I watch closely for justice in the stone cold face of injustice. Three years ago at the turn of the year, I wrote about it. Curled up by a cozy fire in a ramshackle cottage by the cold east coast, I was awake when all were asleep. I had written in my mind through a restless night and rose in enough time to watch the dark fade into light, and the luminescence of the lamps, the fire, and the celestial lights get swallowed whole by the warm whale of the dawn. It was a day that I will never forget for the beauty, the survived brutality, and the suffocating silence — broken.
I have watched for three years to the point of profound weariness. I have watched for one to rise up, for righteousness to prevail, for egregious wrongs to be made right.
I feel I have watched in vain.
There is an exile that is exclusive to the eviscerated. Abuse literally rips out your belly by its brutality — it cuts you to the core and the contents spill out. Abuse isolates. Good Lord — the isolation. Never have I felt more alone that being offended against by an elite deviant and then exiled as if I was the offender.
To be abused by an esteemed cleric is an exercise in traumatic sexualization, a study in betrayal trauma, and an utter annihilation in the trust of the self, the other, the community, and the Christ. Nothing, and I do mean, NO THING, escapes unscathed. The nature of clergy abuse is such that the cleric grooms not only the victim and the bystanders, but also the faith community at large. Setting the victim(s) on a new understanding of the stations of the cross and an agonizing experience of the absence of God. The victim is left sorting through the notion that God apparently approves of abuse — he certainly seems to protect abusers.
Abuse is a gift that keeps on giving — generationally. No matter how hard I have tried to contain the pathogen of abuse (Lord knows I have T-R-I-E-D) — the cost has been catastrophically high. My childhood abuse has impacted my own children, my revictimization as an adult — almost lost me to them. He took so much from them, from him, from me — he nearly took their mother too.
We are still here and while we no longer live in survival mode, it doesn’t take much for the traumatic tide to rise; for the relational boat to tip; to take on water. It is a wearying process to bail yourself and your family out of the ongoing injustice of abuse. We still bail regularly.
It occurred to me recently that the Christ I wanted and the Christ I got are radically different kings. I wanted someone who metaphorically stripped and whipped offenders and sent them into exile. Instead I got a Deliverer who took the same stripping and the same whipping I did and joined me in my exile. I wanted an abolition of abuse — not accompaniment.
What I got was a Christ who entered into my exile and suffering, who apparently knows something of the fragmenting feeling of forsakenness, who can sit with sorrow and stay. I also got a lesson in the raw reality that there is very little justice in this justice system but that there is a higher court that assures judgement of the living and the dead. It is small solace and could be seen as a cold comfort — but I’ll take it.
As we progress into advent, I am once again reminded that it is in the dark that the light shines brightest — that the smallest flicker can be “a flash of light” in an otherwise barren and brutal landscape of loss. It was into that landscape that Hope was born — that Hope came to be with. There must be something wonderful, powerful even, to being with.
I will rise early in the coming days and enjoy the gifts that the darkness brings. It is there I best see the light. There is something lost and much more gained when dawn swallows whole, the light I hold. I still watch closely with the knowledge of the gift of being watched over. I take comfort that He never sleeps — therefore I can rest.