Cleansing From Our #metoo Experiences
When my oldest daughter was thirteen, she was bantering with a group of boys at the park when one of them made a sexual joke and they all started pointing and laughing at her. I found her sobbing in the bathtub where she was washing herself over and over saying, “Why did they do that? I feel so dirty! How do I get this off me??”
So began the real life education of our daughters about the world they will face as women.
This is a classic case of what I call being ‘slimed’ by the evil one. Imagine someone came up and threw a bucket of sewage directly in your face. Even though you wash it off, the smell and sensation sticks to you. It takes days or weeks to rub off. All of us have experienced an experience a sense of filth wash over you, when someone is spewing sexual comments or other negative emotions like bitterness, hatred, shame, fear, and the like. You feel unsettled, dirty, and violated.
There are many ways we are slimed in the spiritual realm through things we see, hear, or experience.
When we work with missionaries or NGO workers, many need a spiritual cleansing when they come out of the dark places where they are serving. This week I prayed with a dynamic woman working in the refugee camps in Lebanon. She is weary, the kind of weariness that has seeped deeply into her bones. “Is this compassion fatigue?” she asked. ‘Am I burnt out? Why am I so sad?” Years of work in the refugee camps has left a build of grime from chronic exposure to suffering.
And it’s not just those who tread the dark places of the globe who become weighted down over time with exposure to evil. The world is casting buckets of filth every day… through the news, conversations on social media, movies and TV shows, even through commercials and billboards.
Thankfully, Jesus offers a soul cleansing found in no other religion. My psychologist husband, who works extensively with abuse and trauma victims says that people often arrive using words like “dirty”, “violated”, or “filthy.” They have encounters with God and they say they feel like they’ve had a shower, a bath, or were washed in a fountain. But a few things are universal. There is always water. There is always cleansing. There is aways a ministry of the Spirit of God.
So how do we pursue spiritual cleansing from our sexual harassment and all the build up of grime that comes from living in a fallen world?
Bring things into the light.
What I love about the #metoo campaign is the invitation to bring things into the light. Secrecy is one of the tool of darkness. Secrets give power to shame and fear. Bringing things into the light doesn’t necessarily mean we have to tell our experiences on social media, but tell someone. When we hear others speak the truth of how we were wronged, the healing of shame begins. Of course, just bringing things into the light will not completely heal our wounds, but will certainly start the healing journey.
Invite the cleansing of the Holy Spirit.
When we become a Christian, God sends His Spirit to come live in us. In that place where no bathwater or scrubbing can reach, God’s Spirit can give us a bath. And we ALL need a cleansing from our own sin and the sins others have committed against us. We will need access to that cleansing over and over.
With my weary friend who works in the refugee camp, we began with a cleansing prayer over her body, soul, mind, and spirit. We invited God’s Spirit to minister to her ears, asking Him to bring to mind the specific sounds she has heard– the guttural cries of grief, the desperate and pleading cries for help. We then invited God to minister her eyes, asking Him to bring to mind the suffering mothers and widows, the catatonic children, the young women violated and hopeless. We invited God to cleanse every part of her being– her mind, her memories, her body, her emotions, and her spirit. This woman needed a bath– a spiritual bath because of the ground she regularly walks in her life calling.
Ask for cleansing from your own sins.
While you are cleaning house, a full spiritual cleaning will always include a time of confessing your own sin. Even when we have been victimized, we may have things to confess. Sometimes we need to confess the hatred we have harbored towards the other person. Other times we need to confess that the damage we incurred emotionally led us to make a lot of terrible choices later on. And there’s always filth that has built up over time that needs cleansing that won’t be related to that situation at all.
Now is the time– clean it out. Confess what you have done wrong. The Gospel in a nutshell is this– Jesus took all the filth of the world on Himself in the ultimate act of love. Anyone who turns to him and confesses their sin will be cleansed. The filth is washed away and we were we to see into the spiritual realm, we would be wearing a beautiful white robe of righteousness. Think of it as the ultimate spiritual cleanse!
Release your offender to God.
We have all been wronged by others. Even though you may have no contact with those who have hurt you, in your heart you can still be bound by unforgiveness and hatred. Forgiveness in its simplest form is releasing someone from the debt they owe you.
I was recently working with someone whose grandfather sexually abused members of her family. When I asked if she might be ready to forgive him, she said, “Why would I forgive that type of behavior?” So I asked, “Do you think you can release him to Jesus and let Jesus decide what to do with him?” That she could do. God is a just God. Forgiveness means we let God take care of the judgement of that person, you do not need to carry that responsibility anymore.
Forgiveness is not saying what that person did is okay. In fact, forgiveness acknowledges just how wrong that person was in what they did. We may feel better by heaping shame onto our offender in the short run, but it actually won’t bring healing. Forgiveness is often a process, with stages of healing. My husband has compiled a fantastic one page resource from his favorite books on forgiveness that you can download here: Forgiveness Handout.
Expect the need to pursue healing from multiple angles.
Taking a spiritual bath will not necessarily heal you at every level of your being. Sometimes God simultaneously heals us at multiple levels, and other times, we will need to seek additional healing: emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Sexual assault (and sexual sins), in particular, fall into a unique category— they are sins committed against our body and spirit, and they deeply affect our emotions and will. Expect a journey towards healing and wholeness over time.
But your spiritual cleansing will always be the most important layer of healing and connect you to the One who will empower you to forgive and move forward.
Use the spiritual resources, we are given as Christians to protect yourself.
Unfortunately, living in this world means we will be slimed. Many of us have people or situations we are unable to escape: a toxic parent relationship, a depressing work environment, or a volatile person. My girls were in a school system that used shame to both motivate and discipline. Whenever a teacher began to go on a tirade berating the class, we trained our girls to start silently praying the armor of God over their spirits (Ephesians 6), because they were not to receive a bucket of shame being spewed out by their teachers. Thankfully, these prayers drastically reduced the slime affect in their school day.
Get off the sewage path.
But the truth is, we can make choices to lessen the amount of filth we are exposed to daily. There are pathways which are laden with sewage and there is a path of Life. Begin to pay attention to situations where you feel the lingering filth — certain TV shows or movies, the gossiping or crass co-worker, the judgemental friend. This is your life– step away from situations where you are being perpetually slimed.
The guidelines given in Scripture are designed for your good, not to restrict and punish you. And ultimately, you are following a Person, not a bunch of rules because Jesus Himself said, “I am the Road.” (John 14:6)
And THIS is what our God promises:
For here’s what I’m going to do:
I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean.
I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you.
I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and
replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed.
I’ll put my Spirit in you and
make it possible for you to do what I tell you
and live by my commands.
You’ll once again live…
You’ll be my people!
I’ll be your God!
May we continue to point our daughters, sisters, and friends to the only One who can truly cleanse our souls from the slime of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Meet you at the fountain!