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Recently I was asked how violent acts can steal god from you.

From a blogging friend who is doing good work with prisoners and trying to change those who can be saved. He writes here: http://emptyprisons.wordpress.com/
“I have to ask how their actions caused you to depart from your faith in God. Blaming others for our failings started with Adam and Eve and happens in everything we do.”

I will take this from the view of the Christian who asked me. Feel free to correct me if you believe my definition of your god is inaccurate.

First. Christians believe god is a good, all powerful god who loves us with a love so deep and profound we would never understand his pure good love. If I am wrong here again chime in. So you are brought up from a young age knowing how great and powerful and loving god is. How he protects us and will “keep us from harm”. Even the end of the lords prays says “protect us from evil”.

I was fourteen when a group of men snatched me off the street, they beat me shattering my face, breaking ribs, and when they raped me it was so violent it broke my pubis bone and dislocated my hip. The pain was beyond unimaginable. I spent the next year in surgeries and recovering and to put icing on the cake I was pregnant.

Knowing god is merciful, loving and protective I sought help from the elders (for Christians from the pastor and older wiser church members). They told me things like “everything happens for a reason” and “give it to god” and “it’s time to move on”. Of course had any been the victim? Had any been a child and a victim? Probably not.

These answered challenged my belief that god was good because after all I was just told he LET this happen. He had reasons why he LET me suffer. At fourteen I was incapable of reconciling this. Good, merciful, loving god who ALLOWED me to be beaten nearly to death, disfigured, pregnant from a rape and raped violently and repeatedly by these men.

So now the child doesn’t ask for help they now ask god “WHY?”. They now are faced with a task most adults can’t handle and that is why the answers they give are so unhelpful. Now we have the child asking Why god could you do this to me? Why did you let them hurt me? Why don’t you strike them down? These answers NEVER come by the way.

So when this question can’t be answered the reconciliation of a good and just god vs the terrible events he ALLOWED to happen can never be reconciled now. The child moves to the next phase wondering why god left you since you are coming to him and you are still in awful pain. Why don’t you help me?

The next phase of grief and reconciling it with god is feeling ignored. You pray as hard as you can. You beg and plead he help you and take away the nightmares. You come to realize you ARE alone. He is not coming on his white horse in shining armor to end your pain. He’s not even coming as the thief in the night. He has abandoned you in the hour you need him most.

Eventually when help and healing does not come you blame god for it. You place it squarely on him after all you were told by the pastor that god let this happen and he will use it for good. What good can come from gang rape and beating a child near to death?

Now these phases are inaccurate. God never left me but in my pain and blindness I left him. He carried me all the while I blamed him. I know this now but I couldn’t as a child reconcile the evil of man and his allowing it to be forced upon me his daughter that he loves. It’s this reconciliation that is important nothing else matters because without reconciliation of good god and bad people the victim loses their faith.

Everything I had known was challenged on that day and every day that followed. My faith was shattered more by those of faith than the evils of man. In my reconciliation (only in recent months) I understand mans’ free will did this not god. God will find a way to turn this around but he didn’t “LET” it happen. Mans’ free will made this happen.

What part did god play then? He saved me and spared my death. Allowing me to return to him at some point when I was ready. Once your faith is smashed as mine had the choice to return is that a choice. It took me more than a decade wandering before I the lost sheep came home. I found my master waiting and praying the wolves wouldn’t take his sheep before I could be once more safely in the protective pen he has set up for me.

You ask why I place the blame on these men? Because their direct action shattered my faith and when I tried to reconcile my faith vs the actions of these men the answers I received were even less helpful. The victim needs to know god didn’t let this happen. Mans’ free will and propensity for extreme good and extreme evil made this happen. The need to know to cry as long as you need to and that god cries with them.

It is funny you say he gave us free will to choose him. I recognize my free will and I also know what it’s like to be seriously broken. When we are broken like this you do not think rationally. The actions of another have shaken your faith. I do see these men as responsible for my departure from god because of their free will. They drove the wedge so deep that a child couldn’t recover from it.

