"Captivating" Review: 91-112, "Healing the Wound"


The core message of this chapter is one I can agree with: God loves you. Jesus loves you.

However, in trying to show women how they can find healing, they make a couple problematic arguments. Unfortunately, everything that is problematic about this chapter isn’t unique to Stasi and John; the teachings they present are extremely common to evangelicalism.

The first one we arrive at is this:

Why did God curse Eve with loneliness and heartache, an emptiness that nothing would be able to fill?  He did it to save her … God had to thwart her. In love, he has to block her attempts until, wounded and aching, she turns to him and him alone for her rescue.

Jesus has to thwart us, too–thwart our self-deceptive plans, our controlling and our hiding, thwart the ways we are seeking to fill the ache within us. … He’ll make what once was a great job miserable, if it was in her career that she found shelter. He’ll bring hardship into her marriage, even to the breaking point, if it was in marriage she sought her salvation.

I believed this about God for most of my life– that God was so irrationally jealous that any time I was distracted by “the things of this world,” anytime I made an “idol” out of something in my life, God would reach down from heaven with a gigantic stick and whack me until I gave him my devoted attention.

When I was a teenager, I developed tendonitis in my wrists; it eventually got so bad that I could not keep playing the piano for church, although I was very carefully continuing to take piano lessons under the watchful eye of my doctor and physical therapist. We explained that congregational playing was too much for my body to handle, but when the pastor and his wife found out that I was still taking piano lessons, but “not using my talent for the glory of God,” the wife came to me and told me that God would punish me. He would take away my talent if I didn’t immediately start playing for church again.

I spent the rest of the night sobbing, and the next six years in terror that God would whack me– “thwart” me– for “seeking life apart from him.” It’s taken me years to undo the damage of believing that this is how God works, and it troubles me that this is the image of God that Stasi and John want us to have.

However, we’re also asked to think of God as our “Defender.”

I have a problem with that, mostly because God doesn’t defend us.

He promised to do a lot of things– love us, never leave us, forgive us, save us, prepare us, mold us– but he never once promised to “protect us from danger or harm.” My life– all of our lives– is living proof that he doesn’t do this. I was abused. I was raped. Even when the abuse I experienced was done in his name, he did nothing to stop it. Believing that God would “protect me from harm” almost shattered any belief I had because it is so obviously a lie.

Today, I believe that I can trust God, but it’s what I’m trusting him for that matters. I trust him the same way I trust my partner: I trust in his character, in who he is. I don’t trust my partner because I believe that he’ll be able to protect me from all harm– and neither do I trust God to do that. I used to– and when he didn’t come through on this “promise” I believed he’d made to me, I was devastated.

Stasi and John also have a problematic view of forgiveness. They say it’s necessary to forgive those who have hurt us for all the typical evangelical reasons– if we don’t, we’ll be become bitter, etc. However, what they go on to describe doesn’t sound like forgiveness to me– it sounds like “moving on.”

I don’t mind what they recommend, necessarily:

This is not saying “It didn’t really mater”; it is not saying “I probably deserved part of it anyway.” Forgiveness says, “It was wrong. Very wrong. It mattered, hurt me deeply. And I release you. I give you to God. I will not be your captive here any longer.”

In a way, they’re describing the process I’ve gone through in recovering and healing from being raped. I had to recognize that it hurt me, that the hurt mattered, but I am working to get to the point where my rapist has no control over my life; I am tired of the nightmares, of panicking when I see someone like him in an airport . . . but I would never have termed this process as forgiveness.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, but what I see of forgiveness in the Bible has to do with reconciliation and restoration– a process that can only begin when the person who sinned is repentant and seeks forgiveness. Choosing to let it go doesn’t seem to be the same thing to me.

Also, the fact that “ASK HIM TO DESTROY YOUR ENEMIES” is on the very next page is highly confusing to me.

They finish off the chapter by emphasizing, again, just how important it is for women to be beautiful and the only way we can be beautiful is when we’re passive non-actors who are vulnerable and tender and feminine.

Come back next week when we listen to them talk about how desperately women want to be in a relationship– because, after all, no one in the Bible has ever talked about how awesome celibacy is!

