not a sister.”  The boys have been taught they should “resist temptation”.  The girls have been taught their value is intertwined with their purity.  Both have been conditioned to think only males have a sex drive.

 

Post-abstinence marital sex can be utterly abysmal.  Rarely is this talked about.  When it is talked about, it’s euphemistic at best.

 

I’ve been married over 8 years, my husband and I didn’t have sex with each other until after we were married.  We’d both had sex previously, and I brought two small children to the relationship.  From 17 to 21 I was abused by my ex-husband.  Much of the abuse was sexual.  I had been raised in Christian culture which taught me not to have sex but didn’t tell me what consenting to sex actually meant.  All of my first sexual encounters were coerced, forced or manipulated.  And Christian culture had given me no framework for this, so I thought the trauma I was suffering was caused because I had betrayed Jesus, not because I was being raped.

 

At 23 when I married my now husband, I’d been dealing PTSD, depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and more.  He’d been single in the church for 13 years and had tried to avoid thinking about sex the whole time.

 

Our honeymoon was amazing in most ways.  Except that sex was generally difficult.

 

Marriage has been awesome for us.  Sex not so much.  And even though I’d been sexually abused for the majority of my life at that point, my husband being raised in the church caused us at least as many issues as my stuff did.  We’re not alone.  So many Christians (even where there hasn’t been abuse) experience extreme damage from abstinence and purity teachings in church.

 

Christian women and men have been conditioned to see sexual acts as shameful.  How do they then engage in those same acts after saying “I do” without shame?  The wedding ceremony isn’t going to negate years and years of unhealthy and sexually negative messages.

 

My husband and I are doing good now.  But stories like ours must be told.  Because otherwise every couple struggling, every woman feeling ashamed for simply considering initiating sexual activity, every man feeling inadequate because his sex drive doesn’t meet some arbitrary level he’s been told is normal, feel this is just them.  And it’s not.  There’s loads of us out there.  Welcome to crap Christian sex!  We’re not getting much.  But hey, it can get better!

 

I would tell 12-14 year olds that…

 

  1. Compulsive masturbation is a problem. What isn’t a problem is learning how your body works, what feels good and what doesn’t.  Girls especially are not taught about their genitals and popular culture can leave girls and women ashamed of their woman bits.  God isn’t ashamed of your vagina or vulva, he made it and He wants you to love it!

 

  1. Boys, it is not your job to pursue, provide for or protect a girl. That is nonsense made up by people.  Only God does those things.  Don’t take on responsibility that was never meant to be yours.  God made women and men equal and gave them the awesome gifts of intimacy, equality and partnership found in marriage.

 

  1. Choosing to have sex is a big deal. God made it as a thing to do within a marriage relationship.  There’s the potential for making babies and catching diseases and all sorts when you start doing it.  Understanding the difference between choosing to have sex and being coerced or forced is really important.  Sex is a big deal and when someone hurts us sexually they can cause us great damage.  But there is help available and healing is possible!

 

  1. You are not defined by your virginity. God loves you whatever your sexual experience or lack of it and so should any person you have a relationship with.

 

And to all you Christians preparing to get marriage please be aware that if you haven’t engaged in sexual activity with your spouse before getting married, don’t expect sex to be mind blowing straight away (if it is, lucky you!).  Like anything valuable in a relationship, it takes time, effort, understanding, respect and self awareness.  Sex can be awesome, get help if you need it and marriage is so much more than how good the sex is anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The truth after the storm

On Friday I wrote a piece articulating my struggles with PTSD.  I’ve only recently begun writing about the ongoing consequences of my ex-husband’s choice to abuse me, mainly because I had this fear of people judging me as incompetent to do the work I do.  That somehow the ongoing impact of male violence on me would preclude me from contributing fully to addressing it.  I guess it revealed to me some of my own fears and prejudices.  That even though I work full time on ending violence against women and wider issues of gender injustice and though I would be the first to challenge language and attitudes which blame women for the abuse men have chosen to perpetrate, deep down the truth has been that I believed I needed to be fixed, no longer affected, in order to offer myself to the cause.

 

I regularly stand up and share my story.  A few years ago I spent time working at a few large Christian conferences for men.  More recently I have begun working with perpetrators.  And in all of those spaces, either telling my story, spending time within all-male spaces or working with perpetrators, I feel a responsibility to represent women well.  To not perpetuate the issues which lead to stereotyping of women, to challenge the misrepresentation of women, and when telling my story, to do it in a way that will challenge misconceptions, preventing anyone leaving after hearing me thinking that abuse happens to “those women, out there”.

 

I once spoke at a conference where I had been billed as “THE VICTIM PERSPECTIVE”.  I walked into the building with some other people attending the same event.  As we chatted about the day ahead, one woman said to me, “I’m very interested to hear the victim perspective.”  I responded, “Oh yes, it will be very interesting won’t it?”

 

After the event that same woman came over to talk with me, she told me I had shocked her, she would never have expected me to be a victim, that she would never hold those same views again.

 

Yet perhaps by sharing a story of being okay I have misled those who have heard me speak.  Perhaps those who are currently dealing with the impact of male violence or those with family and friends who have been hurt, I have suggested that there will come a day when everything is sorted, that being fixed is the aim.  Yet there is a sense that no matter how far we come, how good life gets; the pain of male violence doesn’t end.

 

This is why we must prevent it, why addressing the root causes of male violence; ownership, entitlement and inequality are so important.  Because once the damage is done, life will never be the same.

 

I attended an event called “Woman at the well” run by an organisation called Transformation Powerhouse a while ago.  During the evening one of the women leading the event said she had a word from God for me (I know those of you reading this without a faith may be a bit like “okay…” at this point, but bear with me).  She basically said that God had told her I have so so much love to give, but that fear is getting in the way of me offering it.  She (and God) are right.  My fear of being honest, of being judged too broken, of being patronised or disparaged has prevented me from offering my all.  Thinking that by telling of the pain as well as the victory would diminish me.  And yet the story shrinks if it is not told fully.  The ending of being fixed denies the truth of being broken.