“The need to seek vengeance on others is a poison that keeps us in a prison. The very thing that would set you completely free from the bonds of those memories and suffering is the hardest thing you will ever have to do, forgive. Only you can do it and only you hold the keys to that cell.”

Forgiving them will not free me of the nightmares, it will not free me from depression, it will not free me from the prison they put me in. I fear men to this day. I flinch at my father’s touch. My father a man I revere and who has done me no harm. I have panic attacks around strange men. Forgiveness can’t take these from me. The cell I am in is entirely their doing. I didn’t choose to be raped by them, I didn’t ask to be beaten and bloodied.

No it’s the actions and evil of man and one example of the free will used for extreme evil. If you see that as blaming someone else so be it. I can live with that definition honestly. Because it was through no action or ill on my part that this fell upon me. Their direct action cause and effect.

“If even one sin cannot be forgiven then none can and we all fall short in one way or the other.”

To be forgiven they must atone. Say I stole a pack of gum. I can atone for it by returning to the store and admitting my crime first and then paying for it in any manner the owner sees fit. Be it paying by cash or by sweeping his floors and helping him for a time in his store. Atonement is important to demonstrate a sincere desire to be forgiven.

How can they atone to me? They can’t return my lost childhood. They can’t give me back my innocence. They can’t atone for this in any meaningful way. So some sin is unforgiveable as there is no way to ever make it right. To make “it” right they would have to make me right. Something they as mortals are incapable of.

So if that is falling short well I am human after all. Perhaps in time I will find a way to forgive. But not right now. If they stop seeking parole and making me go and relive this year after year it might be easier. They are basically twisting the knife year after year.

There is one I may forgive sooner. At his last hearing he asked how can I receive forgiveness for what I’ve done to you. I told him stay in jail for your sentence and stop making me relive this nightmare over and over. He has turned down two parole hearings now. I will visit him in jail soon and I will tell him I forgive you and thank you for not making me relive the nightmare. I want to know they are sorry by action not by words.

He is atoning. He has owned what he did to me and has asked me to forgive him. He asked what he must do and is honoring what I have told him is required. Serve your time and do not seek and early release. This will demonstrate to me his sincerity in his desire for me to forgive him. I asked he find god and I believe he has.

One of these men says “I just made a mistake” to which I reply no you committed a crime by your own self choosing. It wasn’t a multiple choice question you got wrong,, it wasn’t forgetting your mothers birthday. It was a choice. A conscious and self-imposed choice you made and a crime against an unwilling child.

I will conclude with this:

If you’ve never been a victim of evil not by your hand then you don’t understand the wedge. I tried to explain it above. When you seek help from people of faith often the answers are nothing but addition to the pain. But yes indeed others can shatter and destroy your faith with their actions. As a child I wasn’t strong enough or smart enough in matters of faith to overcome this. Therefore your answer is yes they stole god from me.

The victim needs you to listen with your heart and not add input that divides them from god. What I feel and have said to victims (I help at the crisis center here) is that god didn’t do this man did. Free will choose to do evil and I tell them it’s ok to cry and that god cries with them.

You will see my view of the victim here as well: https://aghostdancer.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/i-am-little-i-am-broken-i-am-good/ “I believe only when we reach the point of understanding that he hurts when we hurt and his pain is that of a father suffering while he is powerless to stop your pain. His beloved child suffers and as such so does he suffer. His pain greater than yours because he wants to help but we aren’t at a point we can accept it yet.”

The victim needs to know they have worth. As a victim my value as a person was stolen from me, my faith was stolen, my innocence and childhood altered and destroyed forever. Everything I was and am was altered horribly that day. By the actions of others I was placed in a prison inside. One I am yet free of but the day is coming. My god is an amazing father and all that time wandering and he was searching for me and never gave up.

The victim needs to find a safe place free of judgment where they can cry, scream, even blame god if need be. Eventually they will come back to knowing god didn’t do this and all the while we cry he sits beside us crying as well. They need to know he didn’t hear the curses or blame he only heard our pain.

~Michelle Styles – December 11, 2013