Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To Those Who Are SURVIVORS of Sexual Abuse

Dear Sexual Abuse Survivor,
I'm praying for you today. I'm praying for you because I don't know who you are, but I know that you are probably feeling much like I am. You see, I am just like you. I was sexually abused too.

My perpetrator was 10. He lived in my house with me the entire time that I was abused and no one knew about it. I promised not to tell. I lived for many years not telling my parents or anyone else that it had happened because I had told him I wouldn't. He never received any justice. He never showed remorse. No one ever advocated for me.

I grew up feeling like I was alone and worthless.

I'm sure you know that feeling.

I'm sure you have heard the news that a famous "Christian" family had sexual abuse in their home. Committed by one of their children against other of their children.

I'm sure you have seen the news stories, blogs, Christian leaders, etc coming out in defense of the perpetrator.

"He asked for forgiveness from those he abused." they say.

"Jesus has forgiven him." they say.

"Why can't you just move on?" they say.

I'm sure the words of those defending this man have stirred up many different emotions in you, like they have in me.

I'm actually jealous that they apologized publicly because I never got an apology. I actually used that as an argument on a friend's facebook page. "It's more than what I got." I said.

And yes, I am very glad he apologized. He should apologize. He should never stop apologizing. But that isn't enough. That doesn't wipe the slate clean. That doesn't mean we all move on and forget what he did.

I've actually stepped away from Facebook some because I can't handle the people saying "Jesus forgave him, we should too!" I can't handle that battle cry any longer. Can you?

Let me answer this in case you are wondering. YES! Jesus died on the cross for that sin just like he did every. other. sin.

But just because Jesus died on the cross for that sin and EVERY other sin doesn't mean that we do not face the consequences of our actions here on Earth.

Jesus died for murder, but that doesn't mean that murderers don't go to jail for their crimes. We don't stand on courthouse steps and scream "Jesus forgave him, we should too. Don't send him to jail."

Why is this the issue that we stand and say it is acceptable for forgiveness of sin to be enough? Why is this the issue that the church stays silent on? Why is this the issue that we tell victims "you need to forgive and move on."? Why?

Christians, THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! This is a crime that cuts to the very core of the person affected by the abuse, and walks with them daily throughout the rest of their lives.

Should we encourage and walk through forgiveness with survivors of sexual abuse? YES! But this should not be INSTEAD OF sending them through the justice system. This shouldn't be the issue that you say (often years later) "Just get over it!"

If I could "Just get over" my sexual abuse then I would have 27 years ago. I wouldn't be in counseling 27 years later. I wouldn't be terrified of it affecting my two precious daughters. I wouldn't be taking anxiety medication because I wouldn't be having panic attacks and becoming physically ill when these issues arise in the media because they wouldn't affect me any more.

But they do. They do because sexual abuse is very personal. Sexual abuse takes a part of you that you don't even know exists, and then it heaps guilt and shame on you because for some reason you, the victim, must have done something to tempt the abuser. We don't simply stand up and say that there is evil in this world and that's why the abuser abuses. We blame and bring shame upon the victim, and fall prey to the abuser's lies that they [the abusers] are the victim.

Survivor, I am with you. I am enraged, I am hurt, I am sad, I am anxious, and I am physically ill over this story. Over the many stories that are not brought into the media about sexual abusers getting off without paying for their crime.

I am very sorry that you are walking this road. I am here with you. I am trying to navigate this life with sexual abuse as part of my story. And I ask you to use your voice. Don't live in fear. Don't let others silence you. Demand that you are able to tell your story. Know you are not alone. Don't believe the lie.

Let's use our stories to change this world so no one else will have to be shamed into silence.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I Get It Now

Last night I got home at 2 AM from picking up my friend at the airport in San Antonio. Since I was out late, Paul took the girls to a drop in childcare center (where we have taken our girls many times) so that I could sleep in and then take care of some things I needed to.

I woke up at 10:15 AM, went through my morning routine, and left the house around 11. I thought about going to get the girls before I went to run errands, but we had said we would pick them up at 12:30 so I took my chance to do some grocery shopping alone. I went to Target, grabbed a coffee, sent some group messages to see if I needed to grab anything for our MC tonight, and then started shopping.

I went to the pharmacy to grab some prescriptions, and they said they had 2 more for me they could have ready in 15 minutes. So I decided to wait, ran into a friend and caught up on some stuff, and my phone rang.

It was the director of the child care center. She said "Mrs. Coppinger, I just wanted to call and let you know that while coming in from outside Amelia was bit 3 times by a younger child on her arm. It didn't break the skin. She didn't cry at all, we have put ice on it, and her teacher held her to comfort her. She just sat down to eat lunch. I just wanted to let you know so you weren't surprised."

