Photo credit goes to my husband, Joshua
What You Need to Know About Bathsheba was recently shared in the Progressive Christians Facebook group (of which I am a member even though I don’t consider myself a “progressive” anything). It’s a fascinating case for Bathsheba’s righteousness and heroism despite the shittiest of circumstances, and on some level it does give me hope. It also reminds me of the scandal of the Gospel that has given hope to so many: there is no past so awful that God cannot forgive and redeem. Having made my own share of mistakes, I’m grateful for that hope.
At the same time, I’m also deeply disturbed by it. It’s taken years of therapy and a few visits to AA to stop living my life in anticipation of an apology I knew all along I’d never receive. All the while, I have fought to comprehend a message that promises as much redemption to my own life as it does to my rapist. The same message that quite literally saved my life on multiple occasions also promises my ex boyfriend that he, too, can become reformed, forgiven, and start anew.
I can’t make any attempts at righteousness here. I have written in my prayer journal a handful of times, “God, I really think that’s bullshit.” Because however much a person has changed on the inside – and only he can know how genuine that is – it doesn’t eradicate the consequences of his actions. It doesn’t make the hurt his victims feel go away. I can’t lie about how much it disturbs me that God allowed a convicted rapist (morally, if not legally) be included in the lineage of Jesus.
I can’t help wondering how Bathsheba would feel if she knew that’s what would happen.
Who gives that kind of privilege to a person who has caused such pain – God, or a crazy person (or a crazy God)?
Would you let a convicted sex offender babysit your kids, after proclaiming till he’s blue in the face how sorry he is and how much he’s changed?
Would you let someone back into your life who has taken advantage of you too many times to count – stolen from you, lied to you, betrayed you – after the fifth, the tenth, the twentieth apology and promise that they’ve changed?
On some level, doing so would violate basic common sense, and cue that old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
If it’s not already obvious, I want to point out that I don’t struggle with forgiveness or wanting redemption for the worst of offenders because I’m being vindictive. I struggle with all of that because I’m still hurt. My second memoir (which is in the revising stage) will expand on how this struggle to understand justice affects my faith, more than the first book did. That first memoir was how I found faith, and the next one is about the struggle to keep it, or let go of the harmful pieces and hang on to the good ones.
With barely a week left of 2015, I can only hold on to the hope that 2016 will bring new experiences that show me new wisdom and fresh chances to start over. In my heart I know the benefits of forgiveness: they are more for me than for anyone else. Forgiveness sets me free, but it’s still a big step, and I may not do it well for a very, very long time.
The holiday season is a painful time for a lot of people, many of whom have been hurt by their families or loved ones – maybe that includes you. I hope 2016 is a second chance for you as well, even if you’ve used twenty of them this year alone.
It’s funny how my career has been built upon challenging difficult doctrines, asking difficult questions, and publicly wrestling with doubt. But in spite of all that, I do want emphasize the piece that keeps me going, that I hope keeps you going: that redemption is possible no matter how much you’ve screwed up or been screwed by others. I still firmly believe that tragedy can be used for glory.