Uniquely Inspirational, Uniquely Mi Vida

The Problem With False Accusations

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USA’s Freedom of Speech law.

I have struggled with my thoughts about what to write for almost 2 weeks now. It seemed the more I tried,  the more frustrated I became. As I observed, heard and read about the events around me, the more extreme the opinions around me got. The more confusion arose within me. People were becoming more angry and emotional with each story, assumption and lie spoken. An angry, hateful beast grew throughout. It soon became painful to watch. And although I truly believe in the freedom of speech, all I could see reminded me of the bullies, the accusers and even the attackers of long ago. Emotions rang higher than the information, and reason was swallowed by assumptions and accusations without evidence.

I have been on both sides of the stories in the headlines these weeks.

I was a victim of sexual assault as a pre-teen. I remember it still in every detail: who it was, when he came in, where I was, how old I was, the day, the soundings, what he said, how he looked at me,  those eyes, what he did, how I fought, what I did, who I told, what happened afterwards, how it changed me.  I have ALWAYS remembered, but I didn’t let it cripple me. As a teen, it happened again, an older man, exposing himself…. It was enough for me… and I made it a mission not to let any man make me feel small, weak, manipulated… I learned to avoid the situations where these types of things might occur. I was fearful, distrustful and always self-conscious. I stayed away from situations, and guys that I felt uncomfortable with. I learned to read the eyes… the dark, lustful and hungry eyes…

Then I remembered how GOD healed me, protected me, helped me overcome the pain, the fears and issues. But I never forgot how untrusting I became of men bigger than me. (Which is pretty much all of them). They made me feel intimidated. I learned to see anger, greed, lust and hate in their yes. That was my biggest impact. They became the lessons that shaped me throughout my life. Yet God had to reshape the events in my life in a healthy way so that I wouldn’t get lost in the grip of victimhood. I was shaped into a wiser and more gracious person yet guarded.

As a woman, over the years I have been followed, hooted, whistled, “invited,” you name it… it has been said to me… by men of all ages. backgrounds, cultures and languages. Just as it happens to almost all women. But it no longer bothered me, I learned to block it out and ignore it. At least, I told myself, they know I am a woman. (And as my husband pointed out, appreciate God’s creation :D)IMG_1100 - Copy

On the other side: I have been the victim of false accusations… several times actually… too many times… From childhood to adulthood….

I feel I must be an easy target, just as I was an easy mark for the older teen many years ago, who tried desperately to molest me. After all, I am small in stature, petite, always wanting to help, I have a great imagination, “naive” to some degree, and too compassionate, trusting and forgiving many times. All these led me to be an easy target when I was younger. I seem to draw the anger of people, their fears, insecurities and more.

Those experiences led me to be more feisty, making me stand up for myself, protect myself and become self-sufficient. This led to other types of false accusations… from the way I spoke, to my culture, to what I said (or did not), to my strong attitude… well… (I can tell you many stories from the last 30 years of my life but that would require writing a book). I had become, in their opinions, the one to blame for their mistakes, their feelings of guilt, their embarrassments, inefficiencies or just the easiest target. I have more bruises than I can count.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..” –Matthew 5:43,44

I was assumed a “flirt” because I was nice and hugged everyone. I was assumed a fake because I was smiling and happy most of the time. I have been assumed to be disrespectful because I was outspoken. I was assumed arrogant because I spoke with passion. I have been assumed too be many things, and falsely accused of anything (from being fake, to being arrogant, to not letting my husband minister, to being an uncaring mother, to not being christian enough and too Puerto Rican, and so on)…Thinking that if I somehow am forced to accept the blame (their responsibility), they will feel better and their life might become easier. Sometimes it was just to get me out of the way and replace me for one of their own. Sometimes it was just because things didn’t go their way…and so on. Yet the issues never did went away but their hate for me grew…

I realized one thing: I can overcome the sexual assaults, but the ones that followed me the most, the ones that gloom over me are the words of false accusations… that still hurts the most to this day. They came from people I trusted, I considered friends, people I thought loved God and colleagues. Their words always came with fear and anger….hateful anger… that cuts the soul…coming out of nowhere. Words that don’t make sense, exaggerations, lies and more. They just sneak up behind you when you least expected… and fire up in multiple ways.

