During my time as the Executive Director of a pregnancy center I met a lot of women in our community. I met women that served as volunteers, board members, and were clients. Each of them had a story, a need, and were drawn to our ministry because we were safe, and a place where they could tell their story.
Here is Julie’s story. I am using a different name, but the story is similar. I heard this story in the counseling room after I asked Julie if she went to church.
I went to church when I was younger. My parents were actively involved. In fact my dad sang in the choir. It was a small country church. The people we nice, and the sermons were good.
How come you don’t go to church now?
Well I am mad at the church. They didn’t watch over us kids like they should have.
What should they have protected you from, Julie?
Well it was bad at home. Dad started drinking when we got home from church. He beat us and mom. Not just on Sunday’s, but all week. He would sing at church, and smile, and then once we got home it all changed. Where was the church, Marcy?
Dad would lock us in rooms, and play mean tricks on us. He would hide keys and then blame us for losing them. He would beat someone for losing the keys. He was always yelling at mom, and hurting her. If she didn’t get it we would. This went on until I was 18 and then I moved out. I couldn’t take it anymore.
Why would I want to be involved in a church that didn’t help us? I wanted so bad for someone to find out what dad was doing, and then stop him. So every Sunday we went to church knowing that we had to play nice, and knowing what it would be like when we went home.
Awareness, Action, and Grace
I simply want to share Julie’s story to bring awareness to what women like her have gone through. These types of stories are easy to read, but hard to hear.
As I listened to Julie’s story I was hit with the realization of how sheltered my life is, and how unaware I was of human suffering. I felt convicted for not being more involved in peoples lives, and finding ways to help them.
We don’t know who is going through this in our churches, but I hope we will be aware that it is happening. I think this is why God calls us to have genuine relationships within the church. So that we will know when our brother and sister struggle.
When I trained volunteers at the center they were often afraid of getting in these types of conversations with women. They didn’t feel equipped to handle these types of serious issues. They had bought what psychology and social medicine had taught them. Don’t help unless you have a degree or are a “professional”.
God’s Word tell us that it is good for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Hebrews 4:12 tell us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
We can first take action by listening. I gave Julie the freedom to tell her story. I asked her questions and then I listened. Sometimes people just need someone to listen. Julie needed a safe place to tell her story, and discuss her frustration with God, the church, and her family.
Julie asked me to explain why a man who would call himself a Christian would beat her. This was a difficult question to answer. I took a deep breath, smiled, and said a quick prayer. Lord, talk to her through me.
I told Julie that if her dad was a Christian he was still a sinner. He sinned against her when he beat her and was in need of forgiveness. It would have been nice if the church had known about the abuse, and had done something to help them. I explained how difficult it is to get to that level of transparency with people we only see one or two times a week.
I explained to Julie that her dad might not be a Christian. Church membership and singing in the choir are hopefully good works that are a result of salvation, but they don’t always mean that. If her dad wasn’t a Christian at the time then he was in need of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome his sin.
I talked with Julie about forgiveness, and how God could use that to bring her healing with her dad, and the church. I used God’s Word to bring her hope and instruction for forgiveness. I have never felt Jesus sweet spirit as keenly as I did that day. It was with utter love that I asked her to forgive her father, and the church.
There were no quick fixes that day. In the hour I met with Julie I listened, asked questions, and observed. I gave her some Scriptural tools she could use to bring healing in the future. There was no way we could solve all her many problems that day, but I could point her to what she needed to solve them in the future.
Julie needed grace that day. She needed to see grace extended to her. The grace that says I hear your pain, I understand your frustration, and I care about you. I care because of who is in me, and what He has done for me.
Should Julie be in church? Yes she should. Was that the message I should have shared that day? I didn’t think so. Julie needed grace, and to hear what God’s Word says about healing. If I told Julie to just go to church I would have displayed an uncaring heart. Julie needs to get back to church, but in the mean time we can bring the church to her.
Julie needed to see the gospel played out. She needed to see what God’s love looks like, what grace extended feels like, and encounter a Christian who thinks more of her than themselves.
Julie needs to heal, and forgive, and one day I pray she returns to God’s fellowship. I don’t know if she is in church this morning. I pray she finds her way back there. I pray God was glorified the day I met her, and that His purposes were accomplished.
There are many Julie’s. They need a safe place to tell their story. They need us to listen. We can’t fix all their problems, but we can give them God’s Word. We can point them to Christ. We can love them and show them the same grace we have been shown. When we do they will see the gospel lived out, and will be drawn to it’s power.
A sinner in desperate needs of God’s grace,