Note to Out of Sorts Launch Team. This piece was written to and for a community of people who had lived in the group Jesus People USA (JP) like I had, (some born and raised there) many of whom were sexual abuse victims. Thus the inside language and references. For more information about this see:

By Nancy Roe, June 2014

Here is my attempt to give my fledgling pen wings. And in the words of Mary Oliver: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Talk about it.”

I am on a vision quest. A quest for raw visceral authenticity. A quest for deep inner healing. A quest for peace and contentment. A quest for light and truth. As I seek and find and burn the old grave clothes of bad religion, I have unearthed these treasures. BE LOVED. BELOVED. REST. RESTORE. WEIGHTLESS. Like pebbles thrown in a pond cast ripples in ever expanding circles, these words in me open vistas of ponder and wonder, space and awe. Though in the midst of this, my quest is immersed in human tragedy, loss, and pain. Our shared pasts. And the pain, the injury, and loss that came before our sharing of that time, that place, those wounds that echo in us still. But as I have persistently dug away while embroiled in all this history, I have uncovered a gem of beauty. I am having an epiphany and I would like to tell you about it. I am having an epiphany about divine design. Love’s design for us and for children and for the children we once were.

It is some time now that we have embarked on this dark journey back into our past and our children’s past. A past that was replete with child sexual abuse in the context of a religious cult/commune. A cult that not only cultivated, but was a hot house to breed secrecy, power and control abuse, blind following and ignorance. Like a dark putrid tsunami, this onslaught of histories laid bare before us tore open the veil of deception and illusion that had shrouded our hearts, our minds, our lives. Unveiling the cruel torturous dark left a wake of heart break, pain, alarm, panic. But, opened up a needed awareness of the nightmares those little ones (who are you) have had to endure.

Such knowledge tore open the wounds afresh, but deeper this time. This awareness was good. This surgery was good, right, necessary. It was the opening up of old wounds to clean them and set things aright so they could heal properly. And I am making a discovery on the other side of this. On the healing side, the side where new cultures are created and implemented in churches and organizations to protect and guard, nourish and nurture the innocence and safety of children.

As I poured through the referenced works made available by Boz Tchividjian’s G.R.A.C.E., Doulos Resources,
I found a wealth, a heaping treasure store of Biblical mandates and Biblical emphases. Repeated mandates in various contexts to advocate, cherish, recognize the inestimable value, prioritize, protect, and fight for the well being and safety of children and the vulnerable, the weak, the powerless. I also discovered referenced there God’s fierce love for the vulnerable, powerless, weak, the little ones. FIERCE! A call to arms, to courage that people step forward in behalf of justice, to provide strong protection without thought of personal difficulty. God’s desire and intent that others cherish the little ones, be His Love with skin on, to defend the birthrights of children. Contrast this to your/our experience that has happened at JP and prevails in our culture, the shrouding and minimizing and perpetuation of child sexual abuse. I see stark arenas of dark and evil, light and justice. You too?

All this dark, all this light, our lives, these epic stories. These threads are beginning to weave together. Threads which contain the love I so desperately need to heal and threads of the love we all need to heal. We who were the children, who were orphaned, abandoned, wounded, left with broken hearts (many of us before JP). This happened to us in various ways in our stories, our epic journeys that are not yet over. (Anybody else love Charles Dickens?) Then in the midst of my now uneventful current life, an unexpected gift dropped in my lap. Last week, I got a chance to be with 3 year olds…

Last week was my first time to do this. (This summer, I am a volunteer at my church to care for 2 and 3 year olds. This will happen only 3 times, once a month, for an hour and a half segments.) Let me tell you!! It was SO FUN and RICH!! 3 little 3 year old boys and 3 little 3 year old girls were in the care of another woman and myself. Now at my age, I can no longer get down on the floor and play or pick them up, and my memory is not quite what it once was in navigating some of the more structured aspects of what is required. But in spite of these things, I want to tell you about the ways I found myself experiencing and interacting with these little ones….

First, I saw the tenderness and beauty of each unique blossoming personality. My heart was touched by simply beholding them and their sweet ready acceptance of me/us as their teachers. They looked to us for attention and help and recognition. It was as if they invited us to “see them” and readily welcomed us into their experiences. Feelings of joy and delight, admiration, affection, and enjoyment of them arose in me as a response to simply being present with them. I also found myself focusing on being intently present, available and responsive, attending gently and affectionately to them. In this process I reflected their experience and validated their feelings. I comforted and encouraged, directed and inspired by voicing and praising their unique actions, contributions, and skills. I carefully observed and applauded specific learning and skill acquisition that seemed to thrive in that emotional climate.

As a result, I discovered a snap shot of the heart and essence of the tenderness and beauty and vulnerability that is inherent in children. The children in our midst, our grown children, the children we once were. Like little thirsty sponges they absorb the emotional climates that exist for them in their worlds. As we did. I was delighted and privileged to tap a huge unending vast God store of love for these little ones who, baring disaster, will grow up to be the ‘yous’ and ‘mes’ of tomorrow.

But as I write this, I am becoming aware of just how susceptible and vulnerable the little ones are to predatory types. It is sickening to realize how easily exploited are the innocence and trust and sheer openness of children, and how the very essence of their tender beauty is used as a vehicle for abuse. How as children reach out for needed attention and interaction with bigger people, they are met with crushing, mangling, enduring injury. And so it has been with you, the vulnerable and susceptible. You followed instincts to be cared for, nourished, nurtured, loved and cherished as was yours by birthright. You met instead with life crushing pain. Unbearable. Betrayal. And now, it is some thirty years later…

After these decades, the stories are breaking wide open and spilling forth. And we see you survivors, luminous and true, the phoenix rising from ashes. And we hear your call, as you are finding this amazing voice, a trumpet song. Of Courage. Advocacy. Transparency. Transcendence. And we stand together. A life force. Hope. And here we find it. Love’s design for us and for children and for the children we once were.

And my theology pierces into me clear and simple. BE LOVED. BELOVED. REST. RESTORE. WEIGHTLESS.