Why "We Are All the Duggars" Isn't All There Is

I need to start by telling all of you who read my post, Speak, thank you. To the non-victims who said, "Whoa. I had no idea. But I hear you and am thinking about what you said," thank you. To the victims who said, "Here's my story. I'm in a different place than you but I feel safe, like it matters that I'm heard," thank you. To those who could barely get out the words, who said they felt like my speaking was the first time they felt heard? Oh my dears, it is my honor that I might be able to, in this long-winded form of mine, say anything that you feel helps you be heard.

A lot of people are being hit by this whole Duggar thing--and other headlines about stories of abuse coming out of well-respected churches--differently. Pretty much everyone agrees abuse is horrible and yet we can't agree on what abuse actually is. I hope it's clear to you, reader, whether you're here because you're trying to understand victims or my words make you feel understood as a victim, that I'm not terribly interested in every little detail of the Duggars. This isn't the place to argue about what was exactly right or wrong then or what's exactly right or wrong now. How could I even presume to know that? I've intentionally not given you a checklist of what I think counts as abuse and the Law Manual for how to go about it. That's not really the point, not for my writing. My goal is simply to give a voice to the legion of us for whom this entire situation is like a bomb just blew up in our face.

There are a lot of resources and opinions and it's not my heart's intent to force you to think or respond a certain way. My sincere hope in my post was that it might just help people see a tragically common person who has spent her life being surrounded by people, even church people, yet being unseen. Maybe hiding my real self, but you might understand why if you sat with me and I was safe enough to speak. For me, personally, the Duggar thing just brought up a lot of junk I was wrestling through, from all kinds of angles. I realized that I could hurt in silence, because it seemed like my suffering is at best a caveat or afterthought, or I could speak.

But something needs to be very clear: it's ok to speak to victims, in very carefully wrought circumstances. Especially the church. I support trying to shed some grace and light on situations like these--I know that's what I'm trying to do. The church just so often tends to blow it. They either say nothing and blame victims for being too screwed up to even try (imagine if Jesus treated us that way!) so they talk about all the lessons to be learned to prevent, and people eat it up because the thought of our babies being sexually assaulted terrifies us. Or the church tries to jump right over the suffering to get to how sinful everyone is, so let's all drop our stones. In doing so, they miss the woman caught in adultery that Jesus was there to save. And he stayed with her, didn't chase down the stone throwers. And, yes, in that situation, she was there for sin, but it's not a huge jump to think someone living that desperately likely would have been doing so based out of great pain. Even if not, Jesus cared about her.

This brings me to the heart of my post. First, I ask you to go read this article about why, even in the church, we are still blowing it in how we tend to handle abuse victims. I don't even support the way the murderer Josh is condemned, for what it's worth. Just how some criminals committing particular crimes are treated in a way that their victims are left, once again, thinking, "This hole in my gut is my own fault because clearly it doesn't mean much to anyone else."

So that article about the two Josh's? I can tell you that as I read it my soul cried out, "YES," and I didn't even realize I was crying until I felt tears drip off my chin. It isn't about who's right or wrong; it's about the fact that people matter and somehow everyone is so busy defending themselves against the worst ugly we're seeing out there (especially from those we don't like) that we are missing people right in front of us.

I know from the overwhelming response to my post that, while I absolutely still don't speak for every abuse victim, my words were the first time a LOT of us felt like we even had a voice. So many messages came to me through sobs of the soul that never once lamented or spouted anger at not being heard. They were just beyond relieved that for the first time they felt like someone was speaking to them and for them. They hoped people would hear, but weren't demanding it.

But as I said in my first post, we just hope that by speaking you will hear us, and our vulnerable cry is asking you to listen. And if we don't speak you can definitely never hear.

This post is hard for me to write, because Liberate changed my life. I have written time and time again about how Tullian Tchividjian's preaching and books and his Liberate ministry have changed my life. I still recommend Glorious Ruin to people over and over--and right now it's only $1.99 on Kindle and if you don't already have it GO BUY IT. Jesus changed my life so much through the message of Liberate that I'm planning a tattoo related to how Jesus set me free via Tullian, a mark permanently inked into my skin to visually remind me of the freedom engraved on my soul.

However, I see a tendency in my heart to excuse the stuff I don't like from "my team" as mistakes and the stuff from the "other" guys, who don't get the Gospel like I do, and that's wrong. It's arrogant and presumptuous. I'm on the team that preaches we're ALL actually that bad, to think things like I just described, and it's just as wrong when I do it as when others do it. We're the ones imploring people to live under grace and not law. So when we get it wrong, we should be the most free to admit it.

So, this Liberate article was painful for me. As I read it, the sinner in me cried out, "YES!" I agree with every word, in that Jesus' blood wasn't more needed for Josh Duggar's sin than it was for mine. I am legitimately grieved for the Duggar family--I saw some disgusting, vile things said to them on Twitter and I don't care what they did. It's wrong. Nothing that this situation brings up for me is more legitimate than the truth that in that Liberate post, because I don't deny my rags are equally filthy.

But my suffering is as legitimate. When abuse victims and some who advocate for us pointed out to the article's authors that their words minimized abuse, even if unintentionally, there was a tweet by one of the authors that said we all think our rags aren't as filthy as someone else's, which Tullian retweeted. But there has been silence on the front of why, perhaps, it's at least a disservice to say nothing to the abused.

And I realized we still aren't being heard.

So let me make something VERY CLEAR: I DO NOT believe that there is no redemption for perpetrators. At the risk of even offending other victims, I believe what Josh Duggar did was wrong, and it is a sin that is HORRIFIC. I also firmly believe that if he, or any other abuser no matter how vile, is in Christ that sin absolutely is covered. Jeffrey Dahmer tortured and raped and mutilated and cooked and ate his victims. He claimed he found forgiveness in Christ before his own murder, and I believe Jesus that even Jeffrey Dahmer's sins were made white as snow if he was in Christ.

That is scandalous grace, the kind that if Jesus came today, in the flesh, to call his followers then he'd pick the people that piss you off the most.

He'd take Ann Coulter and Michael Moore.

He'd get an IRS official and a libertarian who wants to end the Federal Reserve.

He'd grab the black man being beat nearly to death for a minor offense and the white cop who did it.

He'd grab a Mormon missionary off his bike in Suburbia, USA and the guy making fun of him with a joint rolled up in his fingers.

He'd call the radical who sold everything to take the Gospel to Africa and the corrupt head of the missions organization embezzling funds.

He'd tell the Coptic Christian beheaded by ISIS that today he'll be with Jesus in paradise and Jesus would tell the man covered in blood to drop the sword and follow him. 

