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.)

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

May It Be Light and Only Light

light

It has been three months since I said farewell to social media, sans a quick break to introduce our daughter to you.

Those three months-they have been enough. They have been enough to show me that I need more, which by writing you in simple words sounds selfish.

We want God to speak to us, so we become quiet. We wait until we hear whatever words we are supposed to hear. Sometimes those words are revealed quickly; often, they are shown to us letter by letter. And other times, the thing we hear is that we are to remain listening.

I returned to one of my favorite reads recently, Echoing Silence, by Merton. In this collection of letters and pages from his journals and books (collected and published posthumously), he walks through the tension of writing, his spirituality, suffering, ego, and vocation. Two passages in particular struck me:

“If the inspiration is helpless without a correspondingly effective technique, technique is barren without inspiration.” (October 24, 1958)

…and

“The best thing for me is a lucid silence that does not even imagine it speaks to anybody. A silence which I see no interlocutor, frame no message for anyone, formulate no word either for man or paper. There will still be plenty to say when the time comes to write, and what is written will be simpler and more fruitful.” (December 14, 1949)

I am grateful for Merton’s removing himself from distractions and entering into a time of soul-silence. I doubt he knew or even wished that within his silence, he was communicating a message stronger than the power any written word could possibly create: an example.

(To note: most of his writings about entering into silence were in autumn and winter; perhaps it is designed in our warm blood to hibernate for a while.)

A scattered few friends of mine are taking brief vows of Internet silence. For some, it is the first time. For many, it won’t be the last. I have debated if these seasons of silence are a giving into self-indulgent isolation. After time and examination, please believe me that is not the case.

During his time at the monastery in Kentucky, Merton wrote letters to friends and spiritual counselors, politicians, and artists near and far. He went to Mass, he worked alongside fellow monks, took Eucharist, and kept mostly to the hours.

In the same manner, I tend to my private world of family and friends and community. Letters are shared between kindred spirits, encouraging one another in good works and glory. My days disappear into nights–and back again to dawn…to dusk…and so on–as I feel the grit in my spirit searching for an unfamiliar worship in the quotidian mysteries that occupy my time as of late.

It is hard. It is good.

I will not renounce ever returning to this space, just as Merton “refused and had practically ceased to desire” writing again, God “gave [him] back the vocation that [he] had half-consciously given up, and He opened to [him] again the doors that had fallen shut.” (1976)

But for now, may the only message I give you be one that I cannot speak or write.

May it be light, and only light.

Silentium coelorum sit mihi lex: et vita mea imago luminis.
(Let the silence of heaven be my law: and my life an image of light. – Merton, 1952)

Tons of Freebies!

Have you pre-ordered Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex yet? Have you been thinking about it? 

Oh, happy day! It’s time to get rewarded for your eagerness!

pre-order-freebie-5-things-every-parent-needs-to-know

The book ships on May 17–just a couple weeks from now. And to thank you for pre-ordering the book, I made up a nice little package of freebies for you. Now, I wish I could throw in some cookies or a new puppy, but unfortunately, neither of those ship really well. Instead, if you pre-order Five Things by May 17, email me a copy of your receipt or order confirmation and I’ll send you:

  • A 35 minute audio file of a Q&A my husband Tim and I did with parents that covers their questions on sex, porn and social media.
  • A 30 page eBook containing everything from my series on Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About so you can easily reference information and share it with your friends. You’ll also get an updated file every time we add a new app!
  • A free trial of the Internet accountability and filtering software, Covenant Eyes. Sign up using the code I’ll give you and you’ll get to try this amazing software (which Tim and I use on all our devices) for free!

How do you get all this? It’s super easy!

  1. Pre-order the book (you can find all the retailers at 5ThingsBook.com – Bonus: You can get the first 30 pages of the book there for free)
  2. Send me the copy of your receipt or confirmation number to freebies@annemariemiller.com
  3. I’ll send you a link to download all these wonderful freebies to help your family begin redeeming the conversation about sex!

