Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead! A Pastor's Response To The Death Of A Childhood Abuser


Originally posted on 04 June 2015

Staff_Sharon_Dickens

This post was written by Mez McConnell, director of 20schemes

A recent obituary penned by some of the children of a recently deceased mother wrote this startling piece for their local press:

Marianne Theresa John­son-Reddick born Jan 4, 1935 and died alone on Sept. 30, 2013. She is sur­vived by her 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way pos­sible. While she neglected and abused her small chil­dren, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love. Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.

On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively ex­posed to her evil and vio­lent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after­life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children. Her surviv­ing children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.

I just heard several hours ago that my stepmother of almost 13 years is dead. Of what and how I do not know. She was young. I know that. So painful is it to even think of her name I refer to her as ‘she’ throughout my autobiography.

It’s 1:30am and I can’t sleep. I don’t know what to think or to feel. The above is pretty much what I would like to express to the world. I would like to go to her funeral, stand and let everybody know what this person was truly like and how much damage she did while alive. I want her to get her just desserts even though I know, thanks to Christ, I will never get my own.

I am a pastor. I should know better. I do know better.

I know, deep in my soul, that Jesus experienced every form of suffering when he was in the world. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was betrayed and tortured. He is well acquainted with your grief, and he will never leave you (John 14:18). I know, therefore, that perceived wisdom (my own included) demands that I forgive this woman who caused me such pain. I know it’s the Christian thing to do. I know that he who has been forgiven much ought to forgive much in return.

I know.

Yet, I want to make public my frustration at crimes she never paid for. At the same time I want to be magnanimous in my forgiveness as Christ has been in his for my sin.

Instead I feel conflicted.

I thought I might dance a little jig or even feel a sense of release and elation at news I longed dreamed about and ached for as a kid. This is a woman who drove me to such despair that I attempted to set her on fire in her (drunken) sleep when I was no more than 10 years old. But there is no jig. There is just a heaviness of heart and the nagging itch of my suffering and her evil never admitted in this life. The problem is that I want to feel joy at her passing. I want to rejoice in the belief that she will face the judge of all the earth for her crimes against me. I want to revel in the thought that she is having her own spiritual Nuremburg moment right now. That father time has caught up with her and her sins are about to be found out and brought into that terrible, perfect light. That the angels in glory will see just what a monster she truly was.

But I don’t feel joy that I want to. I just feel sad. Sad for a woman who wasted her life in bitter anger and expressed it through the mental and physical torture of children. Sad for the trail of devastation she left behind. Sad for the family members she hurt and betrayed. Sad that, despite these things, people will mourn her passing. There will be tears at her funeral. There will be stories of her good side or of things well done and said. Things I never experienced. Things I can scarcely believe are true about her.

I am conflicted further when I think about my own family today, almost 3 decades after she beat me for the last time. My wife of 17 years lies next to me soundly sleeping. My girls (12 & 13) are in their rooms. Because of my childhood they have never known violence in our home. Because of my pain they have never known cigarette burns on pale, skinny arms. Because of my nightmares they have never spent endless lonely nights in locked cupboards without food and clothing. Because of my shame they have never known the horrors of being stripped and mocked in front of drunken strangers. Because of my scars they have never known hunger so deep they’ve been forced to eat their own faeces. Because of my upbringing they’ve never been beaten with poles and sticks. Because of my childhood they’ve never been knocked unconscious for failing to wash a dish properly.

Because of ‘her’ they’ve never known the horrors of deeply psychological and traumatic abuse.

Of course, they’ve never known these things primarily because I know Jesus. I know the bittersweet truth of Genesis in my own life. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).

I am conflicted because I realise that my own family lie peaceably unmolested because of God’s goodness in my life and, perversely, her evil in it too. God has used her evil for the good of my family. The thought that my pain has been used for good comforts me as I grapple with why these things were permitted to happen to me. The thought that she should get any credit, however true, is abhorrent.
God has used her evil for the good of my family. Click To Tweet
Even now, at 2:30am as I trawl through online press cuttings and see familiar faces all over the courts pages and the obituaries I feel a deep gratitude for Jesus. Old family and friends imprisoned and/or dead at criminally young ages. And I find her photo. She looks like an old woman even though she was not. A lifetime of self-abuse has ravaged her features.

That could have been me. That was my own road to self-destruction until Jesus intervened. I live today only because Jesus found me and turned my life around. He gave me hope. He gave me a spiritual family. Brothers and sisters who have loved and cared for me. He used godly people to teach me personal responsibility for my own sins. He used godly people to teach me how to be a real man, a faithful husband, a loving father and a (average) pastor.

