The Sexual Harassment Wounds We Hide

A few years ago I was at a Christmas party, sitting with a few girls on a couch. When one of the girls got up to get some more punch and a tight spot was left empty beside me, a well dressed acquaintance filled it. He put his arm behind my shoulders, and his hand rested on my right shoulder as he leaned in and commented on my sweater. I froze completely.

I got up and left the room, only for him to find me 10 minutes later and back me up against a closet door and invade personal space I didn’t know I had. I was trying to be polite, so polite, was my face okay? was my sweater okay? how close was I to the kitchen? Oh, nod, yes, mhmm. Lock eyes with someone. “Rescue me.” I fled again, this time into the kitchen with the excuse I needed to help out the hostess.

By this time I’d told someone to keep him away from me. The third time (that same night), he came up so close to me that I backed up in panic. A friend’s arm shot out in instinctive protection to hold my back because in my panic to back away, I almost went backwards down a flight of 12 stairs onto a tile floor. The gut wrenching red-flag alarms God gave us to keep us safe from danger were all going off on high alert. I still think to this day of something I should have said. But I didn’t. 

The Silence that Holds Us

I’ve been keeping up with the recent Weinstein Scandal and tonight I had the most revealing conversation with a good friend, which then turned into a 1 hour conversation with my Mom, and conversations with three different women (in the next half hour) who had been sexually harassed. The more we talked, the less I felt comfortable letting it go as if I’d never been talking about it. Simultaneously, I felt extreme protection over these women and a fierce desire to keep their anonymity.

I have 10 such stories as I’ve written above, different in their own ways, some unwanted touch, some harassment, some emotional and verbal abuse, and some clear violation of my wishes in conversations as well in personal space. The more I talk about it, the more I remember memories that have been filed away in my brain as “traumatic” because they were trauma at the time. It’s so odd, because they were “small things”, but still stick in my mind as a time when I felt scared or threatened or vulnerable or violated.

Just one conversation tonight had me in tears. A young friend was touched when she was nine while playing hide & go seek. NINE. Another friend has multiple memories that still affect her of guys coming up behind her and grabbing her shoulders. Last year a guy grabbed my wrist and I almost slapped him out of sheer fight instinct because my first thought is “What if he doesn’t let go?” Another interaction this year left me feeling so vulnerable and threatened and shattered that I was hysterically sobbing unable to speak for 30 minutes. I cried the rest of the day.

And so the silence holds us. It hears our sobs and whispers to us that this is a safe place.

But it isn’t. 

The Silence Cannot Rescue Us or Heal Us

Once upon a time, a man in our church told me that my “flight” instinct from any painful or scary situation kept me from fixing problems or relationships. I cried because YES. I always want to run. But even if you’re in a crowd of friends, you can still be looked over, looked down on and talked about like you’re a painting they made themselves.

The silence will tell you that everyone will tell you you’re being “too sensitive”, that “he would never hurt you”, that “that’s just how he is” and “what did you say to him?”. Some will. But if you have good friends, some will leap to your protection, some will tell him to back off, some will counsel you and hug you, and some will not leave your side. Silence may hold you but it cannot rescue you and it cannot heal you. It cannot save you.

It’s easy to say “Tell someone!” when my own life/job/social standing isn’t on the line. When I’m not being stalked by an obsessive, relentless and dirty mouthed stalker. I’ve just been the friend collecting evidence for a lawsuit that won’t happen until there is physical abuse. I’ve just been the friend gripping hands tightly with a friend as tears stood in her eyes as she shared.

About ten years, I got a message from one of my best friends telling me that she’d been raped. I went running and just remember having to stop by this tree because I was going to pass out because I was sobbing so hard. I almost threw up I was so shattered for her. The pain and injustice she underwent is beyond what I can imagine and I hate it.

I’ve never been raped or molested.

I’ve only grieved. I’ve grieved that so many men in our world look at a woman and instead of seeing a beautiful, precious, tender being that God created, they see a soul to extort, distort, hunt and destroy that gentle joy and innocence. It breaks my heart, and I know it breaks yours. We all have been the women holding our friends, or the women speaking with a catch in our throats as we share something too horrible for words.

And so you’re probably wondering why I’m writing this at all. It all boils down to this:

You Matter in our World and to the God Who Made You

I’m talking about this, about you, because it’s important that you know there are safe spaces to talk about this, that what you felt and suffered is important, and that YOU. ARE. IMPORTANT. You matter! You matter so deeply.