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  • Another entertaining piece! By the way, I mentioned on your “I Have a Complex About My Hair” piece that I’d written something about my hair. If anyone would like to read it, it’s up: http://ellaindc.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/cutting-my-hair/

  • I have worked with similar definition of forgiveness as a first step in recovery from injury/hurt/pain: “Forgiveness is choosing not to hurt back the one who hurt you.” It is not reconciliation. It is not dependant on the other person in any way. It is an expression of love for a fellow human being/creation of God. In making this choice not to retaliate, one is not sweeping the incident under the rug. If legal means need to be pursued, they should be. If one needs to protect oneself from further injury, this should be done.

    The announcement of this forgiveness to the perpetrator takes place only after repentance. Reconciliation and restoration takes place after that, and may be a long process depending on the level of trust that has been destroyed.

    This is definitely a work in progress for me.

  • Rebekah Jones

    I had a prof in school that always said that forgiveness is a one way street but repentance and restoration is a two way street. You don’t need anything from the perpetrator to forgive but both parties have to work together for repentance, restoration, and reconciliation to take place.

    I think this is interesting to think of in light of a lot of what you have said about abusers coming back into the church community. Just because they have been forgiven doesn’t mean they have repented or been restored. And even if the abused has forgiven them that doesn’t mean they want to be bffs with the abuser and see them all the time. Having never had to forgive someone for anything as horrible as abuse, I really don’t know what my capacity to forgive them would be but I do know I would probably never want to see them ever again even if they completely repented.

  • I think there’s a difference between forgiveness and then reconciliation/restoration. Right now I am estranged from my brother (actual biological) – he has not communicated with me for about a month. He is my brother and I forgive him for hurting me because I was able to see him and he chose not to see me. I long for there to be the reconciliation and restoration of the relationship, but I am living between giving forgiveness and waiting for that reconciliation/restoration to happen. I cannot say it is not hard.

    Some hurts are so deep and the abuse so widespread that there will probably never be reconciliation or restoration of the relationship between the two (or more) people. Sometimes the restoration/reconciliation is not wanted; other times it is not needed – whether because of systemic abuse or because both people have moved on in their lives and where one left off is not a place to go back to..

  • I tend to go for the Bible’s definition of forgiveness, which is to cancel a debt. When people trespass against us, they create losses which ought to be paid back. However, in cases of abuse, the loss may be too great to ever be satisfied. Waiting on the abuser to provide recompense would be a futile and maddening exercise. So to keep sanity and become open to healing elsewhere, we cancel the debt. It doesn’t mean the relationship goes back to normal. It just means you can move on.

  • srs

    In a way, they’re describing the process I’ve gone through in recovering and healing from being raped. I had to recognize that it hurt me, that the hurt mattered, but I am working to get to the point where my rapist has no control over my life; I am tired of the nightmares, of panicking when I see someone like him in an airport . . . but I would never have termed this process as forgiveness.

    Please disregard or delete this comment if if is asking too much.

    Are you willing to tell (or maybe you have in other postings) how you got to that point? I ask because someone I know and care about experienced a psychologically traumatic experience (although not sexual assault) at a church she went to and has found it impossible to recover to the point where she doesn’t have an anxiety attack when she comes across the people from that church.

    • Anne

      I think panicking may be a lifelong thing. I have not seen my ex for more than 10 years, and I still panic when I occasionally see someone who looks like him. It’s part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Moving to a different state has helped. I don’t have to worry all the time about running into him.

  • Aibird

    I think repentance, reconciliation, and forgiveness are often lumped together in a lot of Christian circles. It bothers me a bit because often people put a lot of pressure of the victim to forgive their attacker/abuser/rapist/ect…. That’s problematic in so many ways.

    So the jury is still out with me as to what exactly forgiveness is. I just know that the process of forgiveness, as it was presented to me while I was still a Christian, was problematic and incredibly harmful toward my well-being.

  • Crystal

    How do you define forgiveness exactly? I know of a situation where someone
    was hurt by someone in authority over them for years through
    misunderstandings and so on. My friend is struggling on how to handle
    anger and forgiveness, and she wants to move on, but she still feels
    there must be a debt to be paid for the things that happened to her, for
    justice’s sake. How can I help her to forgive properly so that she can
    do what’s right although she might never receive an apology from anyone
    for the events of misunderstanding and unkindness that happened years
    ago that scarred her deeply and define who she is even today?