He is teaching me still.

Yet, still I feel conflicted. I am angry with myself. I feel like my toing and froing over forgiveness and the rationalisation of my suffering is somehow betraying my childhood self. A spiritual battle rages on. The old man berates the new while the latter fights for peace. The old man wants to take me on a trip down (painful) memory lane, trawling up old wounds and savage rage long since soothed with the balm of the gospel. Of course, he’s popped by from time to time in my Christian life but it seems like he’s pulled an armchair up tonight and he’s here for an extended visit.

The new man is winning.

Just.

Two decades of living for Jesus has evened the odds against two decades of self-loathing, shame, anger and destruction. It seems that even the sovereign control over her death means that I am able to be conflicted without complete self-implosion. The same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is helping me to draw on my decades of biblical knowledge and personal experience with which to vanquish the poisonous darts of the devil.

It’s 4am and I am suddenly reminded that I am not the person I was 30 years ago. Maybe she did change at the end? An awful thought crosses my mind. What if she, like me, found the true forgiveness and peace of Jesus Christ? No. There was no evidence to suggest it. How would I know? I haven’t seen her for 30 years. No! Surely not? God wouldn’t do that to me? He’s on my side, right? He wouldn’t let me down by saving my chief tormentor, would he?

Imagine that.

That would be the ultimate cheat wouldn’t it? Pardoned, at the death, for her heinous crimes against me and who knows how many others? I don’t like that thought.

I suddenly realise that if it were true then I’d be like the angry brother in the Parable of the Prodigal.

I want God to overlook my sins. I like it when He does that. But hers? That’s a stretch. I tell myself I’m a better person than she was. Is that true? Maybe now. But any good in me belongs to the Holy Spirit. I hurt people. I abused people. I stole. I lied. I murdered in my heart. I too have done awful things.

I think about Romans 12:17-21:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I don’t like that very much. I want to be her judge and jury.

Do I trust God to be hard enough on her? Will He let her off on a technicality? Will He forgive her? Maybe He doesn’t know the full story and I need to fill Him in on the details.

Pathetic I know.

Sinful.

Arrogant.

I want to comfort myself by comparing my innocent suffering to His. Jesus understands me because we have suffered together. But, tragic though it is, my pain doesn’t really compare to His cosmic distress. My anguish, though real, is not even a pinprick on the little finger of His nail pierced hand. My suffering is infinitesimal in light of the cross of Calvary as he took the wrath of God upon himself to rescue the poor, the lowly, the proud, the greedy, the arrogant.

The child abusers.

He died for awful human beings like my stepmother.

Like me.

I roll over and try to sleep chewing on that awful truth.

She doesn’t need my forgiveness any more than I need her repentance. We both need the former from Him and He requires the latter from us.

Thankfully, in Jesus he grants both to all who come.

It doesn’t tie it all up in a neat little bow but at least sleep comes knowing that, ultimately, the judge of all the earth will do right and act justly.

 

 

 

Posted by Mez McConnell

Mez McConnell, is the Senior Pastor of Niddrie Community Church (Edinburgh, Scotland) and the founder and Ministry Director of 20schemes. He has been involved in full time pastoral ministry, both church planting and revitalisation since 1999.

  1. David Andrew Robertson 4 June 2015 at 11:09 am

    Mez – that is one of the most helpful and moving things I have read in years. Thanks. Nothing to say except we are praying for you and all your family…and those you work with…

    Reply

    1. Thanks David. I appreciate your thoughtful email as well. Peace bro.

      Reply

  2. Andrew Cinnamond 4 June 2015 at 11:56 am

    This really kicked me in the guts and made me think again about Jesus…and the Cross… and Easter light in the awful darkness. This was brave, compassionate, bold, and ballsy to write. Thank you so much.

    Reply

  3. josephrandall 4 June 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks Mez – powerful, humbling, convicting, and points me to the glorious Christ! Christ is all!

    Reply

  4. Eddie Arthur 4 June 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks, Mez.

    Reply

  5. Kevin Cuthbertson 4 June 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Mez, Thank you for your honesty. I still find times where I’m not believing in the power of God and I return to the 9Marks site and listen to your testimony. How encouraging that the work He began in you ( and me) is still in progress today and will one day be completed.

