A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Untouchable Scriptures

When I first left Germany, the kids and I landed in Colorado. My grandmother had given us her empty house for three weeks. I tried to keep things upbeat but I was drowning inside. We borrowed a car here and there; we walked to church; I fruitlessly tried to find another place to live. But during this time, I made the most of it with the children. We went to Focus on the Family and I took them to “Whit’s End”. While there, I shopped in the bookstore and bought a new Bible. I had been reading the TNIV for several years (to the seminary peep’s chagrin). It reminded me that God “counted” me as one of his children. I know scholars say the translation has problems but I desperately needed to know that women were a part of God’s plan. But while in Colorado, I ditched the TNIV (it was falling apart) for an ESV. I needed something new and fresh. I needed to come to the Word with a clean slate. I had studied a bit about Malachi and learned that the ESV has a very close translation to the Hebrew of the controversial chapter two. I was sold. Upon opening this brand new Bible, I deflated. I did not feel like Jesus was talking to me. And behind every sentence in the New Testament were the lies of the ‘c’hurch. All of their commentary were ringing in my mind, leaving a bad taste in my mouth and causing me doubt again. I just could not do it. It is comical now but, I remember actually hearing my old pastor’s voice in my head whenever I would read the red letters. Good heavens. Jesus’ voice was actually my old pastor’s voice in my mind. That is a little crazy. But, in that condemning tone, Jesus had a hard voice . . . a voice that was against me . . . a voice that told me I was not good enough . . . and that I was only a woman. It was compassionless. It spoke only of depravity with no balance of dignity. It was life-taking. And joyless.

So, I put the Bible away for a good month, finally coming back to it only to read very obscure passages that no one had “touched”. Like minor prophets. And certain passages in Isaiah. In fact, I liked Isaiah so much, I camped out there for three months. Three months. We do the best we can do. Sometimes, we can do nothing. But, we know that we love God and we want to know the God that loves us and thought we were worth dying for. That place where we are caught . . . where maybe we cannot pray or where we cannot sing . . . or read His Word . . . God meets us there. He meets us in that “Stream of Grace”, as Jeff S calls it. And He takes our hand  . . . or He holds us . . . until we are ready to move forward. And that takes time. And don’t you know that God met me there in the minor prophets? I saw a God, for the first time, who cherished freedom for His people; a God who hated when others took that freedom away; a God who valued life and all people. I went from there. And I consciously removed the tone of voice I had attributed to Jesus in my mind. And I began to really hear Him.

Over time, I started reading other passages again. I asked God for a clean slate. He removed presuppositions and the Word became exciting. I cautiously popped over to the New Testament again. But, I could not go to the Epistles. That was where the “New Testament Law for the Church” had been created in my life. That was where beautiful letters written to different people groups in different eras for “such a time as this” had become the NEW LAW. That was where I was told to be quiet . . . not to look pretty . . . That was where I had learned that my body belonged to my ex husband and he could do whatever he wanted with it . . . where I had been taught that I was sub-human. There was no place for me in God’s plan when it came to the Epistles.

It was not too long ago that Jeff S suggested I start reading Philippians in The Message. I admit I took another few months before I even tried. I was scared, people. I was learning about God for the first time in my life and I did NOT want it ruined by a bunch of laws.

I finally gave it a go. And I found joy there. A lot of freshness and rejoicing. And the words were so different that there was no way to hear my ex’s voice . . . or a pastor’s voice . . . or a seminary professor’s voice because, the beauty of it was, they do not use nor like The Message (mischievous smile). I read Philippians over and over that week. I relished the new-found life-giving words.

I still struggle sometimes. There are a few books of the New Testament that I will only presently read in The Message version. Or I will read something in the ESV and then I just HAVE to know what The Message says. It has served me well.

This is how I have been able to gradually read the Word of God. But, I know that there are those who still cannot . . . and that is OK. God knows. He gets it. He knows that we cannot stay away forever because His love draws us in. He is pretty irresistible that way! But I know He does not mind the time away. He is always a gentleman. Never pushes or prods. Only loves.