The child dead from cancer and the Westboro Baptist man protesting her funeral and the biker standing in between.

He'd get a girl off the table in an abortion clinic after the deed was done and then, on their way out, beckon one of the protestors holding the sign with a chopped up aborted baby.

The homeschooling fundamentalist Christian mother of 19 who actively advocates against gay marriage and the lesbian feminist burning bras.

He'd walk into a room with a child being raped by a man who bought the boy via sex slavery and he'd rescue the child and tell the man, "You, come too."

He'd take the little girl molested thousands of times from birth who never gets over it and he'd welcome in her father who violated her.

Do you see it? It's scandalous. It's ABSOLUTELY meant to wreck and offend us on every level.

I am not asking anyone to suspend the Gospel so that victims can be coddled.

I think the most harmful assertion made to me privately by one of the authors of the Liberate article was that the church only speaks in sin and grace and the state wields the sword. Victims want the pound of flesh that God gives to the state; God gives souls to the church. When I shared, carefully and gently, that it might be wise to have a follow-up article working with Boz Tchividjian or Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, he thought I was asking him to speak for the victims and said,

"People are too hurt. Too angry. I would be killed by those I was trying to speak for."

That broke my heart. Because I think this man genuinely hoped his article would serve the purpose of only setting people free. To see that when we rail against Josh Duggar or his "evil" parents we deny ourselves the freeing grace that comes with seeing that we are equally sinful in the sense that we have no stone to throw. We cannot base our righteousness on not being as bad as them. Our righteousness is worthless when compared to the only one who matters--the spotless, unblemished Lamb of God slain on our behalf. And that--seeing that we can actually love and forgive others because Christ has forgiven us of all? What a beautiful, beautiful article that every soul needs.

But I wasn't asking him to speak for me. I was asking him to consider a post that speaks to me about why we can't only talk in terms of sin and forgiveness. Not if our subject matter pertains to child sexual abuse. I was asking for acknowledgment that to think the church is only meant to speak to our sin but not our suffering in the context of sexual abuse was at least an oversight.

I don't think this man, nor Liberate writ large, actually believe the Gospel has nothing to say to suffering, nor even that Liberate shouldn't be a place a sufferer can come find as much freedom as the sinner; Tullian's book Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Makes You Free was actually the primary place where I found Gospel healing for my profound suffering on a number of fronts. I just think that the outcry against the blog author for what he thought would be a really powerful, healing post has him reeling and he can't even see what he was implying when he said the church only speaks to sin and grace. He meant not justice but he blew right past me when I said he missed suffering.

Our mantle, taken today.

So back to that Liberate post. I want to it be clear: the original post didn't offend me. Again, the sinner in me cried, "YES! IT IS FINISHED!" The sufferer in me whispered through tears, "But is it finished?"

What hurt was seeing the defense of the post on Twitter. The tweet from an author of the article and then retweet about filthy rags from Tullian. The silence. And then the, "Thank you to the positive people." While still saying nothing to the people like me, the hurting people who weren't throwing knives, who were gently saying, "I think you are missing what I'm trying to tell you."

And I hurt for that man, the blog author who reached out to me. And let's credit him: he reached out to me after I tweeted to him. That speaks to character. But I hurt for him. You know why? He's suffering. Doesn't matter why. People are angry and in their own hurt they're just flailing about hurting people. And others use anonymity on the internet to say evil things. Wouldn't shock me to hear this guy has a hard time discerning the constructive, loving voices from the crazy hatred. 

I can only assume he's confused and hurting and clinging to the only things that seem really, really true and important. His original post was really, really true and important, and I still maintain that. I just believe it was incomplete. And, by the Liberate website filtering out gentle feedback in the comments about why the post has been harmful to victims who feel dismissed,  approving only those singing high praise, those of us who are hurting are being told once again that sin is all that matters. "Look how ugly! It's in you too! What is this you say about your suffering? Sure, I believe you. But that's an assumed and we're going to talk about the real stuff. And it kinda seems like you are just trying to skirt out from under your sin." Again, I bet moderators don't mean that; but when Biblical counseling tends to be, "I'm sorry for what happened to you. It was evil. Now let's talk about how you have sinned in response," then we feel silenced when even the websites we trust the most to care for our sin and our suffering only want to talk about our sin.

But I need to finish with one final analogy. This is, I believe, a powerful analogy that I hope can bring defenses down. This isn't about anyone against anyone. It's just that if the same site founded by the guy that wrote the most Gospel-oriented, life changing book on suffering that I have ever read can completely miss why even their best intent hurt so many people, maybe I can be Nathan and put all of of our eyes on a humble farmer and his one sheep, if you will.

To me, and many others in similar and related ways, my childhood sexual abuse had such a profound impact on my soul that this is the best way I can describe it to you; I'm going to talk about how you tend to miss me and why even your best intent, beloved Christian sibling, might cause damage you couldn't have anticipated when I tell you that you missed me (a HUGE risk for me) and you refuse to budge. I am hoping I can help you understand something so profoundly misunderstood.

The childhood sexual abuse against me, only very lightly and carefully detailed in my last post, took the body of my soul and forever handicapped it. My primary abuser, my own father, told me he loved me and then he took a rusty hacksaw and started maiming me. It was meticulous at first, careful little amputations of my toes at a time when I was a newborn baby. But as I grew older, sometimes he said it was loving to not make me have such a crooked stump at my ankle, so he grabbed an axe and lopped my left leg off just below the knee. Chunks and pieces of my soul painfully hacked away. I was alive, but grotesquely maimed, and I didn't even realize what was missing until many years later.

Every time I adjusted and learned to crawl through life, he or another abuser took something else. Some of my fingertips are missing, too.  Or sometimes he would just tie me down, cut me so he could see me bleed. When I learned not to cry, to try and escape my body until it was over (in most of my memories of the abuse I view it like a camera above the scene; this is no mistake. I wanted to not be there). But when I mentally escaped, he'd slowly and cruelly slide the blade into my skin and then move it around to increase the pain. He'd put his face right next to mine, his eyes boring into me, his raunch breath hot against my face. He did that so often that sometimes I feel like my cheeks are permanently flushed from his very body heat meant to confuse me about where mine stopped and his began. He knew I would forever have his evil against me interwoven not just into my physical DNA but my being.

And that would be hard enough to live with psychologically, but, for me, my soul's body is covered in scars and my legs are gone at the hip. The Gospel took my ragged stumps, surgically opened them up, and with a surgeon's precision made the bones as cleanly cut as possible, made my stumps as softened as possible, made my life as bearable as possible with what I now have. My legs are still gone and my body is covered in grotesque scars, in my soul and spirit.

Maybe that makes you uncomfortable. That is my daily reality.

