Mary de Muth: An Open Letter to Sexual Abuse Victims

mary de muth family

Over the past few years, God has opened up conversations with several friends, in which I have gained a glimpse into the devastation of sexual abuse.  There is nothing like knowing a friend is struggling with what cannot be undone.  Such a helpless place to be.

Sadly, the current statistics now claim that 1 in 3 females are victims of sexual abuse.  And those are merely numbers of those who eventually tell.  Sexual abuse is a highly secret pain, one that stays buried as long as it can, but often seeps out onto the surface of life as adults grow older.

My heart’s desire in this space, is to encourage those of you who have been torn apart by the shame and breath-taking pain of sexual abuse.  I know that your memories are difficult, and this makes every-day functioning of marriage, sexuality and mothering, difficult too.

And maybe you have never told anyone.

 

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Today, I want to introduce you to someone who may encourage you, if you are wrestling through the aftermath of childhood victimization.  Mary de Muth has become a well-known speaker in the Christian realm, courageously sharing her story of childhood sexual abuse.  And an equally powerful message of healing and hope.

Mary wrote a letter to women who have experienced sexual abuse.  I wanted to include it today, as I believe the realm of sexual abuse to be one of the biggest kept secrets among women.  The shame of sexual abuse holds so many captive, and as Christian women, I hope that we can be “safe” and helpful to our friends who have suffered.  And this letter may be a good place to begin

 

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Dear Sexual Abuse Survivor,

I don’t really like the word victim. Even survivor has a strange connotation. And I’m not too keen on victor. None of those words encapsulate what happened to you, the devastation sexual abuse enacted on your heart. But we’re strangled by language sometimes–even writers can’t adequately express horror.

I much like the word BRAVE. Because it’s so darn brave to walk away from something like that. It’s brave to forgive. Brave to live your life in the wake of sexual trauma. Brave to hold your head high.

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First let me say I am sorry. I’m so terribly sad that sexual abuse is part of your story. It’s not right. Someone chose to take something from you–your volition and your body. That person (or people) violated you. They used their power and bully persuasion to overwhelm you with their sinful desires. And now you’re the one left feeling dirty and used–while so many perpetrators walk this earth free. 

It’s not fair.

Some of you feel shame and guilt in gigantic measure, heaped upon you. Some of you feel that you invited the abuse. The way you dressed. The hole in your heart that longed for attention. The equating of sex with love and affection. You feel you wooed the perpetrator somehow. Let me say this: A person who adores and loves you would NEVER EVER violate you. Never. Instead of violation, they would protect. They would pray for you. They would honor your boundaries.

Someone’s selfish gratification is not your fault. Don’t own that. Dare to believe your worth, and allow yourself the feel the grace that God grants you. Forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook. You were abused. You didn’t want it. Someone took from you–like a thief. They may have used slick words, threatened you, persuaded you that you wanted it, but it’s not true. Thieves are often liars.

In sexual abuse’s aftermath, you’ve possibly thought of suicide. You’ve cut your skin until the blood came. You over-ate. You spent years hard as rock, bitter as horseradish, always vigilant–ready to fight. You’ve protected your heart with ironclad resolve. No one will EVER hurt you that way again. Not on your watch.

All these coping strategies had good purpose a long time ago. They protected you. But now they’re strangling the life out of you. I only say that because I’ve walked the path of isolation and withdrawal. Actually, I spent about a decade of my life keeping the sexual abuse secret. And once I let the secret out, I decided I’d been healed, so I tucked it back away for another decade and lived inside myself–not daring to deeply engage my heart.

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An untold story never heals, friend. Isolation only masks the problem.

That’s not living. It’s existing. It’s pushing stuff down that you hope stays submerged forever. Unfortunately, our stories have a way of coming out–almost always in our actions. We end up hurting those we love. Some people become perpetrators because they never deal with getting better.

I know there are questions. I have them too.

