I was in my church office. A woman, sitting in the chair across from me, was crying. My heart was breaking for her.
She had just confessed to me—apparently embarrassed and ashamed—that she felt enormous anger about the Bible. There were parts she couldn’t even bring herself to read!
Hearing her story, I wondered how she had hung in with the church for so long. She said it was because she loved Jesus; she was so moved by who Jesus is, and what He had meant in her life. But Paul! That was another thing. So many stories. So many verses, Paul’s verses mostly, that had been used to shut down conversation with her, to put her in her place, to explain her story away, to cut her out of community.
She wasn’t arguing with Paul or suggesting his ideas were culturally bound. This wasn’t an intellectual disagreement. This was pain! People had used these words to exclude and demean her. Whole sections of the Bible were clouded over in the fog of these experiences. Something meant to be life-giving has been used to harm, to limit, to silence and exclude.
She had experienced spiritual abuse. The words of the Bible have been used over and over again by people wanting to exclude, to shut down or control. The book becomes a bludgeon. Some people wielding the bludgeon even think they are helping, doing something in love. But instead of these words giving life, they do damage.
For some of us, the roadblock standing between us and the Bible isn’t the Bible at all. It’s emotional pain, wounds caused by people using the Bible as a weapon — against us or against people we love.
This is the highest, hardest hurdle of all.