  • Molly

    My biggest problem with the evangelicalism’s take on forgiveness isn’t really their definition. Its their insistence that church leadership, and not victims and those who were actually wronged, should be the ones in control of the process of healing and forgiveness. In other words, “Forgive, and do it our way, on our time table, and behave exactly the way we tell you to.” So they talk about forgiveness, then employ control tactics that are mislabeled.

  • Crystal

    Or it could be parental authority, or teachers, or any other kind of authority, couldn’t it? Or perhaps even a brother, sister, or other relative, family member, etc.?

  • You’re right, forgiveness is indeed a slippery little fish. As far as I see it there’s a process, perhaps even different levels (although I’m not entirely comfortable with that thought). There’s the level of forgiveness where you stop holding on to the bitterness (what you would call moving on I think) and this doesn’t necessarily need the other person to show regret or repentance. I think I’d join you in saying I’m not entirely comfortable with labelling that as forgiveness, for to me real forgiveness is not only in “moving past” the harm, but is in moving past the separation the harm caused. It’s being fully welcomed back into each others’ lives. It’s fully embracing each other with all the faults and foibles and loving the other person anyway. It’s not ignoring the harm or consequences, but saying that you love that other person MORE than the consequences matter.
    For many that’s an impossible place to get to, hence the focus on the “just moving on” aspect.

  • Anne

    Samantha, I enjoy your blog so much. It sounds like you and I are in a very similar place. I have forgiven my former boyfriend, but I wish I didn’t have to spend money on antidepressants the rest of my life. I very much doubt that he would ever be sincerely repentant of what he did. I think he has sociopathic personality disorder. It would be hard to know if any apology was real or just part of the fake outer shell.

    I still struggle with the question “Why didn’t God protect me? Didn’t He care” However, I see many good things that God did in my life at the time. And I see ways that God did protect me – the situation was not as bad as it could have been. Have you seen ways that God was good to you in the middle of your scary situation?

  • Alice

    Oh man, I relate so much to the fear of “idols” and being afraid God will punish you for it. The youth minister was constantly talking about “idols.” I felt massively guilty as a preteen for enjoying games and TV shows more than reading my Bible and praying. I felt like I was caught in the middle of an epic spiritual battle. It seems so absurd and sad now. I was afraid to enjoy anything. It didn’t help that my parents also would take things away permanently if I became too “obsessed.”

    When Staci claims God purposely destroys people’s jobs, relationships, etc. that really sounds like a jealous abuser isolating, controlling, and making it harder for the victim to leave. *shudders*

    Finally, I really like the analogy between trusting God and trusting a partner.

    • Getting married really opened my eyes to why people chose the image/metaphor of marriage to describe the relationship we have with Jesus. I need to write a post about that.

    • Melody

      Me too! I was always so worried to enjoy life (sometimes even sinful things, like tv and movies) too much, and not spending enough time reading my Bible. Reading this really shows that such an image of God, one that gets angry at every second you spend actually living, is a very childlike one. Like God is a child that begins to yell and trash your things (or life) the second your attention is divided or elsewhere. That’s not a God that you can respect when you think about it…

  • Crystal

    Samantha, I admire your blog so much. It has really opened my eyes, especially on rape NOT being the victim’s fault, among other things. I could go on and on, but I don’t have time. I’ve got to work now. Peace to you.

  • Abby Normal

    I didn’t grow up in a super-fundie tradition, but I can remember being worried about the idolatry thing–it was like whenever I found something that I enjoyed, I always had this niggling little voice in the back of my head telling me not to enjoy it *too* much because it might become an idol.

  • Crystal

    Dear Samantha,

    Could you please explain to me what forgiveness IS? I am struggling with properly applying it at the moment?

  • I know that this is an old post and my comment is completely behind everyone…but this section of the critique especially resonated with me, and I wanted to say something in case you (Samantha) would still see it. As someone who has experienced abuse and a (brutal) rape shortly after leaving home, I was moved practically to tears by your simple statement that learning to let something go for your own well-being does NOT require forgiveness, in the case of a person who is not repentant for their actions and seeking forgiveness. I no longer am a Christian, but it was still surprisingly healing for me to see that sentiment (a conclusion I’d quietly come to on my own in the past few years) expressed by a Christian. It’s so much more freeing than the attitude I usually see around the topic of “forgiveness” in Christian circles. Thank you for taking the time to do this review and express such thoughts.