Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Different Pair of Shoes

Friends, we're knee deep in the issue of American poverty. We have so many questions, so much to learn. My prayer today and every day is that we begin to love as simply and wildly as our Creator. I continue to be amazed at your hearts as we come together and search for truth on this topic that most of us know very little about.

A few days after writing this post I received an email from a woman I don't know asking if I might allow her to write a guest post about her personal experience growing up in extreme poverty. This is something I have never done before and likely won't do again, but I knew it was a gift, one that we needed. I immediately said yes, and I asked her to speak freely, to not hold back.

While not every person living in poverty has lived through similar horrors, Debbie's story reads achingly true as I compare it to many of the lives around me, lives that I love. Let us remember, always, that poverty is complex. It is a cause and a symptom. 

I was humbled by Debbie's courage in sharing with us here. Her words are, at turns, painful to read and incredibly redeeming. She lived this. There is much we can learn from her story. You may find yourself wanting to turn away or plug your ears. It is often easier to pretend this isn't the reality for so many. But God heals the brokenhearted and Debbie is living proof.

In love,

Warning: This post contains depictions of sexual abuse. If this is a trigger for you, please sit this one out.

I happened across shannan’s post about discrimination when a friend of mine posted a link on her facebook. I thought it was the most awesome, transparently honest depiction of judgment that I had ever read

lately, god has been showing me that people who judge the marginalized really do so out of a lack of understanding rather than out of a feeling of superiority - and the comments on the discrimination post were confirming of that

it has been really eye-opening for me to discover the lack of knowledge in middle class, christian people about the plight of the less fortunate in our country - honestly, I always thought you knew, but you just didn't careand so, yes, I have been guilty of "judging the judgers"

maybe if more of us told our stories, we could learn how to love each other better...

I was taught by my parents that I was inherently worthless. my father had an explosive temper that I was most often on the receiving end of and I spent most of my childhood trying to figure out what I had done to cause it. my mother would tell me over and over that it was me, that I was the problem, and with her expression she told me how much she hated me.

at 5 years old, my father raped me for the first time

when he left my bed that night, god was there. He held me as I sobbed and I eventually fell asleep in His arms
the abuse continued for 7 years and I never told anyone until I was 33 years old

are you thinking why didn't I just tell someone?

the morning after the first time, there was blood all over my sheets and I was still bleeding a little. I saw my mother strip the bed and wash the sheets, and say nothing about the blood or my hobbling around or my sniffles and puffy eyes. and when she put me in the bathtub that night, I saw her see my pain as my wound went into the water, but she ignored it and I knew that somehow this was my fault too, and so I bit my lip and swallowed my tears

I accepted the lie that I was born bad, that I was a piece of shit (excuse the language, but there really isn't a nice way to convey it), that I deserved all of the pain, and the rest of the world confirmed it to me - my brother and my uncle both molested me, the state put me in a home where my foster father abused and prostituted me, and all the men and women who I sold myself to in order to survive when I ran away treated me as just an object

everything and everybody in my world told me that my body was the only thing I possessed of value

I "chose" to smoke cigarettes and do drugs and alcohol, yes - as much as a burn victim "chooses" to take morphine

at fifteen, I was living in a condemned building, selling myself for survival and drugs, when some friends thought I had taken too many drugs and they dragged me up to the emergency room and left me. the doctors gave me ipecac and the mental health lady came down to interview me. she asked where I lived and by that time, I was so exhausted, I was ready to be "rescued" by the authorities and so I told her the truth

they just let me go. I walked back to my building, to my nasty old mattress and sleeping bag, and I went to sleep. in the middle of the night I woke up and puked on my sleeping bag. this was march in the northeast and the building had no glass in the windows. that was when I decided that I had to save myself - that no one was going to rescue me and I didn't want to live that way anymore

I could tell you the rest of the story, but it would be a book and not a blog post. I didn't get it all together at once, it was a long, hard road

suffice it to say, I was one of the lucky ones in my "class" - I was born with above average intelligence and one of the ways I escaped was reading. I read everything I could get my hands on and still do. and more importantly, god was always there in my life. even when I got angry at Him and ran away from Him

I'm 48 years old now, and He has healed me from much of my childhood but not all - its still very much a work in progress

I spend my life now doing the best I can to love others who have been abused and never rescued.

and if I had a dollar for every time a christian told me I was going to hell for smoking cigarettes... ;)

I am a survivor - of poverty, of incest, of physical and emotional abuse, of childhood prostitution, of drug addiction, and the adult sex industry

but that is not who I am - I am a child of the one true king. ransomed by His blood from slavery, redeemed, and adopted into His family

if you are a christian, then we are siblings, no matter what class we come from, and we are called to love one another

we are also called to love the widows and orphans

what does that look like? most times it looks like a big mess honestly, lol

in 2007, I made friends with an alcoholic single mom of 3 little boys who had just gotten out of the shelter - I started bringing them to church and then since I had 2 extra bedrooms and they lived in a nasty trailer in a bad trailer park, I had them move in with me. six weeks later, she got a DUI and disappeared after they let her out of jail in the morning - suddenly I had my 13yr old daughter and her 5yr old, 2yr old, and 9 month old boys

I worked a paper route at night every night and went to school during the day - for six months, someone from my church drove to my house at 1:30am and slept on my couch while I did my route - 52 different people have slept on my couch - the church paid for daycare for the boys and when the mom showed back up, they paid for her to go to a Christian rehab - they made up any money I was short for years and to this day, they still help her with paying for the boys' daycare - after six months she moved back in with us and after two and a half years she got a nice trailer in a good neighborhood, works at a place a lot of our church people work at, and is a good mom to the boys, and loves jesus

and now, I have another single mom of 4 little kids living with me. she came from an abusive family, foster care, and her first son was from being raped at 18, which she never got counseling for and so, yeah, she's been looking for love and has three more kids from three more daddies, two of them in jail - and it's not easy, it's definitely messy, and it's definitely worth it - because they are worth it, because they are all wounded image bearers of god

it's a broken world with broken people - that's why He came isn't it? I'm pretty sure He didn't save us so that we could be comfortable - I think He's more interested in making our hearts look like His