Let me tell you at the outright that because of the Gospel, because of grace, I have been given the great and gracious gift of realizing that while I would have NEVER chosen to go through life without legs, the fact is God revealed something precious to me. A lot of people think they can run this race on their own, that simply having working legs gives them the ability to run real fast and impress God real good. They are wrong, even know they are wrong, but can't even help but live like it's true. But I know I can't impress God by running. Sometimes I foolishly think I might get real strong in the arms to compensate, sure; but most of the time I praise God that because I can't even pretend my legs work I can know how God has already run for me.

But no matter how much my legs heal, no matter how much glory my sweet Jesus gets when people see me letting him be my legs, my legs are gone. My life is just different than it would be had my limbs never been taken. In my case, all I knew in my childhood was torture and pain, so I don't even really know what to yearn for because I never lived knowing what I would later lose it. I can only imagine what it's like to have regular scrapes and scars of childhood.

And that is bad enough. Really. If it ended there, it would be rough to have lost my legs and just rip-your-guts-out awful how they were taken. But it gets worse. Because sometimes things happen like the situation with the Duggars and it's like I am right back there--the gag is in my mouth and the terror is in my eyes and I can smell the blood and I feel him in my flesh and hear my bone break and dear god how much of my leg is gone now and the grotesque sound as he tosses part of me I'll never get back to the ground and this is all I know to be real in this very moment.

Is it hard for you to read that? Hard to believe? Hard to not to throw up or grab your kids and run for the hills just because that happened to someone on this same earth that you walk? Because I swear to you, if I weren't writing about me, I could not be writing this. I write as someone under the grace to have seen Jesus enter that scene and lay down on that table in my place. I have felt the Father draw me into his embrace as Jesus suffers in my place. I have known this grace. That is the only reason I can even try to help you understand by telling you about it. I hope you have compassion for the others who aren't where I am, able to openly be this broken.

So I am begging you, hear me. I do not deny my filthy rags. I have no claim to them being less filthy than my abuser's filthy rags because mud is mud. I am not theologically arguing that nor do I believe to have even implied it. Plus, by your own theological assertion, even if I stood pointing at my abuser's rags saying, "Jesus, but HIS rags are worse," even that sin is covered and I'm still robed in silken cloth gleaming white as virgin snow.

But if you are in this kind of situation, the kind that touches on abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, you must understand that when you feel your only role is to talk about how filthy all our rags are there are going to be people like me. Mud is flying all around us both. Both of our hands are dirty. But as you try to assess why people are throwing mud, I am flailing on the groud crying out to Jesus because I'm in that moment where my abuser just violated me, again and all at once and my blood is gushing. I'm screaming, "WHERE ARE MY LEGS? HE JUST CUT OFF MY LEGS!"

If you stand in front of me, impervious to the fact that your filthy rags are soiled red with the plasma spurting wildly from my veins, and all you can say to me is, "But look. Your rags have the same mud and grease and excrement as your abuser's, and that is what Christ would have me say to you as his bride," then even in my best attempt to understand you I'm just not going to hear it the way you wanted me to. I'm not even denying you the opportunity to point out my rags; hopefully you'll have the compassion to wait until I stop bleeding but if you never even acknowledge the gushing wounds? I can only gently say to you that Jesus immediately dressed my wounds and never once mentioned how much my clothes stank as he did so. Later? Yes. Through tender and compassionate and merciful patient words. But not when the wounds were still fresh and certainly not when I was on the ground gushing blood.

And let me give you the benefit of the doubt--maybe you honestly couldn't see me. All you saw was the mud flying all through the air, everyone trying to get someone else dirtier so they feel better in comparison. Maybe you got hit in the face with a rock and you're thinking, "Enough! Our Lord has made us all clean and we all have dirt so why don't we point each other to our righteousness," and that was all you were trying to do? I get it. I sincerely, really do. I told you--I ain't even mad.

I'm just hoping you can begin to understand why your compassionate appeal to recognize our own filthy rags missed the full audience. You saw the mud and I get it. But you didn't pause to see the blood, especially those flailing in blood and panicked the second the mud started flying. And I am not upset that you didn't pause nor am I holding it over your head to pause in the future. But RIGHT NOW, in this moment, I am giving you the opportunity to see that you telling me that my filthy rags--sin and grace--are the only thing that matter is every bit as extreme as if I tell you the only thing that matters is my gushing blood.

And finally, this: I don't doubt you had no idea. But if you tell me that someone close to you, whose opinion you regard highly, was amputated at the elbow but they really loved your article before you posted it, then I praise God. Truly. Not snarkily, truly. I'm simply telling you that this is where I am, and the truth is a lot of others are here with me. Perhaps part of the reason so many of us struggle is that because other people got their leg hacked off but graciously were fitted right away with a prosthetic and they never even notice, so that's what you say when we try to speak up about being handicapped. God did that for them, so he can do that for us. The assumption is that we don't want that kind of healing, or are making some sort of choice to be this jacked up.

THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS is where the church so often blows it. God doesn't need me to run so he can get glory. For some people he does that. But that hasn't been my story. My story is that my legs are gone and they're never coming back and PRAISE JESUS for wheelchairs. My story is that no matter how much I heal and experience grace without legs, I still have to sometimes relive how I lost them. Yet a lot of the church says, "I have scars, too, and I'm fine. I get suffering. So you've read the Bible! Believe! Rise up and walk!" They need to be the one to help adjust my spiritual mind so that God miraculously regenerates my legs. And I ain't just talking "healing" denominations here. Some miracles-are-dead conservatives are the worst, because they assume what this world needs is a bunch of people to walk tall and recite the verses that made it possible, the real miracle. What a horrible travesty.

But can you see, perhaps, that even your most beautiful, redemptive doctrine of, "It is finished," regarding sin alone can echo those same hollow commands? If you only address the sin and mercy, but not the suffering and grace, you are implying that all that matters is sin so stop bleeding and receive that grace for your sin already. And when I can't stop bleeding you misread my cries to Christ for mercy as, "CRUCIFY THEM," to those with muddy hands.

So, dear brothers and sisters, we are all the Duggars in the sense that we all live messy, complicated lives. We handle things horribly and often try to minimize and spiritualize it. But only some of us are the Duggar victims, and while our reactions vary, to address only the way the sin of our abuser is covered but not our excruciating suffering? You miss so much of the Gospel.

I am met with the power of the whole Gospel. Christ removes my rags of filth from the mud pit, indeed. He also tenderly pulls off my garments so bloodied that when peeled off my own skin goes with them. But he cleanses me, dresses my wounds, and adorns me in fresh, white linens and declares me righteous.

