Claire is one of my heroes.  Claire was adopted as an infant into a professing Christian home. Her father was an active deacon in their church and respected by many.  For many years, Claire felt blessed to be so close to the man she called, “Dad”.  That idyllic life took a dramatic turn when Claire was 17.

The father she adored committed the darkest of betrayals. He began sexually victimizing this precious girl over and over again.  When Claire was 18, she was able to find the strength to step forward and disclose this evil secret that was slowly extinguishing her young life.  Though her father eventually ended up in prison for this crime, all of this has come at an indescribable cost to Claire.

Claire amazes me.  She still struggles as she presses forward on her long journey of healing. One day at a time.   Recently, Claire shared with me an incredibly moving letter she wrote to Jesus.  In giving me permission to share this letter, Claire wrote,

“I personally feel as though people who are walking through the “healing process” need someone who is going through the process as well to speak out.  I’ve read books written by different authors on this issue, and while they are encouraging I’ve kept thinking to myself “I’d really like to hear from someone who is currently in the same boat I am in.” I realized maybe others were feeling that way, and maybe that voice was me.  I pray that other abuse survivors would know and realize that there is hope and that Jesus never lets go.”

In some ways, Claire’s letter is liberating.  It provides a certain freedom to be exceptionally honest with God during the long struggle to process and heal.

Ultimately, her words are a flash of light in the darkness that reveals hope.

Thank you, Claire.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Jesus:

I’m not sure if you’ve heard. But something terrible happened. We know you know about it already, but we haven’t come to you about it yet. We haven’t come to you because we’re scared, and we feel let down. We don’t really know how to describe what happened, much less describe what we feel, but we’re going to try.

Someone much bigger and stronger did something terrible to us. They robbed us of our dignity, security, comfort, self worth and joy. They took pieces of us that didn’t belong to them. I suppose, since I am a child of yours, those pieces didn’t belong to us either but rather to you. But still, it feels like our hearts have been ripped out. We can’t breathe, Jesus. We’re hurting, and we feel angry inside. Some of us know how to bottle that anger inside and appear to be okay to the outside world. But if we let people inside our little bubble they would see that we’re really not okay. But that’s the problem- we can’t let people in. It’s not that we don’t want to. Deep down, we really do, but we’re afraid of being hurt again. It takes years to rebuild what was broken and in the rebuilding process we’re afraid to be torn down again. We know this, because it’s happened time and time again. And each time it hurts a little bit more than the time before that.

Prayers - photo courtesy of Anandham via Flickr

Prayers – photo courtesy of Anandham via Flickr (Image source)

We know you love us. We do. But we’re trying really hard to understand you right now and it’s just not working. If you are who you say you are, then you were present when it happened. Why Jesus? Did you watch? Perhaps you watched but cried in agony for us when our tears and voices weren’t being heard? If you don’t mind, is it okay to imagine you crying out to God begging him to make it stop for us? I know God isn’t a mean God, but perhaps you felt the agony we felt and cried out to God for us? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

We feel angry at you sometimes. We’ve pounded our fists against your chest, beating out our heartache. And then you’ve allowed us to fall into your chest and soothe our aching souls.  But then we wake up the next morning, if we’ve actually slept, and we feel just as sad. Why Jesus? Can’t you heal the heartache permanently? We know you will one day, so we will wait for you to do so. We just become tired in the waiting process.

But what we do know is that you love us, Jesus. We let go so many times, and you just keep holding on. Your grip is so tight that if you ever did let go I think your hand mark would be imprinted in our palms so clearly it would be as though you were still holding on.

So thank you Jesus for understanding us when we’re angry and not walking away. Thank you for staying when we push you away. Thank you for not being like the ones who abused us, but for being gentle and kind. Thank you for your love that endures even in the most horrid of times. Thank you Jesus for being who you say you are even when we don’t believe in you.

Please help us to hold on until the end, and until you have completed your work in our hearts. Please help us not to be angry all the time but to take our anger to you, even if it means bringing it to you five thousand times a day. And Jesus, please show us what it means to forgive our abusers as you forgave yours on the cross. It is seemingly impossible but that’s where you come in.  And dear Jesus, please don’t ever let go.

Thank you for always listening to our cries.

Claire

Categories: Beliefs

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Boz Tchividjian

Boz Tchividjian

“Boz” Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.

