When I heard the speaker begin to read the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I’ll be honest – part of me thought, “I know this story. I’ve heard it all before.”
However, that’s one of the things I love about God – the way he can take a familiar Bible passage – one we’ve heard or read many times – and speak to us through it in a totally fresh way.
As the speaker finished reading the passage and asked us to consider which of the characters we identified with, I didn’t need a moment to think. I knew immediately who I identified with and what God was saying.
It’s something that has been building in me for a while.
As I thought of the man lying on the road – battered, wounded, robbed, left there half-dead – it brought to mind the many millions of people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. Robbed of their innocence and their childhood, many are left half-dead spiritually and emotionally. The scars don’t always show on the surface, but they are there.
As I heard of the priest and the Levite walking by, it disturbed me. These are the church people -surely these are the ones who are meant to help? But for whatever reason – busyness, discomfort, fear, or something else -they ignore the problem and look the other way.
It has been bothering me lately that, too often, the church’s reaction to those who have experienced sexual abuse is the same. It’s a topic we don’t want to talk about because it’s uncomfortable or we’re not sure how to help, or we just don’t think about it, and, as a result, the wounded are left feeling unwelcome, or deficient, or lacking in faith, or that no-one cares.
We need to change this.
As I heard of the Samaritan approaching the man and taking care of him, it confirmed that this is who I want to be. This is who God is calling me to be:
Someone who doesn’t turn away out of fear or shame or discomfort, but someone who shows compassion and empathy, and who actually does something to help – who is willing to sacrifice and experience personal inconvenience to help the wounded on the journey toward becoming whole.
Long before Jesus’ story reached its punchline: “Go and do likewise,” the message was received loud and clear.
And I don’t believe it’s just a message for me personally either. It can’t be, because there’s no way I can do this by myself. I believe it’s a message for the church in general to step up and take action on this.
How do we do this?
Honestly, I don’t know. There’s no easy answer. It is a topic I am reflecting on just now and will return to, but for now let me share a couple of starting points.
We can begin the conversation.
Journey to Heal Ministries has a campaign during April to raise awareness on this issue.
Did you know that:
“Statistically 1 in 10 children in America will be sexually abused before they turn 18. 1 in 3 women already have. The unfortunate reality is, every 98 seconds someone has been sexually assaulted and every 10 minutes that someone is a child. “
It’s frightening, but facing up to it is the first step to changing it. We need to educate ourselves about the facts, and you can do that here.
You can share the link and the video below to let others know too.
(You may notice that this, and most of the other information I am sharing here, relates to the US, while I am in the UK. I share this because I know many readers are in the US and also because I have found it incredibly difficult to find information relating to the UK. This study provides some statistics for England and Wales, finding that 7% of people, and 11% of women surveyed experienced some form of sexual abuse during childhood. I haven’t found any information at all for Scotland yet. Because so many cases go unreported, finding accurate figures is almost impossible anyway, but one thing is for certain — this is an issue that affects huge numbers of people.)
We can take the steps necessary to protect the children around us – in our families, in our churches, in our communities.
The Mama Bear Effect has lots of helpful resources about how to have the important conversations to help with this, as well as practical steps we can all take to ensure that protecting children is a priority.
We can work towards making the church a safe place where the wounded can find hope and healing.
Too often when the church is mentioned in connection with the topic of childhood sexual abuse, it is for all the wrong reasons. What if, instead, we could be known for being part of the solution?
That is the church I want to be part of!
One book release I am eagerly anticipating is Mary DeMuth’s book “We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis,” which I think will provide valuable insights and practical help in doing this.
The book releases on August 13th but I am privileged to have been accepted as part of a team helping with the launch of the book, and I’m sure I will be sharing more about it in the coming months.
You can find out more about the book here, and if you have a spare twenty minutes, I’d highly recommend this video in which Mary DeMuth shares part of her story and encourages the church in being a safe place for the wounded.
I’ll finish there for now, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and any suggestions you have on how we can help in making the church a place of hope and healing for the wounded.
In the meantime, if this is an issue that affects you or someone you love, I would strongly recommend checking out Journey To Heal by Crystal Sutherland. You can find it on Amazon at these links :UK, US, and you can find out more about Journey To Heal Ministries here.