Now this is more specifically to Liberate, to the men who wrote "We Are All the Duggars", to Tullian, to the staff who moderated the comments, even to those defending the article as perfectly fine and pretty much writing off those asking for support for victims as bloodthirsty:

The beauty of the Gospel is that you can see why leaving out grace for profound suffering was erroneous. You can help everyone who only heard the part about freedom from their sin with your original post hear Jesus declare freedom over our suffering, as well.

Let's let the Gospel we ourselves declare shine! You missed the mark when you failed to graciously speak freedom to the captives of suffering. You can own it, and share why God's grace in suffering needs to be spoken right now. Don't be the person in filthy rags swearing your motives were clean. Even if they were, it could have been an actual mistake. But then you defended it, defended denial to speak to suffering as right due to a thirsty mob. That is flat our wrong and it was intentional. Let's be the Christians who actually own it when we were wrong because we're free in Jesus as much as we say we are!


And Tullian, do you know why I love you so much? Why I read your books and came to your conference to meet you? Because I have seen you own your sin. Not in the, "How can I escape the consequences?" way. In the, "I am the chief of sinners and you see this, right here? Last week? That thing I said publicly? I was wrong. I need Jesus as desperately as I say I do and now I get to allow you to see it." That's true humility. That's real strength in your weakness. So I implore you not as a fangirl, not a someone waiting for you to screw up so I can write you off, but as a sister who was wept and rejoiced with you as you have lived your life so authentically before me. I'm asking you to address this issue. The Gospel is not a one trick pony of just filthy rags, and you wrote the book that changed my life and teared up when I met you and wept about how thankful I am for you. I love you. I  won't love you or respect you less if don't address this. I'll just be really, really sad and praying you eventually come around.

Yes, this is about that Liberate article, but isn't it really for all of us? How we all miss the people right in front of us? And if I am offending you, blowing past you, let's work it through. I mean that with sincerity. I trust the Lord can show my sin, and I have repented to siblings in Christ in the last few days because I was clinging to my suffering to the point that I flung mud at them. We experienced such beauty as the Gospel entered in, and there was grace abounding. To our sin and our suffering on all sides.



I come to you today heavy hearted. Weary. Broken in spirit. Haunted. Sleepless. Empty from weeping.

You have heard about the Duggar situation. I would be shocked if you hadn't, being as you found this post and are reading it on the internet. I am not going to argue with you about whether the Duggars represent Christians or not. I am not going to try to prove to you why their religious fundamentalism is unhealthy. I'm not going to fight with you about whether the state produces hardened sex criminals who just went in confused, or any other basis for why the church and parents should be able to handle sexual abuse apart from the authorities.

Even more, I don't deny the existence of the culture war that is why you feel you need to be #TeamDuggar because even though you aren't, not really, you are #TeamJesus so now you see this situation as one where you have to fight on behalf of all who claim Christ. I don't deny you the ability to go fight. I just refuse to engage on the front lines of the battle with you. I'm going to go back into the shattered homes with people huddling in the rubble and pray I can speak to them about Jesus and his grace, to be the Bride of Christ to them. I'm hoping you might come listen in for just a moment.

Maybe, just maybe, you'll be the Church and join me.

In thinking through this blog post, I had every intention of starting with two stories about how abuse destroyed the lives of two people I love. I wanted you to see the three-year-old girl raped by the 14-year-old neighbor boy, then again by him 3 years later because his parents thought they could handle it better than the cops, how her own parents thought she'd be fine if they just never talked about it and she forgot it happened. She never forgot. Similarly, I planned to tell you about the five-year-old girl sold to sexual predators over and over under the umbrella of religious fundamentalism because that rigid, clean, "god-fearing" environment which espoused the evils of CPS out to steal their kids was the perfect place to hide--both for the parents who sold her as a sex slave and for the host of pedophiles. I wanted you to see that these are the victims we are silencing and heaping shame upon when we wave our flags of, "Don't you dare demonize Christian homeschoolers!", or, "This is unfair abuse of Bible-believing Christians by the God-hating liberal media!"

And I thought about sharing links to articles that articulate more healthy Christian responses that focus on the victims, but then realized that if a word like "affirming" or "feminist" or "egalitarian" appeared in a positive light anywhere on the website the preponderance, if not all, of what the author had to say would be discarded as tainted by their theology.

So to tell the truth, I decided not to write this post. I figured everyone out there can fight their culture war and lobby shells over the front lines about who the real hypocrites are because I would rather, literally and figuratively, go home and grab a blanket and lose myself in the problems of Eric and Tami Taylor and their Dillon Panthers. Those problems don't make me long for death the way my social media with my own friends does right now. And if you think I am being dramatic, you don't know anything about PTSD or abuse or the way the Church writ large absolutely fails to care for the oppressed.

Then I remembered the huddling people. The ashen faces of those told God cares more about the war against rampant homosexuality and sex outside of marriage than about the fact that the very soldiers who believe God's sending them into battle are the same ones who harmed and failed and abused these hiding people.

And I realized that I don't need to appeal to your heart, beg God to open your eyes, with the stories of those I love.

The Holy Spirit gently affirmed in me that he would have me come tell you about me.

I do not want to, not really, because of the backlash or simply being written off it may invite. But SOMEONE has to go speak to the broken people and, while I don't presume to speak for everyone, my story might help stop the abuse that you, Christian, don't think you are perpetuating.

You may not listen, but if I don't speak you definitely will never hear.

I was sexually abused by my biological father repeatedly from birth until I was nine years old. I believe there was about a two year break from age 5 to age 7, but my childhood memories are more hole-parts than filled in ones. I can't be certain exactly when it started, because the man, Chuck, as recently as a few years ago still denied that he ever did anything other than love me appropriately and well. However, due to evidence my mom found and his reaction to it, which she says she only pieced together five years later when I first told her about the abuse, my mom believes it started at latest when I was about a week old.

The way I found out it was wrong was when a "good touch / bad touch" presentation was given at my preschool. Concerned that I kept trying to speak up but then silencing myself when everyone would look at me, my teachers told my mom at pick-up that they had grave concerns that someone was harming me. When my mom asked me, which she did almost right away, I simply told her that my daddy touched me in the bad touch areas in the bad touch ways all of the time. She immediately went to the authorities, and, long tragic story made short, unfortunately I was so young and so confused--and Chuck was so manipulative and had the money for a good lawyer while my now single mom had minimal resources--that the case was thrown out. My mom seemed to be a vindictive woman who put lies into my head as a means to destroy the husband she despised and was secretly stocking money away from so she could leave. They gave her the divorce and him a free pass.