I don’t care if you were wearing a bikini. I don’t care if you had more than one cocktail.
I don’t care about the million excuses our society tells you that you deserved it.

you. didn’t.

Your experience or attack doesn’t make you someone you are not. What a man or woman sinned against you is not your sin. Your memories will tell you it’s your fault. It isn’t. 

And in a world that doesn’t talk about it enough….what happened to you was not right. It was wrong and it is heartbreaking and I long for the day when you are healed from it.

In the meantime, remind to your heart that you matter deeply, and the reasons that you matter will never ever be altered or affected by whether a man laid his hands on you and hurt you. You matter because YOU are a beloved child of God, YOU are made like Him.

The God Who SEES You

The whole world would be in an uproar if a member of royalty was sexually assaulted, and what you have yet to understand fully is that you ARE royalty to the God Who made you. We are invisible royalty with our promised awaiting crowns and thrones seated next to our Father King. Mankind with blinded eyes cannot see this, but we know it.

In your trauma and in your pain and in your silence and in your agony, you are SEEN.

When you stood there with your dress torn and tears on your face and you had to stand at the hospital while they scraped underneath your fingernails and took pictures for evidence and then gave you no justice after you reported it to the police, God saw you.

When you were little hiding in the closet because you were scared and didn’t want to mess up by telling on someone when someone bigger hurt you, God saw you.

When you were sitting in the group of well-meaning-but-poorly-spoken Christian women at your church and someone dropped the comment: “If you dress like that, expect to be raped.” and “this is why modesty is important, to keep our men pure” or “if men lust after you, you need to repent because it’s your fault”, God saw you and your tears.

When you waited for rescue and none came and you bore the words, God saw you.

When you struggled to get away or woke up the next morning bloody, God saw you.

And He is the God of Justice. And He will not stay silent. 

The God Who created you will not stand for injustice against the most beautiful and precious and beloved thing He ever created. Such deep sin would never go unpunished, would never go unseen, would never be inconsequential to such a loving Father as He.

We can trust that when He promises to judge the wicked, that He WILL.

We can trust the God of the Bible, the Jesus Who crossed ALL the racial and societal boundaries while walking our earth to SEE women for who they were, and LOVE them. To the whore, to the shunned women, to the adulteress, He spoke to them where they were and called them to Himself. He threw off their shame. He crowned them with love.

Believe that He is that for you. He is the Rescuer. He is the Judge. He is the Redeemer.

Look for the men spoken of in this quote by Desiring God: “Men with gospel-filled souls won’t see women as things to manipulate or control but as treasures to honor and guard.” 

I know men who wouldn’t dare disrespect a women by touching her. I suspect I know men who would, and who see women as dirty things to use. And God sees them all. 

You are worth protecting

I told my friend tonight that I had no idea how to tie up this article, and 1800 words later, it’s still true. I just wanted to give some respectful space to sharing about this hard thing we keep in our wounded bodies and in silence. I wish silence wouldn’t hold us in so well.

I wanted you to know that you can find safe people to talk about it, and I wanted to tell you that I don’t care if you’re in the strictest church ever, immediately call the police. If your family believes that you are made in the image of God, they’ll want you to be safe and secure. Tell someone you trust and if they do nothing, find someone new.

You are worth protecting. You are worth everything. 

Tell that man or woman to back off. Voice your concerns. Listen to your warning bells.
If something feels wrong: say something. It’s hard but I’ve done it many times.

Let’s be each other’s safety. Let’s be each other’s bravery. Let’s look at each other with the eyes that God gave us and see each other as the beautiful, made-in-God’s-image people we are. Let’s speak out in peaceful voices and tender hearts and let’s be gentle to one another. Let’s pull one another in to be safe places for the wounded to heal.

And please everyone read this article on sexual harassment: “That Time I Danced Too Close” by Rachael Watson. It’s honestly one of the best things I’ve ever read on the topic, and was so moved I wrote this article! I couldn’t even come close to her words. So good.

As I close, I just want to say how proud I am and how much I pray for my friends who have undergone numerous sexual harassments and rape. You are in my heart. The ways you show grace and forgiveness and the way you bravely live in joy and friendship makes me look for ways I can exemplify you and can also be Jesus to a broken world.

I love you. 

