Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Heart

A guilty heart grows a forest of hate; fertilized by truth's silence.

     --Elizabeth Stoeckel
       January 1, 2014

I Resolve to Defend and Affirm

In 2nd Samuel, chapter 13, we read the tragic story of David's daughter, Tamar - a beautiful young girl.  One of her brothers (Amnon), fell in love with Tamar. The Bible says that Amnon was "frustrated to the point of illness on account of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her."

A friend of his suggested that he pretend to be sick and then ask for Tamar to bring him bread and care for him. Amnon did exactly that, and when his sister was close and tenderly caring for him, he grabbed her and raped her. Tamar begged him to not do this "wicked" thing, but Amnon defiled his sister.

After the rape, Amnon looked at Tamar who was lying next to him and the Bible said he "hated" her. Wow! Amnon had allowed the sexual fantasy to take over his thought life to the point that his thoughts finally gave way to action. But as is so often the case, the very thing he thought he wanted, became something to be scorned. A guilty heart grows a hateful forest! Amnon pushed Tamar out of his bed and told his servants to bolt the door so he would never have to look at her again.

Tamar had been wearing the ornamented robe worn by the virgin daughters of the king. When she left Amnon's room, she tore the robe, put ashes on her forehead, and ran weeping through the halls. Her brother, Absalom saw her and said, (vs. 20) "Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother. Don't take this thing to heart." The verse ends with these tragic words, "and Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's house, a desolate woman."

We never hear from Tamar again.

Sometimes it seems the easiest thing to do is to quietly sweep sin under the rug. We know of abuse, or neglect, and we turn a blind eye. This happens all the time in society, and just as often in church families. We don't want to make waves. We tell ourselves it's better to not ruin the reputation of a CEO, church deacon, teacher, or pastor, so we ignore the weeping woman running through the halls. We tell the offended to "be quiet now".

Of course abuse doesn't have to be in the form of sexual battery to be abuse. Gossip, lying, stealing, and manipulation are all offenses that are too often kept quiet, but the victims of these evils are still victims. Tamar's pain was never affirmed, and no one came to her defense, and so she lived the rest of her days a "desolate woman".

I know a young man who was sexually assaulted by a trusted mentor. For a period of time the incident was ignored and swept under the rug. The young man suffered in silence. Then one day a courageous pastor affirmed the young man's pain and promised to defend him, even if it meant personal loss to the pastor. There was public scrutiny and eventually a trial. The offender went to prison, and today the young man is emotionally healthy and serving the Lord. He had someone who affirmed his pain and came to his defense. Without the brave pastor who walked with him, that young man might today be living in desolation.

Make 2014 the year that we speak light and truth!  Defend someone today! If you know an innocent person who has been the victim of an assault of any kind—whether it is physical or emotional (gossip, judgmental words, etc…)—be brave enough to affirm their sadness, and then defend them if necessary. Do you know a "Tamar"—someone whose pain has been hushed in order to save the reputation of her abuser? Run to her (or him) today.  Your affirmation could save that person from a life of desolation.