Oh, and this is crucial: Chuck had been accused of sexual abuse in the past. He swore to his mother that it wasn't as bad as they said, but that the mistakes he did make he was profoundly sorry for. He was changed. He beseeched his devoutly Christian mother to forgive him, to let him start over and prove how changed he was. So, when he met and dated and then married my mom, his own mother kept her word, didn't forsake her forgiveness, and said nothing.

Chuck, then, was given shared custody with no limitations, and, though I have no time frame for this, waited just long enough for suspicion to wane before he began abusing me again. At this point, my mom was so destroyed by all of these events that I felt like I needed to protect her so I said nothing and endured the abuse. There are other reasons, but for the protection of some other parties I won't go into detail. I will tell you that simply reading the Duggar police report made horrible memories of being a little girl going through the same process of naming body parts and talking about what happened to me feel like it was right now. I spent my fifth birthday being interviewed by police officers, so proud to prove to them how well I knew my ABCs and completely oblivious to the gravity of why they were there.

When I spoke up about the abuse a second time, at age 9, my mom exhorted me to go tell a school counselor. The courts, she said, would not listen to her but if I detailed the abuse to a mandatory reporter it might actually be rightfully prosecuted this time around. And it was. But, again due to parts of this story not mine to tell, Chuck only served 5 years in prison. He has been out in this world, walking the streets of a city just 3 hours from where I now live, since I was 16 years old.

So, in many ways, you can say the system failed me.

I still am a fervent advocate for always and immediately going to the authorities when sexual abuse is discovered. I do not care if you are a Christian or a church or how good you think your theology is to deal with sin--go to the authorities.

Let me tell you why: with great trepidation, I ask you to imagine for a moment a confused little girl sexually abused hundreds or even thousands of times by her own father, a man she loves deeply. Imagine the manipulation and grooming and lies he must place in her, speak over her, write on her soul, to be able to keep his dark deeds against her hidden for so many years. And yes, even imagine with compassion how wounded and psychologically sickened and disturbed that man is to plan and act out his horrific sexual desires for a small child.

I was told how sick he was. How wrong he was. How I did nothing wrong and it wasn't my fault, it was all him. No one even encouraged me to forgive him--to this day most of my family openly admits they hope he burns in hell. I don't, but I'll get to that. But do know that, though my first memory of life is him abusing me, I have just as many memories of missing him and not understanding why my daddy was sent away...and then of profound guilt when I finally realized that it was my fault that he was gone.

Me, just days after the abuse was first discovered;
what you don't see is how many tears I cried that my
daddy wasn't there for the family photo shoot.

If you are thinking it wasn't my fault, and how I should have known that, then, again, you have no idea how the psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage done by abuse works.

Now, on the one hand, no longer was my abuser someone within the four walls of my home. I didn't have to see him at the table for meals on a daily basis or know his bedroom was still just down the hall from my own as I tried to sleep. And no, he never said he was sorry, but even if he had, I didn't have to live in fear because of how he still abused me even after I was told he could never hurt me again and how being in my home kept opportunity for him to reoffend close.

Neither of these reasons are why, to this day, what he did to me torments me. For sake of an attempt at brevity, let me lay out just a tiny bit of why I am still tormented.

1. Despite much actual biblical counseling and grace after meeting Jesus later in life, I still wake up from nightmares that Chuck has me in a room and I, at this age of adulthood, want to lock out the world and engage in illicit sexual activity with him. Despite hating everything he did to me as a child and never once feeling sexual pleasure during his abuse, wrong Christian teaching that I probably have some sort of evil pleasure lingering in my psyche fueling the nightmares is something I fight against to this day. I wake up equally relieved that it isn't real--no, he's not here and no, I don't want to have sex with him--and then fearing what ugly must lie in my soul that in my dreams I do want him.

2. Chuck's abuse and destruction of my soul and poor responses by my mom and stepfather made me easy prey for other abusers. I was sexually abused by multiple men, none strangers to our family, and some of the men were family members that no one else in my family knows about to this day. The best attempts to make me "be ok" after my abuse led to me thinking only really evil people do harm. Being programmed against my father as such meant that when other "good" men harmed me I excused their abuse as mistakes that they didn't mean because I was afraid the greater evil would be if their lives and families were destroyed by the authorities because I spoke out.

Oh, and those nightmares? They happen about the other men, too. Sleep isn't real fun for me.

3. Simply being sexually abused carries deep wounds of shame. I ALWAYS default to thinking things are my fault. Always. No matter what happens to me, I search and try to find out why I deserve the other person's sin. Even when I am actually blameless in a situation, I desperately search for a way I can find fault to basically say, "Look, I was super evil and so you sorta made a mistake that was kinda bad in response, so let's forgive one another and move on."

Those are just three ways, but you can only imagine the way they thread throughout and touch all parts of my life.

I am begging you to read those three points again and imagine the torment that is still within me. Imagine carrying all of that, and THEN being told by the church and other Christians that I need to forgive Chuck so God can save him. When I share that I actually do pray Chuck meets Jesus, receives the scandalous grace of forgiveness for what he did to me just as I have experienced said grace, how I want him to know the freedom I have known both for my sin and the cleansing of the sin against me, I am told the proof of that forgiveness would be in my finding Chuck and telling him to his face. Even to have ongoing relationship--with boundaries, of course, of course--so that he can see how real God's grace is because he sees it in me in person and with access to my life. That's real grace and forgiveness, I am told; my words and testimony about the state of my soul are just theoretical, probably what I want to be true, but my actions could prove Jesus.

This is me, at a week old.
That precious baby girl was already being sexually abused by that beaming father.
But what a good, happy looking family, no? At least we weren't on TV.

I am told the torture and trauma and horrors I have to face over and over and over again don't matter much to God. What does matter is that I get over it. I need to believe how clean God made me--hurry up! Even worse is being told to repent of my sinful unbelief that I am clean, because that is worse than the abuse. I didn't choose to be abused but I'm choosing the shame. I need to stop preventing God's work, believe I'm clean and safe purely because God exists, so I should go have relationship with Chuck so then God can save Chuck's soul.

I beg God to save Chuck's soul. The thought of him burning for eternity and seeing his evil sin as he suffers haunts me. Lord, may it not be so! But praise God that, be it his will to save Chuck, he is so powerful and great that he can use any and all of the seven million people on this planet that aren't me to do it. The Lord is absolutely powerful enough to give Chuck the gracious gift of salvation without again exposing me to the man in order to do so. God is sovereign over Chuck's soul.

And now, through tears, I cry out once again, "But what about my soul?"

