Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
Maybe you’ve been as troubled as I have watching the confirmation process for the latest Supreme Court nominee. He has had multiple allegations brought against him for sexually abusive behavior during his high school and college years. The media has surely done its part to stir up the hype, and keep emotions triggered and their ratings high. At this point, all I can say is that God knows the truth and we will all stand before Him and give an account on Judgement Day. I have to admit that my own emotions have been triggered too, so I will now do my best to let the Lord sort this out. He knows if the accusations are true or false. He knows if the denials are true or false. May God’s will be done.
As much as my heart goes out to both of the main individuals involved in this debate, my heart goes out even more to two groups of people who are caught in the crossfire. I am very concerned about the impact of this media debacle on those who have been sexually abused themselves. I’m also concerned for those who have sexually offended. Through the years, Reconciliation Ministries has had the privilege of ministering to precious souls in both groups. No one is beyond the tender mercies of our God. No one. No one is beyond repentance, restoration, and healing. No one.
My main concern with those who have been sexually abused is that many in the media – and many in the general public – have given the clear message that if you come forward; you will not be believed, you will be interrogated; and unless you remember every single, specific detail of your abuse, you will become the suspect. How many of us remember every single detail of any of the milestone events in our lives? The reality is that many abuse survivors have learned to suppress memories of traumatic events to survive. They may start drinking, drugging, or living in deception to cope with the abuse. Some even put themselves in high risk situations to “reenact” their abuse. These are only a few of the unfortunate aftereffects of trauma that defense lawyers pounce on as they defend their guilty clients. Details such as the timeline leading up to the abuse doesn’t seem important when it is happening, so we don’t commit those details to our long-term memories. It is very common not to report the abuse for many years – if at all. We are seeing some of the reasons. Reports of abuse may be met with fierce anger, denial, or revenge. Being told things like, “You’re making it up!” or “That could never have happened!” by those we confide in is almost as traumatic as the abuse itself. To this group of wounded brothers and sisters I say, “You have safe, Christian men and women at Reconciliation Ministries who will hear you and walk with you as you receive healing in Christ.” We won’t judge you, or criticize you. We will listen to you and pray with you. Many of us have walked that painful road ourselves.
My heart also goes out to the men and women who do admit that they have offended, and are now trying to live a repentant, godly life. There are numerous men and women out there who realize they need help, but are fearful of the repercussions if they admit their offenses. Part of the concern is very real. All counselors and pastoral care personnel are required by law to report suspected acts of child abuse if there is an identifiable victim, and if the victim is still under 18 years of age; even if the alleged incident happened over ten years ago. This helps those affected by abuse get the help they desperately need, but it also makes it much harder for offenders to reach out for help. Through the years there have been a number of individuals who were repentant and brave enough to come forward even though they signed a form acknowledging the mandated reporting of suspected acts of child abuse. What I can tell you is that there are many more men and women who have committed a sexual offense well past the age requirements of reporting. They have confessed to God, but are walking around in bondage to shame and condemnation. They are truly remorseful and repentant. They admit their sin and make no excuses for their past behavior. However, they live in fear of being found out and being labeled as someone below plankton on the food chain. The media coverage of the confirmation proceedings bears this out. In the area of sexual offenses, not only is one often “guilty until proven innocent”; he or she is likely to be “guilty” in the minds of anyone who finds out that there was an allegation against him or her – even if it is dropped. Another unfortunately message of the latest media frenzy is that people can’t change. Even if the incident happened ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, there is no room for the transformation of Christ in the minds of many. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit truly can change any heart that is submitted to Him. If you are one of the many men and women who have sexually offended, or are tempted to offend, please get the help and healing that Jesus Christ willingly died to provide for you. Reconciliation Ministries is here for you too. We have had the honor of walking to the mercy seat of Jesus with many who were on the sex offender registry, others who have been in the legal system; and those who had not offended, but were struggling with the temptations. Help is available for anyone who opens their heart to Jesus. Help is available for you too.
Reconciliation Ministries also recognizes that it may be difficult for those who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse to hear that we have grace and mercy on a group of people that represent others who have caused their pain. I am a pastoral caregiver and licensed therapist. I am also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Some of my close family members are also abuse survivors. The Lord had to change my own heart when He first called me to work with those who have committed sexual abuse. I found out then that it is much easier for us Christians to say, “Without the grace of God, there go I,” than it is to live it. I have also seen the power of our loving Savior to forgive and transform anyone who is repentant and who surrenders their lives to Jesus. I have seen the power of Jesus transform many hearts that society was willing to throw away, and turn them into living examples of the power of the cross. No one is beyond the redemption and transformational power of Jesus Christ. No one.
So I say to those of you who have been sexually abused, “Reconciliation Ministries is here for you. We will walk with you to Jesus and help you get the healing and restoration that you need.” I say to those who have offended, or are tempted to offend, “Reconciliation Ministries is here for you as well. We will walk with you to Jesus and help you get the healing and transformation that you need.” Reconciliation Ministries provides a safe, confidential, Christian environment where you can share your heart, receive compassion, and talk with others who have had similar experiences.
If you or someone you know needs help, call Reconciliation Ministries at 586.739.5114. Our next session of Living Waters will be starting soon. We also have licensed professional counseling and prayer ministry available. We are here to help you.
In Christ, Dan Hitz, Director, Reconciliation Ministries of Michigan, Inc.