  • Why did God allow this to happen?
  • Why didn’t He step in and rescue?
  • Why do I have to suffer seemingly forever for something someone else did to me?
  • Why can’t I ever feel normal?
  • Will I ever be able to enjoy sex?
  • Why does my spouse have to suffer for something someone else did to me?
  • What’s wrong with me that I kept being violated?
  • Was I put on this earth to be stolen from?
  • Why am I here?
  • What was it about me that perpetrators found irresistible?
  • Why do other people keep telling me it was a long time ago and I should be over this?

I want to assure you that these questions are entirely, utterly normal. And you should ask them. You should wrestle with them. Some of them will not be answered this side of eternity.

When I feel overwhelmed by the whys and the whats, I stop a moment and consider Jesus. This may not resonate with you because you might be mad at Him. That’s okay. I hear you. But there is comfort in knowing Jesus understands.

He took on the sins of everyone, including sexual sin, upon His holy, undeserving shoulders. He suffered for everyone’s wicked crookedness. And when He hung on a cross, He did so naked. Exposed. Shamed. Humiliated. Bleeding.

That’s why, when I write about sexual abuse recovery, I have to involve Jesus. He has been the single best healer in my journey. He understands. He comes alongside. He “gets” violation.

Sexual abuse is devastating. It pulls the rug out from under your worth. It keeps you scared. It infiltrates nearly every area of your life, consciously and subconsciously.

mary and husband

But I am here to let you know there is hope. Though the healing journey is long, it is possible. When I tell my own story now, it feels like I’m sharing about another person’s sexual abuse. I’ve experienced profound healing. It didn’t happen passively or quickly. I had to WANT it, pursue it. I had to stop shoving it down and bringing my story into the light–with praying friends, with counselors, with my husband.

Today I enjoy sex. I can share my story without getting that vomit-y feeling in my stomach. The flashbacks are less and less. I still have moments, of course. But I am so much farther along than I had been.

I want to end this letter with this truth: You are amazing. You survived something traumatic and horrific. You are reading this letter blessedly alive, connected to others. Your story absolutely matters. Don’t let the trauma steal your story of hope today.

Joyfully free,

Mary

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If you find this letter helpful, please forward this post on to family or friends who may benefit.  Mary’s candid approach to healing from past abuse, has helped so many.

And in the mean-time, if you are 1 of the 3 women who have experienced sexual abuse, know that I am praying for you today.  Your hurt runs so deep, and I pray that you find God’s grace and love to be the first facet of your healing.


“He Walked Out” {And Why Divorce is Too Easy}

hands held

Standing in the aisles of Target, I was sorting through purchases.  Sufficiently distracted enough to nearly miss an old friend, standing just a few yards away.

We greeted one another, and with that keen fondness of a few shared memories, began to sort through the past handful of years.  Kids, jobs, life.  Noticing she had not mentioned her husband, I inquired.

How is Jay?

And without missing a beat,  Oh, he walked out on us last Christmas.

Heart sunk and confused, I remembered Jay as a great Dad and a sensitive husband. 

Oh no!  What happened?

Well, my friend replied,  I still don’t really know.  He hasn’t said. 

But I think it is just too easy to be divorced these days, and he chose the easy way.

 

Unhooked

My friend at Target made a keen observation that day.

Divorce is easy these days.  Too easy.  Whereas a century ago there was tremendous stigma associated with the notion of breaking a married commitment, to post-moderns adults, divorce is easily explained.

Be Happy is the cry of our entitled hearts, and marriage not-withstanding, we will attain it.  In the world of 21st -century singles, self-fulfillment trumps even promises.

be happy

Lauri Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked, has written a fascinating book on the problem with marriage in the 21-century.

And one of the most discerning observations Strauss has made upon speaking with many now-singles, is that the partner who splits and runs often places blame on “the marriage”.

The marriage was not connected. 

The marriage was difficult. 

The marriage was stifling. We just could not make the marriage work.

To many, The Marriage is handled as an impersonal object, devoid of singular responsibility.

On Forgiveness

Dave Harvey, author of When Sinners Say I Do, challenges this laissez-faire approach to commitment.

People do not fall out of love, Dave reminds.  They fall out of repentance.