If that makes you sick to your stomach, the idea that I would be exhorted to go have relationship with the man who raped me repeatedly as a tiny little girl, then can you AT ALL recognize that this is the same thing people who insist that the Duggar girls must have been ok--because their parents say so and as children the victims themselves said they were--are endorsing? Do you know that thousands of victims are silenced in this way by the church, told that God can handle the abuse better than the godless cops, so let's "grow closer to God" as we forgive and get over it?

As every single abuse victim who is finally given actual Christian counsel--told that God can handle everything they feel because he died for both their righteous suffering and their unrighteous responses to it when he impaled Jesus Christ to the cross--will tell you, they're never over it.

The very fact that this isn't the response by so many in the church right now
redoubles the shame of myself and countless others.
[Photo courtesy of the amazing Mary DeMuth]

You think you're over it, you think that it's at least not a big deal like it used to be. You have healed so much! And you really have. But then a story like this breaks. And you see people fighting about the culture war, friends you trust posting #istandwiththeDuggars, and you are torn between thinking, "I must be wrong. I must be wrong. I must be wrong," and then the CRY OF YOUR SOUL wails, "God! Oh, God! When will the church's knee jerk reaction be #istandwiththevictims?" Especially when two minutes of research prove that there is a highly likely chance that, in the name of God and his Holy Bible, those victims have been programmed to believe that the very desire to stand for themselves is sin and that Jesus would not stand with them, that he stands against them for even questioning their parents or church elders.

When will we go out of our way to risk losing the culture war in order to care for the broken victims already in our churches? And, dear God, when will we accept responsibility for the fact that it's our fault that no one on the other side of the battle, those unsaved people we say we love, wants to come into our churches? We care so miserably for our own that there's no damn way we're going to care for them, so different from us and so wrong.

This is what is toiling in my soul. This is why I read the Duggar police report and then documentation on the Gothard / ATI teachings and wept until 5am early Sunday morning. This is why I can't even read social media right now, can't bear the words of my own friends and people in my own church. This is why I have to write this post.

Thousands of victims are bleeding right now. For those fighting the culture war, on both sides, the shrapnel is slicing through the children and teenagers and grown women and men who have been shamed and silenced again and again and again.

If you set down your weapons, came and found us hiding under our beds--the same ones so many of us were raped in--and asked us, do you know what we, if we could find the courage, would say to you?

"Why don't I matter to you? Why don't I matter more than gay marriage and the liberal media and the embarrassment you feel when some article on the internet insinuates or decries you as a fool for believing God? You say you are fighting for God and for me, so why don't I matter? And if I don't matter to you, do you know how much harder it is to believe I matter to God like you say I do? You're sniping off the liberal hypocrites from your watchtowers in my name, saying you pull the trigger on behalf of the oppressed, but you never once asked me if that's what I wanted from you."

Do you, culture warring Christian and defender of the Duggars, understand how incredibly unfair it is that after everything I have been through I now have to come splay my soul bare like this? Because of how your words affect me and so many others, I have to beg of you to turn from your crosshairs aimed at those dirty liberals and progressives, and see the blood your friendly fire sent gushing from my veins so that, for possibly the first time, you might really see me.

I don't need you to defend me. Not as an abuse victim and certainly not as a Christian.

Lord, that we might not wearily turn away from you as our defender

You can say this is unfair. Your motives are for all Christians to have a voice in this world. But when you are judging the liberals by their actions yet tell me your motives are good, that it doesn't matter what you said because you didn't mean for it to hurt me like it did, that I should judge you by the purity of your own heart to fight for the Gospel, you are every bit as hypocritical as those you have deemed the enemy. I shouldn't have to accept your actions based on your profession of pure motives when your words just blew my guts all over the ground.

Besides, do you even believe the Gospel you preach, that you need Jesus because no one is righteous? That you can't even know the motives and intents of your heart and that's why you continually need Christ? Why do you speak of being a sinner yet you never actually sin?

Do you know what so many, perhaps all, of us victims in your church want? When a "scandal" like this breaks, we want the Christians and the church, the people we know right in front of us, to say, "Christians are going to get skewered for being hypocrites. So be it. If you are a victim of sexual abuse, or any abuse, I stand with you. Let's go take refuge in God, our strong tower, together. Yes, the war will rage, but I am right here with you. Only with our God are we safe."

We want you to stop fighting for us and come and sit with us.

Did you catch that? Read it again.

We want you to stop fighting for us and come and sit with us.

And if you think your suffering as Christian who is disrespected by the media is equally as relevant as the suffering of sexual abuse victims then, truly, I am heartbroken for you and your self-centeredness. May the Lord graciously give you the compassion he feels for the hurting people you don't want to really, truly, finally see.

And to my beloved fellow victims, you who can hardly read this post through the trembling and tears.

My dear, sweet, sweet soul--if you are reading this and you are squeezing yourself into the corner of your closet so tightly, so wounded by the fact that people you love and trust are the very ones claiming, often only when pressed, of course they care about the victims but the secondary problem that will get all of their focus is the evil god-haters who take glee in denouncing those lovely, nice Duggars? And you want to give up on church like I do?

I see you.

I think of you.

I ache for you.

I cry out to the Lord in groaning for you.

I weep with you.

And, with great confidence, I tell you that so does God.

Let the theologians and even pastors rail about how important this culture war is and how gay marriage and sexual promiscuity--you know, the things of flesh and blood--are what we are supposed to be fighting against. Let them. But know that they are wrong.

TRUTH, my dear souls, TRUTH. 

I tell you that God always stands with the oppressed. Yes, he loves and died for the sins of those who abused you, but not at your expense. God does not care more about your abuser than you and he is not asking you to avail yourself to being wounded again and again in order to finally be able to reach your abuser or to fully redeem them. Our God is not that small, that weak.

Your God defends and protects you, and his first and foremost concern is always your safety and well being in him. And "in him" includes your abuser being removed so you can be safe, no longer available for them to abuse you. They are the one who leaves, not you.  The consequence of their willful and intentional sin is that they not only must submit to Caesar for their punishment but that God's grace is extended to them to repent and be redeemed in the church, but not yours. In a home with loving parents are parental figures, but not yours. Forgiveness and belonging to Jesus does not mean your abuser has the right to be dealt with only by the church or "in house" at your expense.

Again, they are the one who leaves, not you. That includes you showing up but never really being present or vulnerable because you will never be safe having them around. Don't you dare believe the lie that if you really loved or trusted God you would be ok with having them around. They need to go so you can have the opportunity to see how you are actually doing, what you are feeling after the abuse occurred.

