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 have yet to have 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 at the time.

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

(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

The Miracle of Patience: A Letter to Our First Child

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Dearest One,

Your conception was a miracle. Ten months after our first miscarriage, six months after our second, and one week after I was simultaneously searching for a surgeon to perform a radical hysterectomy while being prayed over by friends and strangers because of a debilitating condition that affected my fertility, you were conceived.

It shouldn’t have even happened then. I ovulated a week early from an ovary that had no fallopian tube connecting it to my womb. But somehow, in some way, the other tube found you floating around, swept you up, and planted you into my innermost part.

Five weeks later, I was so tired, exhausted by an unmistakable fatigue I have only experienced twice in my life–once ten months before and once four months after that. Could it be? Could I be?

My cycle was a week late, so the next time I was at the market, I picked up a box of two tests. It was on sale and cheaper than the single. I followed the instructions. Waited two minutes. Only one line appeared. I wasn’t pregnant.

The tiredness continued throughout the week, but I chalked it up to Thanksgiving festivities and the new cold weather and grey skies. I woke up on Black Friday with the sun, and made my way to the guest bath, as not to disturb my sleeping husband (or the two dogs, who would start howling for the breakfast).

In a basket next to the sink, I saw the second test. Would five days make a difference? I gave in to the white, plastic temptation. Followed the instructions. Waited two minutes.

Two. Lines.

Immediately, two bold lines.

Just five days beforehand, I told Tim that I wasn’t pregnant, and our lives went on as normal. But now?

I went back into the bedroom and quietly sat by him with the test. I showed him. We held each other, dogs vying for our attention, unaware of the angels who were undoubtedly rejoicing with us.

A blood test and ultrasound first showed you–well, the small, almond-sized sac you were living in. We couldn’t see you just yet. A few weeks went by, and we first saw your plump head and your flickering heartbeat.

Now, here we are a third of the way in our journey to meeting you. I wish I could say the miracle of you was enough to remind me to be joyful and grateful at all times (as it should be), but I have not been the perfect carrier of life. I’ve been angry when I’m sick, or tired, or in pain. I’ve been upset at the way all the changing hormones in my body cause strange things to happen. Now that my old pants don’t fit and my body is slowly growing into something I don’t recognize, it’s been hard for my broken mind to adjust.

It’s almost like you know when I need a reminder. Just the other night after poking on my unfamiliar rounding belly, you leapt in my womb. It was such a strange and lovely feeling; a feeling I know will become normal over time. And soon, you’ll enter the world, and you will yawn and cry and pee and poop and spit up all over everything. And you will wrap your tiny fingers around one of mine or one of Tim’s. And you’ll change before our eyes and we won’t be able to remember every headache, cramp, or sleepless night.

Your presence is teaching me a patience far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. In a world where I can get almost anything I need or want almost instantly, nine months seems like a terribly long time to wait for something. At times, it seems like July is an eternity away. But with each slow moment that passes, my mind is as equally slow to change to cherish every moment with you now–every non-repeated, hard, holy moment. It is a rhythm of grace I am happy to relinquish my fast, predictable pace to.

As a Christian for almost 36 years, I’ve been well versed in the miracle of the birth of Jesus. How a small, humble baby came to change the world; how he came to change me.

Sweet child, you are a miracle to me. You are changing me, silently now. As your fingernails form and your legs lengthen, my heart is reforming and my hope lengthens.

Sweet child, yes, I can’t wait to meet you. But I’m perfectly thankful for where you are now.