****

Further Reading

Untouchable Scriptures, part 2

31 Comments

  1. Megan, thanks for sharing this journey. As I’ve watched it unfold it has been so encouraging to me. FWIW, going to Philippians in the “The Message” was my mother’s recommendation to me, so was merely passing it on.

    These days I primarily read the ESV, but I’ve always been a fan of checking out what “The Message” has to say. The key to the message is thinking of it as a running sermon of Peterson’s take on the scripture- recognizing that there is a lot of bias there (which he acknowledges). In fact, I’ve read that Peterson is uncomfortable when people use it for scripture reading in worship- but for Bible study and just getting the “flavor” of a passage, it’s really good.

    The Message works especially well for the epistles, which for some reason kind of seem more like lists of commands (to me) when read in normal translations, but actually come across as LETTERS in The Message. One thing that struck me while reading Philippians in The Message was just how excited Paul was to be sharing the Gospel. Sometimes it’s easy for me to think of him as a cold theologian with all the answers. He WAS the theologian with all the answers, but he was also a guy whose heart had been changed and he just couldn’t help but responded to that with excitement and passion.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Sometimes it’s easy for me to think of him as a cold theologian with all the answers.

      I used to think this too. He seemed to come off as cold and hard. I’m not sure what changed but I don’t see that anymore. Like you, I see Paul as a man of passion, as well as a man with a deep love and concern for the believers to whom he wrote.

  2. AJ

    Loved this post!! Thank you. It was only yesterday that I feel I was invited by God to go back to reading the bible. The invitation was to read with a new perspective, as his beloved, and not as one condemned. I guess I hadn’t realized it was common to stop. I really had no guilt about not reading for months but wondered why. Now I will read to hear what he has to say and not what they want me to hear.

    • Memphis Rayne

      I think I had guilt, about not having guilt?

  3. Meg, it is so encouraging to see where you were and now where you are. From not knowing what to do next or where to live with your children, to remarried happily with your children and more children and safe. A beautiful example of God’s tender shepherding. Irresistible is His love and leading!

  4. Thank you Megan! I have not been able to read the word for months-and before that it was a big struggle. I used to pour over the scriptures and study, study, study-but I just can’t do it right now. I also felt no condemnation and wondered why.I know He is patient and knows right where I am, and why.

    • davidandmegan12

      Oh, He DOES, Jodi. I am so glad to read that so many of you do not feel guilt right now. I was the same way. I KNEW, deep down inside, that God was with me . . . walking beside me . . . we KNOW that He will bring us through and then, in His timing, that day will come — that day where you want to pour over His Word again . . . but as a different person. A newer creation. Big hugs!!

    • Memphis Rayne

      Ya I stopped reading the word about one month after I was married, then if I were caught I would find ridicule at home, in the same stroke at church I was ridiculed for when I was too weak to go, and my children were thought of as unruly because the MIW (when we were seperated) made his mission to attend regularly and infiltrate, and start the smear campaign against us. That way he was viewed as a Christian and we were veiwed as backsliders……the MIW even gave me a NEW bible as a gift (sickening feeling approaching now) as if he was trying to save ME from my sins…..

      ……my old bible was thrown at me, nearly broke my nose with it, pages would be highlighted and stuffed under my pillow, or in the kitchen cabinets for me to find when I was home alone, (letting me know essentially that he has broken in to my house, for one, and the other letting me know that GODwas against my choices)….in the process everything I had was manhandled, riffled through, things from my past gone forever, no way to replace them….it got so bad, its like the MIW was able to erase my entire past, including the pictures of my children, it was all just gone.

      My point is I guess, I dont read the word (as you all most likely can tell) and yet I still know God is for me, even though nobody else was or is. I wonder alot about why? But I dont question that I did all I could do, and if I know anything at all about who God is? Then I know He knows what the intent of my heart was from the very start, and that HE will honour what is true and what is right…..
      I couldnt of been the shiny, perfect, spot on little wifey I was, I couldnt of endured the stress, I couldnt of protected my kids, or myself…..not on my own, it WAS all God lifting me up, carrying me over and through, it was all God setting me on the outside so I could see the truth looking in….God is/was there when I physically was not present, when the enemy was at my door daily, when I felt stranded, and snuffed out……HE is the reason I am still here. He did not “dock” me for time not spent with Him, He just swooped me up, held onto me, and protected me.