Married love is a climb.  And due to life’s obstructions, one requiring enormous perseverance.

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Alistair Begg preached a sermon a while back, and in it he noted:

Many find that when they cannot reach the summit with all that they hold in their hands, they let go of the summit and pitch their tent in the plain. And the plain is so very full of tents.

Often, marriages stop flourishing when both partners stop climbing up in accountability to God, and fall out of fellowship with those who will hold them to His high standards.

In turning our backs on who and what builds up, we easily turn our attention toward things that slowly undermine us.  Without intending to, we find a home in the plains.

And statistically speaking, over 52% of married couples are now pitching their tents there.

Two Good Forgivers

Ruth Bell Graham likes to say that a happy married relationship is a bond of “two good forgivers”.

forgivers

Don’t you agree?

It is not so much the commonalities shared, mutual agreement, or even perfect sexual connectivity that makes a union “work”.  Good marriage is built upon layers and layers of forgiving the un-forgiveable.  And this theology of forgiveness links right back to our understanding of God.

Because His grace covers all, our grace needs to do the same.

A marriage grounded in humble repentance can scale the highest mountains of anger and disappointment and still find someone to love at the top.

As Alistair Begg reminds, it IS easier to pitch our tents in the plain.  Avoiding the last great haul toward the summit, with all of our baggage strapped on our backs.

But it’s the view from the top we miss if we give up.

And the sun doesn’t shine as bright in the plain, either.


So Many Sisters: And the Opportunity to “Do Good” to One Another

emma anna 1

I once heard it said that “sisters are the perfect best friend”.

And as the oldest of 3 sisters, my heart cried: Yes! to this sentiment.

My sisters and I are loyal, long-suffering.  We are unconditional in our love.  And we are unbreakable in a bond held together by genetics and history.

Anyone with a sister understands the near- mysterious bond of two women joined by the parents – and in many ways, the same life.

It is moving and it is beautiful.

 

emma finger

In a similar manner, as Christian women, we are called into a Family of another kind.  One that dates back to the beginning of time and will persevere to its End.

Regardless of our families of origin, in God’s great Family we inherit countless new relationships.  And included in this collaboration, are dozens of sisters.

emma josh anna1

Sisters in the Lord- What Does that Mean?

As North Americans, we are highly autonomous people, aren’t we?  We raised the flag of freedom back in 1864, and we have been fighting to remain independent of authority ever since.

But is this fierce independence a help to our relationships as women in our churches?

Galatians 6:7-10 advises us that God desires our accountability to one another: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.  In other words, God wants the first-fruits of our kindness and compassion and time to be given to those within His Body, the Church.

Our sisters should come at the front of the line-up of our priorities, and not in the back.

Hard to wrap our minds around, right?

emma 1

 

Why might it matter to God, that believing women “do good” to one another, ahead of all other loyalties?

Well, the single greatest reason is this:  Church is the place where God’s power and glory are most on display.  It is in the healthy functioning of the Church, and the love of its people toward one another, that God Himself is made to look beautiful!

And we, as hard-working hands and feet, are necessary components to creating that beauty.

Doing Good – But I am Tired!

School, sports, doctor’s appointments, a house to clean.  We are busy people, not looking for any more ways in which to be tired.

Doesn’t doing good look like just more work?  Well, yes.  Which is why Paul encourages the Galatian church: “Do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up”.

Doing good will be work, and will inevitably make us weary.

But the confidence of a harvest is our focus, not the labor of our sowing.

emma following

 

Doing Good – What Does it Look Like Practically?

The “going good” that Galatians references, will have varying faces.

Doing good might look like picking up an extra nursery shift, so an over-extended Mom can take a week off.  Or Baby-sitting children not your own, so a friend is freed up for an hour.  Doing good might look like encouragement when a marriage is facing difficulty.  Or it might appear as a note in the mail or a mid-day phone to call that friend who has been on your heart all week.

Doing good might mean serving when there are no other hands to serve, and the Church is tired.

