In case you are not familiar with it, here goes.
“One day a man was walking along a beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up, and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“Son, the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.””
Every day, I find myself walking along a figurative beach.
The tide has gone out, and countless starfish are lying on the beach, wasting away.
Every day, I meet and interact with women online.
They are wasting away.
They have endured years, even decades, of abuse at home and at church.
They have no idea how beautiful, precious, and cherished they are.
Every day, I also encounter opposition.
Those who say things like, “No marriage it perfect,” “It takes two,” “She should just…”
I am here to say, “NO MORE.”
We are way past that.
There is evidence that shows us that (reportedly) one in three women are subject to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.
This does not account for unreported cases.
This does not account for the masses of women who are enduring horrific emotional, financial, intellectual, psychological, social, spiritual, and verbal abuse.
The days of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending this epidemic doesn’t exist are gone.
There are many voices raising awareness and we can no longer pretend that most marriages are safe and healthy.
I choose to spend my days, walking the beaches of online conversations, picking up starfish and throwing them into the water.
This epidemic is especially deadly within conservative, fundamental, evangelical church circles.
Most of the starfish I interact with have been raised in a church culture that tells them they must submit more, pray more, forgive more, and give their husbands sex more to stop the abuse and adultery.
Most of these starfish are blamed and shamed for their husbands’ sins while the men are not addressed.
Beautiful, gifted starfish are being removed from their places of ministry while their husbands are slapped on the wrists (in some situations, they are sat down for a few months, but usually they are reinstated without therapy or treatment for their addictions and behaviors).
I am crying out for more starfish throwers.
Will you join me?
Will you commit to learning about the realities of trauma and abuse, and will you pick up one starfish and throw her back into the sea?
In 2021, I earned a certification as a survivor advocate and that lit a fire in my soul.
Once the lights turned on for me, I wanted to flip every switch and bring light to other survivors.
Since that time, I have formed support groups for starfish and starfish throwers, and we are taking a stand against the evil that almost destroyed us.
We are walking along the seashore and looking for other starfish who desperately need life-giving water.
I long for every book, blog, podcast, sermon, etc. that covers topics such as relationships, marriage, divorce, and sex to include information about the patterns/systems of abuse.
I long for them to include information about consent, safely, equality, and mutuality.
When one in three women have reported being physically and/or sexually abused and countless others have not reported and/or are experiencing emotional, financial, intellectual, psychological, social, spiritual, and verbal abuse we must change the way we approach these topics.
Every week, in every church, there are women who are hearing messages that that are crushing their souls and sucking life from their lungs.
Please stop saying, “But that book was written for healthy marriages,” when it is highly likely that more women who are in destructive relationships will read the book and feel shamed, blamed, and responsible for the abuse they are enduring.
"You’re too sensitive,” is another common response when an advocate speaks up on behalf of a harmful source.
I am deeply concerned for the women who believe that if they just pray harder, put on more makeup, lose weight and cook gourmet meals their husbands will become faithful, kind and loving.
One dear starfish endured decades of abuse, serial adultery and was debilitated by chronic illness.
At the point of her deepest need, unsure if she would live or die, her abuser abandoned her.
The church chose the abuser over the victim and promoted him in leadership.
Sadly, her story is not uncommon, it is one I hear often.
I am calling out, screaming, yelling, pleading…will you be a starfish thrower?
Would you be willing to learn about abuse and trauma and how to help and not further harm the precious star fish around you?
Are you willing to ask a trauma-informed, abuse-informed survivor or advocate to help you write posts, sermons or books that will offer hope and healing, rather than bring further harm?
Are willing to remove books from your personal and church libraries that are filled with toxic teachings?
Are willing to open your heart, home, and wallet to help support women who are escaping destructive relationships?
My guess is that 50-75% of women in conservative church cultures are enduring one or many forms of abuse.
Your mother, your sister, your neighbor, your friend may be need life-saving intervention.
Will you hear her?
One of my greatest joys is connecting resources to needs.
am connected to a powerful network of star fish throwers and together we are bringing awareness, educating, equipping, and encouraging survivors.
Will you join us?
