Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Peace I Give You - Book Give-Away - Day Four

Whether we have suffered from childhood sexual or physical abuse or bullying, or whether as an adult we have suffered from subtle humiliation or quiet exclusion by our peers, or whether we have had to deal with a difficult boss...regardless of degree or type, there is one thing in common in all these types of suffering.  They result from someone's misuse of free will...someone else's misuse of free will at our expense.

We sometimes look for excuses:  That person must have been abused himself and that's why he abuses others.  Maybe this boss is treated badly by her superior and that's why she treats her subordinates badly.  Maybe. But no excuse gives someone permission to treat another person as an object for his or her own pleasure or advancement, instead of with respect for the other person as a whole person.

But where does God and His will fit in here?  As someone who was sexually abused as a child, I've always cringed when I hear someone say that everything that happens is willed by God...especially if they say it in the presence of someone I know has been abused in some way, especially someone who was abused as a child.  God's will is a mystery. But we do know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God is good and that all good things come from God.

As Christians, we know from the words of Jesus Himself how he views the mistreatment of our neighbor.  Jesus said that it would be better that a millstone be hanged around our neck and we be drowned than that we scandalize a little one.  I used to think - back when I was sweeping my childhood sexual abuse under the rug - that this meant things you did in the presence of a child.  For example, if you swore or left explicit magazines lying around...or stole something at the store, that would scandalize a little one.  It hadn't occurred to me how much more scandalous it is to devalue someone to the level of an object. That, I think, is the ultimate scandal.

Jesus also said that what we do to the least of his, we do to him.  And that, at the last day, He will say, "I was hungry and you gave me to eat"...or "I was hungry and you did not give me to eat." What if we were hungry for wholesomeness?  What if we were hungry for genuine love and respect?

Now, I'm not saying there is no hope for abusers, who indeed can repent and be forgiven.  The young man who murdered St. Maria Goretti is a shining example of  true and humble repentance. (He repented in prison, after Maria appeared to him in a dream.)

What I am saying is that God does not will that one person hurt another.  So, if we were abused in some way, that was not God's will.  Or, as Dawn Eden says, "God never positively wills evil."

Yes, God's will is a mystery.  Yes, He allows evil in this world -- because if He didn't, then we would not be able to love, because love must be freely given, from our free will.  God allows evil and He brings good out of it, although sometimes that good is hard for us to find.  He comforts us and strengthens us and guides us to find the help we need.  Sometimes, if we have been abused, it may be difficult to find him at times.  Where was He?  And yet He was there, caring, being "hungry", as He pointed out in the Gospels...hungry with us that we might feel wholesome love.

As Dawn Eden points out in her book, My Peace I Give You, Saint Bernard said, "God cannot suffer, but he can 'suffer with'."

He was always there, 'suffering with' us and loving us. And He is always here, helping us to heal. 


I've enjoyed sharing my own thoughts with you today.  If you were sexually abused or you know someone who was, or if you were abused in some other way, I highly recommend you read  Dawn Eden's new book, My Peace I Give You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.  And you still have time to put your name into my drawing to win a copy of the book.  If you would rather not include your name, you can make a fictitious name and then be sure to email me privately, so that I can find you if you win.

Remember, God loves you.

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