Thistle Farms in Nashville has a quote that they use a lot. “Love heals.” That is such a powerful statement even though it seems so simple. What does that mean? For me, yesterday brought two perfect examples.
First, my best friend in Nashville sent me a beautiful picture for my wall. She became my best friend because we loved each other enough to listen to the life story of the other. We are nothing alike and many times she confesses that my story is so hard for her to understand. She’s happily married-I was married to an abuser who still creates problems in my life. She lives comfortably. I struggle financially because of the past and because of current medical bills for my daughters. The list of our differences goes on. But when I am struggling the most, her “love heals” because she never gives up on me.
Second, when I sent out an announcement about my book, I had someone email back saying she had lost contact with me because she knew of some of the challenges in my life but had no idea what to say. It was awkward for her. But now the conversation is started. She told me what she knew, and I told her what would have helped. Silence hurt. Love heals.
I hope the characters in my novel, Without a Voice, help paint that picture of how love does heal. That includes loving ourselves enough to take the first steps to healing!
I’m using my voice as an author and a parent to continue conversations that often start because of a news report. Without a Voice, a novel set in the 1840s, tells the story of Sarah, a young wife leaving domestic violence. She travels across three states with her young daughters as they learn about their own strengths and abilities, and as they discover a new life with family and friends. I encourage you to use some of the thoughts in this book to start or continue conversations concerning domestic violence in our communities.
Who are the people affected by domestic abuse?
We are …
- Musicians and Videographers
- Teachers and Parents
- Writers and Artists
- Executives and Reporters
- Retail Employees
- Accountants and Chefs
- Among many other titles …
We are from…
- Small towns
- Large cities
- From Collierville and Byhalia and Chicago and L.A. and Paducah and Jackson
- From Texas and Wyoming and Vermont and D.C.
- From the middle class, the working class and the wealthy
- From universities where we earned our master’s degrees
- And from colleges where we got a two-year degree…
- And from high schools where we barely got by…
Our families look a lot like yours with…
- With kids
- Or now empty nesters
- With 4 bedrooms and 3.5 baths
- With a two-bedroom fixer-upper
- In the suburbs
- Or downtown
- With a garage
- Or on the bus route
- Or in a biking community…
Our faith shapes us … We are …
- Christian, Jews, Muslims…
- The person who walks in to worship weekly
- The person who hasn’t been in a while
- The person you know well
- The person who just says hello and walks on
- The person you prayed with or prayed for
- The person who leads worship
- Or teaches a class
- Or reads the Scripture
But we face abuse…daily, weekly, whenever our abuser lashes out at us…
We stay because…
We are scared…
We are weary…
We don’t have access to any resources…
We can’t afford a lawyer…
We wonder what you will think of us…
We believe the lies…
We don’t have a place to live…
Our abuser has befriended our family and friends…you like him…
Our church expects me to carry this cross…
My children will have a broken home…
My abuser controls the money and the car and the house…
My abuser knows where I am every minute of every day….
I think it’s my fault…If I was a better person…
You tell me all couples fight…
My abusers apologizes…
I don’t know how to leave…
CAN YOU HEAR US?
Will you believe us?
Will you help us find safe places to tell our stories?
Will you listen without judgement?
Will you locate and support community resources for victims of domestic violence?
Will you keep brochures in your church or your office or your community center?
Will you stand by us as we journey through courts and through applications and relocations, as we journey to safety and healing?
We you tell us we are strong enough and wise enough and courageous enough to do what is necessary to be free from abuse?
….the court process can be lengthy and challenging…
…our abusers are controlling and don’t want to lose control…
…our abusers may lie, even in court…
…our attorneys may not understand domestic abuse…
…judges may not listen at times…
Our abusers may …
- Manipulate our children
- Steal our resources
- Draw out the process so we run out of funds
- Manipulate family and friends
- Lie about everything
- Apologize and beg for forgiveness
- Bring gifts and flowers
- Claim a need for mercy due to an illness or condition
- Blame everyone else for the problem
How can families and friends become more aware of what domestic abuse looks like and what steps can be taken to help a victim leave the abuse? Check local resources to see what may already be available in your community. Find a local support group. Also tap into national resources.