And in our tithe of “doing good”, rather than being emptied, we are filled.

Rather than remaining independent, we instead become inter-dependent.

And the vulnerability of needing that frightens, gives way to the most precious love – because we see that we can need, we can rely.   And out of that willingness and love, emerges something breath-taking: The visible Church.

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So for those of us struggling with commitment to our friends at church, let’s continue on and not give up.

It is hard work to give and to love.  But, let’s do it.  Let’s give of ourselves and place one another in high priority.

Let’s make Him look beautiful by our love.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Inconvenient Worship, or Being MOM at Church

susanna flowers

 Do you find Sunday mornings difficult?

Admittedly, some weeks, I do.  Waking on time, feeding, packing snacks, dressing and re-feeding so that stomachs are not empty mid-morning.  And all with the hope of arriving on time for the next part of the race – the service.

For many Moms, Sunday mornings are the hope held out that is not delivered.  No sooner is everyone seated than the first bathroom break commences.  This followed by a sibling-squabble, requiring discipline.  And so on.  Sunday’s are supposed to be the best mornings, but sometimes they are the toughest mornings.

So, what do Moms of young children do?  Do we give up and quit attending church until the kids are older?

Or is there hope and a better perspective to be had?

 

 

susanna

This morning, my sister shares her thoughts on what Sunday worship looks like, as a Mom with 4 small children.  This article originally appeared at True Woman, but the topic was pertinent enough, I knew it might encourage some of you.  Here is Susanna, on worshiping in the midst of inconvenience.

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“I don’t want to go to church this morning! There’s no point,” I told my husband despondently. Our eleven-month-old son hates being left in the church nursery, so I end up spending the service time in the nursing room or pacing the halls.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful for the nursing room because it’s a sisterhood of nurturers. Yet looking at the rest of the congregation through the one-way window, we see and hear what’s going on, but it’s still not the same.

Why does it seem like so much of motherhood has to be lived away from community?

Most of life as a mother is worshiping when circumstances are inconvenient.

Fortunately, God challenged my wayward thoughts and transformed my mind to think beyond me. He directed my focus toward the witness I have before my other three children in this season, nevermind my own spiritual well-being. What does it say to my children if I stay home from church, not because I have to, but simply because I’m frustrated that I need to spend the service tending to Josiah rather than being where I’d like to be—right in the service? Yes, being in the service is a good desire. But right now I’m called to worship right where I am—in the midst of inconvenience.

bible keep calm

Most of life as a mother is worshiping when circumstances are inconvenient. I read the Bible while my baby is tugging at my feet and my three-year-old is wanting my lap. I pray broken sentences in the car while there is arguing in the back seat, and I want to yell for quiet.

I do get it “right” sometimes and wake up in the calm morning hours before the kids are up. Those mornings offer the ideal quiet times with God where I have the opportunity to really reflect on Scripture. There’s a mug of coffee beside me and the promise of a bright day that began well.

Then there’s reality.

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With small children or nursing babies waking in the night, those mornings are not going to happen on a regular basis. My time with God may have to be broken up throughout the day or delayed until evening. But God desires us as we are, not a flawless performance. Christ has already done that on our behalf. Through His strength, He enables us to pursue holiness. However feeble these earthly bodies may feel, we can find sustenance at His feet for another day . . . and another week.

One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Mathew 11:28–30.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

These words are balm for a mother’s heart.

Because of Christ, God accepts our worship to Him, messy or neat.

mothering as worship 2

In surrender of my frustration to God, I experienced a newfound joy and sense of community with my brothers and sisters in Christ. My seven-year-old son convinced us to stay for our church’s fellowship lunch that morning, instead of sprinting to the car, and I’m thankful he did.

On the van ride home, spirits high, appetites satisfied, and new acquaintances made, my five-year-old daughter stated exuberantly, “Mom, I love Sundays! I love being together as a family!” Our hearts were full. I’m so grateful that God is giving me the grace to embrace worship in every stage of life—even the most inconvenient.

How are you worshiping God through some of the inconveniences that come with motherhood?