The byline printed all over this website reads Finding Your Voice after Abuse but it should probably read Finding God’s Voice after Abuse. Hearing God’s Voice is difficult enough without the added dimensions of being abused by religious people who claim a faith, speak for God, speak with God, know all about God and are well-loved within their religious communities. The abuser seems like King David the hero shepherd boy to the entire community — the man after God’s own heart. But really, he is Goliath - a giant-like ‘champion’ of false gods that looms over the victim with bad breath, curses, insults, and relentless taunting. The only thing missing— six fingers and six toes.
To actually know Goliath, but for others to believe him to be King David the shepherd boy, is disconnectedness, confusion, and isolation. At the start, you believe the religious figure in your life to be wise and loving, Christian and kind. Goliath believes it about himself as well. The best way I know how to describe it - it mucks up your ideas of God. Abuse within the confines of churches, private ‘christian’ schools, summer camps, missionary boarding schools, religious homes and any other religious environment is a toxic mix.
Mr. Magoo was a learned man in the Scriptures. Some even called him a Doctor in his field. I only knew him as a mister. He was preacher, teacher, director and master of all things spiritual. He was also my friend.
The fact that we were friends isn’t surprising if I were his peer but I thought of him as one of my best friends. I was a young teenager. He was a married man more than twice my age. There is clear indication that he considered me a ‘close friend’ too. It wasn’t right. The friendship was a guise - a Goliath costume to the grooming that was taking place of a young girl by a grown man who should have known better. Who did know better. But who made choices to ignore his better angels.
To be fair, many good and godly men parented me, pastored me, coached me, taught me, mentored me and influenced me in those junior high, high school and college years. As a mother, I have encouraged my daughters to be appropriately mentored, coached and guided by godly men as well. So one, I’m not a man-hater looking for abuse under every rock and behind every man. Two, I have given my adult life to ministering in Christian environments so I’m not a church-hater. Three, I’m not even a Mr. Magoo-hater. But, there is a difference in the conduct of healthy godly men and sick ungodly men. Especially toward children. Mr. Magoo was different. Now, I recognize the difference.
Mr. Magoo took liberties with me that weren’t his to take. Mr. Magoo told secrets to me that weren’t his to tell. Mr. Magoo stole things from me that weren’t his to steal. Mr. Magoo held hands with me while we prayed. Mr. Magoo gave hugs to explain hard things about faith. Mr. Magoo walked a tightrope with the Scriptures—testing others in the ABC’s of the Bible yet he failed at his own subject. Way back when, he tripped over the tight rope. He lost his balance. He fell. In this day and age, his fall could have made the nightly news.
Mr. Magoo asked a loyalty from me that wasn’t his to have. When he admitted his great impropriety to me— in the cloak and darkness of woods with tender words and careless touches—his exact words included ‘if you tell anyone, it will ruin me.’ From everything I have ever read or studied about abuse, that is quite possibly the most common manipulation, threat, invocation and request from men and women afraid of the Light— who are walking in darkness and picking up millstones as souvenirs. It is quite possibly the most pervasive message among abusers to children and vulnerable adults: do not tell anyone!
Mr. Magoo asked for my silence and I gladly granted it for twenty-some odd-years. I mistook silence for forgiveness. I mistook silence for a Christian response. But in that moment of asking for my silence, he took away much more than I realized for those same twenty-something years. In a real way, he silenced the voice of the Lord in my life.
When Mr. Magoo pleaded for my silence that night, I made a promise. And I keep my promises. So, silence became a bedfellow, with loneliness and isolation
co-sleeping, as I tossed and turned. I had no one to tell because I keep my promises.
I couldn’t even tell God. Besides, after years of hearing Mr. Magoo invoke God into every dimension of our relationship— including the fateful day— it inferred to me that even the Lord was not privy to MY pain, MY story or MY paranoid fears that grew out of that experience. The Lord was on Mr. Magoo’s side. He was not on the side of a barely sweet sixteen year old. I shan’t ever forget it.
Let me explain. For years— and I do mean years— I simply did not believe that God could hear my cries alongside my abusers. I struggled in prayer. My poems reek of this spoiled belief system. I struggled to believe God was listening to me or would even give ear because Mr. Magoo had His ear. Mr. Magoo spoke for God, with God and because of God. If I think about it too much, I still feel insecure in my prayer life because I can’t make it fit in my brain. He mucked up my ideas of God, by using the things of God in vain, for his selfish purposes. If you’re going to mistreat, take advantage of and violate others— at least don’t bring God, the Bible, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and prayer into it. Please. Seriously. The combination threatens the very foundation on which children and adults stand in regards to their faith and their trust in a loving God.
Mr. Magoo made ‘silence’ the heroic sword of forgiveness but in reality it was a deadly dagger to my heart of faith and trust, truth and freedom. When I finally confronted that Goliath in my life, the still small voice of the Spirit of God began to speak to me again and assure me that He is near- His presence real. He is a God who listens, who hears. I found my voice to speak again to the Living God and in return He gave me His voice of love, reassurance and healing.
My husband and I have been singing the children’s Bible story song ‘Only A Boy Named David’ to our children for years. They’ve heard it thousands and thousands of times. We are singing it to our grandchildren now.