Being Skinny Is Not a Holy Goal

It’s hard to know how to start this article. It’s hard not to generalize or not pinpoint.

But a few Sundays ago, I swung in my hammock outside as sunset light spilled through the trees,
and in a moment of pure honesty, I said something to my friend on the phone, and my breath caught in my throat.

I told her of a conversation I’d had that morning with one of the dearest ladies from our church.
It was after our church anniversary picnic, and I’d given her a hug and she’d exclaimed over loving my dress. I laughed because almost every Sunday she commented on my appearance or asks about my life, she’s one of those dear people who only encourages, the kind we are so blessed to have in our church family.

She said “You’re so skinny!”, and I laughed and said it was the dress. She laughed and argued back “no it’s not!”, I just hugged her again, said my goodbyes and started walking out.

Halfway to the door, I couldn’t take it.

I half turned and called back “Being skinny is not the goal, being healthy is!”.
I got a happy “Amen!” in return.

She didn’t see the sudden tears in my eyes.

I’m over it.

I’m over the things we tell ourselves. I’m over the lies. I’m over the comparing.
I’m over the photoshopped magazines and the “sucking it all in” Instagram pictures.
I’m over the perfect bikini bodies, and I’m over the endless “dieting” updates.
I’m over the way I compare myself in the harsh changing room lights and mirrors.
I’m over the way a skinny photo gets more likes and comments than a heavier one.
I’m over the way eating a simple cheeseburger can make me feel like I need to run 10 miles, and I’m over the way we have to say “having a treat!” while eating ice cream.

We cheer each other on the minute we start another slimming diet,
we comment on every slimmer picture on social media. We rejoice over lost pounds.
We measure each other up when we take pictures, and we take 5 minutes to pose
just the right way to accentuate and hide ourselves next to each other.

And then we bring it into the church where it doesn’t belong.

Disorders prosper when we as the church don’t fight the Skinny Lie. Or even worse, when we hide it. Eating disorders top the list of things I wish the church talked more about.

I think it isn’t talked about very much because a lot of us actually think it’s true.
That even though it’s not good to be a size zero…it wouldn’t be awful if I was a size 4.
It also wouldn’t be awful if I skipped lunch, or 4 lunches, or 3 breakfasts…and it certainly wouldn’t be awful if I received a bunch of compliments on my appearance the next Sunday!

When you live in a state of needing to control your weight,
you do not live in a state of joy, you live in a state of restriction.

And the world continues to tell us that you’ll live longer and happier and better, but….

Being Skinny won’t make you live longer.

It simply won’t. Being skinny or overly healthy won’t change the day God wrote from the beginning of time that you’d leave this earth, no matter what label of how you died the world puts on it. The day God calls you home, is THE DAY. Being skinny won’t add one second to that day. Do you see what I’m saying here? You can’t prolong your life. At all.

I’m over all the articles (in the entire world) that says if you eat 3 cheerios and
half a handful of acai berries and run 7 miles, you’ll live forever.

You’re laughing because that’s outrageous, right? But you just read that acai berries are a superfood, and now you’re wondering if you should just eat acai berries and that would get rid of the extra muffin flab you feel you really shouldn’t have.

Correct me if I’m wrong. You just thought about fat you want to not have and considered a 3 cheerio/half handful of acai berries/7 mile run because you want to be perfect.

Which leads me to my next point.

Being Perfect will get you killed.

I remember exactly where I was the first time I hugged a dear friend and noticed I could feel every single bone in her back. Her spine was a connection to every rib, every bone; she was literally enveloped in a jacket that hid her figure. She wore a size zero in clothes.

She was so tiny that I held her lightly, afraid of crushing her, afraid of hurting her.

Her eyes reminded me of a bird, fragile, small. I stepped back and she smiled,
but she wasn’t all there. She was a shadow of who I knew she was.

And my heart broke into a million pieces. 

I decided that day that being skinny wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it at all.

My friend is still alive today, but it wasn’t without lots of struggling, hard conversations, re-training her mind/thinking, hours of broken tears, and lots of days she wanted to give up and be skinny again.

Hear me out…..I’m not saying don’t eat healthy, I’m not saying you can’t enjoy running or working out or living a natural lifestyle, hey, I lead one myself …. BUT.

I AM saying if you do it to reach a perfection you will never attain this side of Heaven, 
you will slowly die. It. will. kill. you.