 

I attended a session with a Human Givens therapist on Friday. I only needed one session in which she did something called the Rewind Technique.  It is an effective treatment for PTSD symptoms and basically resets the brain to factory settings and moves the trauma that has led to a serious episode from the lower brain (which deals with trauma) to the upper and then mid-brain which sees the trauma as a memory rather than an ongoing, current event.

 

I arrived at the session unable to communicate much, numb, exhausted and incapable of making decisions (anyone who knows me will realise that’s basically me losing my entire personality).  After the session I was back, my brain worked, I decided to go for food (both deciding and eating were impossible for me to do ninety minutes earlier) and I was able to think, laugh and generally be myself again.

 

Over the weekend I’ve felt quite fragile.  Although I’m back, social interaction is tiring and I’m vaguely subdued.  But I’m on way back to being normal.

 

So many people have offered their love, prayers and kindnesses over the weekend.  Texts, tweets, emails, direct messages, cake and offers drive miles just to sit with me.  Even when I felt unable to respond, the love and care has been much appreciated, so thank you if you are one of the many who have loved me!

 

I’m still the same person I was before I began sharing the downs as well as the ups, the feelings as well as the doings, but hopefully now I’m over the fear of being so vulnerable, I will bring more of the truth to this battle and as we know, it is the truth that sets us free.

Translating Mark Driscoll

This morning I watched the 17 minute videoed announcement from Mark Driscoll this weekend that he is stepping down as Pastor of Mars Hill for a minimum of six weeks. You can watch the video and read the transcript here.

 

Within the announcement Mark speaks of the “court of public opinion” not being useful in addressing issues in a Biblical manner and suggests online conversations, like this blog for instance, are unhelpful. I can see that everyone having OPINIONS can be problematic, but without the courageous tenacity of bloggers across the internet raising the issues, Mark Driscoll would not have taken the very necessary and welcome step that he has. So I’m not going to apologise for adding to the OPINIONS in the public space and I would suggest his denigration of the “court of public opinion” is a tactic to silence the hurting, and as a book we Christians honour states, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

 

I have recently begun working with perpetrators of domestic abuse. I am facilitating a Respect accredited programme with men who have chosen to be violent and abusive to their partners. And if there is one thing that perpetrators are “gifted” in, it is avoiding responsibility and manipulating people’s views of them. I would suggest that some of what we see in Mark’s announcement uses those same tactics, whether intentionally or not, whether orchestrated by a PR plan or by the man himself. I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting Mark is perpetrator of domestic abuse, but that his words and actions mirror those of abusers.

 

During the announcement Mark was emotional, at points he seemed very close to tears. It is interesting to note that domestic abuse perpetrators who visibly show remorse change at about the same rate as those who don’t. In our wider context of power based masculinity, men crying, or being close to tears brings out a specific response for many. That act of vulnerability in a society that states the only appropriate emotions for men are humour and anger can change perceptions of an offender in an instant. I’m not for one minute suggesting they were “crocodile tears” but that we must be careful not to use an emotionally remorseful delivery as a litmus test for repentance.

 

This is my translation of some parts of the announcement:

 

“When a small group of us started what would become Mars Hill Church in 1996, we could not have dreamed it would be what it is today. Thousands upon thousands of people have become Christians as the gospel of Jesus Christ has proven powerful over and over. Every day, it seems, I hear of someone whose life has been transformed by the power of the Word of God taught in this place and modeled by so many who call this their church home.”

I’m going to start by reminding you of all the 1000s of people my ministry has saved from hell, so that when I get to my bad choices, we’re all feeling that is insignificant compared to all the people I have helped. So many people’s lives have been transformed by my teaching of God’s Word and you all living out my teaching.

 

“Today, we are blessed with lead pastors who love Jesus and the people He gave His life for. These men faithfully serve the Mars Hill family.”

Though there are 21 ex-leaders of the our church who are publicly stating that I have behaved in horrendous ways and were either sacked or left due to their strong convictions, the current leaders are supportive of me.

 

“While I’m still young, I suspect when I’m old I’ll be known for many things—some good, and some not so good.”

I am a 43 year old grown up, but I am going to describe myself as “young” in order to suggest that my young-ness mitigates the bad choices I have made. I would also like to remind you that I have done good things and not actually say that I have done bad things, but just things that are “not so good”.

 

“I may be an author, a speaker, and a thought-provoker; but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor, and that’s what I want to give the rest of my life for.”

I would like to remind you all of the powerful man I am and the many successes I have had in my career so far, but that I also want you to know that I am humble local church pastor, even though I have intentionally and ruthlessly built a large megachurch over the last 18 or so years.”

 

“It is because of my deep love for the local church in general, and Mars Hill Church in particular, that it grieves me to see anything come against it or threaten to harm it. It also grieves me greatly when something I say or do results in controversy and publicity none of you signed up for when you decided to be a part of this church family.”

I get upset when my choices, actions and words result in people challenging me. I am so totally uninterested in the people I have hurt that I’m not even going to mention their hurt in my announcement. I don’t want to accept the consequences of my actions as the leader of a large church which I am paid large amounts of money to lead and rather than say this, I am going to make it about the peripheral hurt of the church family, which I am actually responsible for not those who have challenged me.

 

“Over the years, as I have grown and as the Lord has been molding and pruning me, I have, on many occasions, shared with you some of the lessons I’ve been learning. Some of these have been painful, and some I’ve been slow to learn. I’ve acknowledged and confessed many of my sins, shortcomings and missteps, and God has been more than faithful with His forgiveness. Most of our Mars Hill family has been forgiving as well, and for that I’m grateful and blessed. By God’s grace, I want to always be humble and teachable.”

I would like to remind you all of the times I have said sorry for what I did over the years. The fact that at no point have I actually changed my behaviour is something I’m going to try and ensure you don’t think about by making it all about the ways I’ve learned. I’d like to also remind you that before God I am forgiven. Rather than mention how much I appreciate and value all those who have tried to stop it coming to this point, I’m going to validate all those who collude with my behaviours by honouring those who keep forgiving me. Although I have proven that over the last 18 years of ministry that I am not willing to be taught and am not humble, I am going to say that I am both of those things.

