One afternoon when I was 6 years old, I was physically assaulted by a female adult whom I did not know. It happened about 25 yards from the apartment where I lived.
My run-in with the woman started one afternoon when I saw a little boy sitting in his diapers in the dirt, digging with a spoon. I went over, sat down next to him, and took the spoon out of his hand. When I started digging with it, he started crying.
Suddenly someone came from behind, grabbed my arm, jerked me off the ground, and started dragging me toward a row of apartments in our complex. I couldn’t see who had my arm, but I could tell it was a woman because she was screaming obscenities at me.
I was helpless to stop myself — her grip was too strong, and I couldn’t get my feet on the ground. The next thing I knew, she had pulled me into an apartment and slammed the door.
She dragged me into the middle of the living room, where I tried to get on my feet, but she shoved me so hard that I tripped backward and fell onto her couch, which had no cushions on it.
“Say you’re sorry,” she screamed.
I was sobbing too hard to say anything at all, so I just tried to get off the couch and out of the apartment, but she lunged at me and shoved me back into the couch.
“You’re not going anywhere until you say you’re sorry,” she screamed, cursing at me. “Say you’re sorry.”
Despite my bawling, I finally managed to force an apology out of my mouth, and she let me go after yelling, “Don’t you ever do that again.”
I don’t know if she was worried that I would tell my parents what happened, but she didn’t need to be — I didn’t say a word for 19 years.
Confessing to My Dad
When I finally told my dad, it upset him. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t say anything to him or my mom. He said that if he had known, he “would’ve found that woman and beat the ever-living mess out of her.” But from my perspective as a child, I couldn’t tell my parents for one simple reason: I did something wrong (I took a spoon from a little kid), so I deserved it. Plus, I assumed that if my parents knew I had taken the spoon, I might get in more trouble — I mean, based on that woman’s reaction, taking the spoon was a big deal. So I kept it a secret.
It’s a shame the woman got away with beating me up, and I wish I could say this kind of thing is rare. But whether we realize it or not, we’ve all been knocked around like that before.
If Satan and his mass of disembodied, evil spirits are real — and I believe they are — then they live to make life hell for God’s children, who are made in the image of the One they hate. And one of the most effective ways they poison us is by inflicting ungodly humiliation on us when we sin.
They catch us gossiping, envying the successes of others, perpetually overeating, indulging in sexual sin, judging others — whatever — and they’re thrilled to see us fall into sin. But they’re not finished. After guilt begins to set in, they yank us up and drag us into dark places where they scream, “Don’t you ever do that again.”
They speak in the authoritative voice of shame, convicting us like we’re criminals and refusing to release us until we offer fear-induced apologies to them. No doubt, they’re fully aware that they’ve got no right to do this, but we repeatedly allow it to happen for one simple reason: We’ve done something wrong, and we think we deserve it.
Something about this kind of spiritual abuse feels wrong, but we’ve put up with it for so long that eventually, it starts to feel like a normal part of the Christian life. Well, it isn’t normal, and it doesn’t have to be this way.
Test the Spirits
When you sin, don’t be deceived into misdirecting your prayers to a heartless god who always leaves you feeling like you’ll never change — a god who lies to you and says that Christ’s death might not have been enough to cover your sins.
That isn’t the voice of your strong, tenderhearted Savior, the one who told His disciples to repeatedly forgive people, even when they make the same mistake (Matthew 18:21-22). It is the voice of a spiritual abuser who would be happy for you to spend your life in his dark apartment, living on a perpetual guilt trip. That god knows your sin isn’t the big deal, but he wants you to stay focused on it so that you’ll lose sight of the fact that Christ’s sacrifice is the big deal. And it is Christ’s sacrifice that should embolden you to say, “In the name of Jesus, I’m getting out of this hellhole and going home to my Heavenly Dad.”
Stop being childlike in your fears, and be childlike in your faith. Run home to your Dad. He won’t knock you around the room and bully you until you beg for mercy. Sure, He will confront your sin and correct you, but He will be kind about it. And over time, as you keep coming to Him, He will give you endless grace to grow more and more into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Remember, this is an issue of authority, and the One who actually has the authority to correct you operates in kindness, which leads to real repentance (Romans 2:4). Submit to Him over and over again, and when the enemy tries to drag you into the darkness of guilt and shame, run to the arms of your eternal Dad, who will promptly go and beat the ever-living mess out of him.