      Thanks Megan. oxoxo

      • davidandmegan12

        I’m for you, Memphis. So, so, so for you. xoxo

  5. I love this post so much Megan! I too couldn’t read the bible for a long time and when I could read I could only read the Psalms I felt like David was the only person in the world who could ever understand the despair I was feeling and the poetry spoke to my soul. Any time I read scripture anywhere else I heard it in my abuser’s voice (so no you aren’t crazy that is just what spiritual abuse does) anyway I finally shared my concern with you a few months ago and you gave me the same advice that Jeff S gave you to read Philippians in the “The Message” I bought a message that day because I was so desperate for the ‘narrator’ of my bible to stop talking in my head and my abuser would have a conniption fit if I ever thought about reading “The Message” so I know that his voice wouldn’t be narrating these words. It was beautiful I read and re-read the words over and over again falling in love with every one of them. I do not have any other version that I read now except King James for the Psalms because I think the poetic language give such live to that book and I am eternally grateful to you and Jeff S for your advice. I even wrote a poem about it the next day I have posted it below:
    Your Words
    Your words bring comfort to my soul
    After more then half a year
    Anxiety and panic have taken their toll
    I’m tired of avoiding them because of fear

    Now as I read your letters of love
    I receive their comfort and peace
    Descending upon me like a white dove
    And causing all my tension to release

    Your love for me was never in doubt
    But your words had been high-jacked
    And in their place lies did sprout
    Terrible untruths were presented as fact

    Oh what a joyous feeling I receive
    When reading your words once again
    Like a woman to her lover I cleave
    And my soul sings the song of a wren

    Your words of love are food to my soul
    And once again they are making me whole

    • davidandmegan12

      I remember that poem, Bethany! Jeff S and I were so encouraged by it! Beautiful! And I can absolutely see why the Psalms would speak to your poetic heart. 🙂

    • I love this poem, Bethany.
      BTW, readers, Bethany’s poetry blog is linked on our Blog Roll in the sidebar.

      • Thanks Barbara 🙂 and thanks for the plug 😉

  6. Megan, a great blog! It has been so rewarding to watch you develop and grow in Christ…and develop new paradigms for life. It isn’t easy. And some people that I know have “thrown out the baby with the bathwater.” (And I can see why, in all the confusion and pain of abuse.) But you are becoming all that Christ intended for you to be! And I get to be the one to see it happen, one step at a time. This blog will encourage others…to try again. It is very true, that our view of God can get skewed and warped, and we no longer want to read His Letter to us. Thankfully, you have (and are) overcome this and the Lord is getting a lot of glory from you. I am proud of you in a thousand ways…and this blog is another reason why. I love your trust in the Lord! It inspires and challenges my own. Thank you for sharing your heart and your journey!! d.

    • AJ

      David,
      Your comment is amazing! You do realize it will make us cry? Tears of so happy for sweet, sweet Megan and tears of so sad for never having heard words of blessing in our own relationships. I am so blessed by voices who have not endured an abusive relationship and yet stand with and for those who have. You bring strength and hope.

    • davidandmegan12

      Thank you, my love. 🙂

  7. Anonymous

    I found this out last week, and I will share it with you all. In Genesis 3 where God pronounces the curse on mankind, the words there “and your desire shall be for your husband, but he shall rule over you”, are a curse. It seems that many have taken those passages to mean that God is stating that a man is entitled to have rule over his wife, but in fact, my understanding is that when a man “rules” over his wife, it is in fact an acting out of the “curse”. It would be the same as saying the thorns and briars are good things! We have to remember that God is pronouncing the “curse” there. In the NT however, Jesus basically says, no more of taking advantage of the “curse”, men! Instead, he tells them to get low. He tells them to lay down their lives for their wives – get way low, like beneath your wife, so you can support and serve her. He changes directions completely here, although it was always meant to be that way; it was just not being lived out. Men and women are equal in God’s eyes, and quite frankly I have heard enough “overstatements” on the aspect of their roles. Yes, they have different roles, but they are still equally responsible for bringing the Gospel. I also found out the words “suitable helper” in fact mean that a woman is so equal with the man, that she stands in front of him, face to face with him. She is not there to polish his shoes, or as a slave to him, bowing low to him, but rather, she is there to be face to face with him as “they” take the Gospel to the world. How refreshing.

