If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mt 18.6 NRSV)
I can't think of a single verse that brought more fear to my heart than this verse quoted above. I can't think of a verse which brought me more despair than this verse. What, if not a stumbling block, would the world call the actions of someone like me who molested children? Stumbling block is far too mild a description.
More than one victim of the world's molesters has cried out, "Where were you, God, when those terrible things were happening to me? Why didn't you protect me? Why should I believe that you love me? When you love someone, you don't let such terrible things happen. I just can't trust you, God!"
The victim felt twice-betrayed – someone violated him or her and God did nothing. God did do something. But God grieved for the violation as well as for the choice made by the offender, another child created in God's love.
The letters I receive show that in a very high percentage of cases, offenders who write were themselves molested. This is not offered as an excuse for their actions but as a fact. Men and women betrayed as children, grew up and betrayed other children in the same fashion. Men and women who as children called out to God but came to doubt God, encouraged the same doubt in God's existence in their victims.
I wish I could say that all offenders grieve what happened to them as children. I wish I could say that all offenders grieve the harm they brought to their victims. I wish I could say that all the world grieves the sins committed to satisfy a need. The truth is, I cannot. What I can and do say on behalf of offenders is that the break in the connection between their hearts and that of God must be repaired. Without that connection, healing is little more than a word.
It is encouraging, I think, to look at the men Christ chose to be His disciples. They were a pretty unpolished group-no perfect people there, no sinless ones. This specially chosen group of men turned and ran when the world might have thought they should close ranks around Jesus. They verbally denied knowing Him, and one even tried to make a few bucks by betraying Him. Yet Jesus deeply loved each of them-even Judas-and sought to reconnect them to Himself after His death on the cross. How then, are we who feel so disconnected because of our sins to find or receive that connection?
If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light. (Mt 28-30 CEV).
The longer a person carries a burden, the heavier it gets. The heavier it gets, the more difficult is the journey undertaken. And the more difficult the journey, the more resentful one feels for having to make it alone with no one to help.
The first verse really sounds like such a simple thing, doesn't it. We are asked to come to God and to take on the yoke of obedience to His will. Yet we hang on to the burdens we carry and continue to complain of their weight. Could it be obedience that we fear? Might we see obedience to God as the surrender of control? Worse yet, how many scars do some carry from yokes put on them by their parents? Is God's yoke any better?
Come to me and I will give you rest. A breather. A kind of freedom not felt in a long time . . . perhaps never felt in the lives of some. A cool breeze on a hot day that refreshes unlike other pleasures which come at tremendous cost. A rest.
I am gentle and humble. Not loud or demanding. Not threatening with physical or emotional harm. Gentle. How long since you experienced gentleness? And humble. Not the kind of wimp "I can't do anything" humility, but a quiet certainty that doesn't need to display the power and authority that is most certainly there.
Learn from me . . . this yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light. As I look at these words, I feel reminded that I am not really so far from the will of God. But my life has many rough edges, and the metal of who I am to become has yet to be completely tempered in the fire of God's love.
Suppose a coach came up to you and said, "I think you have what it takes
to make a name for yourself in this sport. Would you be willing to let
me bring you to that level of play?" There
If you believe that your sins have excluded you from the love of God,
please believe that they have not. As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Ps.103.12) The loss
of connection was always at our end, never at God's. This is not about
making others think more highly of us. It's about God's incredible love
for you and for me. Learn from me . . . this yoke is easy to bear, and
God wants all that is in us that is of darkness to be in the light of His love. He wants the sinful nature we carry to be drowned for that nature cannot exist in His presence. And He waits for us to come to Him.
Bob Van Domelen is executive director of the ex-gay organization Broken Yoke Ministries, which offers assistance to recovering offenders.
© 1999 Bob Van Domelen