25 Comments

  1. Thank you, dear Claire. I know what a risk you took in allowing your words to be seen, thus allowing your heart to be seen and exposed. Praying that you feel His hand holding you – He will not ever let go. May He shield you and protect you in your vulnerability here today, and may you hear words of healing, hope and strength from those of us who travel this road alongside you. Thank you for putting into words what so many can’t quite express yet. I especially connected to the part about being afraid to let people in during the rebuilding process. So many do not understand how “breakable” our hearts are still…. Praying Jesus will bring more and more people to an understanding of what is needed by survivors as they heal. So thankful for Boz, his voice and his heart to see the Church come alongside and tenderly and patiently minister the love of Christ to the wounded. Praying Jesus brings you the gift of human hands and feet to walk with you through healing. Bless you dear one.

    • You are too kind. I too am unsure of a lot of things and struggle with God on a daily basis, however I do know that while people fail us, Jesus never ever ever does.

  2. Claire,
    You’ve covered alot of territory. I am sorry you were betrayed and shattered by a trusted man. Trust, once betrayed, can never be demanded by anyone.. especially the abuser.
    My own feelings and observations as a missionary kid, survivor of abuse on every level are these; until the offender ( individual, missionary parent, mission board) comes to a place, NOT remorse.. but repentance.. where acknowledgement, personal responsibility, and willingness to sit down; to listen with every intention of hearing all the things they don’t want to hear and also working towards reconciliation..with acts worthy of that goal, Christian churches and individuals will never be reconciled.
    And they ought not to be trusted.
    I cannot tell any survivor they “should” sit down with the aggressor..and i won’t.
    Without over spiritualizing this, I can say that through my personal experience, forgiveness helps..it is a personal, God-to-survivor issue..it is a personal remedy..but I also find it is a daily task..
    And one that may well last for a lifetime….until…..
    No one can tell a survivor “when” it is enough. it’s personal.
    I HEAR your pain; I am appalled one more time..for the belligerence and arrogance of a parent ( friend or any other) to invade and tear and rob the bodies of children.
    I just don’t know if any of this great evil will be made right until Messiah returns..
    HEALING comes.. but it comes on its own schedule.
    I wish mediation would help; I doubt it because most perps demonstrate only remorsefulness, and are sorry they were caught.
    I am deeply gladdened that your abuser is in prison.
    Thank you for writing your letter.
    VivH

  3. Dear Claire,

    Sometimes things happen that trigger back the memories of my strange childhood. Just finished posting this on a site for survivors of experiences such as yours (the same thing happened in the house next door to us, in the mission “commune” where I grew up).
    Anyway, the trigger as mentioned:

    Dear Mr Religious Man
    Knocking at my door
    Wanting to tell me
    Of what you are very sure

    I’ve told you I’m an Agnostic
    You don’t know what to do
    So you just go through the motions
    Of telling your religions point of view

    And you have two little children
    Standing by your side
    Have you noticed I’m uncomfortable
    For it is not easy for me to hide

    But before you say goodbye
    Won’t you tarry at my door
    Or come inside and hear my journey
    For you won’t have heard this before

    *************************

    Young innocent child
    Parents found God
    Signed up to be missionaries
    Beginning of journey odd

    Went to foreign land
    Mission boarding school
    Taught bigotry and hatred
    Abused by many a religious fool

    Came home a Reluctant Christian
    Questioned what I saw
    Knew it was so very wrong
    Left the Churches door

    Have been quite successful
    Had a good career
    Got a good lifestyle
    Learned to conquer fear

    Stumbled upon others
    Who were raped, beaten and abused
    Same organisation
    Justice totally refused

    Not just one or two
    But dozens of paedophiles
    All pretending to spread “The Word”
    Hiding their perverted styles

    Now I spend much time
    Pursuing justice for the hurt
    Telling others where dangers lie
    So they may be alert

    So Mr Religious Man
    For the sake of your kids in tow
    Listen to my story
    For danger does freely flow

    There are those that prey
    On children such as yours
    Who hunt from behind
    The safety of church doors

    And you’ll never ever see it
    Unless you know to look
    For they are clever and perverted
    Who twist The Holy Book

    Until one day it’s to late
    And life has not turned out so fine
    For the journey of the children
    Sounds something not so divine

    Go in peace Mr Religious Man
    Believe in the God you do trust
    But please protect those children
    From the evil of those who lust

    • Yes Oscar “But please protect those children From the evil of those who lust” But it is such a struggle when so many refuse to believe there is evil in the fold.

      Boz thank you. It is a life long struggle. But as those who have been abuse come along side each other we grow stronger.

      • I can understand the struggle to believe in a God who allows these terrible things to happen. However, I do know that HE has never let go. It is Him alone who has held me together during this time and I know He can do the same for any other abuse survivor.