    I know plenty who if confronted would say, “Oh no! We believe that men and women are equal”, but you would never find those same people treating their wives as if they were in fact, truly equal with them; as if the woman had as much value to God as the men do.

    I too, have had a hard time reading God’s Word, without hearing some false teacher’s voice going on in my head! So, I found a really good female Bible teacher and listened to her over and over again, so I could get the other voice out of my head. She is not a pastor, just a teacher, a humble teacher. I think it will be a long, long time, before I am healed of all the abuse that has happened in my life, that has distorted my picture of God, as a mean and cruel taskmaster, even though I know deep down He is not. I also believe that on the last “day”, God will be saying to plenty of male leaders who warped women’s view of Him, “You’ve got some explaining to do!”; only their explanation will not make the grade. He will pronounce them false shepherds and give them their final reward.

    Now I am off to find my Message version of the Bible and read Philippians. Thanks so much for sharing this, Megan!

  8. I have to admit that I too have had an immensely difficult time picking up where I left off with the Bible and even Jesus, unfortunately. I feel like I am in the midst of a big upheaval in my faith and I am trying to redefine it. It is a tremendously scary place to be, considering I was always told that the “others” outside of the reformed camp weren’t saved. Heck, I don’t even know if I am reformed or not! I am just trying to start from scratch and rediscover who Jesus is without all the other pressure to conform. The problem for me is that the pendulum may be swinging to the other extreme. But I suppose it will balance itself out after it loses some momentum. I don’t know.

    I guess the hardest part of all of this for me is that deep down I am really afraid that I am sinning against God by going against all of these “highly spiritual” men who God has used so mightily. There is a place in me that still gives way to that nagging doubt: “I know in the past it didn’t work to submit more; BUT…”
    It violates my conscience in a way even though I also know deep down that they are wrong. And then I feel like I have to harden myself to keep moving forward. So it’s like I a part of me is convinced that I am walking in willful disobedience…but really I am not…or am I? And then I get angry at God for not caring about us…for caring only about His own glory…and I just want to give it all up altogether and stop being controlled by religion.

    But then I wake up in the morning, like this morning, and I feel like God is hugging me through the Holy Spirit. This baffles me and I ask Him how He could still love me even though I am such a mess, and though I am not secure in my faith and haven’t earned His blessings, and though I am doubting even His existence at times, and though I am such a wretched person and I question and suspect all those He’s placed in authority over me. And in the end I rest on the promise that nothing can separate me from His love or pluck me out of His hand.

    Thanks so much for this post. It was so refreshing to hear that I am not alone in this struggle with the Scriptures. I think in a sense it is probably a good sign, actually, if we do wrestle with the Bible and fear reading it. It might mean that we regard it highly enough that we would care what it says. I think I will try to read the Message. 😉

    • What a touching comment, Desley. I know where you are right now- I’ve been there. As it turns out I didn’t go far from my theological roots, but I sure questioned everything. But when you put everything on the table and say “No more is this decided by others for me” there is immense freedom, even if it’s rediscovering the old truths again. But there have been some things I’ve left on the table too, and they are never coming back.

      One one sense, it was the elders that freed me up to do the unlearning. There was a breaking point when I just could not live with their theology any more- I just didn’t have the strength. I said “God, if that’s who you are, then I must admit I’m not your because you haven’t given me the strength for that”. What does one do when one doesn’t have the strength? We have to start over and so I did. I put it all on the table and said “God, here I am. If they are right, I’m damned, but I choose to trust you are not like that. So teach me and show me who you really are – I am yours if you will have me. Please make me yours and not theirs”.

