He tormented me, he held a gun to my head, he raped me, he demeaned me. I was a teenager and he was my enemy. Whenever I would hear the name of Satan or consider the word “evil,” his face would come to mind. He (and others) took from me. My innocence, my value, my self-esteem, my strength, my purity, my hope, my joy. All that was precious and good and lovely about my younger self was charred by these heinous incidents. I hated them for what they had done.
I spent years trying to gain back myself. I fought, I gave up, I attempted suicide. I self-medicated. I spent months in a psychiatric ward. I went to counseling, I searched my past for clues as to how this could’ve happened to me. I confronted my abusers, I became strong enough to hit back, I boldly spoke about sexual abuse and the terrible ramifications. I got angry. I got loud. I got my “power” back. I demanded apologies. “I’ll be so big and powerful, I’ll never be abused again,” I thought. It stirred me up, gave me a purpose, a fight to belong to.
But none of it gave me peace. None of it helped me to smile or rest or love well.
Then I came to realize the magnitude of God’s love for me. The personal, intimate, no-one-else-around understanding that I was most valuable in his sight. I became convinced it was true. No matter what I had done, no matter what had been done to me. Ah, like a waterfall of fresh water on a hot, sweaty day, I felt clean. I felt cared for, I felt alive, I felt free.
But best of all, I felt BIG inside. Big enough to not get swept away in other people’s hatred, drama, pain, abuse. I felt big enough to see and to feel and to remember and to know what is really true. But big enough to understand. Big enough to forgive. Big enough to heal. Big enough to love my enemy.
I let down the anger, I let down the mirage of “power” and I began to love. Love as I had been loved by the One who made me.
The monster turned into a father with daughters of his own. He owns a house in the country. I’ve not spoken to him, nor do I know much about him. I do know he was beaten and abused by his alcoholic parents. He, in turn, abused others. I, in turn, hurt others…the cycle goes on ad infinitum. When will it stop?
When I stop. Stop trying to overpower, shame, harm, hit, blame, condemn. When I turn and offer love instead of “payback.” An eye for an eye sure feels good. For a fleeting moment. Then you realize…you’re now both blind.
I attempted to stop evil with anger, with power, with condemnation, with shame, but all I was left with was more evil and ugliness. It was lethal poison and I needed the antidote.
Jesus said, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also…”
But Lord, how is this possible? Loving your enemy is too hard! I will be taken advantage of, I will be a laughingstock, I will be ineffective, I will be harmed, I will continue to be abused. He will get away with it!
Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
When we realize we are loved. When we realize that circumstances and people don’t determine our worth. Money and fame and success and “things” cannot determine how important we are. Love does. The love of our Creator does. The love of a dear and kind and ever-present Friend does.
I don’t want to be angry forever. If not about this cause, it’d be another. I don’t want to be in pain or depressed or paying the price for what someone else’s pain caused. I’ve spent enough time in that hellhole. I want to be free as God intended me to be. So God sent me Jesus, who held out his hand, and offered me wholeness. Relief. Joy. Peace.
And by the way…the idea that because I am loved, nothing bad will happen to me is not true.
The idea that because I am loving, I will become a doormat is not true.
There is strength in the love of God. It is a strength that enabled Jesus to go willingly to the cross (even for those who would ultimately reject him). It’s the same strength that has enabled thousands of Christian missionaries and martyrs to give their lives for the sake of a loving gospel. It is what has enabled me to forgive the awful harm done to me and leave me without bitterness, malice or resentment. It is real strength. It is not a hyped up power. It is a strength that KNOWS there is more to this life than meets the eye.
There are things worth fighting for in this world. But be careful. If you fight with carnal weapons, you will only produce carnal results. You will come to discover that you have become just like your “enemy.” You’ll be fighting from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which never produces life. Because of Jesus, we fight from the Tree of Life and only this life and agape love can win over carnality.
Remember this the next time you want to respond to a “slap in the face” with another “slap in the face.” A sharp word for another sharp word. An ugliness for an ugliness. Don’t become like your enemy. Realize the enormity of God’s love for you and walk free.