    • Thank you for your honest poem. More Christians need to read and understand writings like this. While I’m like Claire and hold on to my faith in Jesus, I’m struggling with what to say/do for my dear friend that’s so angry at Jesus for not answering her repeated pleas to stop her abuse while being dragged to church by her deranged AP mother.

  4. Thank you, Claire.

    Jesus was there. He saw the egregious acts perpetrated against your body and your soul. He saw, and he wept. What happened to you – to me – to us – broke his heart and he wept. He gently calls us to healing, step by step as we are ready and able. He is so very trustworthy. Even though the pain is excruciating, he will use it for good, eventually. Beauty for ashes.

    There is a song called Unredeemed by Selah that broke me over and over. Truth does that…

    The cruelest word, the coldest heart
    The deepest wound, the endless dark
    The lonely ache, the burning tears
    The bitter nights, the wasted years
    Life breaks and falls apart
    But we know these are

    Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
    They may be unfulfilled, they may be unrestored
    But when anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord
    Just watch and see it will not be
    Unredeemed

    For every choice that led to shame
    And all the love that never came
    For every vow that someone broke
    And every life that gave up hope
    We live in the shadow of the fall
    But the cross says these are all

    Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
    They may be unfulfilled, they may be unrestored
    But when anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord
    Just watch and see it will not be
    Unredeemed

    They may be unfulfilled, they may be unrestored
    But you never know the miracles the Father has in store
    Just watch and see it will not be
    Just watch and see it will not be
    Unredeemed

  5. Oh how these words washed over me! They spoke to my very soul. Claire, I ache with you and agree so much with your description of our journey. Extinguished. Exhausted. So sad. So tired. Though I’m grateful not everyone experienced our anguishing internal torment, there is no way for them to understand the intense physical pain that these emotions cause. I too have cried out to God. For years I hated the idea that He was “there”…that He was aware…that He could. have. stopped. IT. Those biblical truths, instead of comforting me, made me feel even more worthless. Not even worth protecting.

    What changed for me is being a parent and realizing how many times I dart in front of my child to prevent them from injury — a stray dog, a bad throw, a scary person — and I now picture God doing that for me. He was stepping between me and my abuser (religious, church leader, adoptive dad). He was saying ENOUGH. No matter what that man did to me, Jesus found me worthy of shielding and preserving so that He could heal every wound that was inflicted.

    I still have times of anger. Of sadness. Of betrayal. Of guardedness. Of uncertainty. God holds on and holds me close in the ways He knows feel safest and most comforting to me. No one else may “get” me at those times. But God does.

    And the picture Satan painted through my abuser? Well that was total fiction. That “god” and that “worthless girl” simply don’t exist. When I think for a moment that they do, I armor up and stand (okay, I wobble and shake, but still…!), with Jesus before me, thankful that His mercies are new every morning and that I am created and loved and special to my true Father.

    You have a linguistic gift, Claire. I’m sure that God will use your sweet honesty and your words to give bright glimpses of LIGHT to those smothered by darkness.

  6. Well said, Claire. Thank you for sharing. I love your honesty.

    Survivors need each other. I’ve spent the last nine months watching nine women bring healing and hope to each other in a survivor support group. It was wrenching and beautiful. Most stated that being together was the best thing they’ve ever done throughout their healing journeys. If you or anyone else lives in the greater Philadelphia area, I’d encourage you to join the Mosaic Support Group this fall. http://www.chelten.org/supportgroups/mosaic It’s a beautiful to know you’re not alone.

  7. Learning to be a survivor

    Claire,
    Your letter is beautiful, heartbreaking and courageous. It is such an intensely lonely and terrifying journey to try to find hope after such horrors. It is a terrifying thing to try to hope and trust when there has been so much betrayal.
    I am sorry for all the hurt you experienced at the hands of your abuser. I am sorry that the one who should have fought most to protect you betrayed you. I am sorry for the pain and the fear in the years since, trying to learn to trust again. I am thankful that you are willing to share a bit of your journey with so many of us who are also trying to find hope and take steps on a similar journey.
    My heart hurts for you. I want complete freedom for you. I can’t tell you the hope that I feel seeing you speak out. I read what you wrote and I see someone filled with courage. I see someone who dares to face the past and find healing on the other side. I see someone who can face real questions. I see someone shining a light of hope to those of us following behind, looking for a way to find the hope you are finding.
    Please know that I see that I realize that sharing your thoughts must be really difficult. Perhaps you felt fear and doubt about the decision. Perhaps not, but know that I am thankful. I want to hope, but fear to do so. I often feel alone wondering if there are others who feel the same confusion and fear, others who know how hard it is to hope, how hard it is to trust.
    Thank you for sharing your voice of hope. I hope this step brings you greater freedom!

