Two and a half weeks with a virus that wracked my body stopped all forward movement and then came the glitch on my Mac which further pushed me into a state of submission. Submitting is not generally in my character, yet the timing seems almost holy. Pausing to reflect, to take big chunks of time to merely consider and wonder and explore, without the demands of deadlines and appointments and meetings means things can fully percolate. I typically avoid spending so much time within my own mind, there are monsters lurking around most memories, threads pull me into places of pain and sorrow. Yet just as taking the time to heal from this virus meant extra naps and bedtime extremely early, following the threads of painful thoughts, actually allowing my mind to remember and then discovering I have survived not just the initial event but the memory as well, that is where the healing happens.
As the flood of brave women bringing their stories to the world can attest, sexual abuse and harassment has been accepted within our culture. The #metoo campaign is changing everyday men as they realize the stories their sisters and mothers and aunts talked about around the kitchen table happen to their coworkers as well, that they may likely have been complicit in not seeing, not understanding the enormity of the issue. The scales have fallen and they are speaking out as well. For me though it is reinforcement that the world is scary and not to be trusted and danger lies in interaction with half of our population. Yet this week allowed me to remember something else. I do know some safe men, some men of honor and integrity.
I pulled on a thread of a difficult memory from church from this past year, a time when I felt devalued and my worth in the eyes of God was challenged. My long established coping pattern led first to outrage but then to the process of internalizing the message, accepting his word over what I know to be true. I began to avoid church, my soul was bruised and battered and I had no where to turn, it seemed. Yet my pastor, a man with the kindest eyes and a soul so open that his hurts for all are visible, like the very wounds of Jesus, what about him? I heard the whispers, the nudges, the pushes by my sweet friends and my husband to talk with him and still it took over a month. I feared I wouldn’t be believed, I feared I didn’t have any evidence to back my story up, I feared most of all losing respect for this man I so needed to be who I thought he was.
What I discovered when I shared my story with him is what real restoration is about. He didn’t ask for witnesses, he didn’t ask me to keep it quiet for the betterment of our church. He didn’t excuse the behavior or say I was too sensitive. His heart broke before my eyes for my pain. He said it was wrong and I deserved better and our church needed me, ME! I was worthy and a child of God and he wanted my gifts and talents and love there. Then he talked about the other person, not in condemnation, but as child of God as well. That he was young and spoke before he thought sometimes and he wondered if I would partner with him in helping this young man be better. I wanted to hand him my hurt and have him fix it, he wanted to empower me to face my demons and see that they have no more power than I, that they are often just people who make mistakes as well and are committed to growing but need honest feedback to do so. This certainly wouldn’t have worked had actual abuse occurred, or maybe for some it could, but I knew in my heart the young man was filled with grace and could benefit from a strong woman sharing how his words could wound. I agreed to face this with my pastor at my side, a move I will be forever grateful for.
I found healing not just in the relationship that had splintered, but in myself. I discovered courage and my self worth again, I also followed a roadmap to restoring brokenness with my pastor’s help. I learned that there is great power in forgiveness and rebuilding trust, that grace is the greatest gift we can offer each other. I know true transformation can happen when we meet each other with honesty. The young man’s true character was obviously an important component of this, he didn’t deflect or minimize or grow defensive. His heart broke as well to know that he had hurt me. Our relationship is slowly building into something that I value and will cherish, I count him as a safer man in my life, a high honor that he is unaware of but is critical in my recovery from abuse at the hands of so many.
My virus is gone, my Mac is back, the news continues to bring more stories of men who have hurt women and been allowed to keep their power for decades. Yet on this day, I am celebrating the safe men in my life, more precious than gold. Friends, I hope you have many of the same, I hope you are someone’s safe man. I pray also that as we find our strength to tell our stories, we also find the courage to restore where we can, that we are open to transformation when possible. We can all benefit from some grace.