The assault was the act of one person, he made me feel used, worthless and fearful. The unjustified accusations are the voices of many…. and they echo in my head. They destroy self-esteem, confidence, worth… they make you question who you are as a whole… it is the bullies from childhood multiplied by 10. They try redefine you, shaking your identity and your belief…. and suddenly you realize you are a victim all over again…and you feel you can’t fight back…

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
 Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” __ Matthew 5: 10-12

I have learned over the years that those heavy, fierce and accusatory assumptions have been based on many things: jealousy, fear, anger, dislike, hate, discontent, disinformation, lies and exaggerations.

Another realization came to me, how dangerous our assumptions of others can become. I understand that I too have assumed opinions of others. I have learned to give them the “benefit of the doubt” as often as possible. Ironically sometimes, I put myself  at a disadvantage to the point of being manipulated by doing so. However, it is still a better option. I would rather observe, listen, read and ask as many questions as possible so that I may avoid the false assumptions of others that many have rendered on me. I’m not always right. and sometimes I fail to do a complete job. Sometimes I do rely on my gut feelings verified through prayer, and information from trusted people. I try so hard to love and forgive the ones who do not love me. I give them the benefit of the doubt in hopes that things will turn around. But I have also learned to guard myself.

As Christians we will always be in danger of being “scapegoats,” the target of presumed guilt and more.  As a pastor, minister, or leader, we have giant targets painted on us, that at any time may be fired upon. The Enemy, Satan ( the accuser), will take advantage of using our own people, even “friends” to put us down. We become the target of unforseen attacks. We need to remember to stay strong, in prayer, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ. We need Jesus to get through those difficult days. It is important not to allow the attacks of others to overtake me and control my future or who I am.

So what do I do when I feel attacked by someone who is reflecting their fears, anger, jealousy, hate, insecurities or more, at me:

    1. After crying…a lot, (Being honest here), I PRAY and CRY TO GOD
    2. Raqui and Todd talkingI Talk to someone who I can trust spiritually and emotionally, someone who can remind me that God loves me and does not see me the way the attackers do. (For me is my husband and dad, both who are also ministers).
    3.  I read the Bible and find solace and peace in the words of Christ.
    4. I surround myself with those who do love me, my family and friends .
    5. I write my journey in a diary or journal, it seems to help me…. (I have heard that others use music, art or go to the gym to help them…. anything that will help you release the pain in a healthy way.)
    6. I REMIND MYSELF THAT I HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, GOD LOVES ME, and GOD IS STILL WORKING IN ME.
    7. I stay connect to God’s family by being at church and events where the faithful can be found. (Let them also pray for you)

Eventually I see my painful, yet unique experiences, reshaping me. The trick is to let it reshape me into the person God wants me to be, stronger, wiser, loving and yes, graceful. And because I have been on the other side, more often than I like. I do my best not to let my opinions of others hinder them or me. I do my best to extend them love and grace as often as possible. I understand that the more they hurt you the harder it is… and this is where TIME is on our side. Because TIME does HEAL and GOD’s TIME is different from ours so… HEALING is VERY POSSIBLE.

I encourage you to search your hearts before you form any opinion or assumption of others. Remember, Christ came to forgive, not accuse, and if we call ourselves Christian we should be forgiving. I Also encourage you to search your hearts when you have fallen into the trap of victimization, whether it be physically, sexually, mentally or spiritually, as you heal. Let God be your HEALER. Let God be your VOICE.  Let GOD be that unique part of you that gives forgiveness, grace, and understanding of others. Be UNIQUELY JESUS as He reshapes you to be UNIQUELY HIS.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.”  –Isaiah 55:8 (NIV)

Uniquely Inspirational

Out of the Darkness

 “But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are God’s special treasure. You are all these things so that you can give him praise. God brought you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

I have worked with young people for over 25 years.