    • Learning to be a survivor

      Claire, I realize that in what I said, I didn’t share that I too am on this journey. Some of the things you shared are things I can’t quite hope for yet. I can’t picture Jesus weeping with or for me. It is too much to imagine. It is hard to hope that Jesus really does love. I can’t always be sure if his love is something to hope in or something to fear, but I am so very encouraged to see that you are finding healing and hope!

      • I want you to know that you are in my prayers. I know exactly where you’re at and exactly the pain you’re feeling. It is different for each person, but if you don’t mind I’d like to share with you something that helps me. In John Chapter 11 we read the story of Lazarus. If you go down to verse 33 where Mary is crying because of her loss it amazes me how Jesus reacted. It says “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[e] in his spirit and greatly troubled….Jesus wept”. Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead in a very short while, but Mary’s tears over what was lost moved HIM to tears. If Jesus wept over the loss of Mary’s loved one, then I believe He wept over the loss of our dignity, self worth, comfort and so many other things that were robbed from us. It’s hard for me to look at God as a merciful God some days. It’s just hard. But then when those images and memories of the abuse come to mind I force myself to picture Jesus in the same room with me, on the floor weeping, and wailing and crying out to God FOR me. He did the same for you. And right now, I will believe that for you. P

        • Learning to be a survivor

          Thank you Claire. I have heard that story about Jesus’ tears and have often wondered about it since he would have known that Lazarus would soon be brought to life.
          I have heard differing explanations, but yours is a beautiful picture of his caring. Thank you for sharing!!!

  8. Claire

    Pain suffering regret & the sin of all have already been written in the book of life. You will grow from your experiences & in heaven receive gifts for walking your path. You can not have light with out the darkness.

    Timothy 3:12
    “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

    You will be loved & renewed. For the one god lives in all of us. Christ has been reborn again & lives today with in the hearts of us all.

    JC

    • Learning to be a survivor

      I’m not sure what you mean by saying that our suffering is written in the book of life? Are you saying that God caused these things to happen? I can’t believe that. I don’t believe that the verse is stating that children will potentially be sexually abused if we want to live a godly life.
      You many not intend your statements the way I am reading it, but I want to respond on behalf of others who may read it.
      Some of us grew up in religious communities where sexual abuse was justified using various Bible verses. This is one of the verses that was used telling some of us as children that it was something we had to endure as part of living a godly life. It was further used to ensure that we remained silent as it was part of our “suffering for the faith.”
      I don’t honestly know what the verse means, but I think it refers to suffering specifically in ways related directly to being a believer.

      • I love Lamentations chapter three. It is full of encouragement and truths about God. As I said, I myself struggle with God a lot. But what I have to hold onto is what He says about Himself and how I know what HE says is true no matter how I feel. Lamentations 3:3 says “for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Yes, it is true that Christians were promised trials, but sexual abuse is not something God willfully afflicted on us because we chose to follow him. Tragically, it happened- but because we choose to follow Him (or rather he invites us to) He promises to restore what was broken and lost.

      • Learning

        Everything you have done or will do is already known to god.

        Any person who seeks an eternal life will carry a cross.

        Corinthians 1:25

        “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

        It is foolish to think god would cause you direct suffering. With out free will on Earth you would not be able to ascend into heaven.

        Your both growing, be patient, be wiser, & over time all will be revealed.

        JC

  9. Claire thank you so very much for letting boz publish your letter, it is a great comfort to me. I went through a lot of abuse myself both as a young child and when I was older. I love what Jesus showed you about how His tears were brought by Mary’s weeping. It says in the bible to weep with them that weep and Jesus does what He tells us to do, oh such love He has.

    For the poster that brought up questions of our cross being to be sexually abused I strongly say no. There are so many that twist the motives of a God that Jesus calls Love. I would offer this as a look into how men and women do things to children that never was God’s will: But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it. 35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. Jer 32:34-35 (KJV)
    My prayer is that we would all see the True God and His son Jesus as they really are instead of allowing churches and abusers to paint a picture that is far removed from the One who came to save and not condemn and to love and not cast out

  10. “,,,what we do know is that you love us, Jesus. We let go so many times, and you just keep holding on. Your grip is so tight that if you ever did let go I think your hand mark would be imprinted in our palms so clearly it would be as though you were still holding on.” This image is a most profound Christology – Christ’s hands in ours make our pain visible, mirrors our hidden suffering; his imprint on us also gives us the hope for redemption; restoration.

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