 

“A central theme in my personal walk with Jesus in recent times has been to follow the Apostle Paul’s charge to Believers in Romans 12:8: If possible, so far is it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. God is not honored by conflict, strife, disunity, arguing, slander, gossip or anything else not consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and I am deeply sorry for the times I have not done my part to living peaceably with all men.”

By quoting Scripture I can reduce my ongoing hurtful behaviour to the term “not living peaceably with all men”. I am going to use the term “my part” so as to suggest that it is not all my fault, but that it is a reciprocal thing where both I and every other person involved are partly to blame for the hurt I have caused.

 

“I want to thank those who have come directly to an Elder, lead pastor or me to tell us of an offense they are carrying. This allows us to deal with it head-on between the two affected parties, rather than in a court of public opinion and public media. I believe God is honored by this approach—the approach He prescribed for us in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures.”

All those who have used public spaces to challenge me are wrong and dishonour God and only those who have come to me and the leadership of the church are right and honour God. I am going to use the term “offense they are carrying” so as to avoid saying that I had hurt people. The fact that when people tried to come to me I refused to listen, sacking them, threatening them and destroying their lives and livelihoods is of absolutely no relevance. God is not honoured by anyone who publicly holds me to account. I am going to mention the first bit of Matthew 18 where Jesus tells us to approach other Christians who we have been hurt by, but I am going to conveniently ignore the bit Jesus says that’s someone who fails to listen should be treated like a non-believer.

 

“Others have chosen to air their grievances with me or this church in a more public forum. As is often the case, some of what is said it true, some is partly true, and some is completely untrue. Lately, the number of accusations, combined with their public nature, makes it much more difficult to know how to respond appropriately. Indeed, many times we have chosen not to respond at all, which probably raises even more questions in some people’s minds, and I understand that.”

I am going to use the term “air their grievances” rather than talk about people being hurt. I am going to talk about truth, half-truths and lies without distinguishing between them so that I subtly cast aspersions on all that everyone has accused me of. I am going to talk about “the number of accusations” increasing which makes the issues external to me, rather than about my own choices and hurtful actions. I am going to reinforce my criticism of people holding me to account publicly, but will use it neutral language like “public nature” to hide that. I am going to mention that we haven’t addressed the issues, acknowledge that is problematic but continue doing it.

 

“In other cases, some have publicly brought up issues that were long ago addressed and resolved, adding to the understandable confusion many of you may be experiencing recently. For example, nearly 15 years ago I wrote some things on a Mars Hill discussion board on our website using a pseudonym. I quickly realized what I wrote and how I did it was wrong. We removed the entire section of the website a few months later and I addressed it publicly in a book I wrote six years later—calling it what it was: wrong.”

The only accusation I am going to address during my announcement is the one that relates to historical actions. I am going to manipulate the facts to suggest that a book I wrote six years later dealt with what I had done, when in actual fact, that book mentioned that I thought it was funny how I had a man turn up at my house to challenge me; that I talk of things “going crazy”. I’m not going to mention that at no point in the book do I actually own or apologise for my misogynistic, homophobic behaviours and attitudes. I am also not going to mention that for the past almost 15 years I have continued to use similar language and ideology in my preaching and writing. I am going to use language that distances me from my actions by saying “what I wrote and how I did it was wrong” rather than saying “I was wrong and I have hurt people”.

 

“I have taken full responsibility for those actions and will forever be ashamed by what I did, even as a 29 year-old preacher. What I did in this case back in 2000 is indefensible. It is also forgiven; and thank God, I’m not the man I was back then. I have learned hard lessons from this situation, as I have from other situations where I have done wrong things and God has had to deal with me.”

I am going to talk of taking full responsibility for something while still using language that distances me from my choices and actions. When talking about what I did I will mention the age I was in order to justify it as related to being young (like I did earlier in my announcement). Although at 29 years old I had been an adult for over ten years, I will suggest my age made me immature, though I was a married father entrusted with the leadership of a church. I will remind everyone that this happened in 2000, keeping people focused on the historical accusations and not the current ones. I will talk about learning hard lessons which will allow me to suggest I have changed, when the way I have behaved and the choices I have made since then have continued to hurt many people.

 

“Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it. The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church. (In fact, it would not be healthy for any church.)”

I will again talk about the consequences of my actions using language which distances me from any responsibility by talking of what “storm clouds seems to be” doing. I will talk of how unhealthy this would be and subtly place myself as a victim. I will then restart talking of Mars Hill Church as the main victim of the issues, keeping my audience feeling like they are the centre of this and their interests and hurts are cared about while continuing to completely ignore the hurt and pain of the people I have hurt throughout my ministry.

 

“Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based on my own past actions that I am sorry for. In recent years, I have sought to apologize to people I have knowingly offended in any way. I’m grateful that God has honored many of these encounters and granted true reconciliation and restoration.”

I will start addressing criticisms by saying that some have been unfair. I will not use language which states that my critics are right, but will instead say “I am deserving of” some criticisms. This sounds like I’m taking responsibility, but subtly avoids doing so. I will use the term “past actions” to suggest that this isn’t related to my ongoing behaviour, thereby subtly connecting it to my previous comments on my actions in 2000. I talk of seeking to apologise to people even though those who have been hurt report being shunned and destroyed by me. I will talk about God honouring these encounters without specifics.

 

“But I’m particularly sorry that any of my past actions or decisions have brought distraction to the mission of Mars Hill Church, and therefore, to those who call this their church home. Part of this is no doubt a function of the media age we live in—anyone can write anything, anywhere, anytime. As a public figure, I recognize and accept this, even if I don’t like it; for this is one of the paradoxes of being a pastor in a media age—the same media channels that can be used to carry a sermon to virtually anyone around the globe can also be used by anyone around the globe to criticize, attack or slander.”

The first time that I start a sentence with “I am sorry” it is related to the impact on the church community which yet again reinforces to the audience that their feelings are validated, but the actual victims of my offences are not mentioned. I make my sorry focused on the mission of Mars Hill, reminding everyone that is the priority, not the reality of the people who have been hurt. I will then yet again criticise people who have publicly challenged me and place myself as the victim by talking of myself as a “public figure”. This makes the situation more about my position than my choices and actions. That I have used media channels to criticise and attack is irrelevant, and I will suggest my detractors are “criticizing, attacking and slandering” without actually stating that is what those who challenge me are doing.

