Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bob Jones University: Hope Before the GRACE Storm

Update 2Jun15:  Follow up with the significance and effects of the GRACE Report for Bob Jones University at Bible Madness.

Original post 10Dec14:

My life has become tremendously busy, I've not done a tenth of that which I planned over the past two months, but I am grateful that a friend sent word to me about the status of the Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment's report concerning Bob Jones University.  Its release is planned for the morrow and concerns whether the school appropriately fulfilled their legal obligations to report felonies of physical and sexual abuse that were reported to them by their students.  It also addressed the manner in which the staff, the administration, the school's system of managing student behavior, and the counselors addressed the needs of the abused.  (Read more about tomorrow's announcement HERE.)

I wept as I listened to this address, but not for reasons that one might think.  Most of all, I wept because I identified with the memories of empty words and platitudes that I've heard from others in my own life who made similar statements to me in times of great need.  They truly wanted to mean what they said but didn't have it in themselves to even comprehend what they were saying.  I have been wounded by loved ones and by beloved ministers from whom I expected kindness and compassion but experienced revictimization instead.  Such promises, when proven empty, break a person's heart -- and sometimes their mind.  I don't believe that there is anything that is more painful in life -- including sexual or physical abuse itself.

I wept, thinking about what a mockery such lofty statements of the administration might prove to be if they are not sincere -- and I don't believe that they can be sincere.  It is one thing to be ignored.  It is another to be aided ineffectively.  But there is so much sting in the aftermath and backlash of an empty promise!  For BJU, it means that the immediate need of the comfort of the college administrators and their reputations has far more worth than the blood and tears and broken flesh of their little ones.  Only groaning can express the pain of that kind of betrayal when one finds that their highest hopes and desperate pleas for help and justice never meant much of anything.  I know too much of the malice that rides below the surface of language spoken in this address.

I really lost it when "beauty for ashes" met my cynical ears.  I have vowed to make such of my own story and have held to Isaiah's words for dear life all of my life.  Somehow, God can take something awful and make good use of it and can transform it into beauty beyond anything I can imagine.  I know that I likely will not see that goodness in this life, as one cannot see the design and artful beauty in the side of a tapestry.  Sometimes, you can see some patterns beginning to form, but the truly painful and seemingly senseless elements seen only from the back side often don't make sense from that vantage.  "Beauty for ashes" is a statement of love, hope, and tremendous faith -- for beauty can only come from the remains of loss through the miracle that only love and life can bring.  In love and because of love, I trust the Designer and His purpose.

My heart groaned and ached inside when I heard those words, and I prayed that they would not become yet another weapon of goodness to be used against those who are already so wounded.  But I know that for too many, the words will never be understood from those who think that they want to mean them, but don't have the depth of character and heart to do them justice.  And I know that for too many, the words are or will be cheap talk to give them cause to hate the Author.  There will be those in the middle who will give themselves to the hope in those words, wanting them to be true.  We all experience disappointment to some degree when we are broken, hoping for the best possible outcome.  Love believes and hopes all things and does not keep a record of wrongs.  But such a record must be made to stop the harming of the lambs who look to God for guidance because of wicked people who see them as without value.

I am reminded of the hard lessons of trusting empty words which are spoken by people who are unworthy of them to hurt others.  They are usually quite unworthy of the people they hurt and throw away.

But like that little whisper in the myth of Pandora's Box, I trust my own heart to that fleeting hope that God will work yet another beautiful miracle.  Like such things, I will likely not see it, but I hope that I can appreciate some beauty from the back side of the tapestry.  I hope mostly for the healing of the broken and bruised and shattered.  And I hope for the sake of those who will repeat the statement of BJU and those point to is as little more than a disclaimer, may they come to understand what it means in fullness.  I'm sad that I have much less hope for the latter.