Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Challenge for The Challenge

Our church newsletter is called The Challenge. Here is the article I wrote for the October edition. I took a risk and, after much thought, decided to disclose some of my personal struggles as a way to draw attention to the seriousness of violence in our communities and in our world. I would be interested to read your thoughts.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Two statistics always catch me off guard. It does not seem possible that:

~ One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

~ An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner every year.

While I do not know the particular trauma of domestic violence, I do know the trauma of assault. Several years before I came to South Church, I was the victim of a violent assault. It took me many weeks to recover physically from the assault. It has been a process of years to come to terms with it emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. I thank God each day that I am surrounded by loving friends, family, pastors, and counselors and am blessed to serve a loving congregation.

Yet, like many survivors of violence, I continue to deal with the post-traumatic effects of the assault. Several months may go by without a triggering event, but then something can happen that causes me to re-experience the trauma as if it were happening for the first time. I don’t write this so you will feel sorry for me. That is not my intention at all. My intention is to underscore the effects of violence and affirm that it can happen to anyone. I would not be surprised if someone reading this letter has had a similar experience.

While I completely support Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I wonder if every month shouldn’t be “Violence Awareness Month”? As Christians we need to take a stand against the many ways people perpetrate violence against each other. The effects of violence are long lasting and shape not just ourselves but our neighborhoods, our communities, and our world.

A favorite verse of mine reads:

For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.
~ 2 Timothy 1:7

Violence begets fear, but love is more powerful than fear. Let us not be afraid to stand up against violence in our homes, in our communities and in our world. Let us use our best thinking and our best loving, along with the power of the Holy Spirit, to spread peace.

On a somewhat related topic, several of you have met my new companion, Bady. Bady is a 14 month old German Shepherd Dog. After experiencing several triggering events this summer, it was suggested to me that some sufferers of post-traumatic stress do well with companion dogs. These dogs are trained to accompany their owners in their daily life and work, providing companionship and peace of mind. It is my hope that Bady may some day be certified as a therapy dog and accompany me to hospitals and nursing homes, but that would be down the road. At this point Bady is still in training ~learning what it means to be a pastor’s dog and companion at home and at church!

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