“However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me. I will seek to resolve unresolved issues with others, and will seek to avoid such conflict in the future; at least to the extent I have any control over it.”

After spending time being negative about my detractors I will now talk about my fault. Yet I won’t take responsibility for any of it, I will just accept partial fault, which essentially means the other people involved are also at fault. Essentially I am blaming everyone else while using the language of responsibility. I will talk of God redeeming me to remind everyone that God is okay with me, having previously implyred that others have dishonoured God by challenging me. I will use the term “avoid such conflict” which essentially distances me from fault and focuses the issues as conflict based rather than founded in power and abuse.

 

“There is a well-documented list of past actions and decisions I have admitted were wrong, sought forgiveness, and apologized for to those I hurt or offended. I will not review them here, as it is my prayer we can, together as a church, move on as Paul writes in Philippians 3:13—But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

I will talk about admitting I am wrong when what I have done previously is apologise but continue to do the same things over and over. I quote Philippians and use the word “forget”; this implys that forgetting is the option for the church community. That forgiveness and forgetting are not in any way related and that forgetting is impossible when we have been hurt badly is something I want to avoid people being aware of.

 

“These are serious times we are living in and people all around us are dying every hour without Jesus. It is this reality that drives me and motivates me to keep learning God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to His people so that together, we can continue to reach people with the saving grace and love and mercy of Jesus. I hope that regardless of whatever else is swirling around us, we never lose this perspective on why Mars Hill exists in the first place – Jesus loves people and people need Jesus.”

I will now spend time explaining how people’s souls are at risk of burning in hell and that in comparison these issues that have been raised are really not a big deal. I will talk about my purpose and call and will talk of the current issues that have resulted from my actions and choices as “swirling around us” yet again distancing myself from being the instigator of the issues.

 

“I realize the vast majority of you just want to come to church and hear God’s Word taught. You want to feed your families spiritually just as you feed them physically, and Mars Hill should be a safe place to do just that. As your pastor, I want that for you more than anything. All of our lead pastors want that for those under their care as well.”

I will keep the audience supportive of me by yet again talking about them as the primary victims in the situation. I will talk about the consequences of my choices and actions in a way that acknowledges the struggles of people are going through without taking responsibility for them.

 

“I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me. I invite this process, rather than debating accusations and issues in social media or the court of public opinion. A report on this process will be presented when it has been completed.”

I will not mention that one of the accusations against me relate to changing the bylaws of the church to make it very difficult for the church to hold me to account. I will talk of inviting the process even though it has taken enormous public pressure to essentially force me to take action. Book shops are withdrawing my books from sale, I am being removed from church networks and others and although there have been issues throughout my entire ministry, I have shut down all criticism to the point of changing church bylaws and sacking employees, yet I will state that this is a process that I have invited. I will again reinforce that challenging me publicly is wrong. I mention that a report will be presented, but I haven’t mentioned who that report will be presented to, and I have called it a “report on the process” not implyring whether the outcomes will be made public.

 

As a general rule, I will respond to little if any criticism of me in the media, on social media, blogs, open letters, etc. Conducting church business and biblical conflict resolution through media channels is not healthy and is more likely to prove unproductive at best, and destructive and dishonoring to the Lord at worst.

I will now categorically state that media channels are unproductive, destructive and dishonouring to God. That without these media channels I would be able to continue behaving in hurtful and damaging ways without any accountability or negative consequences. This places anyone who comments publicly about what I have said as unproductive, destructive and dishonouring God. The hurt I have caused people should be compounded further by me attempting to silence and denigrate their attempts to heal.

 

“I have asked our Board of Advisors and Accountability to strengthen our board by adding members to it, and they are in the process of doing so with local members being our first choice.”

We will strengthen the board of advisors and accountability by inviting people who are still in the church and have stood by me throughout all that I have done. Anyone who has had the courage to challenge me has talked of how they were sacked or abused by me. By saying this I yet again focus on my audience, enabling them to feel they are being given power to change things and trusted with that.

 

“I have agreed to postpone the publication of my next book until a future season, to be determined.”

Bookshops have removed my books from sale and due to the current climate I would probably not sell many books if I did publish my book, plus I am no longer able to pay a PR company to unethically get my books onto bestseller lists.

 

“I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men. I have never taken an extended focused break like this in my 18 years as your pastor, and it is not a vacation but rather a time to focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing, and growing.”

I will talk of meeting with a professional team of mature Christians but will not mention any of their names. The fact I haven’t taken an extended break in 18 years will be used as an opportunity to be applauded for my commitment rather than concern that I have not had a healthy work life balance.

 

“As I look forward to the future—and I do look forward to it—I believe the Lord has shown me I am to do two things with the rest of my life: love my family, and teach the Bible. I deeply love my family and our church family and am seeking the Lord for how to have a godly and loving future that is not just sustainable but fruitful.”

I will now talk about my family which reminds everyone I am a human being with good priorities. I will establish that I plan to continue teaching the Bible for the rest of my life which suggests I will continue be seeking to influence and lead people.

 

“Finally, I want to say to our Mars Hill family—past and present, I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for the times I have been angry, short, or insensitive. I’m sorry for anything I’ve done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention.”

Having spent over 15 minutes talking I will finally say that I am sorry, not to those I have direct hurt, but to my church family. I talk about inviting criticism rather than behaving abusively and focus on the actions of the commentators rather than my own actions.

 

“God has broken me many times in recent years by showing me where I have fallen short, and while my journey, at age 43, is far from over, I believe He has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like Him every day. The gospel is powerfully at work in me, your pastor, thanks to the faithfulness of our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ, and the best thing for us each to do is look to Him and point others to Him. Thank you Mars Hill. I love you.”

I talk of “falling short” and doing things “I am not very proud of” yet still do not quantify that in terms of identifying what I have actually done. I make this last section about what God is doing in me and still do not mention anything about the people I have damaged who are no longer in Mars Hill church. After this I am given a standing ovation by the church and my wife and children all come onto the platform to embrace me. This reminds the audience that there are children involved in any decisions made about me. The image of them embracing me will be used on the Mars Hill website alongside my statement.

