Below is a 9 minute video where a courageous man tells of his experience of childhood sexual abuse and same sex attraction through poetry. I will offer several thoughts on what he has to say. But before I or you applaud or critique his words, I believe it is imperative that we affirm his example of bringing secrets into light.
Based upon the title of his poem “I Promised I Wouldn’t Tell,” this seems to be the main message of his poem – secrets have power in darkness that is lost when they are spoken in the light of loving Christian community.
This is my biggest take away from this video – we (the church) must become a place it is safe to talk about these kinds of experiences. In a culture where 1in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused (those numbers are likely under reported) anything else would simply be “playing church.”
I will start with two quick points where I would nuance in the poem (this likely reveals why I don’t write poetry). I start with a few concerns in order to end positive. I believe there is much more to affirm than there is to nuance.
- Overly personifies sin as a demon. In large part, I believe this is because he views his sins as being more significant to God than his suffering. I believe if he understood the effects of sexual abuse, he would be less prone to personify these effects as demons.
- Could be taken to mean that all same sex attraction originates from childhood sexual abuse. This is the danger of any testimony. This man is simply telling his story, which is common in many cases of same sex attraction but not universal to all.
But my points of commendation far exceed any areas of concern.
- Powerful example of finding your voice again after sexual abuse. One of the most damaging effects of sexual abuse is the loss of one’s voice – being threatened not to tell, saying “no” yet the abuse continues, telling yet not being believed, etc… The strength and courage of this man’s verbal presentation is a message to those who have been abused that you can get your voice back.
- Picture of how our attempt to kill sin with strangling silence feeds the power of sin to destroy us. His imagery here was very instructive, even outside of sexual abuse and same sex attraction. We will never be more pure (from any sin) or free (from any suffering) than we are honest.
- Clearly says we are more than our desires. In a day when our culture teaches us that the highest virtue is to “be true our selves” this message is essential. We do want to be true to the person God made us to be, but we cannot allow that person to be defined solely on the basis of our attractions or emotions.
- God does not just want us to straight, but to be holy. We often lose this point in the discussion over same sex attraction. When this happens, the tone turns angry and in an equal-yet-opposite way Christians begin to define those who struggle with same sex attraction by their desires and attractions.
- Creates a contagious hope for those who feel locked in darkness. The balance of pain and hope in his voice is palpable. It is clear these past experiences firmly imprinted his life; this creates resonance with those who are hurting. But the accompanying hope that is strong enough to counter-attack despair with the grace of God is clearly the more defining mark of his life.
- He frames his testimony on the larger story of the gospel. Hitting all the themes of the gospel (creation, fall, and redemption) allows the listener to trace his story within God’s gospel story. While tracing the unique contours and emotions of his journey, he clearly portrays God as the “star” of the poem.
- He has an intense expectation that God is going to change lives. The poem is clearly a counter-attack against Satan’s intention to destroy his life. Truth is the weapon and his confidence that “God’s Word will not return void” (Isa 55:10-11) is clear.
- His final call is not to the unique experience of sexual abuse or same sex attraction. He realizes that secrets are one of Satan’s primary prisons. But that God has given His people the key for escape – honesty with God, self, and others. This is what allows us to escape the prison of shame and enter the freedom of loving Christian community.
I do not know the man in this video and am not sure how to contact him, but I would like to say “Thank you” to him publicly for his courage and willingness to tell his story in a gospel-centered way in order to point others towards the hope we have in Christ.
For additional resources on sexual abuse see the “Hope and Restoration After Sexual Abuse” seminar.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.