She walks through my door and refuses to leave him. She is beholden to the power that he might change, and she will suffer on her cross until he does or death comes. A different day, he walks through the door, shuffling his feet and stares at the ground. He wants peace from the demons that haunt his life. The woman, much too old, and he, much too young, learned the dance that embarrasses adults and brings life to the world. He cannot find the words to describe how it felt, how it still feels, except to say that it hurts.

Abuse, it is all around us, constantly sucking the marrow from the lives that surround us. Instead of spending a lifetime learning about themselves, these people who haunt the couches of my office spend it running from ghosts that are all too real. Once it happens, it rarely stops. Victims are ripped from the present and violated repeatedly. Images skip through their minds, testing their reality, daring them to break the chains that bind them. Some do break free, or at least break their bonds; I am not sure if freedom ever really comes.

I can’t imagine suffering with abuse in secret; I can’t imagine the courage it takes to tell someone; all I can do is applaud those who get help and cry loudly for the justice that they deserve.

The questions of suffering continue though. Where is God when perpetrators seize control and violently take over the physical, mental, and emotional lives of the powerless? How can one find God, find life, find hope, when those they trust steal their innocence? It is hard sometimes to remind myself that God is the great “I Am.” Sometimes it is all I can do just to wade into the muck and crap and try to find something.

I imagine their lives in pictures; Rodan’s visions of Dante’s Inferno, the valley of the shadow of death, C.S. Lewis’ visions of hell as separation are pictures that I carry with me. They are places I have been taken. At times light will enter each portrait, and together we are allowed to stare with wonder and awe.

I am most appalled by the perpetrators though. While their act is a deranged grab at some semblance of power or “life,” it is the fact that a lot of times they are victims of abuse themselves. This is no excuse for their behavior, but instead highlights the cycles that happen when silence is the norm.

That is where I think suffering comes from, silence. We suffer when our voices are taken from us; we suffer when God seems silent to our pain; we suffer when we are forced to carry our burdens alone; we suffer when we choose silence out of shame, fear, or anger...



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