Washing Out My Shoes

Yesterday I experienced an onslaught of online abuse. I’ve been called names before, insulted for my faith and/or my feminism on various occasions. Mocked for suggesting it could be possible to be a Christian and feminist, but yesterday was something else. I tweeted a comment on the comedian Jim Norton’s recent article advocating for prostitution to be legalised so his sex addiction could be supported and apparently so as to keep women safer. He then proceeded to reply to me using .@ which invited his 350,000 followers to join in with mocking me and my faith, calling me names and generally engaging in misogyny.

 

You can read the Storify of what happened here: https://storify.com/God_loves_women/onslaught.

 

The impact of this was interesting. For a while I engaged with a few people, in fact with one person we had a really interested conversation and my faith and their atheism, which concluded pleasantly as they went to watch cricket. The tweets continued, with images of male violence towards women and pornography punctuating the comments that I must be unattractive, needed sex, should be making sandwiches and laughing at my stupidity in thinking God was real. And I began to be subdued. Not horrified, not even angry. Just subdued. I had a load of work to get done and two children to look after and actual life to live and in the end I deleted Twitter off my phone and got on with doing actual work.

 

But I was distracted, drained, subdued.

 

That’s how this stuff works. It subdues women, wears us down until we can’t take it anymore and we just exit the space, quieter, exhausted and lonely. Whether it’s a partner using put downs, isolation or violation; harrassment and sexual comments on public transport and in the street; being turned down for promotions and pay rises in favour of less qualified men; or perhaps the constant images of almost naked, digitally altered, underweight young women that leave us feeling totally abnormal, we women are being subdued.

 

Over the last couple of months I’ve spent some time with God reflecting on how jaded I had become. Hearing the stories of those who have been hurt so badly by the church, watching those colluding with people like Mark Driscoll, seeing the pain of violence and abuse day in and day out, it’s impossible to un-know the pain carried in so many people’s hearts. And God spoke to me.

 

Firstly through the story of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. You can read it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snow_Queen. In the story, Satan creates a mirror that distorts all that it reflects, the bad is magnified and the good is reduced. The demons plan to corrupt heaven by lifting the mirror to it, but as the fly to heaven, their excitement leads them to drop it and the mirror smashes into tiny pieces which fall into peoples’ eyes and hearts, corrupting how they see the world.

 

The story is then told of little boy and girl. The boy ends up with a shard of mirror in his heart and is taken by the Snow Queen. The little girl goes in search of him and has many adventures. She then is told that her power to save her friend “is in her sweet and innocent child’s heart”. The little girl finds the boy almost frozen to death. She weeps over him and her tears melt him and warms him. The little boy then begins to cry also and the mirror shard is dislodged from his eye also.

 

The story ends with this verse: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

 

Women, it is so easy to be subdued by the world, or to be infected by the mirror shards which distort everything we look at, leaving us seeing no Hope, just death and destruction.

 

Secondly, God spoke to me through walking along a stony beach. I had been praying about how negative I was feeling about the Church. Though my own experience of God has been of liberation and love, of a life restored, of gaining more than I ever lost, I see the pain. The lack of healings, the loss of hope, the many feminists who speak the Truth but know God only as an oppressor. And I asked God to help me with holding onto the Light. God said to me to walk by the shore, in the water. I had on some old school jelly shoes and sploshed along in the waves. Yet quickly my shoes became filled with jagged stones, my walk impeded I had to stop, washing out my shoes before continuing on.

 

Every few minutes I would have to stop, wash out my shoes and then carry on. Yet that wasn’t easy. I kept almost over balancing as I attempted to stay upright while taking off a shoe, washing it and then putting it back on, all while on one leg. Over and over I had to do this as I walked the way God had asked me to.

 

As I did this, God spoke to me. The stones were the pain, the bitterness, the anger, the hurt. Jagged little stone after jagged little stone, piling up in my shoes, impeding my steps as I walk where God tells me. “Stop regularly and wash them out.” Says God. “Be vigilant and rest when it gets too much.” As He puts His arm around my shoulder, “Don’t do this on your own, you need people to lean on, while you wash out your shoes, so you don’t overbalance.”

 

After my walk along the beach, with the shoe washing out ritual, my knee began to ache (an old injury gained while running without any training). I began to limp as I walked. Jacob came to mind, the man who wrestled God and was left with a limp.

 

We are told that it is Faith, Hope and Love that will remain. And that the greatest of these is love.

 

The little girl saved the boy through her tears and her love. This reminds me of a line in a song by Kevin Prosch, “Whoever heard of an army of God, who conquered the earth with their weeping and mourning and brokenness?” It is easy to become subdued by the world or to be infected by the mirror shards until all we see is distorted and the stories of Hope are drowned by the darkness and the pain. Yet, even the smallest light cannot be chased away by the darkness.

 

Thank you to those of you who offer your arm for me to lean on while I wash out my shoes every few steps. And to those whose words have been used as weapons, for whom freedom of speech justifies all manner of evil words, I will wash your words from my shoes and continue on the journey God has called me to.

The Lost Daughter

As another day turned to evening, she sat on the balcony in the sagging old armchair, her heart and soul weary. In the first few weeks after it happened she had wept every single day. Not a minute would go by when she wouldn’t wonder where things had gone wrong, what she could have said or done differently. As the weeks turned to months the sadness became a knot in her stomach. Occasionally she would laugh, at a joke or something Martha said. Then the sadness would overtake her, combined with a guilt for almost forgetting what had gone before. Martha would see the darkness overshadow her smile and her face would fall. “Everything we do will always be about her.” Martha, the One Who Had Stayed, had spat the words at her the other day. It had been a slap in the face when already the pain of was unbearable. She slowly pulled herself out of the chair, it seemed her body had grown old fast. Soul pain did that. She walked to the railings, squinting into the twilight, hoping that this would be the day things changed. By the time she walked indoors, the twilight had turned to thick darkness.