Everything in me wanted to forget everything else and go get my baby. I did get my prescriptions, check out, and drive the speed limit to get her.

When I got there I was thinking a few little bite marks no big deal. When I saw her arm I wanted to scream. Her arm has welts on it, and one of the bites is already bruising.

When she saw me, she lifted up her arm and her eyes filled with tears. My heart broke for my sweet girl.

We came home, and I was getting everyone down for naps and she was really struggling to relax. I picked her up, sang to her, and then I prayed for the child that bit her. I prayed for the child's family. I prayed that we could forgive them.

And that's when it clicked for me. That's when I realized how God felt when I was sexually abused.

He was hurting because I (His child) was hurting. He wanted justice because I (His child) needed justice. He forgave so that I (His child) could forgive.

I have struggled for many years to understand why God would allow me to be sexually abused. I have been angry at my perpetrator, my parents, God for many years. I have asked why, and questioned "If God is good...WHY?!?!"

Today, as I heard the words that my daughter had been bitten, and I saw the marks on her arm, and I saw the pain she felt I said to myself "If I hadn't been out late then she wouldn't be hurting. If I hadn't slept in then she wouldn't be hurting. If I had picked her up early she wouldn't be hurting." I hurt because my child hurts. I want justice because my child was hurt. I can forgive so my daughter can learn forgiveness.

Y'all, God was not far off when I was abused. He hurt when I was abused. He wanted to take away my pain when I was abused. He did not desire for me to be abused. Just like I was not far away when my daughter was hurt, I want to take away her pain, and I do not desire for her to be hurt.

BUT sin is in this world. And because there is sin people get hurt. People are bitten, sexually abused, murdered. That does not mean that God is far off. It doesn't mean that God doesn't hurt. It doesn't mean that God wants His children to experience pain, but it does mean it happens. It does mean that His heart breaks when we are hurt. He cries when we are hurt. But He also forgives when we are hurt.

God is still good. God is still sovereign even when we suffer.

I didn't get it until today, but I get it now. I'm still a good mom even when my child is hurt. God is still good even when I am hurt. He forgave so I can forgive.

God demonstrated His love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Happy Birthday!

Four years ago I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl I had ever laid eyes on. She was absolutely perfect, and absolutely healthy. Healthy is important because 20 weeks earlier we had lost her twin brother, Owen, with no warning and with no knowledge why.

I'm pretty sure that this sweet girl would have stayed snuggled into womb for many, many more weeks had the doctors not said that it was absolutely imperative that she come early. I know this because this sweet girl likes to stay snuggled into her bed or next to me as long as she possibly can.

This sweet girl has taught me what it means to have your heart walking around outside of your body. She has taught me what it means to always see the glass as half full (unless you don't get the coveted the princes cash register for your birthday, and then the glass is very, very empty). She has taught me to love unconditionally, to be willing to sacrifice everything for another person, and to be willing to lay my very life down for them. She has taught me what it means to love like Jesus loves us.

She is the best big sister I know. She loves Amelia with all that is in her, and then some. She forgives without being asked for forgiveness, and she offers so much grace to this mama who is trying to just keep her head above water some days.

Julia Ruth, you are truly a blessing to daddy and me. You will always be the girl who made me a mama and showed me how deep love runs. Happy Birthday sweet girl!! I love you!!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Word of the Year: REST

Last year I decided to choose a word of the year and embrace it for all it was worth. I chose the word brave, and I really thought that God was calling me to be brave with my Noonday Collection business, or with sharing the Gospel, or meeting people. Instead, God was calling me to be Brave in dealing with sexual abuse.

Can I just say that was (by far) the hardest thing I have ever done. It is super easy to give people excuses for their behavior and never deal with it. Trust me, I've been doing it for 25 years. It's also easier to tell yourself that only weak people go to counseling and you're not weak so you are fine (that's a lie...strong people go to counseling).  We bravely followed God into putting our adoption on hold. We have no idea why. Sweet Amelia had to have surgery a few days ago, and even though it is a routine surgery that happens often it takes insane amounts of bravery to allow your child to undergo general anesthesia for any amount of time. (So to all of you parents who have done that this year and your child was under for longer than 15 minutes....big hugs.)

A couple of Sundays ago the sermon was about Jesus being the true and better Moses. I had already started praying about my word for 2015 (I've been studying the life of Moses in BSF so I was completely prepared to sit and learn nothing), and God gently whispered REST.

Y'all, this past year of bravery has left me feeling tired. Probably because I have been doing a lot of hard work, but also because as much as I've been trying to follow God I've been fighting Him too. I've gotten mad, I've yelled, cursed, and just stopped talking to Him. And in all of that God reminded me that I need to rest in Him.

So during 2015 I'm going to rest. I'm going to physically rest, mentally rest and spiritually rest.

Do you have a word of the year? If so, what is it?