Churches and nonprofit groups—do your part. Post small signs in bathrooms (beside sinks or on the back of stall doors) to let people know that help is available for victims of any type of abuse. Post numbers of local agencies that can provide help or information. If those agencies have small brochures, keep them handy with your other information on grief, depression, etc.
Be a voice to end abuse!
With my eyes wide open, I saw your post about the overweight woman in the gym, about the “losers” on welfare, about the older woman with dry skin still wearing sandals with her cracked skin on her heels exposed, about the shoes a female political candidate was wearing, about the “riff raff” who can’t get insurance, about the fake news you were spreading without checking other sources, about the immigrants that you have never even talked to, about the gay people you think are trying to destroy your faith, about the transgender people you think are trying to harm people in bathrooms…
With my eyes wide open, I looked for your posts about trying to stop sexual abuse on college campuses, but I didn’t see one. I looked for your posts about ending domestic abuse, but I didn’t see one. I looked for your posts saying you were meeting with scared, pregnant young women to sit with them and talk with them about their options, but I only saw your post judging them because they considered abortion.
With my eyes wide open, I looked for your post that says you talked with many of us who are uninsured to discuss why we are insured and ways this nation may help families who are struggling. I just saw your posts about hoping you save money. I looked for your posts about stopping fake news and getting back to truth. I just saw your posts that repeated falsehoods that made you feel comfortable.
With my eyes wide open, I looked for your posts that said you sat with immigrants to hear their life stories. I only saw your posts about “radicals” who you think are trying to kill us all. I looked for your posts that said you sought out this nation’s hurting people so you could comfort them and spread love. I only saw your judgments.
With my eyes wide open, I looked for the invitation to the table you share with others…it never arrived…
I want to tell you a true story. Johnny was my cousin and my favorite person to hang out with as a kid. He was four years older than me, but never excluded me from what he was doing. We played in my grandmother’s attic for hours in the winter and on top of her flat-roofed garage every summer. During his teen years he turned to music. He could play anything. I loved to hear him on the piano. Once, when I was a teen, I told him that more than anything I wanted to play a song on the piano (I couldn’t read music). He numbered the keys in the order I would hit them, and I played The Entertainer!
He died when he was 30–January 1993. I lost someone very special. He died of AIDS. Yes, he was gay, but to me he was almost a big brother, a musician, an artist–he could turn any fabric into bedspreads, comforters, curtains…he died in Key West surrounded by friends and his parents. I flew down and conducted his funeral because, despite the fact that he had been a church musician before he contracted AIDS, no preacher would visit him. The church as a whole…all churches I knew of…turned away. It was that same year I met a woman in Georgia as she wept. When I asked her what was wrong, she answered, “I can’t tell my church that my son is dying of AIDS. They won’t let me return, or they won’t conduct his funeral.”
When I flew into Key West, a very kind gay young man picked me and fed me lunch. That night two gay men fed me dinner and invited me into their home as a friend. They rented a boat and a group of gay men went out onto the ocean (along with his parents) to scatter his ashes. They packed a lunch for us all. They never asked me to pay for my own meal.
The year before, I had been struggling with serious family issues. The only professor at Emory to reach out to me was a professor who also happened to be a lesbian. She helped me find a Christian counseling group that basically saved my life for the next two years.
During my lifetime, I have been friends with several people in the LGBTQ community. I haven’t thought of it much until lately, because I just thought of them as friends. I didn’t worry about their sexuality. But with all of the news about their rights being taken back away, I can’t help but want to speak up. No one in that community has ever harmed me, tried to have sexual relations with me, tried to “recruit” me, judged me for my faith or my struggles. They have just been friends.