And dear soul, if those telling you the opposite of this are your own church, your own elders, your own parents, your own spouse, I beg of you to get outside help. They are wrong and they are perpetuating your abuse despite their proclaimed best intentions to submit to God. I know you are scared and you think everything will fall apart and it will be your fault, but that is a lie. You did not commit the sin, and the consequences of death and destruction to relationships are faulted to your abuser, not you. I don't promise it will be easy, but I do promise you that Jesus fights for you and his will is to get your abuser OUT of your midst.

If you are alone and isolated and have no where to turn, but this is your situation, you can write to GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) at info@netgrace.org

Or  you can contact me at tami.hagglund.blog@gmail.com and I will not only listen to you but do everything I can to ensure that you are not kept in the dark and suffering.

Finally, if you read all of this and think, "If that's true, my word, what weakness," be it about yourself or others, then praise God. You are getting the Gospel.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
[II Corinthians 12:8-10] 
Jesus, help us. Help us all. And Christ, my fortress and strong tower, I beg of you, come quickly.


A Covenant of Grace

Sunday is a a big and precious day for our family. At church we are not only becoming members at Trinitas Presbyterian Church but we're also baptizing our kids, Roger (just turned 4) and Juliet (2 1/2 in a few weeks). Neither professes faith.

My people <3

Had you told me even 18 months ago that I would become a Presbyterian or baptize my kids? Yah, no. Three, five, ten years ago? I would not have believed you. Go back 15 years and I would likely be sad that, if it were a future I could not alter in any way, you were telling me I was going to grow up and fall away.

Yet here we are. It's been such a beautiful journey. Our biggest resistance to attending Trinitas when we were in the process of planning our departure of Mars Hill this time last year was paedobaptism, or baptizing unprofessing infants and children. Or, basically, not someone who is openly able to say they believe Jesus died for their sins. Many conversations went something like, "Well, ok. Sure. It sounds like a really gracious community with a pastor pastor, a guy who genuinely shepherds his people. So say we do end up there, can we really join if we don't agree with sprinkling our kids? Or attend in good conscience if we disagree on such a big issue?" [Note: Paedobaptism does not necessarily involve sprinkling - in our church baptism is performed on both children and adults with sizeable handfuls of water being dumped on the head.]

Welp, we've come along. But this is why: we stopped trying to figure out how to make disproving credo, or professing believer's; by "creed"of confession, baptism the point. We quit trying to determine if we were wrong or if our beliefs hold up. Instead, we studied what paedobaptists believe and why, studied scripture after scripture on the subject, and it just wrecked our previously held beliefs.

See, we were taught that you get baptized as an adult / "old enough" person because you have to "believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you will be saved" (the profession part; the ESV is slightly different than what I memorized as a teen). Once you are saved, you get baptized after because you are telling the world, "I'm different. I belong to Jesus now."

That was exactly why I was baptized. And it was this huge thing, coming from a non-Christian family, because the reason God saved me, everyone said, was because that was what he needed to do to save the rest of my family. So there was all this pressure to perform, to prove to my family that I was different and better now, and they could be, too. And I will tell you right now that the SINGLE biggest cause of damage in my family relationships was me having all these new Christian rules that my family could never keep. And I just had this air of "I'm better than you, but you could come join me and not be so disgusting to God." I mean, I didn't see it that way, but I know that's how it felt to them. And I just put so much pressure on them to be like me--come to church! Come see me baptized, so my profession of faith will change you! I'm not that same 16-18 year old girl, but man alive, I regret so much about her in that regard.

Everything is changed now. Because after reading a lot of scripture, and a lot of books, the Lord revealed the most beautiful thing to us: baptism is God saying, "This one is mine." See, we had never heard of covenant theology. Not in a meaningful way, not in a New-Testament-gloriously-connected-to-the-Old-Testament way.

See, in the Old Testament, God chose his people. He chose Abraham by nothing of Abraham's doing, and the primary way to be in the covenanted people of Israel was to be born into it. It was to circumcise the sons and to raise them and daughters alike to know and love their God. The thing is, none of these kids did anything but be raised by Hebrew parents. And when new people, say Rahab, joined in, it seems like her choice but she didn't seek out God. The two spies found her and she, by grace, was able to see these people represented the one true God and she helped save their people, now her people.

In this covenant vein, to be in the people of Israel, by birth or grafting in, wasn't salvific. People could rebel and turn away. It could become clear that what seemed like a lifelong thing, or a parental hope that children will remain in the Lord, might not end up that way. Though sometimes people seem to be gone and then come home. Either way, the covenant is about the character of God wooing his people to himself.  Circumcision did not guarantee salvation; it was simply a sign of God declaring a people as his own.

Likewise, then, we see baptism as thus in the NT. Christian parents, brought into the New Covenant with Jesus, are acting on faith that because the Lord has called us and made us his own he will also do the same in our children. It is not guaranteed that they'll remain in the faith, but it is our hope. The Old Covenant is mirrored in the new, and as circumcision mirrors baptism then we have no reason to believe that the image shifts to, "But only when that child is old enough to receive it by professing their faith." Every covenant God ever made with his people included children, and nowhere does Scripture deviate from this pattern.

So here is the thing: I was always taught that, oh, no, baptism isn't salvific. A baptized person is no more guaranteed inscription of their name into the Book of Life than is an unbaptized one. Yet it was only for the assuredly saved, those who can answer the questions right. But even many adults profess Christianity and get baptized but seem to fall away.

Likewise, if we can be really real, how many four or five or seven or nine year olds are going to say, "This thing my parents teach me, that this perfect Jesus forgives me of every bad thing I ever did so I don't painfully burn for eternity? Nah, I utterly reject that." But how realistic is it that they absolutely understand what they are doing so much that it's now on them to withstand the test of time of their confession? You see some people in credobaptist tradition, getting baptized as a child or teenager, who go on to detest all things Christian. Some return, and people say, "See! It was real!" Others run and never come back. So then the pressure is on what that 6 year old kid believed. It's on how well the adults in the child's life interpreted the child's understanding to determine if they "should" have been baptized. And then you get adults baptized as "believing" children who experienced life and sin and constantly question if they need to be re-baptized because they know they really believe it now.

Goodness. What a lot of pressure. There isn't a single thing I thought as a child nor teen by which I would want you to judge my existence. But see, the "No, it's not salvific!" breaks down, because the idea is that you can only be baptized if you are saved or at least think you are. And the proof of that is on the decision making and understanding of the child.

My husband wrote this in his notes (it's not entirely structured prose, just connected thoughts) that he prepared as he was laying out his convictions from reading a bunch of books and chapters of books, and such:

"Just as covenant breakers could be ultimately excluded from the old covenant, so goes the new one. And at the end of the day, we don’t know who is truly saved, we just go with what we see, and God never commands us to do it any differently. In fact, he specifically commands us NOT to intentionally seek out false brothers (Matt. 13:24-30). Visible v. Invisible church distinction. Mode of baptism doesn’t get us out of this tension: recipients of believers baptism can fall away just as easy as someone baptized as an infant could."

