How Does God View Victim/Survivors of child abuse? What are some of the words, phrases, or Bible verses that come to your mind when you hear this question?
I shared this question with the participants from the Response Team Training, I attended this week. Here are some of the words, phrases and verses they came up with.
Today, I wanted to share a devotion with you that I wish someone had told me when I first started over 8.5 years ago, in the field of Child Safety…. Something God has only started teaching me in the last year or so.
When I first started hearing victim survivors stories, I really struggled with not allowing that information to change and shape how I viewed victim survivors. By that, I mean that once I sat across from a child and heard their story, or when an adult would share what had happened to them as a child with me, I found it really hard to not always hear that or see that when I saw that person. For example I would see that child weeks later in the cafeteria, or playing with their friends, or sitting by themselves and all I could see or hear was the worst or hardest thing that had ever happened to them. I saw them as broken, destroyed, damaged, defiled. I’d try not to but it’s all I could see.
I attended this secular conference a few years ago that gathered individuals working in the fields of child safety and social work from all over the world and one of the presenters was speaking about children who experienced abuse and they said “that child is irreparably damaged forever.” When I heard that statement it broke my heart because I believe in a God who can heal, who can restore, who can save, who can redeem. Are victim survivors of abuse irreparably damaged in God’s eyes?
Have you ever heard the story by Max Luccado called You are Special? I want to share it with you today. There is a little wooden doll named Punchinello who lives in a town with the Wemmicks.
In this town the Wemmicks walk around with a wooden box with gold stars and black dots.
If a Wemmick is beautiful, talented, does something amazing, they get a gold star.
If they are ugly, their paint is chipping, they trip and fall they get a black dot. Punchinello isn’t anything special and when he tries to do something amazing he just fails and all the Wemmicks give him black dots.
One day Punchinello meets a Wemmick who doesn’t have any gold stars or black dots – her name is Luchia. When someone tries to give her a gold star – it falls off. When someone tries to give her a black dot – it falls off. Punchinello wants to be like Luchia so he asks her why the stars and dots don’t stick.
She explains it’s because she goes to visit Eli the woodcarver every day. Punchinello decides to visit Eli to figure out what this is all about. He visits the woodcarver, Eli who tells him he is special and cared about and loved. Punchinello can’t understand why – there is nothing special about him.
But Eli loves him because he is his and he made him and he tells him if he comes and visits him every day that one day he will understand. As Punchinello leaves the first black dot drops.
The world sees victim survivors as Wemmicks full of black dots. Satan, the perpetrator, the world, and other people tell them they are broken beyond repair.
“Someone has caused great harm to you, but God is bigger - He has taken you out of abuse and brought you here. Through the centuries, Christians have been confronted by the words in Hebrews 13:5-6, which says “I will never leave you not forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me? This verse may cause some abuse victims to recoil because It seemed that God was absent in your abuse. But this scripture is not saying that God was absent in your abuse. But this scripture is not saying that people will never hurt those who trust in God – that has happened since the beginning of time. Rather, it’s saying that none of the evil man can do to keep God from being faithful to His promises to those who trust in Him. No harm that others can do will keep you from God or keep God from you. As you continue to look at him, you’ll see glimpses of him again and again that He has not forsaken you; man cannot harm you enough to force God’s presence to abandon you. He is Immanuel, “God with us.”" – Tear Down This Wall of Silence, Dale Ingraham with Rebecca Davis
Unlike the evil ones who perpetrated great harm, Jesus saw great value in little children as He did in every soul, no matter how weak and helpless - we know this because it says so in Matthew 18:10.
I have one more analogy that I’d like to share with you…I love pottery and so does my sister – we collect it. And I lovingly, carefully packed up all my pottery to fly across the ocean to Kenya when I moved here.
When I got here most of it arrived perfectly fine but a few special pieces cracked, and broke. I was devastated. I ended up having to throw away that hand crafted piece I had cherished so much.
In scripture we speak about how God is the potter and we are the clay. He has hand crafted each of us into a beautiful piece of stoneware. As I was preparing for this, this beautiful imagery came to mind - it's this art form called Kintsugi.
Kintsugi is a Japanese word that means, (n.) (v.phr) “to repair with gold”; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. Basically they take broken pieces of pottery and they repair them. The word is poetically translated as golden joiner. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer and powdered gold. It is mean to embrace flaws and imperfection, and to treat the breakage and repair as part of the beautiful history of an object rather than something to be disguised. You can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.
There are so many beautiful messages in the art form of Kintsugi. We shouldn’t throw away broken objects. When an object breaks, it doesn’t mean that is is no more useful. Its breakages can become valuable. God sees victim surivors of abuse like Kintsugi.
When one of his vessels is broken, cracked or damaged it breaks his heart too. Similarly to how I was devastated when one of my precious pieces cracked or broke. But unlike me who threw those pieces out - he isn’t done, he makes something new, something more beautiful and valuable.
There is this ministry called Haven Retreat. The Haven Retreat is a clinically informed 4-day educational experience for female survivors of child sexual abuse. One of the participants, Janet said, “Just like the kintsugi bowl, I am being restored.”
God views victim survivors differently than the world. I encourage you to print off those words we brainstormed earlier and put it up in your office or near your desk. So next time you begin to see the world or individuals as broken beyond repair or cracked and damaged that instead we would focus on those words and see everyone as beautiful pieces of pottery.
We are all Kintsugi. We have breaks, cracks, dings and imperfections. But God doesn't throw us out - get rid of us just because we're damaged. He repairs us with gold.
Finally, I'd like to share this beautiful poem by Peter Mayer.
“I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
That were made long ago
I have some cracks in me
they have been filled with gold
that’s what they used back then
when they had a bowl to mend
it did not hide the cracks
it made them shine instead
so now every old scar shows
from every time I broke
and anyone’s eyes can see
I’m not what I used to be
But in a collector’s mind
all of these jagged lines
make me more beautiful
and worth a higher price
I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
I was made long ago
I have some cracks you can see
see how they shine of gold.”
– Peter Mayer