If we will only listen to people in pain when they articulate clearly and calmly, then we will never listen at all. What happened to me repeatedly and agonizingly must never happen to another child of the OPC. [Tweet this]
It’s hard for me to explain to you the grieving I’m experiencing. As you may know, grief is not one single emotion, but a storm of pain and loss. It is anger. It is anxiety. It is heartbreak. It is loneliness. It is that nauseating knot in the pit of your stomach. It is the pressure in your chest as you face the unknown. It is the headache from clenching your teeth and the mental fog from not sleeping.
I have suffered loss before. I know every winding curve of this well-beaten path. I know depression like an old friend. The comfort of tears as they release broken hopes and wash away self-deception and the lies of others. What a bent, wretched, war-torn world we live in. This is war.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
Since writing my Open Letter to the OPC Regarding Abuse, quite a few survivors and dear friends have asked me, “How do you stay in the OPC? How do you remain in the church? How have you not lost faith in God, after all you’ve been through?”
My answer is quite simply that the wickedness of mankind does not disprove, but rather confirms, our need for Jesus Christ. When evil men rise up in the church, they do not pull a fast one on God. They are not victorious over his Spirit. Rather, he knows them of old. They are Cain. They are Judas. They are of their father, the devil.
Jesus said, “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:43-47
Those who know God’s Word, yet have no love, and bear no evidence of the fruits of the Spirit, are not of God. They may understand complex theological conundrums, cite church polity, and preach sound reformed doctrine, but love is as a foreign language to them. They read what God has said, they know what Jesus taught, but they do not truly hear his voice or comprehend his meaning. They are in the church. They are not of the church.
Satan himself quotes Scripture. He is a learned theologian who knows the Bible backwards and forwards. When we see learned men using Bible verses to cover up crimes, perpetuate abuse, and intentionally harm and silence victims, we can only conclude that they are not of God. And if they are not of God, then they are of the devil.
Just as Satan slithered into God’s Eden so long ago, so Satan’s progenies slither into churches and Bible studies, seminaries and small groups. They do not belong in Eden. They are not part of the church. They are invaders. Snakes. Predators. Parasites.
I remember once, my dad telling me, “Don’t call them predators. It makes them feel powerful. Predators are powerful.” He was speaking as a biologist about a pedophile we’d seen covered on the news. I sometimes wonder if he knew that someday, I’d come to think of him as a predator. I sometimes wonder if he wasn’t warning me about how he thinks, because deep inside, a fragment of him still loved his daughter.
When I adopted my cat, back in 2012, he was a tiny kitten. Basically, a ball of white fluff that chased shoe laces and nibbled on fingers. For some reason, the animal shelter had named him Beezlebub. So, I renamed him after Gandalf’s stallion in the Lord of the Rings; Shadowfax, Lord of the Horses.
But poor little Shadowfax was covered with fleas and full of tapeworms. I remember his fur turning pink with blood as I bathed him. I remember cleaning worm ligaments off our sofa and washing our bedsheets in disgust.
There are spiritual parasites who will bite you like fleas. They’ll drive you out of your mind with irritation and make you bleed until you wash them out of your life. There are pastors and church leaders who will suck your soul dry until you’re spiritually emaciated, clinging to faith. They are more like tapeworms than shepherds.
But I didn’t stop loving Shadowfax because he had parasites. I knew that – though they were in him and on him – they were not part of him. I knew they weren’t his fault. He was a naïve, innocent creature full of wonderment and bounce. Just so, we cannot blame the true flock of Jesus for the wolves prowling in her midst. The wolves must be cast out, yes. So, let’s cast them out and blockade the path back in.
The Burning Bush is Not Consumed
After reading my Open Letter, one person asked, “Are you trying to burn down the OPC?” Of course not. But I do desire her purity. I desire that evil be called evil. I desire that our high view of Scripture be matched by a high view of truth, justice, and righteousness, which is taught in Scripture. If I want to burn anything down, I want to burn down abuse, and the unearned reputations of abusers disguised as godly men.
Do not forget that God refines us as gold in the fire. If the truth feels like a fire, then perhaps God is at work, purifying us. If my testimony burns, that’s likely a sign I should keep telling it. If my story shines light in the darkness, I will repeat it until the darkness is afraid. If doing what I believe is right brings about purification and change, Soli Deo Gloria.
But I am not a perfect person. None of us are. By publishing my Open Letter, I bypassed church polity which shocked some and angered others. An Amendment was posted to clarify misunderstandings. But the fallible nature of this messenger doesn’t negate my testimony, or make my victimization and neglect any less relevant or real. Rather, it speaks to my pain, fear, and the exhausting struggle I’ve endured.
If we will only listen to people in pain when they articulate clearly and calmly, then we will never listen at all. What happened to me repeatedly and agonizingly must never happen to another child of the OPC.
Truth is not my doing. My life experiences have largely been outside of my control. The reality of how I have been treated by so-called “men of the church” is not my fault. I can only testify to facts and reality. If facts and reality are unpleasant, what kind of person would blame me for that? Surely, not a faithful shepherd of God’s flock.
“And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:9
The Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has been struck. Many sheep have been scattered. The wolves have turned to prey upon the little ones. But our one true Shepherd has risen from the dead. He will gather together his scattered lambs. He will cast false teachers – the dogs, the wolves – into the pit of Hell. Justice will be done. Truth will be known. And every soul, no matter how depraved and evil, will testify that God is holy.
I wish everyone could see God the way I do. Like my grief, he is not one single emotion. He is Love, yes. But he is also anger at wickedness, rage at injustice, sorrow at suffering, and compassion for the brokenhearted. He is the sacrificial lamb and the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5). He is the water of life, and the sword of justice. My anger at abuse is a tiny spark in comparison with the consuming inferno of my Father’s wrath.
“For behold, The Day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The Day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on The Day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 4:1-3
Brothers and sisters, we are in the End Times. Satan tried to prevent Christ’s birth, but God’s plan of redemption would not be thwarted. Satan tried to murder Jesus, but Jesus refused to stay dead. Now that sore looser lashes out in malice against Christ’s Bride. He wants to stall the wedding. He wants to shatter as many souls as possible. He wants to destroy you. If he cannot corrupt you, he will break your heart by corrupting those you trust. Abuse in the church is not a sign that all is lost. Rather, it is a sure and promised sign that the Serpent’s head has been crushed under the heel of Christ, and we are witnessing the last writhes of the devil.
This horrible corruption, this appalling evil, should not frighten us into silence. It shouldn’t discourage us or make us give up hope. Quite the contrary, it should embolden us and bolster our resolve to do what’s right, to defy evil, and scatter the wolves in our midst, because we know that our Redeemer lives, and soon – very soon – he will stand upon the earth (Job 19:25, Revelation 22:20).