Finding True Justice and True Grace in a #MeToo #ChurchToo Culture

As we enter into this new climate of finding freedom from abuse that happened to us, let us not use this freedom as an opportunity to cause harm to others in the name of seeking justice.

Several times over the last ten years, I found myself in the city where the man who sexually abused me as a child lived. Most of the time I was terrified to accidentally run into him. Sometimes I became full of rage and fantasized seeing him at a gas station and attacking him. And other times I would get caught off guard by my grief and sit in my car weeping outside the hotel where I was staying.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the myriad of emotions I experienced changed as naturally as the Texas sky in springtime. Sometimes I’d feel guilty about the complexity. Other times I wouldn’t.

I learned that each emotion had its place.

In March of this year, when I found out the man who abused me was never reported to law enforcement, a strong desire for justice gave me the extra courage I needed to walk forward. I felt validated knowing the criminal justice system would handle what the Southern Baptist Convention would not–and could not–handle. I felt a sweeping loss as my mental health suffered. I burned with indignation as this man, who already has taken so much of my life by his actions, consumed more: I lost sleep, I lost time with my daughter and my husband, and lost the easy joy I generally danced in.

There were parts of me that wanted to destroy him. There were parts of me that wanted to destroy myself.

And again, each emotion had its place.

As I worked with law enforcement, my detective encouraged me to not share the name of the man who abused me publicly until they had everything in order for the criminal case they’re working on. They understood this man’s current role and his access to vulnerable people, including children. Yet the benefits of not coming out with his name publicly outweighed the risks in regard to the integrity of the criminal investigation. I respected their wishes then and I respect them now.

Somehow this felt right and good and okay. Even though the only thing that remained between me exposing the man who did this to me was a “publish” button, I never had a total peace about sharing my story in such a public way, most likely because of the condition of my heart. Some people have gone public and done it in a way that glorifies God while respecting the criminal process. I would have shared out of a place of vengeance.

I’m glad I had a little extra space to reconsider going public because, for me, it was not the right choice to make.

have courage and be kind

Since I’ve been offline for most of the last two years, I guess I forgot how ruthless the voices on social media are…myself included. In the last month, since I shared my story online (without identifying my abuser), I’ve clicked on enough hashtags and read enough fodder to lose a little bit of faith in the world (and in myself).

Don’t mishear: there are some pretty awful people who have done some pretty awful things. Many well-respected men and women, especially within the SBC, have had their skeletons come out and be displayed for all the world to see.

In the court of public opinion, most are starting to pay a hefty price for their sins and for their crimes. I want to reiterate that the people who commit these horrid acts–and the ones who cover them up–are ultimately responsible for whatever consequences come their way.

But in all of this, there is something I just can’t get my spirit to shake off:

This court of public opinion–social media, newspapers, blogs–is not and should not be the final destination of justice. However, it seems as if most of us treat it as the highest court of all, damning those who have lied, cheated, stolen, raped, abused, and covered up to a man-made hell of Twitter firestorms, petty insults, unnecessary commentary, and misplaced desires to have the final word.

I understand as survivors of abuse we feel like we have no voice and now we can say whatever we want, when we want, to whomever we want. There is power in rediscovering our voice.

We cannot neglect our responsibility to be like Christ and we cannot evade the call to exercise wisdom with how we discuss these things, especially in public forums.

Justice and grace are not mutually exclusive.

Does the man who abused me, who stole so much of my life from me as a sixteen-year-old and over the last 22 years deserve the justice coming his way? Yes.

Does he deserve grace? No.

But here’s the thing: I don’t deserve that grace either.

I don’t write this in a self-deprecating manner.

I don’t intend to minimize what has happened to me or to the countless number of women and men, boys and girls, who have been abused in the worst possible ways, and in the name of Jesus.

The humbling reality we are faced with in this and in every part of our life is the very basic tenet of the Gospel: God so loved the world that He gave his only son to die for my sins, for your sins, and for the sins of the man who abused me.

This includes his sin of abusing me.

It is a grace none of us deserve but all of us can freely receive.

I’m afraid that the beauty of this grace is being buried alive by the permission we now have to speak freely. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and in our attempt to bring the light into darkness, we are inadvertently suffocating out the Life the world needs to survive.

As we enter into this new climate of finding freedom from abuse that happened to us, let us not use this freedom as an opportunity to cause harm to others in the name of seeking justice.

Let us recognize the same God who sought us out and asked us, “Where are you?” seeks out all of us, even the criminals hanging on the cross.