Eating “perfectly” or barely eating, eating only 3 cheerios or eating only non-GMO, organic, gluten free, air free, fat free, dairy free, soy free, meat free, rice free, sugar free, pesticide free, grown in a garden of Eden proportions and watered by the salt free tears of angels, and refusing to eat anything else, you’ve missed the glory of God’s creation and our purpose on this earth.

The purpose to grow on the land and eat the fruit of our labors,
to the glory and to the praise of the One Who made it all good. 

Trading a good life worth living well for a perfect bikini body is not a trade you should make. Putting a goal of skinniness over asking to see yourself as God sees you is deadly.

And much more than that, it’s not a calling God has placed upon you.

God would never call you to something that would harm you. EVER.

and that’s why 

Being Skinny is Not a Holy Goal

Being Skinny does not make us more like Jesus. Being Skinny is not in the Ten Commandments. Being Skinny does not make you a Proverbs 31 woman.

Being Skinny does not make you more desirable to a Holy God (or to a good man for that matter). Being Skinny does not make you a better Christian than the woman next to you on the church pew who wears a size 18. Being Skinny does not make you love Jesus more. Being Skinny doesn’t make you the perfect girl. Being Skinny doesn’t make you the perfect mother.

Being Skinny wasn’t preached from the Sermon on the Mount or told to any of the women “Go and sin no more, oh and also be skinny and fit because that’s what holy women look like.”

So being Skinny …. can’t be put on the same level as pursuing Godliness.
Because quite simply, it doesn’t have a place there and won’t ever have one.

Pride in our bodies doesn’t belong in front of the throne.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but God doesn’t see your body the way you do.

He sees ears that hear, brains that can understand and compute better than all of his creation put together, souls that awaken to the life only He can give, hearts that come alive, fingers that can feel and speak languages to the deaf, vocal cords that sing, mouths that speak joy, noses that smell flowers, lips that part to reveal a laugh, lungs that breathe thousands of times per day, arms and legs that swim through water with gracefulness and steadily climb up mountains and run with agility and speed.

He sees skin that protects bones, and blood that circulates and pumps organs we forget we even have. He sees the best of all His creation in us and says “It is Good.”

And we stand under the harsh lights and say “It’s not good enough.” 

We need to remind ourselves that we see our bodies with a broken worldview,
but God doesn’t. God doesn’t care about all the diets in the world, He cares about YOU.

“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

When we look at ourselves in pride or in shame, we aren’t looking at ourselves with a Biblical view, and we certainly aren’t bringing our hearts before the throne, or our souls to be revitalized but instead are bringing our bodies with vanity and pride to parade. God is not glorified in a proud or shamed heart that rests in whether you’re skinny or not.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder or a mindset that tells you you need to be a certain size before you can truly be happy with your life…hear this:

Being skinny is not the goal, being healthy is. 

God’s creation is all good. God’s creation of US is all good.
So what here isn’t good? It’s the way we see it. It’s our broken worldview.

How God’s heart must break over us when we don’t see ourselves as He made us!

God calls us to something higher than what we can see.

There is something mightier at stake here….the goal of trusting Jesus.
Eating disorders offer rules that tell us maybe just maybe you’ll make it to perfection.

But Jesus! Jesus offers FREEDOM. Jesus offers JOY. Jesus offers PEACE. Jesus offers REST.
Jesus offers a perfection we could never attain, not a physical perfection, but a spiritual one. A perfection that could not be torn away, a perfection that could not be lost.

A perfection better than every health benefit we could feel on this earth. We will know it one day when we step into His presence and realize we were once seeking the wrong goal.

Jesus calls us to trust Him with everything, with all that we are, with all our days:

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not LIFE more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 

Therefore do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’, For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:25-27, 31-33

Our God knows that we struggle with these things, and He knows that we are so prone to worry or to fear or to shame. He knows the hold this broken world has on us. But He sent His Son to break all those chains, including the chains that whisper to you that you’re not good enough as you are.

Jesus sees you as you are: a beautiful, beloved, loving heart inside a God-bearing image of Himself. Don’t let yourself believe you need to change your outward appearance for the King of Kings.

Nothing you could do could ever change His love for you, nor those around you that know your true inner beauty that will never fade: the beauty of a soul who loves Jesus.