 

She undressed slowly, her limbs heavy with grief. Once in her nightclothes she looked in the mirror, the woman in front of her no longer familiar. Her lined face and silvery hair, once proudly held high a crown of wisdom now left her feeling old and lost. Her shoulders slumped slightly and the energy she had lived her life with was lost in the pain of the day things changed.

 

The sheets cold against her skin, as, the silence shouted louder than the busyness of the day. Nothing to distract her from the memories, an onslaught of pain that never stopped.

 

“I want it now.” Evelyn had said. Her face hard, her words cold. “There’s a whole world waiting for me and I want to explore it. You’ve always said we shouldn’t be ruled by the traditions. Let me go, give me my share.” Martha’s mouth had hung open. Shocked by her sister’s audacity.

 

As their mother, she had always offered them freedom. Never holding to the old ways of control, she wanted her daughters to know their worth and value. To have choices, make decisions, live in freedom not duty. Never once had it occurred to her that freedom would break her heart.

 

She had heard them arguing later that night. Martha’s voice hissing words while Evelyn’s voice had rung out loud and clear, “It’s my choice, you stay here if you like, but the world is waiting.”

 

As she lay in bed, heart aching, tears slowly trailing down her face, she wondered whether she should regret giving her daughters the power to choose for themselves, to have freedom. She heard the whispered comments of the others; the neighbours, so-called friends and the employees. Her own mother’s words came back to her, “You mark my words Sophia, you’ll regret giving them freedom. Discipline and duty is the only way.” Yet, even in the midst of the screaming memories and darkness, she couldn’t muster any regret.

 

The darkness and shame overwhelmed Evelyn. Regret sat like poison in her stomach, no amount of vomiting able to purge it. She thought back to her dreams, when she thought the world was waiting. The way her money, her mother’s money had opened the doors. The parties, the film crews, her name in the credits, her conviction had grown with every success. She had been right; Martha wrong. Rich girl, famous girl, star of the reality show, living the dream.

 

But the dream is just that, one day you wake up. To find your private sex tape watched by the world. She didn’t know exactly when the regret had taken hold. The topless shots sliding into soft porn movies, if the world wanted to watch her, well at least they could pay her. Her FU to the world was to show she could still make it. Yet here she was sore and degraded, shame filling her head with thoughts of destruction.

 

She’d been given some powder to fix it; so they had told her, “It’ll make it better. It’s no big deal.” Yet, the tiny bags had laid in a drawer, the line she had yet to cross. She wondered whether now was the time. She walked over to the cabinet, took one out and stared at it. Could this take away the terrible poison within? Her mother’s face came into her head. Perhaps, maybe, she could go home. She could offer to work for the business. Find herself a bedsit. It could be better than this porn hell.

 

Sophia awoke, the state of half-awake providing blissful ignorance from the loss of her precious oldest child. The feelings of grief flooded in as consciousness overtook her. She sat up, squashing the ache in her soul. Before That Day she had regularly read the newspaper over breakfast, but with the first sight of Evelyn in the pages, she had avoided it like the plague, as the sickness took hold in her heart.

 

She completed each day on automatic pilot. Meetings, conversations, projects, reports; all of them completed by her body, while her soul wept. She knew Martha struggled. So many times they had gone round the same circle, “Evelyn has chosen her path; you’ve got to move on. Not least because I’m still here. I need you Mum.” Sophia had tried to awaken from the nightmare, for her younger daughter’s sake. But it was so hard. She lived for the evenings where she could sit in the chair on the balcony and hope that would be the day.

 

It had been months since that first night Evelyn considering returning, succumbing instead to the comforting powder. Her soul eviscerated by the photo and video shoots. Man after man, woman upon women. The irony of it being called a shoot. If only someone would shoot her.

 

She used all her pay to buy the escapism powder, living on the sofas of the men who filmed her. In one of her only recent lucid moments she remembered that time, how she considered going Home; after so long, that’s still what she called it. Home. This was the day things had to change, she was better off there as a worker, no matter how menial, than on the sofa of a pornographer. She had no belongings, nothing to pack. She walked out the door and started out Home.

 

Sophia was curled on the chair, the evening air cool. She had almost given up hope. She stood, her joints almost audibly creaking, shuffling to the balcony railings. Staring at the horizon she waited. In those moments she allowed herself to hope.

 

In the distance a speck emerged from nothing, gradually becoming the shape of a person. She gripped the railings and squinted. It was a person. She held her breath, willing herself to stay calm. To keep the hope in check. Yet as the person drew closer, she saw it was her lost daughter. In that moment the heaviness disappeared along with the joint pain and the soul ache. She turned and lunged for the door, leaping down the stairs she shouted through the house, her daughter had come home!

 

She ran down the path, her bare feet thudding on the ground. She needed to reach her daughter; to hold her. She stopped.

 

Ahead of her was her beloved daughter, thinner, older, eyes cast down, trudging forward, she hadn’t seen her mother running. Sophia held her breath for a long moment, tears dripping off her chin, she dared not move in case it was just a dream. Out of her mouth a groan of agonised hope escaped, causing her daughter to look up. As their eyes met Sophia knew it was real. This was it. She ran to her daughter, scooping her thin frame up into her arms, holding her tight as she wept.

 

Evelyn froze. This was not the plan. Her mother shouldn’t be here. And yet she was. Evelyn forced herself to recite the words she had been saying over and over, “I’m sorry. I’ve hurt you so much. I’m no longer your daughter, if you’d let me work for you, that is more than I deserve.” Her muffled words were spoken into her mother’s hair as she dangled in the tight bear hug her mother had enveloped her into.

 

Her mother loosened her grip, stepping back and attempting to look her in the eye. Evelyn kept her eyes on the ground. The shame twisted, squeezing her insides and leaving her wishing she hadn’t come. The silence was thick as she felt her mother’s eyes boring into her. Suddenly her mother grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the house. She allowed herself to be pulled along. They reached the door and her mother bellowed up the stairs, “Evelyn is home everyone, we must have a party to celebrate! She has been lost, dead and yet here she is, we’ve found her, she’s alive!”

 

Evelyn’s heart sank, she didn’t deserve this. She shouldn’t have come.