      I didn’t make up my own theology, but I did start fresh, reading the Gospels with new eyes and Paul’s letters with a different voice. God gave me the right people to encourage me and give me answers to the toughest questions (the most important was: “Did God forget me?”) This blog was a huge part of that.

      But the thing is, I would never go back now. I am someone different and I love so much better than I ever have before. I treasure who God has made me through all of this, and I rejoice in the work he has done. It was painful, but worth it.

      I know it’s scary, but God is moving. I can’t say how or what will happen, but I do know God is always moving.

    • AJ

      I recently heard teaching on the process of disillusionment and loved the new understanding that while it is a confusing and often disorienting time of transition, it is also the process of taking off the illusions. When God allows us time to remove those false beliefs that hold so much power but prevent us from truly running the race. Painful to some extent but so freeing in the end.

  9. Megan, you did a great job on this article. God must weep as He sees the hurts and struggles of those who have been so wounded by professing Christians.

  10. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog and commented:
    If abusive behavior by Christians has marred your view of God, this article is a good one to read.

  11. Thanks for the reassuring response, Jeff. It’s pretty encouraging to know you came out at the other end a strong Christian. I do ask God to help me to accept Him on His own terms and to help me understand — because right now I do not. But I still approach the Bible (and Him!) with misgivings. And you know, the sad part is that all it would take to ease this
    tension in me is a recognition from these church leaders that they were wrong. It’s that simple! Or a confirmation from God that I am wrong. But yet I firmly believe that He is the one who told me to leave even though I didn’t want to go. I was open and receptive to anything He had to say to me. I was prepared to submit and trust Him longer. I focused on my own heart…I was constantly repenting for sinful thoughts, greed, selfishness, jealousy, and even not holding Him as as highly as I should. Constantly. Jesus was all that mattered to me – above all else – even my children. I reasoned that if I just trusted in the Lord and obeyed His commands for me that in the end my children would be blessed. So I continued to try and submit…and none of it made one ounce of a difference on my husband. So I pushed and pushed for my church leaders to follow Matthew 18 time and time again, and finally in the end they brought together a group to “try and get to the bottom of things.” You can probably imagine how that felt to be yet again invalidated and called into question. To be put on trial when I was doing enough of questioning myself for all of us! And where we all knew darn well that “good women were supposed to praise their husbands in the gates” and not bash them in group settings. Where I already believed that I was somehow responsible for his behaviour because I was a woman – and one who, evidently, was “not doing her job right.” I was somehow responsible for his spiritual condition in addition to my own! Now there’s a heavy burden to put on someone. Especially when they weren’t willing to do anything to help me!

    When I think about it all I get so angry I could literally spit. And I can see all these things they are doing to hurt people. All this theology trumps compassion and even human decency. All of this dogma. All these agendas. All this pride and arrogance. All these ways they are making a mockery of the faith to unbelievers. And boy it makes my blood boil. And you know, I think I am beginning to see that in order for me to move forward I need to get out of that unhealthy atmosphere. Because every week at church the anger is rekindled and more seeds of doubt are planted in me. I have gone to the leadership to try and talk it out several times. There has been some movement, but not enough. I have no power to change what they believe.

    They just don’t get how badly they mess people up in their faith. They just don’t get it. But like you said, God is moving. And where God is moving there will be growth and life and fruit. I’m trusting in Him to get my family through this season. But what I need to stop doing is questioning His goodness and His character. That’s their character and they don’t get to project that on God.

    Another long post that I wrote pretty much for my own therapeutic purposes. lol Thanks for giving me the space to vent. I hope y’all don’t mind.

