Sunday, September 13, 2009

He Stretched His Arms Out Upon the Cross

Today’s service was a visual example of the meaning of the action of Christ upon the cross.

It was Community Speaks Sunday and, as is our custom, we had a guest speaker, Kay Briggs, who is author of the book The Magic Seashells. The Magic Seashells is Kay’s story about her recovery and healing from sexual abuse she received as a child. Hers is a beautiful message about how she tried to live out her life in the perfect appearance so often demanded by our society, keeping her experiences and troubles a secret, until she learned that to heal from the hurt done to her as a child she had to embrace the darkness of her experience and find God’s love within it.

We also blessed and said goodbye to a member who is on a journey away from us. He is headed off to prison for the crime of downloading child pornography and will serve several years in the state facility. He knew better than to do what he did. He feels bad about it and asked over a year ago for forgiveness and we gave it with a lovely service of prayer and laying on of hands in blessing in the hopes that his journey will find him healed at the end. We all knew his day to leave would come. We just didn’t know it was going to be today.

I worry about this man because I know that what he did has made him an outcast to some of our church, society at large, and will also do the same to him in prison. From my ex who is a jailor, “inmates all have children and they hate child abusers so any inmate that they learn has hurt children has to be locked away in administrative detention to save their life from the other inmates who will beat them up and try to kill them.” So he may end up in solitary for the next few years just to live. Even if he doesn’t enter solitary confinement he certainly can’t make friends with anyone and reveal his offense.  It’s a long and lonely road he has ahead of him.

Kay’s message was a blessing to me and I know that it wasn’t easy what she did, learning to accept herself and be open about her experiences. Kay may have had her own prison of sorts trying to live out the lie of perfection. I’ve known other people who experienced child abuse and it’s a lonely misfit life they live until they find healing for that hurt. 

After we prayed for him, our departing member, I sat there and thought about what that meant, the welcoming of a victim of child abuse and prayerfully blessing an enabler of it. It seemed such a dichotomy. So radical. So extreme! From victim to criminal, Christ’s forgiving love was exemplified by the actions of our priest and the community. That is such a huge stretch that it boggles the mind. Is there nothing that God can’t or won’t forgive, fix, or heal? Apparently not. So I think that for the next few days, or perhaps weeks, I’ll be thinking about how wide Christ’s arms stretched when he laid them down upon that cross for us all. It’s a humbling thought.

May the love of God enfold each and everyone of you today and everyday! Peace! Hope! & Joy!


Sandi McBride said...

This post is very thoughtfully written and many will read it and find fault with it. Never mind. Man punishes , God forgives. Man proposes, God disposes. I believe it will take someone nearly a Saint to forgive this man. I do not know him. I am glad no one asked me to forgive him. However, your guest speaker is in a place where she can look people in the eye and dare them NOT to care. Prayers for her, of course, I believe she may be the Saintlike person who would find forgiveness in her heart for the sinner...

Lee said...

Thank you for your very thoughtful response, Sandi. You're right, lots of folk will find fault with this. But knowing that Christ forgives all things I think my church has, for the most part, chosen to try to forgive even though it is very, very hard to do. I find myself torn in two over the situation. Not knowing what to do about that I focus on what I can do.


Diana said...

definitely amazing. The concept of the surviving abused and forgiving and accepting an abuser. Where there is God, all things are possible. How easy we forget.

Lee said...

Thank you Diana! I'm glad you see it that way. You're right, it is very possible to forget that. I forget it most when I feel least deserving of it.


San said...

Beautifully written, Lee. You have reflected deeply on this and it's a blessing to read your post.

Two people who are polar opposites--victim and abuser, each seeking healing. Your metaphor of Christ's arms stretched wide is very effective.

Lee said...

Thank you, San! I wish I could claim it was totally mine, I believe that it was God who inspired those words in my heart as I watched that action unfold before my eyes.

The learning still goes on. I'm discovering that there is much more to consider than just what I observed and am excited by the prospect of further growth as a follower of Christ and as an individual. :-)


Deepanjan Ghosh said...

Very well written post. Happy eid to you!