When reconciliation plays out here on earth, may we remember the love of God that has reconciled us is also available to those who have hurt us.

May we give thanks that all of our brokenness is healed through the same holy man on the same holy cross. This man is near to us when we are brokenhearted and he is near to those who have hurt us when they are brokenhearted. He grieves for us when we are far from Him and he grieves for the world when they are far from him.

As justice begins to shine like the noon-day sun, may our hearts also shine with hope and grace for ourselves, for others, and for the world to come.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

A Letter to My Daughter on My Darkest, Brightest Night

Mama and Charlotte

(Would you consider helping me pay for my hospital stay? You can do that here.)

Dear Baby Girl,

First, you’re not really much of a baby now, are you? I can’t believe you’re almost two years old. So big, yet so small. So fiercely loving even though you don’t even know how big of a heart you have or how much this world needs it.

Even though we’ll talk about it when you’re older, I wanted to write a few things down while I was living them live, in real time.

Last night when I put you down in your bed, prayed our prayer, and stepped out of the room, I started weeping because it was the last time I will get to see your face for the next month. Those closest to me know the heartbreak that comes in saying goodbye, even when it’s for a good thing. I’m afraid my absence will damage your heart or your mind. I’m afraid you will think I am gone forever. Or that I left you and don’t love you. Or that you did something wrong to make me leave.

My girl, none of those things are true.

Ever since the moment I knew you existed inside me, since the day when your dad and I saw your jumping tadpole body on the ultrasound, I have loved you with a love that only grows stronger with each day. The amount of gratitude I have for you feels like taking a deep breath of the purest oxygen and I feel my chest rise with gladness, the molecules of thankfulness penetrating each one of my cells.

It seems you grow up every night we put you to bed and you’re impossibly more beautiful, more lovely, more smart, more curious, and more surprising than the day you were born. I don’t know how this is possible, but with close to 22 months under our belt, it’s safe to say the research has been consistent.

Fear consumes me when I think about what could happen to you out in the world, whether by accident or on purpose. Part of me (most of me) dreams of a world where you do not fight the mental demons your father and I fight. That you trust fully but wisely. That no harm falls on you. That your heart never breaks.

Even if, baby, even if…

  • If your brain tells you lies, you’ll know the truth.
  • If someone breaks your trust, it won’t break you.
  • If harm falls on you, it won’t bury you deep.
  • If your heart breaks, it won’t always bleed.

And should you feel like the lies, the breaking, the burying, and the bleeding become too much, look all around you because you are so loved. Ask for help when you need it and you’ll have an army already by your side.

So, my sweetest girl, I want you to know that it’s all worth fighting for.

That’s why I’m gone for now.

I’m out fighting for me, for you, and in a way, for others so that maybe I can be hope to them too.

  • My brain tells me lies, so I’m fighting for the truth.
  • Someone broke my trust I’m fighting to be made new.
  • Harm fell on me so I’m fighting out of the heap.
  • My heart is broken and I’m fighting to be free.

I love you, baby. I love you.

Mama

(Would you consider helping me pay for my hospital stay? You can do that here.)

Statement on Abuse in the Church

I only break my social media silence for very important things. With the spotlight on the SBC and abuses of all kinds, I can’t stay silent. People within the church and within the SBC have sexually and emotionally abused me and many I love. The cover-ups by the church and the SBC specifically further perpetuate this abuse.

If you have been abused by anyone, report it to authorities in law enforcement. Do NOT go to your church to report abuse in an effort to “keep the peace.” Go to the authorities. It is not the church’s job to investigate and penalize criminals. It is not man’s duty to protect the church. God can do that just fine on his own. He has his work cut out for him and it could only take God to bring good out of the egocentric tarnishing that continues to happen as people use his name for their own advances and to cover up their fears of being found out for what we all are—human—and for what some are—criminal. Being human is not a mistake.

Being a criminal is and criminals need to be held accountable for their crimes.

How Do You Begin the End?

This is my final post.

It’s been a year or so since I took a break from the Interwebs–away from writing online, from traveling and speaking, from Tweeting and Facebooking and Snapchatting and the like. Pregnancy was such a lovely season, and truly a miracle. Our baby girl was born perfectly happy and healthy in July 2016. She’s almost 10 months old now, trying to scoot around the house on her bottom (unsuccessfully), with 8 teeth she definitely earned the right to show off. She’s coming into her own, a little drama queen human who I can’t believe just a year ago was the size of a cantaloupe, tucked away in utero, kicking my bladder, my kidneys, and everything in between.