 

As if her mother knew how she felt, she felt arms surrounding her. Evelyn began to weep, raw pain escaping from her every pore. She had messed up. Yet here was her mother, still loving her. She collapsed into her mother’s arms and sobbed.

 

The people were everywhere, the “Welcome Home” banner declaring to the world that she was indeed Home. Evelyn sat at the edge of the room, not quite knowing what to do. How many of these people had seen the movies/photos she had been in? How many knew what she had done? Yet her mother was smiling, telling the room how wonderful it was to have her home. Every so often her mum would come to Evelyn, telling her how happy she was.

 

Martha was nowhere to be seen.

 

Martha sat on her bed crying bitter tears. How dare Evelyn waltz back into their lives? How dare their mother just throw her a party, after all she had done? Didn’t her mother know how much it had hurt, the jibes and comments? “Sister of the whore!” That’s what they’d called her. The calls from journalists, the way people looked at her. The shame and humiliation. How dare she? How dare Evelyn just walk back into their lives? Then the party! That had been the last straw. She had waited, kept working hard for the family business, been obedient and not so much as a celebration! She could have been out, partying, having the time of her life like Evelyn and yet she had been the dutiful daughter. And where had it got her? Nowhere.

 

The knock on her door brought her up short. Who was bothering with her when the precious lost daughter had returned? Slowly someone pushed the door open and her mother crept into the room. She refused to look at her, watching as her mum’s feet stepped towards the bed. She felt the bed move as her mum sat down. “Aren’t you joining us for the party?” Her mother gently asked.

 

“Join you?! I never left you! And that whore who abandoned you, wasted all you gave her and brought shame on our family’s name is being thrown a party! You never gave me anything.” Her mother recoiled at her bitter tone and harsh words.

 

Her mother smiled sadly, reached out and took her hand. “Martha, you are always with me and all I have is yours. Your sister will live with the consequences of her decisions and the decisions of those who hurt her for the rest of her life, but she has been found and for that we can celebrate.” Martha’s eye filled with the tears, the feelings of unfairness overtaken by a desperate need to feel her mother’s love. She stared at the bed covers, tears overflowing, great drops falling onto the sheets. Her mother moved closer and held her. Martha clung to her mother, great sobs escaping from her mouth. Her mother stroked her hair whispering over and over, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

On Desmond Tutu and Forgiveness

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written of his journey to forgiving his father for abusing his mother. In an article for the Guardian he says, “I can still recall the smell of alcohol, see the fear in my mother’s eyes and feel the hopeless despair that comes when we see people we love hurting each other in incomprehensible ways.”

 

Karen Ingala-Smith has written an excellent blog critiquing Tutu’s message of forgiveness from an feminist atheist view. I have such deep respect for Karen and her tireless and enormously valuable work on ending male violence against women and girls. Her blog led me to thinking it would be useful to write my own response, from my perspective as a Christian feminist. (You can read my blog responding to Karen’s blog here.)

 

It must be acknowledged that for Archbishop Tutu to witness his father hurting his mother as a child is a terrible thing. Research suggests 750,000 children in the UK witness domestic abuse every year and the effects of such trauma can impact a person throughout their life. I hope my thoughts will in no way invalidate or undermine the pain and suffering of Archbishop Tutu has experienced as a result of his father’s choices. So much of his work and lie are to be admired and respected. As Karen says in her blog, his life has involved much good work. I also hope my thoughts in no way devalue the amazing work he has done and continues to do across the world.

 

I have known the power of forgiveness in my own life. For four years my ex-husband chose to hurt me. His choices left me suicidal, physically and mentally scarred and I only escaped after he assaulted me and my son was born three months premature. The effects of his choices continue to impact my life, with ongoing traumatic responses to what he did and with my children. For me forgiveness has been an enormous sacrifice, but one that has transformed me. I am not defined by what he forced me to become. I am free.

 

The theology I had learned in church about forgiveness and relationships disabled me from making good or safe choices. I met him when I was 17. He sexually manipulated and abuse me and I thought it was “sex before marriage”. I assumed my only way forward, twelve days into the relationship, was to commit my life to him, to marry him. His constant put downs and sexual relationships with other girls were seen by me as an opportunity to show him Jesus’ love. To forgive him and forget. I thought Psalm 51:7 applied to my actions “wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” I had to forgive him, to wash away all traces of his choices and then everything would be okay. But it wasn’t okay and I was pregnant within six months and four years later, lived in a hospital with a seriously ill child and a toddler, almost totally dead inside.

 

In that place I learned what it was to lose everything, to hit the end of everything and for me, it was in that place that I found God. And I have been on a journey since then. Part of that journey has been discovering what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness is never about nullifying the consequences of someone’s choices. It isn’t about reducing their behaviour to something we can justify or explain, in order to make it smaller and easier to accept. It isn’t about a forced feeling that allows us to believe that now “God can forgive us too”.

 

Forgiveness for me started by learning to forgive myself. The shame and abuse I suffered left me filled with self-hatred. To no longer blame myself for my ex-husband’s behaviour, but to fully hold him responsible. To know longer live in denial (which is what the teaching I had been given as a young person really meant; forgiveness equals denial). Then, once I had been through the long and painful journey of holding him fully responsible for his choices, I then chose to forgive him, over and over each time another memory surfaced. And for me that has been the liberation of no longer being defined or controlled by him. I don’t have to be filled with hatred for him, and I’m not. Forgiveness isn’t about letting him off the hook, but rather hoping he will stop hurting others and begin to live a positive life. It is wishing him well within a context of knowing he is currently dangerous and unsafe.

 

It is within that context of my own journey of and belief in forgiveness that I write about the article Archbishop Tutu has written.

 

“…see the fear in my mother’s eyes and feel the hopeless despair that comes when we see people we love hurting each other in incomprehensible ways.”

 

What he writes about is not two people hurting “each other” but one person hurting another person. Though this may seem like semantics, it is important to mention. I have written for EVB about the issue with talk about abuse as a relationship, as a “between” type thing.

 

“Intellectually, I know my father caused pain because he himself was in pain.”

 

Far from this being intellectually true, it is feeding into myths about abuse. Perpetrators do not abuse out of their pain, they abuse because of their beliefs about the person they abuse. They believe they own their partner and are entitled to behave in the ways they do because of this. Rather than this being a statement which holds his father to account, Archbishop Tutu actually justifies those choices.

