I sat at the desk in my hotel room staring at my computer screen, unable to type for what seemed like hours.  I had traveled away from home for a few days to work on my book but now I felt paralyzed to write even one word.  I finally gave up, and, as I had done thousands of times before, went out to a restaurant and gorged on food. 

When I began writing “Sheltered But Not Protected” in the early part of 2018, I knew that there were at least two potential outcomes:

To infuriate a few hundred people
“Sheltered But Not Protected” is a book about my experience growing up in a cult-minded church where scripture was twisted to fit the leadership’s agenda.  We were sheltered to the point that not only did we not associate with the world, but we also cut ourselves off from every other church in the area.  Tragically, almost every evil thing the leadership was trying to protect us from happened right within our congregation – physical and psychological abuse, child molestation, incest, child pornography, theft, and adultery just to name a few. 
My book is about real life experiences involving several of both current and former members of the church I grew up in.  Because of that and the sensitive subject material, I know my book will be highly controversial.  My desire has never been to name individuals and/or places where I experienced this abuse.  The church I grew up in is now under new leadership that I believe is doing their best to combat the cult minded thinking that permeated the church for 30+ years.  The former leadership, specifically my pastor who is at the center of so much of my book, seems happily remarried after his wife sadly died from a several years long battle with cancer.  I don’t keep in contact with him, but on the rare occasion when a photo will flash across social media, I always think to myself that he looks “at peace” for the first time in a long time.  There are many others mentioned in my book – some I would even consider friends – and I have no desire to specifically point them out either.  For these reasons I have been careful in all that I have put out on the web to be as nonspecific as possible.  With that being said, I do have a story to tell and, no doubt, people are and will be infuriated.  I’ve even had threats made against me regarding some of the topics in my book. 

To spread awareness and help potentially thousands to heal
Anyone who is willing to talk can spread awareness and there is plenty out there to spread awareness about! Helping people heal, on the other hand, is a different matter.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts/videos, I’m not a counselor and I don’t possess a degree in counseling.  So how can I help people heal?  The best way that I believe I can help people heal is by sharing my own 20 year-long journey of healing and forgiveness. This is what the second part of my book is all about.  

Of these two possible outcomes I obviously desire the latter- to spread awareness and help people heal.  Because of that I made a promise to myself and before God that I wouldn’t write my book in a place of bitterness or anger, but rather in a place of forgiveness and healing. So as I started writing in the beginning of 2018 I regularly “checked” to make sure I had truly forgiven all from my past. Up until October 2018, all was well.  But as I sat in my hotel room mid October trying to write about what happened when I was a junior in high school and the woman who took my innocence, all was NOT well.  I had NOT forgiven her, nor did I have any intentions on doing so.  “She was a monster, and incapable and undeserving of my forgiveness,” I kept saying to myself over and over.  I felt that forgiving my abuser was somehow saying that what she did was ok.  I thought that my forgiveness was lessoning all the hurt and pain I had lived with for the past 20 years.  I had convinced myself that because I didn’t dwell on that part of my life every moment of every day (at least consciously) that I didn’t need healing and forgiveness.    
I also knew if I forgave I could no longer hate this woman with every part of my being.  Hate didn’t even begin to describe the emotions I felt.  I remember several years before writing my book, my wife Emily and I watched a movie in which once a year, there were no consequences for an entire day.   After the movie Emily asked me what I would do if I could have no consequences for a day.  What came out of my mouth without even a moment’s hesitation shocked us both.  I truly loathed this woman in the worst way possible and it was affecting me in ways I didn’t realize.
After I came back from eating I sat back down and continued to write my book, skipping over the chapter about my sexual abuse.  Over the next month, I fought with myself and God regarding this matter of forgiveness.  I was consumed by it during the day and had recurring nightmares at night.  Finally in November, a few days before my birthday, I had a breakthrough that has unquestionably changed my life in countless ways.  I look forward to sharing that experience in my book. 

Last week a friend shared an article with me called “What Forgiving An Abuser Doesn’t Mean”.  The full article can be found by clicking here.  In this article, Ashley Easter (www.ashleyeaster.com) deals with ten myths regarding forgiving your abuser:

  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean the Abuser Must Be Involved
    Sometimes the abuser does not apologize, sometimes the abuser is no longer living, and sometimes it is not healthy to have contact with the abuser. Even if the abuser is truly sorry and openly repents, forgiveness is about your healing. It can happen with or without them being involved.
  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean Reconciliation
    Forgiveness and reconciliation are two completely different things. You can forgive someone and also choose not to have a relationship with them.
  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean Lack of Boundaries
    Even after you forgive, and even if you choose to reconcile, you still have a right to enforce boundaries. Boundaries are like protective fences that say “you may only come this far in our relationship,” or “I will only accept certain types of behavior.” Boundaries are necessary for your safety, privacy, and comfortability.
  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean Quickly Moving On
    Forgiveness is a journey, and depending on the offense it may take years to fully heal and forgive. Many times the abused person will have to go through the stages of grief, intense counseling, and a lengthy period of processing. In addition, the forgiveness journey isn’t a straight road. Sometimes it is an uphill climb and it’s not uncommon to have both progression and regression during the process.
  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean Excusing or Overlooking the Wrong
    The abuse was bad, and there is nothing that can be done to change that fact. Trying to pretend it’s all okay is intellectually dishonest and ultimately more damaging.
  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean Forgetting
    I love what Christine Caine says about this: “the blood of Jesus doesn’t give you amnesia.” Forgiveness doesn’t cause you to forget what happened, and that’s okay.
  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean You Can’t Talk About the Experience
    This is your story. This is your life. Don’t ever let anyone silence or take away your narrative. You can forgive someone and still tell the truth about what happened. Sometimes that is what will bring you the most healing and the best chance of forgiveness.
  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean There Will Not Be Consequences
    Trust is not required to forgive. If someone has broken your trust, only you get to decide if it is safe to rebuild that trust. If someone is abusive, they should expect to experience the consequences for their actions, such as loss of trust, exposure for their wrong doing, legal action, job loss, relational repercussions, etc.
  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean You Stop Keeping Track of Toxic Patterns
    Some abusers will guilt you for keeping track of their repetitive abusive behavior, expecting that your forgiveness will erase past faults and give them a clean slate. That is not the way it works. You can both forgive and document patterns of abuse. Doing so will help you to make safe choices for yourself.
  1. Forgiveness Does Not Mean You Should Not Warn Others
    If the abuser is in a position to hurt others, forgiveness doesn’t stop you from warning people that need to know about the abusive actions. In some cases it is actually your duty to warn others or report to law enforcement.