The other day I was thinking of a childhood friend that I’m no longer in contact with. I have no idea why or what brought her to mind. I have no idea where she’s at in life, how she is, if she’s married or divorced or if she’s had more kids since the first one she had. Specifically I was thinking about a conversation I had with her, and another conversation I witnessed between her and the wife of an elder at the time.
Both are very vivid memories.
Both left me unsettled but unsure of why I was unsettled.
Both were pointing toward her experience with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
I was young. And sheltered. And I didn’t know what to do even though I felt in my gut that something was off. It was all alluded to but never labeled.
And I found myself grieving.
Grieving because I could have said something, but didn’t. I don’t blame myself at all, but I do wonder if she and her sister would have gotten the help they needed if I had spoken up about how odd I felt after these conversations.
Grieving because she lost out on the childhood and teen years she deserved. She lost out on the protection of body, mind, and emotions she should have been given.
Grieving because the grown up she confided in, in front of me, told her to forgive her abuser because that’s what Jesus would have her do. That grown up did her more harm than good in telling her that it would do no good to tell others about her abuse and thus ruin her abuser’s reputation. She hurt her in deeper ways than I can express. She operated out of a mistaken idea of how authority and confidentiality work. And she passively played a part in this girl’s continued abuse.
Grieving because she defended the man who regularly and repeatedly abused her. I remember how sick I felt as she described her relationship with this man, smiling the entire time. And the more I have learned of the world, the more I have learned of abuse, the more I realize how extremely normal that is.
I have learned that tragedy is everywhere. It has followed me everywhere I go. Not because I am there, but because life is full of tragic things. The world is full of tragedy. Every phase of my life, every place I have lived, has included the abused and the helpless. Those stuck. Those defending their abuser.
And I am left with this:
I need to listen. Listen to those who are being hurt.
I need to speak. Speak for those are being silenced.
I need to learn. Learn how to help those who are being abused.
I believe there is a reason God brought this memory to mind. A reason I can’t share with the general public. The things we experience as children shouldn’t define who we are as adults, but they do play a part in who we become and what we care about.
What are the things you care about?
Who are the people you care for?
Are you speaking up and fighting for them?
The world is loud. The world is great at talking. The world needs more people who are willing to listen, speak, and learn. Especially when they do it from a heart that loves Christ.
Listen. Listen to understand, not to judge or yell or give an opinion.
Speak. Speak truth. Speak love. Speak hope.
Learn. Learn skills. Learn what signs to look for. Learn how to help.