Ladies, you are welcome to join us at Held & Healed: Christian Women Rebuilding After Abuse.
Survivors, helpers, and leaders, join us at the Safer Spaces Summit where we will share statistics, survivor stories, and offer solutions for addressing abuse within faith communities.
I will begin by saying that I love God and have accepted salvation through Jesus and want to live each day representing His love and being His hands, feet, and heart to the those around me.
I write on behalf of women who are victims of abuse, so my pronouns will be she (victim) and he (abuser), but I understand that women can be abusers and men can be victims as well.
I am not a church hater nor a man hater.
I am an abuser hater.
Abuse is happening in churches every day.
Reportedly, one in three women are victims of physical abuse by their intimate partners.
Countless women are experiencing other forms of abuse as well.
I hear stories each week that break my heart.
Most of the women that I hear from are devoted Christians and are or have been members or regular attenders of church.
There are thirteen patterns/systems of abuse: child, cultural, emotional, financial, intellectual, pets and property, physical, psychological, sexual, social, spiritual, and verbal. These patterns revolve around the thirteenth one, which is a core mindset of power abuse and entitlement. (For examples of each system, go here.)
Statistically speaking, at least one in three women who are in your church are experiencing physical abuse.
But, my heart and my experience tells me that MANY MORE are experiencing other forms of abuse and do not have visible marks to prove it.
Abuse is so much more than broken bones and bruises.
When these patterns of abuse are in play, marriage counseling is unwise, unsafe and unethical.
Most abusers are master manipulators and their personal and public personas are very different.
Whatever is shared in a session will put the victim in physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual danger.
It is vital for individuals to pursue counseling with professionals who are domestic violence-informed/trauma-informed.
God loves people more than He loves marriage (an institution).
He loves His daughters and wants them to be safe and well.
If a loving father hears that his daughter is being beaten, hit, cussed, cursed, threatened, lied to or cheated on, he will do anything and everything he could to help her find safety and healing.
He would welcome her home, provide her with resources and assure her that she deserves to be loved and honored.
God is the perfect, heavenly Father who sees, hears, and knows all.
If an earthly father would protect and care for his daughter, WHY WOULD WE TELL WOMEN THAT GOD EXPECTS THEM TO ENDURE ABUSE?
It makes no sense.
And yet, far too often, churches tell women that they must return to danger, submit more, forgive more, pray more, nag less and give more sex.
Jesus called wolves “wolves” and told us to have nothing to do with them, but many churches tell women to go home and sleep with them.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
There is an epidemic of abuse and conservative, fundamental church cultures are place where abusers feel safe hanging out.
Far too many churches welcome abusers (wolves) and shun abuse survivors.
Many survivors no longer attend traditional church because they do not feel safe.
They have been shamed and blamed for their abusers’ sins.
They are finding their voices and linking arms with other survivors and a church without walls is offering healing, resources, community, and tangible help.
Online support groups, local meetups, and retreats are bringing hope to the hurting.
I am using my voice to speak out on behalf of my survivor sisters.
Many of us desire to be a part of a safe, loving church community but when we bring our concerns to leaders, we are dismissed, shamed, blamed, argued with, and met with great opposition.
Would you be willing to look at resources and ministries that exist to equip and empower churches in this fight?
Twenty years ago, there were limited resources for equipping and empowering churches and other institutions to recognize and confront abuse.
Now, they exist, and I would be honored to send you information.
I love God and I love the model of Acts 2 church.
My hope and prayer is that the broken and battered lambs will find refuge under the care of safe shepherds, and protection from the wolves that seek to devour and destroy them.
Ladies, if you are a survivor or someone who is caring for survivors, please join us on Facebook at Held & Healed: Christian Women Rebuilding After Abuse. This is group of over 800 women and I have shared thousands of resources that will help you on your healing journey.
I endured spiritual abuse for nearly four decades. Long before I even knew it had a name, long before I could define spiritual narcissism, long before I knew I had worth, long before I had courage to speak against such (insert word here that may or may not be in my book title and is often abbreviated with the letters B and S).