 

“Spiritually, I know my faith tells me my father deserves to be forgiven as God forgives us all.”

 

The Bible does talk of us forgiving others, but I’m not sure it says that others deserve our forgiveness. Surely forgiveness is necessarily a voluntary act. Not because it is deserved, but because the person forgiving has made a choice to do so.

 

“If I traded lives with my father, if I had experienced the stresses and pressures my father faced, if I had to bear the burdens he bore, would I have behaved as he did? I do not know. I hope I would have been different, but I do not know.”

 

Perpetrators of abuse do not need empathy. We cannot put ourselves in the shoes of those who have beliefs of ownership and entitlement and consider that we too may behave in those ways. Forgiveness is not about being able to understand or provide reasons why someone did what they did, it is a choice in the midst of suffering to no longer be defined or held captive to what they have done to us.

 

“Forgiveness is not dependent on the actions of others.”

 

I do agree with this. It is not in the apologies of the offender that forgiveness is found. We can choose to release them from our hatred regardless of what they do. That is the beauty of it; the offender has absolutely no control over whether we forgive them or not. However, the other side of this is that if someone does apologise, we are under no obligation to reconcile with them. Reconciliation may put us emotionally or physically at risk. No matter how much the offender changes, we as the offended have the right to put in as many safeguards as we need.

 

Of his children, Archbishop Tutu says, “We have been able to forgive them because we have known their humanity. We have seen the good in them.”

 

The forgiveness we have for our children is different than that of a son forgiving a father. The power differential within all of our relationships must be considered when we think about forgiveness. Likening forgiving my child for keeping me up at night to the forgiveness of a son for the abuse his father perpetrated is not comparable. The power differential and the choice to bring those children into the world means that our relationship and responsibility means we make allowances for them in healthy ways.

 

Of his father he says, “…while his temper pained me greatly, there was so much about him that was loving, wise and witty.”

 

It is important to understand that abuse is not rooted in anger. It may appear as anger, but as I mentioned before, it is about beliefs. The belief in the inferiority of the person they hurt, that they are an object, a possession to be controlled.

 

“When I reflect back across the years to his drunken tirades, I realise now that it was not just with him that I was angry. I was angry with myself. Cowering in fear as a boy, I had not been able to stand up to my father or protect my mother. So many years later, I realise that I not only have to forgive my father, I have to forgive myself.”

 

One of the scars of abuse is blaming oneself, of believing oneself capable of impossible action, like that of a boy protecting his mother from his father. That self-blame is a lie. And though it may require self-forgiveness, it is also important to acknowledge that it is a lie that we believe in order to give us some illusion of power in a situation of utter powerlessness.

 

“No one is born a liar or a rapist or a terrorist. No one is born full of hatred. No one is born full of violence. No one is born in any less glory or goodness than you or me…We can easily be hurt and broken, and it is good to remember that we can just as easily be the ones who have done the hurting and the breaking.”

 

It is true that no one is born an abuser, however this statement does not take into account the systems which exert themselves on every person. That patriarchy insists men be dominant and that women are owned, is a fundamental system that must be challenged. Men do not abuse because they are hurt and broken, they abuse because a patriarchal system legitimises their choices. It is so important that we never lose sight of this. That Karen Ingala-Smith was left with the understanding that forgiveness enables patriarchal culture is not surprising if this is the message that is being given.

 

“It has taken me many, many years to forgive myself for my insensitivity, for not honouring my father one last time with the few moments he wanted to share with me. Honestly, the guilt still stings.”

 

It seems the feelings Archbishop Tutu has towards his own actions are more overwhelming the choices his father made to hurt his mother. Earlier in the article he talks of having forgiven himself, but it seems he is still far harder on himself for doing the best he could at that time than he is on his father.

 

In relation to the bad choices each of us make he says, “We can come up with all manner of justifications to excuse what we have done. When we are willing to let down our defences and look honestly at our actions.”

 

Throughout the article Archbishop Tutu provides many justifications for his father’s choices, yet when he talks of us acknowledging our own choices, he then says excuses and justifications are not okay. Surely we must be willing to apply that same attitude to our forgiveness of others, as we do to asking for forgiveness?

 

For me, it is through Jesus’ model of giving up power and showing what forgiveness and love truly are I have been able to make the choices I have. My experiences of being set free from the abuse I have suffered and my work in ending male violence against women are all rooted in a deep knowledge that it is through love and forgiveness that we will win the war. In Jesus, we see an all-powerful God, who discovered the only way to save humanity was to give up all His power and become weak, vulnerable and powerless. In Jesus, I discovered it is my weakness that is my greatest gift, not my strength.

 

While patriarchy continues to be a power which destroys lives and incites individuals and systems into worldwide oppression and injustice, it is as we live lives of love and refuse to be manipulated into hatred, as we begin to own the power and privilege we have and recognise the responsibility that gives us to empower those with less power, as we choose to forgive in a way that holds people to account, while believing them capable of change, and challenging the societal issues which disable change, it is as we do these things, that we will see transformation.

 

Colours

Me and the Lord had a couple of days away and He showed me so much.  Here’s a poem I wrote about one of the things He showed me:

 

A life drawn with pencil

So it could be rubbed out

 

With only three colours

To lay on my page:

 

 

Black; dying soul, destroyed by others

Red; bleeding heart, bleeding wrist, life source dripping away

Grey; creeping sighs and mist covered everything

 

Black

Red

Grey

 

THAT

Was

Me

 

But…

I am no longer THAT

 

Colours galore, colours true

Colours fresh, colours new

 

A life full of colours, full of laughter

With permanent marker, for ever and after

 

I’m no longer bound by black, red and grey

I’m free, I’m alive, with new colours each day

 

As you look at my pages

My life 2D

The change in colours

Is astonishing to see

 

Where once there was pencil

And black, red and grey

There is now a rainbow

New day by day

 

The colours of life and freedom and hope

Of love and of beauty and learning to cope

Of kindnesses offered and given away

Of Light and of Mercy and new Grace everyday