When I was in high school, I wanted to get a Ph.D. in psychology and become a doctor of sorts, a clinical psychologist. Life didn’t head down that road like I expected, and instead, I ended up working at churches, writing a few books, and traveling all over the world to share stories. In 2010, after my divorce, I considered going to medical school but knew I would likely have to sacrifice having a family to start a career in medicine at the age of 30. Three years later, I met and married my dear husband Tim. Medicine as a career was still ever on my mind, but there were books to write and events to speak at. Then sweet baby girl came along.

When my most recent book released a year ago, I had a feeling it would be the last. I was still under contract to write another one with Baker, but nothing surfaced in my heart that I had to write about. I waited, they waited, and still, nothing came.

Why put more words out into the world that’s overwhelmed by words, when nothing needs to be said?

I graciously asked if I could exit my contract and they graciously agreed.

The season of life when I am an author, a speaker, a blogger–the season when I knew something needed to be said and I was sure I was the one to say it–is over. There have been moments of grief, of saying goodbye, but overall, it has been the most peaceful, sure, and easiest transition I’ve ever made.

I’m heading into a new season now, and have been for a while. I’m back in school working toward a B.S. degree in Health Sciences, either to become a Registered Dietitian or Diabetes Educator. I hope to focus on pediatric nutrition and family education. I realize that’s pretty far off from where I started ten years ago, but I think I needed to learn more about God, about people, and about myself to end up here. We’re back in Dallas, surrounded by family. Tim’s working in videography and I split my time between school and serving in patient care at a hospital as a technician, and as a nutrition consultant/Associate Certified Diabetes Educator.

I’m thrilled. It’s not perfect, but it’s bliss. And I have to say: there is a freedom in ending a career in professional Christendom.

Thank you.

Thank you for allowing me to speak into your life over the last twelve (!!) years of blogging. Thank you for encouraging me, supporting me, buying books, giving literally millions of dollars to very worthy organizations. Thank you for sponsoring Compassion kids, for praying for me, for us, and sharing your stories.

There’s a commonly asked question: If you had to say one thing, to leave people with one thought, what would it be? 

I’d have to say this:

  • It’s okay to not be okay.
  • It’s okay to be different, to not fit in.
  • It’s okay to quit and begin again (and again and again and again).
  • You are worth so much more than you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams.
  • Sometimes the quietest lives love the loudest.

I guess that’s five things, so I’ll ask for your forgiveness and thank you for humoring me one last time.

It’s been a gift. You’ve been a gift. You are a gift.

With love,
Anne Marie Miller

Seasons

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Pregnancy has been one of the most beautiful, difficult, spiritually growing, ego-shrinking seasons. With only three weeks left, give or take, I’ve been caught in the tension of grief – missing the secret kicks and rolls – and of anticipation, waiting to meet this baby and put it to my chest, to see Tim hold this fatty blob of wrinkles and cries. I’m also looking forward to being able to get out of bed without the effort of a crane helping me.

All this to say, in the recent quiet moments of introspection, my heart needs rest and reconnection to my own Father. It’s been too easy for me to spend insomnia-filled nights on digital rabbit trails and now, like eating too many cupcakes, I am stuffed with emotions my own insecurities let in and thinking, “Oh, no. That was way too much,” Slightly regretful yet with the knowledge that it’s temporary and I need to put the cupcakes down.

This year, I took a speaking hiatus for most of the time, and now the quiet, small voice has been telling me to leave much of the Internet alone for a bit. I don’t know how long, and we will post when our child enters this glorious world because he or she is a part of your prayers and we are ever-so-thankful that you have walked the roads of loss and celebration with us. Until then, and probably after then, too, I will be off of social media and writing online. Just in case you wonder.


Until next time, much love~
Anne

You Are Not a Jar of Nutella

Healthy does not equal perfection.

Healthy means acknowledging what in your life needs to realign with God’s unique plan for you.

Asking for help shows strength, not weakness. Invite others into your journey as long as they aren’t detrimental to your health.

Growth requires pain. If you are covered in more sweat, blood and tears than rainbows and butterflies, you can rest assured that you’re on the right path. Rainbows and butterflies are opaque patches that cover us up. Blood, sweat and tears are transparent and show vulnerability.

Don’t allow the expectations or the pressures from others indicate whether or not you’re striving to be like Christ.

{{Just a few thoughts as we all contemplate the areas we need to grow in the new year.}}

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To Not Hurt is To Not Be Human

Dear friends,

I hesitated posting this publicly, but I need an army surrounding me now. And I don’t want hate or lies to win. I also don’t want the person who was the impetus behind this post to know that his words hurt–not because they were truth spoken in love–but because he could not be further from the truth.