I have worked with young people in 3 different countries and they all have several things in common:

    1. They are struggling with their future
    2. They are struggling with relationships
    3. They are struggling within themselves
    4. They are struggling with sin and that leads to struggling with God

Sometimes they just ignore it, hoping that ignoring it will make it go away. Otherwise it leads to more pain. Sometimes they just accept it, as part of life and they give in to their emotions allowing the feelings to lead them, hence covering up the pain. Sometimes they face it, head on by fighting it. Often this leads to causing pain in others around them, whether voluntarily or not. A good example of these struggles can easily be seen in these lyrics Out of the Darkness By Little Steven, and in Matt Hegardy’s song as well.

However, the best solution, the one I constantly pray for and work for (as well as many pastors , family and friends), is that they surrender it to Christ. Hence, stepping into the Light of Christ and out of their darkness. Maybe Erin Willett is figering this out in her song Out of the Darkness.

It seems to me that this is the hardest thing for many young people to do, to surrender it, because they really cannot imagine the outcome. At times they feel that the outcome is so overwhelmingly good that they cannot believe it.  Often they just think that “no way that will never happen to me” and that they cannot overcome it….ever.  the dark shedThe worst yet, they are so comfortable in their own discomfort that often the pain and hardships become so entwined with their emotions and who they are that they in fact enjoy it. After all, they have been taught that there is nothing wrong and that their darkness is a good thing, it makes you “cool.” (Maybe not in those words, but you get my drift).

Such a simple solution, yet too hard for many to take.  As if they were stuck inside a dark cave.

This summer I watched how many young people saw the LIGHT, they finally understood not only the LOVE of GOD for them, but His purpose, His intentions and His PROMISES. They saw where humanity had gone wrong, they saw how the darkness came and had lied to them and swallowed them whole. They saw the lies and sin for what it is and saw JESUS for who HE IS and how HE gave his life for them so that He can pull them out of the darkness. As I watched the youth come to the altar, as I heard the prayers and heard their plea, I knelt by a young girl to pray. My question, “What do you want God to do for you today?” Her response was , “I don’t know. There is so much and I’m confused…”

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“What are you most confused about?” As she searched for answers I could not stop from feeling her pain. “My life, my relationship… is just…” and she burst into tears before she could finish. I asked again, “What do you want Jesus to do with it?” “To make it right…” She finally voiced. As we prayed she admitted her need to be forgiven and healed. The more we prayed, the more peaceful she became. At the end she looked at me and said, “I feel peaceful, I feel free and I know God loves me.”  Yes, this young lady, along with dozens had prayed out of their darkness that night. She now had left the darkness behind. The pain, she, along with many, had come to the realization that she could not hide it, ignore, live with it, live above it, but all she had to do was to surrender it. In that process Jesus took her hand and led her out…

I left that night with tears of joy.  Taking it all in. For that night many young people encountered the Savior, His forgiveness, His grace, His love, His light and His healing power. They found freedom for the first time. They lined up to share with others what God had done, sharing how they have been healed.

As I thought about it and dwelled on the service the day after. I had been seeing them around the campgrounds. I talked with a few, noticing their smiles and seeing the joy and peace in their eyes. Their words supported what I saw in their eyes and smiles. It showed the difference, no pain, no darkness. I walked into the sanctuary to find this projected on the wall:20180621_183542

As we left at the end of the week I was reminded how amazing is God’s grace that not only steps in to pull us out of the darkness, but was willing to go into it himself (when He died on the cross for us) just to get us out. Jesus himself suffered. Jesus himself was in pain. Jesus himself carried our sins, our darkness and left it behind. He understands us, He has lived it and if He can bring us out… into the light. Matthew West portrays it best in His song “Into the Light.” Jesus didn’t just pulled us out and into the His light… He continues to give us light and walk by our side. He took our hand and walks with us. Yes, Jesus walks with us no matter how uniquely weird and crazy our lives gets. All we have to do is take His hand, let Him lead, and hold on for our dear life. Because believe me, living with Christ is such a uniquely lit adventure!