Sin does not define our value and our place with God.
Grace is the thing that determines our value.
I don’t want us to be a church that where it comes to temptation, we just get better at hiding. I want us to be a church that get better at overcoming and growing.
Our value is in the grace we exhibit.
We can become bound up trying to protect ourselves.
What is it that has you bound up?
Jesus releases the hostility that divides.
What would happen if we focus our energy with our Christian brothers and sisters more on acceptance? Because we follow Jesus’s lead of bringing down of wall and unbinding the fences that create hostility? We might find more power. Live this out.
Find Jesus in their hearts. Exercise acceptance over a grievance… and watch grace flow.
~ Pastor Glenn Barteau
So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands — remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. ~ Ephesians 11-12
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,and might reconcile both groups to God in one bodythrough the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. ~ Ephesians 14-17 (NRSV)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~Romans 12:21
Two Sundays ago, I participated in my first event as a RAINN representative. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is an organization dedicated to assisting survivors of sexual assault. As a member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau I receive notices from organizations looking for people to speak about sexual violence, preferably, but not necessarily, from their own experience.
I offered to participate in the V-Day presentation of Vagina Monologues at the State University of New York – Purchase on that early March Sunday.
I don’t know if I had any expectations of the event, but I became somewhat emotionally overwhelmed by the experience (see Tell the Devil to Flee!). Quite honestly, I couldn’t read my emotions over the weekend. Saturday I was cranky and realized days later my mood was caused by anxiety. And Sunday, before I stepped on stage before the program started to speak about RAINN, the beneficiary of the event proceeds, I actually got nervous – sweaty palms and shaky legs – the whole bit. I couldn’t figure out why I was so nervous, because I talk about me so often. Again, the analysis came days later: I’ve been talking about my story in a vacuum. Only in the context of my book, my projects… in the context of the island I imagine myself to be. Representing RAINN was like making contact with something so much bigger and grander than myself. I became part of a human tapestry of similar stories and common struggles. I had never represented myself as only a survivor of sexual abuse before. I had been a victim and supporter of other victims, but standing before an audience as a survivor for no other reason than to offer the light of hope to someone else’s darkness, well, that centered me, humbled me and shook me.
Up to ten minutes prior to going on stage, I had no idea what I would say. I had information, but no thoughts on delivery. I decided I wouldn’t talk about me; there was no need to get personal. I would just share the statistics. I sat down and started writing an outline of rape statistics I felt people should be aware of. As I wrote the statistics down, it became clear I had beaten the odds. I was an outlier. At that point, I decided I would share a bit of my story.
This is what I said before the V-Day Vagina Monologues audience at SUNY Purchase:
One of the most difficult things for a victim of sexual assault to do is to talk about an attack. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, I urge you to speak out about it. Talk to someone. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to family or friends, please call RAINN’s National Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE. The Hotline has trained counselors that will listen to your story with no requirement of your name or location. The Hotline operates with complete confidentiality. You can share identifying information only if you want to. At any given moment over 1100 volunteers are on duty. You can also receive 24/7 assistance via the Online Hotline. Please visit www.rainn.org for more information.
I want to share some statistics with you:
1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime.
Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim
60% of rapes go unreported, resulting in 15 out of 16 rapists walking free.
Only a projected 6% of rapists actually do prison time – alarming!
Talking about your sexual assault is the hardest thing. But your healing begins when you speak. Healing is a process, it’s not immediate, but that process only begins when you talk about what’s been done to you. Don’t hold that in. If your assailant is a family member, it will be even harder to speak out. I know, my whole family turned against me when I spoke against their two darling sons.
My father sexually abused me from age seven to eleven. And his brother abused me from age ten to eleven. One day, when I was eleven, I got fed up. I walked out the house and to the police station. I knocked on a door and asked the police officer who answered, “What can I do to get rid of my molesters.” Even as they took my statement they sent cars to my house and my uncles’ house to arrest them both. And I have never since had to be around either of them involuntarily. They were tried and sentenced to ten to twelve years each and completed all of their time.
I’m now thirty-four years old and it took me well into my twenties to fully recover from the trauma. But I stand before you today completely healed and whole.
However, I had to speak first.
I don’t have much problem writing about my pain and sharing with innumerable strangers online, but standing in front of an auditorium of strangers and sharing my deepest darkness (even just a snippet)… well, that was more emotionally taxing than anything I’ve experienced in years. However, I walked off stage to a validating applause that let me know the sharing was appreciated.
I found a seat to watch the program. I hadn’t seen the Vagina Monologues performed in about a decade. If you haven’t seen, heard or read them, attend a program the next time it’s near you or go pick up the book. They represent amazingly universal stories of womanhood – of appreciation, exploration, suppression, torment and violation of our femininity by ourselves and others.
As I was leaving the auditorium after the performance, an older white woman stopped me at the door. “Can I give you a hug,” she asked.
“Of course,” I said with a big smile, “I love hugs!”
She embraced me tightly and warmly. As she pulled back, she gripped my hand and would not let go. Looking into my eyes, as hers welled with tears, she said this to me, “Thank you for sharing your story. And the way you shared it….,” she paused with a slight shake of her head. “I’m sixty-two years old. Women of my generation didn’t speak out like this. Like you. Like the young ladies on stage. God bless you all for speaking. It gives me hope. It gives me hope that my grandchildren and your children will not suffer the way we did, because they will know how to speak.”
“That is my hope as well,” I said quietly.
