The Pastor: A Crisis – Review by Becky Parker
Before I began this book, I knew I’d be uncomfortable with some of the material. I’d heard an interview in which the authors confirmed that the topic of child sexual abuse was discussed.
Since I am not a victim of sexual assault, I was not afraid of triggering in that regard. I knew that my discomfort would be the deep fear such a topic invokes in me especially as a mother. Even the thought that such abuse could happen to me or one of my children causes me to experience fear and anxiety.
As I read, a realization came to me that I didn’t like to admit. It was not just my fear for my loved ones that made me uncomfortable. It was that my fear and anxiety took a dark turn and produced a mix of condemnation, vengeance, and self-righteousness. This book forced me to take on all these dark expressions of my own fear and anxiety.
The story reveals the devastating damage caused by sexual violence and how not even a perpetrator is exempt. My heart was stirred to compassion for one that I would normally have been quick to condemn to the harshest penalty and just as quickly to elevate myself as one much superior.
The story forced me to look into my own heart to scrutinize and ask the questions: Who do I struggle to love? Can I see the image of God in all people? Do I wish to be the judge of others? How does a desire for vengeance and retribution keep me from being free? Am I glad when I see others forgiven? Do I trust that I am loved and forgiven? Perhaps the most telling: Do I truly wish to see everyone redeemed?
This story was a refining fire for me. I was confronted with one of my worst fears and one of my most steadfast scapegoats, and I realized those two were related and needed confronting in my life. As I know the Lord does not wish any to perish, but all to come to repentance, I know also that as I am made in His image, I should feel the same. If I do not, something is going on within me that should be confronted. Strangely, that is not a burdensome feeling, but freeing.
As “The Pastor” discusses in depth the pain, trauma, and despair that results from sexual abuse, it also moves toward hope. It was this feeling of hope that impressed me throughout the story. Hope of forgiveness, mercy, and healing. It is also a powerful story of surrender and the need for self-forgiveness, and the alternative of self-destructive coping mechanisms that we cling to.
“The Pastor” resonates with all of us. Those who have suffered abuse in its many forms, those grappling with a disheartened view of religion, and all of us who, at some time, have struggled with offering forgiveness or accepting love.