Only a boy named David
Only a little sling
Only a boy named David
But He could pray and sing
Only a boy named David
Only a rippling brook
Only a boy named David
And five little stones he took
One little stone went into the sling
And the sling went round and round
One little stone went into the sling
And the sling went around and around
And one little stone went up in the air
And the giant came tumbling down.
My grandsons, ages three and one have heard us sing about David and Goliath plenty. This weekend, they treated us to the spontaneous and rousing rendition of ‘I’m in the Lord’s Army’. Yes sir. It was cute and endearing but it also reminded me of the shepherd boy willing to take on the giant. It’s really the same song with a different tune. Give me the courage to fight the battles of the Kingdom when the Enemy taunts. Give my grandsons that courage some day. Give the church of Jesus Christ that fortitude today.
It only takes one little stone to tumble the six finger and six toe creatures that taunt your life. The enemy of the Cross taunts the life of the Church as well. Let us be shepherd boys in prayer and purpose.
My story of being abused in the Christian environment is nearly forty years old. It’s creepy and wrong and scarring but it doesn’t compare to the horrific stories coming out in Christian denominations and movements over the last fifteen years. And many, even as recent as this year. Sexual abuse has become a giant problem. Goliaths are taunting the armies of God. Monster-like abusers with six fingers and six toes are among us in Christian environments.
Sadly, we are still believing the abusers to be Davids. How are we still confusing men after God’s own heart with ugly giants? How are we still preferring silence to speaking out on behalf of victims? How are we regarding the reputations of Goliath as the strongest and best warrior that we cannot challenge with our truly finest men? Why are those who should be fighting this battle unwilling to confront the bully enemy and defend the honor of God? Where are the courageous shepherd boys in this fight? Where are the counselors and comforters who will help the abused hear the voice of God again?
Finding God’s Voice After Abuse has not been an easy battle. A step forward in my search came when I broke my own silence and threw a pebble at the status of Mr. Magoo. Everyone thought he was King David shepherd boy but I knew him to be Goliath. The ‘community’ didn’t take it well and I knew a profound loneliness within the Christian community during that time. It was stubborn determination to keep my mind focused on the God who hears during those years when some members of the Bride of Christ (the church) grossly insulted my character in disbelief. I was called names. I was the bane of a public Facebook group. I faced unjust legal issues in which I had to face Mr. Magoo. It was surreal. Stressful. And I had to cling to a belief I already found unbelievable: God. Does. Hear. Say it again—louder for the people in the back. God. Does. Listen. God. Does. Hear. When loving Christians in that same community did believe me, support me and thank me for telling the truth, it was a comfort. They helped me hear Jesus.
I’ve heard the Lord Jesus in song, in meditation, in the pondering— like Mary the mother of Jesus. I’ve heard Him through sermons and childlike faith, books and the encouragement of Mr. Barnabas. I do hear Him again and I can’t give you a formula of how or why. I’ve been able to hear the Lord again in prayer as I repeated back His own words- “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive Goliath who trespasses against us.”
I first learned to pray as a child at Wednesday night prayer meeting in the basement of a small struggling church at the knees of a handful of older ladies, my mother, my beautiful pastor’s wife and Claudia Bunn. Claudia was about five years older than me and was a slow learner. She was tall for her age with distinct buck teeth and bright red, often unwashed, long hair. Parted in the middle. By the time I was 10, I had far surpassed her mental capacities.
Claudia would take the prayer list in hand and read the names from start to finish starting with the plea, “Dis’ be with”. Her entire prayer consisted of the phrase ‘Just be with’ and the person’s name. To this day, they are the most pure and childlike prayers I’ve ever heard.
In Finding Your Voice After Abuse, I pray you will find the voice of the Lord after abuse. I pray that you understand the call to courage against the Goliath of sexual abuse in your denomination and in your circles of Christian schools, camps and colleges, boarding schools, organizations and youth groups. I pray that you would hear Jesus’ voice to pray for your enemies, to bless those who curse you. I pray that you would come to understand the vast difference between true godly men and women eager to minister God’s healing to you and false teachers bent on using silence and shame as their weapon, the tool of giants. I pray that you would hear the voice of the Lord sing over you with rejoicing.
God. He is a good God and faithful to hear us when we pray. But some times, there are still many times, it’s hard to pray and I don’t have the confidence or assurance that God hears me. Then, I whisper my Claudia Bunn prayers.
‘Dis be with Mr. Magoo.
‘Dis be with (Un)incredible Hulk.
‘Dis be with those in the midst of being abused.
‘Dis be with my fellow survivors who still wear silence as a garment.
‘Dis be with the lonely.
‘Dis be with the broken.
‘Dis be with those who can’t hear God.
‘Dis be with the children who are sex trafficked, abandoned and orphaned.
‘Dis be with the cowardly and courageous shepherd boys.
‘Dis be with my grandsons.
‘Dis be with my folks.
‘Dis be with my family.
‘Dis be with me that I might find my voice.
‘Dis be with me that I might hear the still small voice of Father God and the thunderous laughter and song of Jesus.
‘Dis be with me.
Please, ‘dis be with me.
God above, hear my prayer.
Jesus, let us find Your Voice.
Spirit of the Living God, speak.
Lord, have mercy on us.