    Reply

  6. In tears over here. Thank you, thank you. Praying for the Lord to use it to comfort many.

    Reply

  7. I have been blessed by you sharing so honestly. I have some similar struggles as a follower of Christ who was abused as a child.
    God has done a marvelous work of healing, but there are times when the struggle is very real. Knowing and having the confidence that God is for me and not against me, especially as I make decisions about relationships can be, cloudy at times.
    I so appreciate knowing that I am not alone in my struggle.

    Reply

  8. Rosemarie Clair 4 June 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Whoa. Lately the Lord has been impressing me to focus in His Word regarding His power. “The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in you.” The reality of this truth comes powerfully alive in your words on this page. It is not as though I have ever heard of you before or read your words prior. It is the Lord’s leading to read a modern day man write so critically, transparently, and generously about God’s power to heal, restore, forgive, restore and redeem – as much as we allow. Thank you Pastor McConnell. Wow.

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  9. This will be used. Praise the Lord for this article.

    Reply

  10. David Siders 4 June 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I was abused but nothing like Mez.. The words and thoughts are much appreciated.

    Reply

  11. This is so inspiring. As we get ready to go on mission to a township of South Africa where abuse is very common, this is such a great reminder of the power of the gospel. To see it lived out when difficult, when counter-cultural, when human strength wouldn’t be enough – this is when it is most believable. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply

  12. So much resonance within my own childhood experiences, but with the added complexity of the abuse being handed out within the context of a ‘Christian’ family. Thanks for sharing, Mez, because any carthasis you might have experienced through the writing will have been paid for in tears of sorrow, grief and anger. Bless you.

    Reply

  13. Jesus the Christ is honored in the telling of your unfolding story, Mez. Selah.

    Reply

  14. Amanda Thompson Jones 4 June 2015 at 8:10 pm

    That was truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing. And I’m sorry for your loss.

    Reply

  15. As you share this struggle, I’m reminded of Luke 17:3-4 and context. We must resist making light of the inevitable stumbling blocks, especially when the weak and vulnerable are exploited. These wicked acts are grave sins against God. It is important to rebuke these sins whenever we become aware of them and, if they are criminal acts, report them to civil authorities.
    I am grieved that no one intervened in your behalf at an opportune time. The fact you are alive is testimony to God’s incredible grace. Your stepmother, like everyone else, answers to God for how she treated you and how she responded to His Son when (and if) her conscience troubled her.
    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, I trust God will use your testimony to prompt those who have knowledge of such abuse to rebuke (Jesus’ word) offenders like your stepmother.

    Reply

  16. Thank you for sharing that so honestly. I relate to a lot of your struggles, especially worrying about whether your abuser was saved before they died. I used to worry about that all the time and get quite scared at the thought of seeing them in heaven. I’m still not exactly happy to think that might happen (though I have no idea if they did repent) but I’m more accepting that God is in control of it all and I can trust him. I’ve never heard anyone else mention that struggle before though so it’s encouraging to know it’s not just me.

    Reply

  17. Stephen Blakeman 5 June 2015 at 1:24 am

    Nothing like reality to mess up our tidy theology with Biblical truth that, in Christ, we must fight to embrace while on Earth: we will be always be learning what it means to trust in Jesus.

    Reply

  18. Sarah Livingston Moore 5 June 2015 at 1:36 am

    Thanks for this post. Very different circumstances and experiences, but I, too, have a “wicked witch” in my past. Years later, I struggle with remembering that I am no less deserving of God’s wrath. My own sin is so often minimized in my mind. Convicting words of truth, here.

    Reply

  19. Cameron Kirker 5 June 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Having read this post I am reminded of a scene from the 2007 movie “The Bucket List.” The dialogue quote I recall is delivered by the wife of Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) a nurse of many years, in this vein, “I have had a front row seat to more human suffering than anyone should ever have to witness (paraphrase).” You, Mez, and innumerable others, however, have had a place in the midst of the arena. You were victimized. As a pastor myself for over thirty years – also married to a long-time nurse – I have been close to much abuse, suffering, hatred, violence and more, yet all as an observer. Close. Close enough. Not that close. Moved by the wounded portrayals? Yes. Heart broken by the survivors’ testimonies? Yes. Able to recall and taste anew the bitter fruit of another’s outrageous brokenness focused upon me? No. Apart from a single incident of sexual abuse at age four at the hands of a summertime neighbor, I have not been often awakened in the night to the terror of rehearsed evil. You and those so traumatized must face obstacles to faith and forgiveness I have not been challenged by as yet. As a Scot by heritage, a Christian by God’s grace, a pastor by divine humor and equipping, and a human being I will make this promise – as our Lord provides remembrance of your journey to me I shall pray for the generational benediction you have generously reported, and the people now dwelling in greater peace because of your nightmare. How wonderful you have emerged into that greater light of holy grace, by which you now see more clearly. God’s best to you and your tribe of restored, broken shells.