Don't you love that? I do! The Bible pretty clearly warns us that God knows who is actually his or not, and we aren't meant to go around focusing on everyone else and who is real or not. It's one baptism, one time of God's declaration of, "This one is mine," with no need to baptize and rebaptize (Note: even most paedobaptist churches distinguish the branches of Catholic and some protestant denominations who believe that sprinkling an infant literally obliges God to take that child to heaven no matter what. This type of paedobaptism does not represent covenant theology, because the focus is on the "work" of the human and not the work of the Lord). And baptizing of babies doesn't mean anything other than, as I said, "God has claimed us and we are trusting the Lord for his claim on our children right now, done through his claim on us, to ultimately result in them finishing life with the gracious gift of faith in Christ." But we're to presume that those who claim the Lord are actually his, as opposed to taking everyone who says they love the Lord and then just sifting them apart to figure out if it's real.

Goodness. Couldn't the church use a dose of that? I mean, really. Trusting in the sovereign grace of God to sustain broken sinners, instead of everyone trying to keep it together and earn their way to stay in? With the subsequent result of nitpicking everyone around them apart? No, no, no, no, no. NOTHING to do with our Lord, who bled and died for us so we could rest in his life lived on our behalf.

Now I'm not saying you have to share our newfound views on baptism to actually be in a culture of grace. No! I'm simply saying that we don't get to write off paedobaptists as sinfully rebelling against God's word. In fact, in one book exploring different views on baptism, a theologian we generally respect said, in sum, "Though I respect many of my Christian brothers who understand baptism differently, I believe that based on my understanding of the Great Commission [go baptize people who believe on Christ as Lord] paedobaptists are walking in disobedience to the Lord." Ouch. This is the exact attitude we do NOT have about our credobaptist friends and family. But there are very solid Biblical accounts for understanding the scriptural basis for paedobaptism, and we share a few helpful books at the end of this post.

We are not here to say that this is what every true believer needs to do. It's simply how the Lord has convicted us in his word, and we can graciously agree to disagree with friends who think it's not Biblical. We would simply ask that you know about what you're arguing; we don't believe this makes our kids saved. We just believe that when they do profess faith later it's the fulfillment of this sign. It's that God chose to bless our kids with the Gospel through us, which led to their belief. Again, not because of us or their baptism, but God's grace of claiming them being acted out in faith by us in choosing baptism and then God working it out in leading us by the grace-gift of faith. This faith plays out in how we raise them, teaching them about the Lord, his character, and how willingly he gives himself to them and how desperate they actually are for him.

Now this is where it gets deeply personal for us, where this journey to paedobaptism isn't one we chose, yet it's been such beautiful revealed grace to us. Our beautiful babies have autism. Children and people with developmental disabilities are this weird exception in the credobaptist world, especially those with Arminian, or free will to independently choose God, leanings. I remember conversations about things like an "age of accountability" at which if a child too young to believe dies, do they go to heaven? When they never had the chance to choose God? And there was general consensus that developmentally disabled people kind of get a pass. Like, if God gives a child so severe a cognitive disability that they can't choose to believe in him then he kind of owes it to them to give them a free pass into heaven; their sin nature is null and void.

We are reformed. We believe God is sovereign, and he chooses who belongs to him and who doesn't. All people who do believe in Jesus? Absolute grace, absolutely the work of God alone. It can be summed up in this phrase: God does not help bad people become good; God makes dead people alive. Dead people choose nothing, earn nothing, avail themselves the opportunity to nothing. It's all on the one doing the resurrecting, thus the newly alive person recognizes the gracious salvation they had nothing with which to do.

Regarding whether God is a gentleman who doesn't force himself on us or whether God only and always does all of the "work" in a person, I'm not here to argue about that. I'm simply stating for you our Biblical conviction on the matter. But, for us, what incredible grace that our children get to join in with our Christian family and partake in Christian life and sacraments like Communion [note: our church welcomes to the communion table all baptized children ages four and up, primarily because the Bible does warn against carelessly taking communion and age four-ish one in which most babes can start to recognize it's not just a random snack] without the pressure to prove they believe something.

Yesterday, at the Seattle Aquarium with Roger's preschool class.
When we got home, Jas asked how the aquarium was, and
Rog gave a blank stare. But he had the most amazing time!
On the bus ride there, he kept saying, "Go to aquarium! Go to aquarium!"

It goes even deeper. While Juliet's autism is less severe and she has made great strides in verbal communication, Roger has extreme difficulty with expression. He does chat some, has probably 500-750 words, but only uses about 150 with any depth of meaning. Many of these are repeated phrases, and nearly everything he says is preceded with, "Do you want ____?" when he's actually trying to say, "I want." He's repeating what we have said to him, understands that, "Do you want to go bye-bye," means that when we ask him this he gets to go with the parent putting their shoes on. But if you ask him his name, or how old he is, he stares at you blankly. This is with a lot of work on, "What's your name? Now you say, 'My name is Roger.'" But in any room he'll point at any burned out light and say, "The light is bro-ken! The light is bro-ken!"

This is where I lean on my husband's words again, because I just love how he puts it:
"What if our autistic son never professes faith? Not because he doesn’t have it, but because he literally cannot? Shouldn’t the Gospel we profess have something to say to that? Is there evidence that the God of the Bible would exclude such children from his covenant?"
Still wrecks me. What glorious grace, that my sweet baby boy isn't put on the outside looking in on his parents's faith and his church family, because of something he may never be able to articulate. Because, as Jason and I talk about constantly, Christianity isn't about the life of the Christian; it's about the life of Jesus lived and relinquished on our behalf.

So, yes. We are baptizing Roger and Juliet on Sunday. Because our God is a god of grace, and we believe he's led us to see this in his word and partake in this beautiful sacrament with joy.

I want to leave you with this video that has had much emotional impact on Jason and me. We were there in person for this, at Liberate, and just keep talking about how beautiful this analogy is for the grace of God, how we don't earn it, we can never spend it all, and it's his joy to keep seeing us enjoy it more and more. That is our God, friends! You just read this whole thing! You have ten more minutes to let your heart be made lighter.

Books on paedobaptism that helped in our decision:

The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism, Gregg Strawbridge (ed.)
The Covenant Baptism of Infants, Jim West (If you only check out one book, check out this one. It's only 37 pages. This book could be retitled A Book You'll Actually Read on Covenantal Infant Baptism)
Baptism: Three Views, Wright; Ferguson; Ware; Lane