Now, I can’t make any promises, but it’s been the norm in my experience that people who pre-order books actually receive them before their official ship date. I have no control over this, but you may even get the book a bit earlier than if you waited until it officially released.

Questions? Comments? Just shoot me an email and let me know!

Lots of love,

Anne Marie

A Free Advent Devotional for the Hard and Holy Holidays

Growing up, I didn’t know much about Advent.

Christmas cantatas, yes.

Live nativity scenes, yes.

Advent…not so much.

A few years ago, after I began attending St. Bartholomew’s in Nashville, Advent really took a hold on my heart: a time to prepare and reflect upon the coming Christ, his birth, death and resurrection, the narrative of Mary and Joseph, angels, dirt, mundane, pain, rejoicing.

Over time, I’ve written a few blog posts inspired by the season or on Christmas in general. Because as mystical and ponderous Advent is, the holiday season is hard for many people–myself included.

Family and travel and money and parties and finals and bad weather and schedules and so…many…things that distract and hurt and delight and remind us of a broken world, not a healed one.

We yearn for hope.

Last year, I compiled a month-full of Advent writings and made a little eBook.

It’s free. 

Just head over to Noisetrade and download it. 

Please share it with your friends, your family.

Study it by yourself or with a group of people.

Print off a million copies of it and give it to anyone you think could find it helpful.

It’s yours.

It’s my prayer that by taking just a couple of minutes each day as we approach Christmas to stop and breathe and pray and hope and to know we aren’t alone in this hard and holy season, we can live vulnerably in the dualities of joy and sadness and pain and peace.

Those tensions have been lived and wrestled in since the beginning of time but in this season we know the most beautiful moment is in our rest.

And we can rest and know we are loved and can love, we can rest in knowing hope and holiness, and we can rest knowing our Savior has come (and is here, now).

O’ come let us adore Him!

My New Book: 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids & Sex – Cover Reveal!

You can order it now!

5ThingsLarge

In Summer 2013, I wrote a letter to parents –Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Kids and Sex – and published it on my blog. Within a few days, millions of parents read, shared, and responded. They needed resources. With the help of doctors, psychologists, attorneys, counselors, law enforcement, technology and sex-industry experts, I researched, interviewed, and uncovered five things every parent needs to know about their kids and sex.

Now the book is written, has been edited, and is on its way to be printed. It publishes in May 2016, but I don’t want to wait another moment to get this conversation started. So…here we go.

You can go to the full landing page for the book here.

‘This is Miller’s best work. Miller’s book is really raw and really powerful, and an important lead in to this topic. She speaks as one with experience and authority, and has compiled a great list of stories, interviews, tools, questions and resources for parents to use with their kids.” – Rhett Smith, MDiv, LMFT Rhett Smith, MDiv, LMFT

Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About their Kids and Sex: Real Help for the Toughest Talks

Most parents dread talking about sex with their children. Anne Marie Miller loves giving “the talk.” As she has shared her personal story and talked about God’s gift of sex with almost half a million young people, she’s noticed some disturbing patterns:

  • Google is how kids learn about sex
  • Kids are learning about sex and viewing pornography earlier than parents think
  • The sexually abused often don’t tell anyone for fear of getting in trouble
  • Sexual messages are being consumed daily through mainstream and social media
  • Most parents think their child is the exception

In this immensely practical and well-researched book, Anne:

  • Equips parents to have meaningful and age-appropriate conversations with their children about sex, pornography, and sexual abuse.
  • Advises parents on how to keep the lines of communication open so that their children know they can trust them with their fears, struggles, and mistakes.
  • Offers hope to worried parents that their children can grow up with a healthy biblical view of sex as a gift from God.
“Anne Marie Miller has done the work.  Her passion, intelligence and talent intersect and bring us something truly important in her book “Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About their Kids and Sex.”  If we are honest with ourselves, it is easy to recognize the spiritual and sexual crisis facing our children today.  We may lack knowledge of the depth of this crisis that would stir in us a sense of urgency (Sometimes, we don’t know what to do with that sense of urgency!) Miller informs and instructs with humility and a confidence that is compelling. The intertwining of her research and her personal history gives the reader the distinct sense that she knows this topic inside and out, and it makes her determination to win back the hearts and minds of our children contagious. I am more equipped to be a better father after reading this book.”  Dr. David Long, M.D.