As a teen, I watched as many of my friends walked away from church and God. They were wounded and the church treated them as lepers, talked about them behind closed doors, shunned them publicly and falsely accused them of things they did not do. This particular institution called people to confess their deepest/darkest secrets, then used that information against these vulnerable souls. I would now call this spiritual blackmail. THAT’S NOT GOD.
Mere men played the role that only God should assume and thirty years later, most of those who were abused are still carrying deep scars. Forgiveness was not sought by the leaders who wounded them. I remember sitting in one pastor’s office, begging him to seek out one who was hurt, and he just smiled at me and sent me on my way. The person I was advocating for is still one of the most heart-broken souls I know. I often wonder what might be different if that leader had confessed the heinous sin committed and sought forgiveness.
I was brainwashed and under a spell. I would now call it a cult. There were so many expectations, most were “unwritten rules.” The focus was on public appearances and the lack of care for what went on behind closed doors was unbiblical and negligent. THAT’S NOT GOD.
I once believed I was called to be a bridge back to an institution, I now understand how warped and twisted that way of thinking was. Now, I accept a much higher calling. I am here to call the broken, weary, misunderstood and condemned back to the heart of Father God.
I recently heard the story of a young woman who was sexually molested by her grandfather. After he did unmentionable things to her, he would sing “How Great Thou Art.” That song, written to declare the goodness and faithfulness of God, became a trigger that set her off and evoked emotional and physical reactions for years to come. THAT’S NOT GOD.
I am here to call out the BS that goes on in His name and invite others to consider how broken His heart is each time someone uses His name and His Word to beat up, maim, condemn or curse another human being. I stand on God’s word and His character. He is good, faithful, loving, merciful, gracious and compassionate. He alone is the reason that I am still alive. He stood with me in the fires and carried me through the floods. While many turn from Him because of the abuse suffered in His name, I was able to run into His arms for safety and refuge. I am here to testify to His goodness. I am here to extend love to all who are weary, broken-hearted, and disillusioned.
I will not be naming names of individuals or institutions. In this collection, I will be sharing anonymous stories of brave souls who have been wounded by the very ones who were supposed to protect, nurture, love and honor them. If you have a story to share, feel free to message me. I will listen and help you see how grieved God’s heart is by the abuse you have endured.
I know this topic makes many feel uncomfortable. If you are a leader and you have used your position of power to willfully wound others, you will not like this message. If you are a leader and you have unintentionally hurt others, I pray this message will encourage you to seek forgiveness from them and move toward reconciliation. No one is perfect. But, there are many who are knowingly abusing those in their care and I say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”
I pray that victims of spiritual abuse will feel validated, seen, heard and loved. That is the reason I am stepping out to begin this project. Time is short. We do not know what tomorrow holds. I am desperate to see hearts restored to the Father. I raise my voice for the ones who have been wounded in the deepest crevices of their souls. I call you back to the heart of the One who saw it all, heard it all and whose heart broke when your heart broke.
When you were abused, rejected and cast out by men and women who used His word to beat you up, THAT’S NOT GOD.
When you were sexually abused by a pastor or youth pastor, THAT’S NOT GOD.
When that abuse was hidden and covered up by other leaders in your church, THAT’S NOT GOD.
When you were told if you wanted to honor God, you would return to your adulterous and abusive spouse, THAT’S NOT GOD.
When your abuser was coddled and embraced and you were blamed for his sin, THAT’S NOT GOD.
When you were set aside because you were physically sick and not cared for by the church you served for years, THAT’S NOT GOD.
When you were overlooked for a ministry you were qualified for because you didn’t have a college degree, THAT’S NOT GOD.
When you were taught that abortion is wrong but you faced excommunication for a pregnancy before marriage, THAT’S NOT GOD.
When you were rejected by the “in crowd,” at church, THAT’S NOT GOD.
When you were judged for battling mental illness but never pointed to healing resources, THAT’S NOT GOD.
This collection may take some time to write and I thank each one who is willing to share their story to empower others. I invite you on this journey back to the heart of the perfect and loving Father. His arms are open wide.
His heart is revealed here: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-28 (NIV)
If you are a Christian woman who is rebuilding your life after abuse, join us here.