There was a theme in this year’s Stand Down stories. The theme is that sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried. But actually you’ve been planted. In past e-mail, I told you about some of the new sprouts coming from seeds planted years ago. This story is about a new planting.
I met a woman from my generation who many years ago was called into her commanding officer’s office to take a letter. He raped her. After the rape, she cleaned herself up and replaced her torn panty hose with the spare she kept in her desk. She told no one. Now years later, she is suffering the mental health consequences of that rape. She has made three unsuccessful attempts to get VA services, but she has no way to prove the rape.
Today after a lengthy search of many denominations, she is a Jehovah’s Witness trying to prove the authenticity of her repentance so that she can return to fellowship. This process can take months or even years. One of her “serious sins” is her military service. She is receiving VA housing assistance. Can you see her predicament?
I listened to her all weekend. I learned that when her circumstances improve, she becomes suicidally depressed. (Seems counterintuitive but more common than one might expect.) She seems to be getting to that place again, and I was concerned. I strongly encouraged her to get help. At one point, she mentioned that she needed to talk to a woman who understood military sexual trauma. I know women who met her criteria and started making arrangements. My mental health resources are not Christians. I thought that these resources combined with her religious beliefs closed the door to the gospel. I felt dead and buried. Later in the day, she told me how much she valued the help I had given her by listening. She wanted to continue the discussion. I was shocked!
I prayed overnight for an open door to the gospel. In the morning, I asked her to tell me more about how she became a Witness. Eventually, she described the process of restoring her fellowship. This gave me the opportunity I needed. I asked her when and how she would know for sure that God accepted her repentance. She paused for a long time. Her face changed from pensive to sad. Eventually, she said she didn’t think she could ever know, that no one could know for sure. I let that thought sink in and then quietly and gently said, “I know.” At first the gospel sounded like extraordinarily good news to her. She had never heard the concept of adoption. She wanted to know more, but she began to understand that her Father was a person. Witnesses do not believe God is a trinity and that Jehovah is a force not a person. These new ideas directly contradicted her religious indoctrination. She shut down. I changed the subject.
Before she left Stand down she asked for my number. I don’t know if she will call or not. What I do know is that the gospel is not dead and buried. It was planted. May the Gardener bring it to life!