Daughters of Great Worth

I vault between wanting to write/talk/preach about this topic and feeling unqualified.
However, I feel like that’s exactly why I need to write this. For me. For you. For why I tell myself I’m unqualified.

This morning I got a message from one of my best friends.
Her message went something like this:
“It’s super easy for me to believe the lie that I can lose God’s love….and to feel worthless.”

I dropped everything I was doing to text her back immediately:

“Babe. You are of great worth.
The King of the whole world looks at you with pride and calls you Beloved. Daughter.
Equal to Jesus. Higher than angels. With an inheritance that cannot be shifted by sins or weak faith. {an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you.”
{1 Peter 1:4}

His love for you will never run dry. His mercy upon you will never be revoked. His plans for you can never be ruined. His glory through you will only shine brighter until you SEE Him face to face.”

… and then I started crying.
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Believing the Worthless Lie

These past 3 months I’ve felt the most worthless in my entire life.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve texted the word “worthless” to my friends in tears.
There have been days I’ve stared in the mirror and told my reflection:
“You are NOT worthless. You have great worth in the Father’s eyes.”

And the truth is, I’ve had to stare down my own gaze that tries to contradict me in that moment.

Ohhh, Satan is so so good at it.

He tells us that Jesus won’t love us anymore. He won’t want us.
If one person walked away, what’s keeping Jesus from doing the same?
He knows more than anyone else. He knows our sins more than anyone else.

Surely I’m the exception of all that the Bible says about mercy and grace.

I can clearly see I’m not enough. Not good enough. Not perfect enough. Not true enough.
Not faithful enough. Not obedient enough. Not beautiful enough. Not enough for that kind of love.

Listen up.

There is a place where your gaze should rest and it is not upon yourself. 

It is the cross. 

You cannot stare down the cross and see worthlessness.
You will only see LOVE COME DOWN. Love slain for you.

When your Jesus took your sins away from you.

Satan would love to take your eyes off the cross
and put them on you and how you’ll never be enough.

PRAISE GOD YOU AREN’T, CHILD.

There is only One who is worthy to hold the title of Savior, and it isn’t you.

It’s Jesus.

He won it in a way you could NEVER attain. Your sins are paid for.
Your crown made by gold you could never acquire.
Your inheritance bought with a sacrifice you could never make.

Only Holy can pardon Holy.
Only Holy can redeem a people. Only Holy can bring the dead to life.

Baby crying in a manger. Angels singing. Throngs rejoicing. Multitudes in awe.
Blood running down wood, nails piercing hands and feet, and thorns pushed upon a brow.

Only Jesus could say: “It is finished.”

“You can trust a God who is not only sovereign but BLEEDS for you.” – Don Carson

No one can take from you what Jesus has given to you: a place with Him at the table.
Not serving with eyes downcast. Not beggars at the door. Not the dogs eating crumbs underneath.

Beside Him. His Beloved Bride. His chosen one. His Daughter. His Pearl of great price.
Beside Jesus at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. His gaze resting lovingly upon you.

You cannot be worthless under the radiance of such a love.

You cannot be left out with His name emblazoned upon your forehead.
You cannot be forgotten outside the gates. You cannot be cast out of His family.
You cannot be erased from where He has etched you on His heart, written you in the Lamb’s book of life.

You cannot be unworthy anymore, because Jesus calls you HIS.
Once cowering in shame underneath our sin cloak….now we run triumphantly to Jesus: His righteousness our own white robe, His death our death, His life our life.

His Worth is Our Worth

Do not seek any other worth, for this alone is PRICELESS
and will NEVER DIM through Eternity.

“Grace is God’s REFUSAL to allow us to define ourselves or to have the last word.”
– Michael Horton

He loves us, oh, He loves us so.

“Dost thou think, O Christian, that thou canst measure the love of Christ?
The riches of His goodness are unsearchable.”
– C.H. Spurgeon
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The Crown You Wear Cannot Fall

Hold your head high, today and every day, the crown you wear isn’t your own.
It does not bow to Satan’s lies. It doesn’t slip off when you sin again and again.
It doesn’t tarnish with sin.

You are wearing a crown bought by the Holy King, and He placed it there upon your head, Beloved Daughter of the High King, Bride of great worth, so you may shine radiantly for His glory.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him.

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. – Ephesians 1:3-12

Preach it to your heart. He loves you so.
Wear the crown of His love with dignity and honor and joy.