    • Brian

      Absolutely not, Desley! I really needed to hear this post and the testimony of others on this subject. I went from tears while reading others’ comments above to feeling the same anger that you have expressed here. Sometimes I think that organized religion does more harm than good in many lives. There are a lot of teachings and doctrine that I believe are distorted translations and views of what God really meant in His Word. And yes, when the the theology trumps compassion, love, and human decency, then you have to really question, what do I really believe here? What is God’s real intent of this passage in scripture? I have not been a regular “church guy” for many years. I used to feel guilty a long time ago, but soon realized that I had a lot less confusion about who God really is and how I was supposed to live a life of faith and love and compassion, instead of all the rules, condemnation and judgement that they always focused on, not to mention the attitude of exclusivity (is that a word?). You know, the idea that only they have the real truth or correct translation and doctrine and EVERYONE else is wrong, etc. This entire blog and every comment has been a real blessing to me and has reinforced what I have been mulling over and seeing for years.

    • Little Chrissy

      I think that your …anger? here is somehow absolutely beautiful, Desley. It makes my blood boil, too. I am just so proud of you for being able to see it for what it is – a false theology that hurts people and makes a mockery of faith to unbelievers.

      Your church leaders had skewed (although I would also argue purposefully ignorant, self-serving) views on God’s intention for marriage, and then failed miserably in their job of following Matthew 18. How could you continue to submit to such incompetence just because they are men? It would be a sin to do so. The fact that you have been led away, instead of remaining blind and led by the blind, tells me that you are following the voice of Jesus, and he is not there.

      I am at a similar place – outside of the camp, exiled by the leaders of not one, but my two last churches. (The pastors are friends and two peas in a pod.) It’s actually a great place to be!

    • You can probably imagine how that felt to be yet again invalidated and called into question. To be put on trial when I was doing enough of questioning myself for all of us!
      . . . I can see all these things they are doing to hurt people. All this theology trumps compassion and even human decency. All of this dogma. All these agendas. All this pride and arrogance. . . . in order for me to move forward I need to get out of that unhealthy atmosphere.
      . . . what I need to stop doing is questioning God’s goodness and His character. That’s their character and they don’t get to project that on God.

      AMEN Desley. Spot on! XOXOXOX

  12. joepote01

    Wow! Thank you for sharing this, Megan!

    There is such a HUGE difference between the message of God’s love and grace and the message of legalism and condemnation.

    I can definitely relate to how ingrained the message of former pastors can be…respected men preaching authoritatively carries a lot of weight in forming our understanding of scripture.

    The phrase “New Testament Law” makes me bristle every time I hear it! The Apostle Paul, who penned most of the New Testament epistles, was such a strong and consistent proponent of salvation by grace through faith, and so consistently opposed any form of teaching of salvation through legalism. He would be appalled, I believe, to hear his words so twisted as to be described as “New Testament Law”!

    Thank you, for sharing, this part of your journey!

  13. SJR

    I’ve been able to read enough bible in books to slowly work my way through books about the bible or Christianity in general. Haven’t finished a book yet, but started several.

    The psalms are hard for me to read–too tied in to bad counseling methods. I can take them sung if they are unfamiliar to me from the past.

    Reading the bible is triggers, not always, but often enough I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. So I occasionally read. It doesn’t do much because I can’t think about what I read w/o risking getting lost in the past.

  14. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been able to read the Bible properly – once in awhile when something comes to mind I look up just that one verse or chapter online, but for the most part, just opening the book to read is triggering for me. It feels like there is nothing anywhere in it that is safe. Except, maybe, the book of Job, bits of Psalms, but I don’t often feel like dealing with pushing past the triggers to get to it.

    But I’ve found that when God wants to speak to you, he really, really can use anything. If your heart is open and you are listening and aware, you can see little messages he leaves for you all over the place, in all kinds of everyday things. Everywhere. Nature, other people, patterns, seemingly random coincidences or serendipity, fiction, music, poetry, history…even tv and movies, if you’re like me and you watch a lot. I think he is always speaking to us, all the time, through everything we touch and see and do, and often we just don’t notice, but all we have to do is listen, and look. Keep an ear out, keep an eye out for those little messages, because I promise you they are there. I never would have discovered how varied and creative God can be when he is trying to reach us, to speak to us, if I hadn’t been in a place where I had nothing else.

    Someday, hopefully, I’ll be able to read the actual book again, but in the meantime, I know that he knows my heart and he is still holding out a hand, reaching and caring and speaking to me in everything, every little thing around me.

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