But hateful things will not win. It is always my goal to bring light to darkness, so here I am, asking for your prayers.

In the last few days, I have been really down as I realized we would be just a couple months away from meeting our baby … I would be 7 months pregnant if we didn’t have the miscarriage back in April.

Now, these thoughts come and go and I know I can feel the sadness and the joy of her life and the other myriad of emotions and I talk to Tim and friends about them and it’s okay.

And it’s okay to not be okay.

Last night, after feeling this sadness consistently for a few days, I got a random comment from a stranger on my site essentially telling me the miscarriage was God punishing me for the mistakes of my past, and the consequences of the actions of others that have affected my life circumstances.

I deleted the comment and blocked the person from leaving comments, but he still sent an email that was not very kind. Or true. In any way.

They are lies, and even though I recognize them as such, still sting. I rarely have an emotional response to “hate mail” after ten years of doing this, but when you say that our baby died because of these things, well, it really really sucks. (That’s the most appropriate word I feel as if I can or want to use, but there are other words that come to mind in my human nature).

I know that (sadly) in my experience, the closer to a book launch I get, the more haters come out. They spew lies, ridiculous lies, and yet with that knowledge, to not be hurt by them would be to not be human.

It is resistance in its purest form.

Thanks for letting me share this with you guys.

My heart could use some prayers.

And I know I need to pray for those who hurt me, and let it go. (So, in the chance that the person who sent those hurtful and untrue comments and emails into the anonymity of the Internet, I am praying for you, and forgiving you too, by God’s grace and God’s grace alone).

Much love,
Anne

Walking with Your Spouse through Uncertainty

I got the honor of writing over on MarriageRoots.com today about walking with your spouse in uncertain times. We are in that season now. I hope you are blessed by the words and how God is always, always, always working (even when it seems quiet).


 

Our relationship started wrapped in mystery; I was doing a research paper debunking the science behind online dating and came across his profile. He lived five hours away, but he was cute and his picture was clearly of him on a mission trip. That’s the Western Christian Girl’s aphrodisiac. A quick message sent, followed by emails and late-night phone calls.

Walking with Your Spouse Through Uncertainty

I was wondering. Should we meet?

It was like You’ve Got Mail but without AOL and dial-up Internet.

One day a month later, we met face to face. I disguised my nervousness behind half a Xanax and some gold-rimmed aviators. If Tim was nervous, he covered it up in romantic gestures. How do two thirty-two year olds “date?” It was like high school but much more awkward. Much more…uncertain.

I do not do well with uncertainty, so a whole two hours after we met, as we got in his car to drive to dinner, I blurted, “Is it just me, or are we clicking? I just need to know.”

Give it to me straight, buddy. I don’t have time to waste worrying. Tim looked surprised, then confused, then happy. “Of course we’re clicking.”

Certainty. Sigh of relief.

We got married six months later.

When you take two people who lead relatively uncommon lives (both work-from-home/self-employed entrepreneurs in the faith and arts), uncertainty easily turns to combustible chaos when combined. I followed Tim around the world as he captured videos for NGOs, Tim followed me around the US selling my books at events where I was speaking.

Last summer, our travel schedules collided: Tim would be in Nepal while I spoke at a conference in St. Louis. A week apart was no big deal, but the work God did in Tim’s life while he was in Nepal was life changing. We both arrived back to our newly purchased home in Nashville and Tim said, “I want to put down the camera and just minister to people.” He uploaded his resume to be a youth pastor and sold a decade’s worth of videography equipment. We thought it would take a year, maybe two, to see where God wanted us. Until then, we would wait.

Uncertainty.

I went on walks praying for God to give me a sign. Show me a license plate with a different state and that’s where we’ll move! I looked for hidden meanings in songs. Tim and I played rock-paper-scissors with churches who were interested in him candidating. Alabama? Arizona? Texas?

Texas. Not even three months after Tim returned from Nepal, we chose Texas. All the puzzle pieces fit together. We could afford it. It was near where I grew up, close to my family. A young church with passionate people (and free coffee for staff families on Sunday mornings) offered him the role of a youth pastor. Perfection.

And it was bliss. Total bliss. West Texas sunsets. Friday night lights and thirty or so teens and families that we fell in love with.

Until…uncertainty.

Differences in leadership values, theological misalignments, structural conflict. Was this a season of perseverance or were we out of place?…

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