I was officially and completely shaken to my core. At the end of the day that woman (and all she represents) is the reason why I bare my soul every time I write a post. If I can positively impact just one person with the testimony of my experiences and my overcoming, the pain of the baring is so worth it.
My wobbly legs carried me down the stairs and into the ladies room where I locked myself into a stall and praised God.
We OVERCOME by the POWER of the BLOOD and our TESTIMONY!
Our people defeated Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and the message of God. They were willing to give up their lives. (Contemporary English Version)
And our brothers and sisters defeated him by the blood of the Lamb’s death and by the message they preached. They did not love their lives so much that they were afraid of death. (New Century Version)
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (New International Version)
They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb and the bold word of their witness. They weren’t in love with themselves; they were willing to die for Christ. (Message)
And they have overcome (conquered) him by means of the blood of the Lamb and by the utterance of their testimony, for they did not love and cling to life even when faced with death [holding their lives cheap till they had to die for their witnessing]. (Amplified)
Loving God means obeying his commands. And God’s commands are not too hard for us, because everyone who is a child of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world — our faith. ~1 John 5:3-4
You are a conqueror! You are already victorious! Receive your blessings. Walk in your dominion, son/daughter of Adam! You child of God! Walk!
Pastor shared a Word last week that watered a seed in me. I had woken up last Sunday with an extremely heavy heart. It took me by surprise, because I’m riding a high wave – the blessings are raining on me and I’m scrambling to catch them all. At some point between 4:00 and 5:00 AM I awoke sobbing into my pillow that Sunday morning. I awoke with the urge to write a letter of resignation to the relationships I had been struggling with. Because I don’t like holding negative feelings in, I typed out what was in my heart. What came out was rife with anger, jealousy, bitterness, loneliness, anxiety and uncertainty. And each of those feelings was associated with a person. I cried through the writing. I had no idea any of that was sitting in me. I didn’t sign the letter. Didn’t speak the words. I decided if those were true feelings they would still be there in a few days, and at that point I would deal with them. I went back to sleep.
At church later that morning, Pastor did an illustration. He pulled a man out of the pew and handed him a football. “Hold on to the ball, Robert. Don’t let it go.” Then the pastor started attacking Robert. Pushing him, shaking him, holding him, swinging him, and then yanking on the ball until they were in a tug-of-war. While still yanking on the ball, he looked up at the congregation, “The devils’ job is to get you to drop the ball. He wants to shake the Word from you! Don’t let him!”
That morning I had been ready to give up for no reason. Simply because I had been flooded with all those negative emotions. I had been overwhelmed and wanted to just step out of the game and head to the sideline. I was tired of the struggle. I just wanted to retreat.
Then the pastor repeated something I knew. Something that had been planted long ago and receives regular watering. But last Sunday, that seed grew into such a stalk it burst through the ground and stretched towards the heavens. “Your struggle is not against people. That’s a trick of the devil and that’s how he brings us down.”
The Word says we can fight the devil when we wear the whole armor of God.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His great power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can fight against the devil’s evil tricks. Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world. That is why you need to put on God’s full armor. Then on the day of evil you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing. ~Ephesians 6:10-13 NCV
Even as I sat in that pew, simultaneously hearing and reading the word, I spoke it. I told the devil to let me go. And to let go of my people. I spoke their names, the people he had associated with those negative feelings. “Leave us all. Let us go.” Just like that, in that moment, the heaviness lifted and I was given clarity on how to move forward.
We are told that our faith is our shield and with it we can withstand everything the devil throws at us (Ephesians 6:16). We have victory through our faith. We have to use it. Apply it. Exercise it. Walk in it. Only by faith are we victorious. If the devil can shake you from your faith, he wins. And what an amazing feat for him, since he’s already been defeated and sentenced.
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. ~ Revelation 20:10
Even when we know he’s coming for us, we stumble. But a stumble doesn’t equal defeat; we’re just getting our footing right. It’s a lesson to build on.
Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to test all of you as a farmer sifts his wheat. I have prayed that you will not lose your faith! Help your brothers be stronger when you come back to me.”
But Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and even to die with you!”
But Jesus said, “Peter, before the rooster crows this day, you will say three times that you don’t know me.”
Last weekend he woke me up with his mess. He’s gonna have to come with something different next time. I say that each time he comes, and he does. But I know there’s nothing new under the sun. Therefore, I’m aware that he’s recycling his tricks, schemes, and ammo and I’m able to recognize him sooner with each attack.
My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need. ~James 1:2-4 NCV
Read that again.
Now take it in.
Trials, troubles, tribulations, struggles are nothing but opportunity for you to grow in Christ. You prosper in your walk when you overcome. So have a short chat with the devil. Nothing too long to encourage dialogue. Keep it short and sweet. Tell the devil to get t’steppin’! Tell him to leave you alone. Tell him to let go of the people in your life. Tell him he has no power, no authority to interfere in your life. Tell him he’s defeated and you are his conqueror. Tell him you stand in the power of the Almighty God and NOTHING he (the evil one) devises against you will hit its mark or prosper. Tell him to flee and he will. The word says so.
Control yourselves and be careful! The devil, your enemy, goes around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. Refuse to give in to him, by standing strong in your faith. ~1 Peter 5:8-9 NCV
So give yourselves completely to God. Stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you. Come near to God, and God will come near to you. You sinners, clean sin out of your lives. You who are trying to follow God and the world at the same time, make your thinking pure. Be sad, cry, and weep! Change your laughter into crying and your joy into sadness. Humble yourself in the Lord’s presence, and he will honor you. ~James 4:7-10