Before last week, the only thing I knew about the Duggars was that they had a reality show and "a bunch of kids". (That's honestly how I would refer to to them: "Oh, you're talking about that family with a bunch of kids?!") I also had a faint understanding of their faith...a very, very faint understanding: I thought they were Amish. But, other than that, I really can't say I knew much about them. If I'm honest, I still don't really know much.
Yet I, along with the rest of the world, became privy to some pretty disturbing facts that I would prefer to unlearn, and my opinion of them has been shaping with each new news report, interview and gory tabloid detail. Since learning more about them, my emotions have spanned the gamut. From hurt to anger to disappointment to shame to compassion, I just don't know how to feel about this entire ordeal. There are just so many layers! The best way I've been able to make sense of it all has been to dissect their current circumstance via three relevant personal perspectives: Me as a Christian; me as a childhood victim of sexual assault, and me as a sinner.
AS A CHRISTIAN
As a Christian, I believe we are all called to live a higher standard; to be a true example to the world on how to live the best life humanly possible; and to glorify God through everything we do and represent. Yet, because we are humans at the end of the day, I know that none of us is perfect and we WILL fall from time to time. (Whether by a measure that is socially/culturally acceptable or one that provokes public outcry, all sin is sin - and neither is greater or smaller in the eyes of God.) This is why Christians are called to hold one another accountable and offer correction in love to ensure we all do our absolute best to live a life that honors our Father. From that, I can only conclude there are two types of sinners in the world. There are those who boast in their sin and make every excuse (even twisting the Word of God) to justify it. Then, there are those who feel enough contrition to repent (to turn away) of their sinful behaviors. Forgiveness is available to both types (no matter how society views the sin), but only the repentant sinner actually receives it.
I cannot claim to know which type Josh Duggar truly is, but after reviewing this matter as objectively as I can, at the time of this writing, he sounds like a man who is now repentant of his former ways. Looking at this as reasonably as I can, I gather he was a curious, albeit wayward, child who needed to be checked! It sounds like even as he repeatedly sinned against his sisters and their babysitter, He was also repeatedly prompted by the Holy Spirit to confess - and he did. And, from what I gather, he finally had the strength and conviction to turn away from his behavior. If this is the case, I see no point in joining the masses in calling this man, whose sin was committed in his youth, a “pervert” or a “pedophile”. I honestly don’t. Yes, what he did was disgusting and unacceptable - nothing changes that fact. But if he is a new man in Christ, the truth is he is not “disgusting” or a “disgrace”. If he's turned from his sin and God has forgiven him, who am I do say anything else about who he is today? After all, I believe who we are today is the only thing that matters.
AS A VICTIM
As a childhood victim of sexual assault, I tend to be extremely sensitive about this topic, and I am especially compassionate toward other victims. For many, it takes years - if not decades - to heal from the trauma and there is much hell to deal with in the process. It took me eight years to finally feel fully adjusted and stable again - and my experience involved much more than being touched over the clothes while I was asleep and unaware. No one had to sit me down and tell me I was a victim. I knew it! Please understand, this is not to undermine any level of sexual assault anyone may experience. It is only to convey that if I can be healed, so can others. But, for some reason, society is set on making those of us who have healed feel that our former ordeal is who we are, rather than something we experienced - and overcame. While I understand some may be attempting to show empathy and compassion for our plight (and that is appreciated), it's as if the masses subconsciously wants us to remain angry, bitter and depressed for the rest of our lives!
As I watched the Duggar sisters' interview with Megyn Kelly, it appears Jill (24) and Jessa (22) are also healed and just simply wish to move on. I cannot fathom why the public won’t let them. I do not understand for the life of me why anyone would want to continue to make these women “feel” victimized after they’ve repeatedly, and convincingly, told us they are now okay.
As for the other victims who have not (yet) shared their sentiments on the matter, I can only pray they are in a similar psychological and emotional state. My prayer is that they are also healed and have forgiven Josh - not for Josh’s sake, but for their own. That is a hurt that I would never wish on my worst enemy, which is why it is such a joy to finally be over and done with the pain. We are not doing anyone any favors by attempting to make these women relive it.
AS A SINNER
As a sinner, I know what it feels like to deal with temptation, curiosities and my flesh pulling me toward something that my spirit KNOWS is counter to God's desires. My sins are not Josh’s sins. But I’ve done my own share of dirt before God, so I try to be extremely careful about casting stones. I will never feel comfortable rendering judgment on a humbled, repentant soul. I will never be okay with damning someone to hell - even if they are actively operating in their sin, because I'd like to believe that as long as someone is breathing, they have hope for redemption in God's eyes. This does not mean that I won’t tell them the truth about what God says are the wages of sin. But I cannot ever look down on another person because they have yet to benefit from the gift of sight. My prayer is that they one day come to see the goodness that God has set before them and that they will accept it fully.
As a sinner, another important lesson I’ve been reminded of by watching this ordeal is that while God forgives our sins, it does not mean there will be no consequences in the here and now - and I’ve come to know that those consequences are not always exclusive to me! It never ceases to amaze me how we tend to do what we wish in our flesh, then go run to God for forgiveness, forgive ourselves and feel all good inside, but never consider the turmoil our actions might have caused another person. We all make mistakes. We all sin. But I just pray that we would all consider the fall out of our actions before we commit them. This would save everyone the time and trouble of having to waste years of their lives crying, hurting, and (hopefully) ultimately healing and forgiving.
As I said in the opening, I don’t know much about the Duggars. In another few weeks, I imagine I won’t hear much more about them because yet another scandal will have broken in the news. (The enemy is always on the prowl, isn't he?!) But I do pray for them. I also pray everyone who has been harsh and hasty to damn this family for a horrible ordeal that they, from where I sit, did their best to deal with 12 years ago. (As far as I can tell, I think they dealt with it better than most families might. Seriously, who among us would have the strength to tell our kids as much as they did, take our child to a police station and then file an official police report on them? Besides, isn't that how we even know about this matter in the first place?!) My prayer is that anyone who might come across this piece also examine their heart and assess the root of their outrage. Are you upset because you are concerned about the victims, or is it because you don't agree with the family's political and religious views? If it is the latter, understand your "outrage" has no merit and, frankly, you are operating out of the wrong spirit. Who knows? Perhaps God is allowing all of this to occur to humble the Duggars. Perhaps it is meant to give them an even larger platform to share the importance of forgiveness, family and faith. I honestly don't know what purpose God will allow this to serve. But what I do know is God calls us to love even our enemies and to never gloat over their misfortune. If you are a Believer, and this is what you are doing, you’ve casted your first stone and I pray you recognize this before you enjoy your own public shame. As for the individuals who released the police report for nothing more than tabloid fodder, I can only say, "God help them."