As both a married and now a single woman, plenty of straight white Christian men have invited me to “sleep around,” let them “comfort” me, have a little fun that I didn’t ask for. Some of them were married and asked me to be discreet if I accepted their offer. I turned them down. That’s not who I am.
I get it that for some of you this is an issue of faith–you see a gay person as a sinner based on your theology. Please live out your faith! If that’s what you believe, never engage in a same-sex marriage. I live in a democracy that supports religious freedom. Many of my friends live out their faith differently. Many of my friends identify as Christians also and worship, serve on mission teams, teach, etc. I support their rights in this democracy also.
I will be hurt if my friends lose the right to love whom they choose to love after they fought for that right. They have stood by me when the church didn’t. I will stand by them out of the same friendship and love that they showed me. I am not going to try to define anyone’s theology. But I am going to speak up for someone who wants to grow old with a person they love. That’s beautiful, and it hurts no one!
This is not a theological debate on what defines sin. None of us would ever agree on that. When I was going through my divorce, I had plenty of people quoting Scripture to me and telling me how sinful I was. And for friends remarried, many Christians believe a second marriage is a sin. Divorce and remarriage are legal in this country (even though I wish divorce never had to happen–it hurts many people). I would not have survived my marriage if it had not ended.
But nowhere does Jesus tell me to legislate what I define as sin. And if I could, I would legislate most of his words that people forget to live by. Feed my sheep. And what if we legislate his words to the rich young ruler when he said the man had to give everything away? And what if we legislate turn the other cheek? Luke 14 telling us to bring in the poor? Matthew 20, lead by being a servant.
We can’t legislate our beliefs. We can only live them and in this nation we are blessed that we can share them. But this is about the secular world and democracy. I will not legislate away the rights of people I care about.
When I Say the Words
By Chris Pepple ©2017
When I say the words
“I love you” to my neighbors,
to my friends,
to those I’ve known for years,
and to those I met
on the journey today,
I’m telling you that I see you—
The whole you…all of you.
I am not afraid of
the sight of your scars
or the sounds of your crying
or the knowledge of weaknesses…
I love the darkness of your
and the depth of brownness
in your soul-revealing eyes…
And I also love
the desert-kissed skin of
you, my friend, with
your deep black hair and
your chestnut-colored lips
that highlight the smile
that draws us all
into your joy…
And you with the
terra-cotta blush and
the laughter in your eyes…
And you with the
and green eyes
that disguise your mischief…
And you with the
ivory unblemished skin and blue eyes…
Or you—the one who wears your age
and shows your leathery arms
as you toil again through the day…
And you as you paint with the sunrise
or sing well past the sunset
or dance with the wind
or hum quietly as you write
or cook like your grandmother
the buttery-rich comfort food
or you—the one who adds
the spice that kicks in with each bite.
I love you
because you are like me—
You seek joy,
I love you
because you are different—
You sing a different song,
dance to a different beat,
create with a different style,
love in a different way,
toil using your unique gifts,
fear a different enemy…
I see you—the whole you…
And celebrate us all today…
By Chris Pepple ©2017
What this is about…
By Chris Pepple ©2017
This is not about politics,
not parties, not platforms…
This is about people…
Promises to keep…
Hope to hang on to…
This is about being loved…
And being love…
About the love that can’t
be defined or controlled
by one group alone…
This is about the justice
longed for since
the most ancient of days…
About peace dreamed of…
About faith that goes beyond
human logic and beyond
my own desires and wishes—
A faith that sees humanity as a whole…
A faith the tells me to open doors
and share hope
and build homes
and shatter abuse
and feed the hungry
and drive out hate
and speak truth
and take chances
and walk on water
and break bread
and shine light
and walk away from my comfort
in order to bring about
a safe place where
all can seek faith and hope
and love and light and joy and peace
and justice and mercy
For God so loved the world…
— Chris Pepple ©2017