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To inquire about Anne Marie Miller speaking at your event, please click here.

For other requests (interviews, information, or trade review copies), please click here.

Look What God Did

Dear 25 year old Anne,

It’s me. Anne. Today you…me…we…? turn 35.

Holy Moses, has it been a decade?

I wanted to tell you four words: “Look what God did.”

25 year old Anne, 2005 was the year you landed in the hospital so stressed out and so hurt from working at a church. You were 40 pounds overweight, working 90 hours a week, and glued to people-pleasing. You thought doing things for God was the same thing as being with Him.

But it wasn’t.

And over the next two years, as you resigned from that church and healed, you wrote about your journey. You helped others.

God took that terrible mess and made it beautiful.

A few years later, you had to do something terrifying. You had to open up to a group of strangers who were investigating the man who sexually abused you 12 years beforehand. Memories you buried so deep emerged and you even went into shock as you recalled them. You put words to the actions of what a grown man, a trusted youth pastor, did to a vulnerable high school girl who just barely had her driver’s license.

It was like watching a horror film in your mind on repeat. But God gave you the words and the strength and the right medication and friends to help. The man was finally caught. His sins finally came to light. And God healed you and the shame and gave you ways to share your pain and His healing with others.

God took that terrible mess and made it beautiful.

When you turned thirty, everything was in full bloom. Life. Was. Good. You just finished writing your second book and still had a contract for more. You rode your bicycle across the flipping United States. California to South Carolina. You made friends in those two months that forever changed you and shaped you. And then the tragedy of divorce fell into your path. Grief swept you away but friends held on to you for dear life. It was a long, quiet, tough road of healing. And God was good even when everything was going bad. You learned this about Him then.

A few years later, a strong and Godly man with a passion for truth and holiness and loving others and serving everybody who comes into his path humbly and out of the abundance God gave him met you in the most lovely Michigan town. He won your heart, even though you were still timid to give it, afraid of being hurt again. Then, when you were afraid, God met you in a living room on a cold night and music played singing “night must end.” God gave you this moment and said, “You can trust your heart to him.”

So you did and you married this man on a beach at sunrise because you and he wanted to raise an ebenezer to the fact that God’s mercies are new every time the sun rises.

God took that terrible mess and made it beautiful.

And now, here you…me…we? turn 35. You live in west Texas and you pretend you’re Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights and you’re minutes away from the church where you got baptized thirty years ago. Life has come in such a full and glorious circle. You’re surrounded by new friends, loving neighbors, and people who pray with you with babies on their hips and in the midst of toys in the kitchen floor. You sing praises to the God who took those messes and made them beautiful surrounded by the voices of others you call your church–your friends, your small group. Twice a week you get to see a few dozen teenagers who are uncovering the depth and breadth and faithfulness of God and it’s so exciting to watch your husband lead them and their eyes light up with every moment of new truth revealed to them through your Word.

God took that terrible mess and made it beautiful.

So, as another ten years passes and the wrinkles on your face grow deeper and gravity continues to pull you down, as people come in and out of your life and as you come in and out of theirs, even when those you love are dying or are sick, are broken and are hurt, know that God is good because God is good. He is not good only because He redeems; He is good because He allows things into our lives that need to be redeemed.

All this to say, and always say, and never stop saying to a world who always needs to hear it:

In everything, in every moment, God took it all and made it beautiful.

Look. What. God. Did.