An article I wrote recently compelled people to ask some good questions and I’ve devoted a series of articles to answer them. But while I was outlining, and writing about it, I was reminded of you and realized you might find some of them difficult to read. Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming confusion in our society, they have to be written. But as I write about it, I’ll be thinking of you.
My guess is you normally ignore articles with titles like this one. No matter how curious, these are posts you likely avoid. You’re guarding your heart. You know they aren’t written to harm, but the ideas strike too close to home while the words prick and scrape at tender places. Hopefully, if God has graced these words with His kindness, this one is different. If you don’t follow this blog, maybe you’re reading now because someone encouraged you. You winced at the title, but they reassured you the article isn’t about it. And it’s not, it’s not about anything; It’s written to you.
I wish it weren’t true, but before April of this year (2012), I really hadn’t thought about you. I’d written about it, read about it, given sermons about it, and thought I understood it, but I didn’t, not really. Because I hadn’t considered you. I was so busy thinking and talking about the issue I never considered the person. You were there the whole time, but I never paused long enough to notice. Oh that “I’m sorry” could be enough.
Since 1973 it’s been one of the most talked about issues in America. Very few things get people more passionate. And it’s often that passion that causes people on both sides of the issue to hurt you. Like two parents tearing into each other while their little girl cries frightened tears in her bedroom, our pointed words have punctured your heart.
How many times have I hurt you?
How many times have I spoken words where you suffered wounds?
It pales in comparison, but I’m reminded of a scene from Steel Magnolias. Shelby, played by Julia Roberts, is at the salon getting her hair done for her wedding, surrounded by her mother’s version of the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” They’re telling stories and laughing about old times when Shelby begins to quiver. Moments later, she’s in a full-blown diabetic seizure. Her mother, M’Lynn, helps her stabilize and seeing her stunned friends staring agape, she tries to talk the awkwardness away. She meant no harm, in fact she was trying to help, but her explanation, including private news of Shelby’s infertility, embarrassed and likely hurt her daughter. The once blushing, now unkempt bride, almost moaned, “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.” Sometimes, I feel like you wish you could say the same thing.
There’s a beautiful story from the Bible about a women who gets almost thrown at Jesus. She couldn’t and wouldn’t deny what she had done; no one had to tell her she was guilty. Her face flush. Her clothes disheveled. Her accusers began to talk over her, speaking of what she’d done, demanding justice. The crowd gawked, thankful she was the one on display and no one had uncovered their secrets. Jesus, kindness personified, was aware of the rubbernecking crowd and heard the impassioned claims, but he saw her. Shrouded in shame, the girl lie in a heap on the ground with the dust still settling around her. He didn’t say a word. Instead, he knelt and began doodling in the dirt. It was strange, out of the ordinary, and profoundly unexpected. Her captors yelled louder, but Jesus kept dragging his finger through Israel’s sand. What in the world was He doing?
I think He was shielding her. All the burning glares of the crowd left her and fell upon Jesus. The spearing words were no longer thrust into her heart, instead they were flung toward Emmanuel. While everyone else talked about the issue, He spoke to her heart while saying nothing at all. Jesus never forgot her, never overlooked her, never ignored her. He never forgets, overlooks, or ignores you either.
Maybe you’re in the church, maybe you’re not, but I’m fearful church people have hurt you. Sometimes we’re like Shelby’s mother, concerned but ignorant. Other times we’re like those finger pointers, oblivious and cutting. In either example we’ve focused on it and forgotten about you. I’m sorry for all the times it was me.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I didn’t know about the little things that remind you. I wasn’t aware of the milestones you never forget. No one told me the burden you carry, but then again I never asked. I never considered you’ve probably left church services with a heavy, maybe crushed heart, or that you’ve stopped going all together. Why didn’t I pay attention? Why didn’t I notice? My only excuse is ignorance, and that’s no excuse at all. I could reveal more of what I didn’t know, but knowing them stills my fingers. There’s no need for me to write of the things that cause you to remember, the things that weary your soul.
One of those articles will deal with this, but I think you need to read it now – you aren’t alone. There are thousands upon thousands of women and men out there who share your story and know the burden you carry; you aren’t the only one with the secret. There are courageous people out there telling their story. They speak to offer a hand to others who have lived their story, people like you. But they also speak so people like me – people who’ve been ignorant for so long – so we can understand. I’m listening. I know enough to know I’ll never fully understand, but I also know that doesn’t mean I can’t fully care.
So as I’m investing in these answers, I’m carrying you with me. A young father was able to put his heart into words and whenever I think about it I think about him, and I think about you. There’s no health in pretending it didn’t happen or it doesn’t happen, so I won’t shy away from the truth, but with God’s help it will be seasoned with grace and warmth. With God’s help, you’ll be able to read with us and maybe share some of your story. I have to talk about politics and principles, but I won’t forget the person. I won’t talk about you like you’re not there.