By: Dr. Juli Slattery
As you watch a flood of #MeToo tags come through your social media feed, what is your reaction? Maybe you feel sick to your stomach, need some time to let the grief wash over you, or experience a rush of anger. Me too. How does something that is so hidden and pervasive finally come to light after decades of colluding in silence? I celebrate that women (and men) who have been told to be quiet can finally speak their pain out loud.
My hope and prayer is that #MeToo doesn’t end with the boldness to speak of what has happened to us. But that in time we also begin to use a similar hashtag representing that we have been healed and redeemed. Coming into the light is just the first step of God’s work in our lives.
The tidal wave of sexual exploitation in our world will not subside until we recognize sexuality as a great spiritual battlefield. It is sadly ironic that some of the same people decrying sexual abuse are leaders in Hollywood who create countless films that objectify women and present sexual pleasure as a commodity traded as freely as baseball cards. This cavalier and humanistic attitude toward sexuality, pornography, and the “hook up” culture are clearly propagating the tragedy highlighted with the hashtag #metoo.
The nursery rhyme is familiar to us.
Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall
Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall
All of the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again
How many women and men have I met who feel exactly this way as a result of the sexual exploitation they have experienced? Below the veneer of self-confidence and independence lie shattered pieces of purity, identity, innocence and trust. Even an army of psychiatrists and counselors (all the king’s men) fail to erase the shame, the memories, the anger, and the brokenness. Many survivors spend a lifetime trying to escape the dark messages written on the soul during brief moments of violation. As you're reading all of the #MeToo stories online, or even sharing your own, can you relate?
As a Christian psychologist, I am thankful for recent advances in our understanding of the impact of trauma on the brain. Counseling and medical intervention can help, but they can never heal. It is why I am passionate about exalting the ONE, who came to bring healing to all of those who have been oppressed, victimized, and abused.
At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus quoted a prophecy from Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
Because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair,
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3
Pointing to this ancient passage, Jesus declared this as the purpose of His Incarnation. He came to bring a great exchange: exchanging ashes for beauty, mourning with gladness, and despair with praise.
Beside this passage in the margin of my Bible I have written, “This is your call on my life. July 2011.” This was the passage the Lord gave me while on my knees, before knowing that I would start a ministry to women (and later, men). This is why Jesus came to the earth and also why He prompted me and Linda Dillow to found Authentic Intimacy.
While posting of your experience with sexual abuse is bold and purposeful, if it stops there it offers no hope. We want to tell you clearly, you are not alone and there is hope. Jesus is the God who sees your pain, who hears your cries in the night, the God of all comfort, and the One who can bind up your broken heart. He can release you from the prison of your sin and the darkness of your shame. Celebrities online, women of Hollywood, Christian leaders, and all of our dear friends, He has “been there.” Why did the God of the universe suffer abuse, ridicule, and torture at the hands human beings? So that He would be the “man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief,” identifying with us in our deepest pain.
One of the names of God is “Jehovah Rapha” which means “the Lord who heals you.” Unfortunately, many Christians do not acknowledge God as the Healer of our sexual brokenness. The unspoken lie we believe is that sexuality is beyond God’s ability to heal, to redeem, and to restore. God has been gracious to bring many men and women across my path whose lives declare that God is the Healer of all brokenness, including within our sexuality. The book Surprised by the Healer gives an intimate portrait of nine real women who suffered abuse, betrayal, shame, and sexual pain but have discovered profound healing through the Lord Jesus Christ.
If the hashtag #MeToo grieves you, don't stop there. It's time to be Surprised by the Healer.
Follow Up Podcast Episodes from Dr. Juli Slattery:
#169- Your Wounded Heart