Sexual violence is a continuing plague on society. The prevalence of it may make us wonder whether it is possible for mankind to progress beyond repetitive patterns of violence and victimization. And if it is possible, what role do we have in forwarding this progress?
These questions became important for me as a sexually abused teen. What brought me hope and healing was learning in my Christian Science Sunday School class what the Bible teaches about God as Love – the Love that redeems us from darkness and destruction (see, for example, I John 1-5). No one in my Sunday School nor my parents knew about the abuse. I closely guarded the secret. But my weekly Sunday School attendance helped me learn to think for myself, to think about our spiritual direction, to be alert to negative influences in order to defend myself from them, and to be open to God’s guidance and protection. This higher, spiritual influence increasingly had more weight in my day-to-day life. I became less naive, less susceptible to going along with wrong. And then the moment finally arrived when I couldn’t abide any influence less than good. I was 15 years old when I suddenly awakened from the mental fog that surrounded the abuse, and I felt empowered to end it. I took my stand to break the cycle of abuse, and it stopped cold, never to recur.
I attribute my awakening and freedom from abuse to the persistent prayers of my Sunday School teachers for my spiritual progress. Their prayers for me and others supported my path to knowing God better and to discovering the true nature of man as God’s reflection. Christ Jesus understood God to be divine Love, the true Parent creating man in His own image and likeness. Jesus’ prayers lifted up those around him to glimpse something of themselves as they truly were – the perfect expression of Love – innocent, good, full of light and health. Monitor Founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Jesus aided in reconciling man to God by giving man a truer sense of Love, the divine Principle of Jesus’ teachings, and this truer sense of Love redeems man from the law of matter, sin, and death by the law of Spirit, – the law of divine Love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 19).
Walking away from the abuse was one thing, but eliminating the negative influence of the abuse was quite another. Understanding God to be Love itself – not just a God that has a loving side, but seeing God as Love – was indispensable to finding full freedom from the lingering stress from the abuse. I learned that whether one finds himself or herself acting out the role of a perpetrator or victim, spiritual innocence is an attribute of divine Love expressed in each one of us. It is a permanent bestowal, integral to our identity, and it can never really be lost or taken away. God preserves the spiritual identity of His own creation. What God gives us is indestructible and permanent. Abuse, hatred, violence, lust are not rooted in Love and therefore can have no actual or lasting effect on us. Divine good, however, is always ours, even if we are still discovering what it means in our lives, or even if it seems deeply hidden from our sight.
Because we truly reflect divine Love, people in all cases of abuse – reported or not – have the power to rise above evil. Evil is neither of our making, nor is it a controlling factor of our potential. Love is the only true lasting influence. As my own experience showed, our prayers can give voice to the power of divine Love, of God, to lift us up and out of victimization and violence. Praying to know God in this way opens us to the spiritual understanding of His creation that wipes out evil influences from our lives, breaks repetitive patterns of evil, and redeems our humanity.