    Reply

  20. […] A Pastor’s Response to the Death of a Childhood Abuser. […]

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  21. Dear Mez

    I would like to thank you for your testimony. My daughter just sent me your posted story. Ask me to read it. And thanked me for protecting her as a child and said I love you dad. I can relate and understand many of the things you wrote. Be encouraged.You were able to break the chain of the past family, as I have, to be head of your own family where they will never ever experience the abuse and shame, the secrets, the belittlement, the pain and suffering that you went through. When I lived in Maui Hawaii I went to a writer’s conference and heard a lecture by Dave Pelzer who wrote a book entitled “A Boy Called It”. There wasn’t a dry eye in attendance. A parallel experience indeed. Your experiences Mez, though terrible as they were, has led you to a place of honor in your family. A protector. A Godly man.The Lord has put you in a place where only you can help victims overcome through the Grace of God, with compassion and understanding. Be Blessed this
    day. As the Lord brings you to mind I will pray for you and your family as well
    as your ministry.

    Reply

  22. Mez: In my case the “witch” is my ex-wife, who divorced me for selfish reasons (not biblical grounds) after 29 years and 4 kids. She then quickly remarried to a twice-divorced man with wife abuse issues in at least one of his previous marriages and relocated 400 miles away, further complicating all the co-parenting issues. In the process and continuing to the present, she callously caused tremendous damage both to me and to our kids. I struggle with anger at the present, past, and future consequences of her actions, especially since there has not (yet) been any recognition on her part of any wrongdoing. Just recently, I experienced a wave of pity for her; not much has gone right for her in the last couple years, including (from what little I understand) her health and the new marriage, and it occurred to me how lonely and scared she must be — emotions she has struggled with since her dysfunctional childhood. Perhaps I’m making progress. But she is a Christian; has been before I knew her. So I know/believe that she’s going to heaven in spite of what she’s done, because Christ has paid the penalty. My way of believing biblically about her future in spite of her sins against me and my kids is to believe that a Christian who has badly wronged others and has never apologized or attempted to make amends in this life will be required (or, more likely, internally motivated by the completion of sanctification in heaven) to apologize to those they have wronged. Of course, given the environment then, the apology will be full, genuine, and with appropriate remorse. Trying not to expect much before then, unfortunately.

    Reply

  23. […] A Pastor’s Response to the Death of a Childhood Abuser – A very emotional look at the conflicting emotions involved with forgiveness and a desire for justice. […]

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  24. Vicki Cozart Bowles 7 June 2015 at 10:43 pm

    Mez, thank you for sharing your story. I too have been a victim of abuse from childhood through adulthood, and struggle with forgiveness much as you have shared. I wish I could be so honest about my thoughts and feelings toward my abusers. Forgiveness is something Christ commands I do understand, but the doing of it sometimes takes years. The unpacking of years of ongoing abuse is like living it all over again, over and over. But Christ does provide the healing I’m reminded and do believe. And yes, little by little the brokenness is feeling less razor-sharp. Both of my abusers have passed on, and I do think Christ rescued them. However, we are still left with the scars. Thanks be to Christ that He has and continues to experience our pain and is with us o our journey toward healing.

    Reply

  25. Kathryn Dawes 22 June 2015 at 3:33 am

    I love you, Mez! Your brutal candor and struggle is such an encouragement. I haven’t faced your suffering, but an old boss of mine was quite the bully and I’ve struggled with my hatred of him in the years since. I take comfort from the Psalms, when the Psalmist pleads with God to judge the evildoers. It’s okay to want them to be judged. But the Messiah died for them as much as he did for me. I think my boss’s sin is bad, but I really have no idea regarding my own, that Jesus died for us both, do I? It’s humbling!!

    But I love that I am not the only one to struggle like this, and you have all the more than I to do so, and all the more “reason” to forgive as you’re a pastor.

    Reply

  26. […] Ding Dong the witch is dead: if you’ve missed this, it is a must read – a harrowing account of a pastor who is a survivor of horrendous child abuse […]

    Reply

  27. […] Ding Dong, The Wicked Witch is Dead: A Pastor’s Response To The Death Of A Childhood Abuser- 2… An incredibly honest post talking about the conflicted feelings involved in struggling to forgive an abuser- really helpful discussion of a complex subject. […]

    Reply

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