Before there was Lance, before there was Portland, before there was Germany or Mexico or my love of science and medicine, there was the Honor Academy. My first adventure outside of the relatively safe life I had known for 19 years, deep in the backwoods of East Texas. I met some of the most amazing and genuine people there, people who still make up a major part of my life 10+ years later. I had some really fun adventures and happy times. I also had some harrowing and devastating experiences there as well, ones which still impact me in my 30's. Good and bad...both are true, and neither is diminished by the presence of the other.
I was involved with a group in my late teens and early 20's called Teen Mania based in Garden Valley, Texas. The Honor Academy is their full-time internship program. This weekend, MSNBC is airing a documentary on it called "Mind Over Mania", which follows a group of former interns as they participate in spiritual abuse recovery workshop with trained counselors. I will be driving home from Seattle when it airs Sunday night, but I fully intend to catch it on HULU next week.
The controversy with Teen Mania is multi-faceted and polarizing. I won't go into it here...you can google it and read for yourselves if you are so inclined. Right now, though, I just ache for my friends.
I ache for my friends who were spiritually abused in the name of Jesus.
I ache for my friends who were emotionally abused for the sake of the Great Commission.
I ache for my friends who were physically abused as a means to be made Disciples of Christ.
I ache for my friends who unknowingly carried out those abuses with the best of intentions and the purest of hearts as a misguided attempt to create and uphold impossibly high standards for the Kingdom of God.
I ache for my friends who are hurting still, 10 years later, and unpicking the tangled web of God's promises, man's demands, and the booming voice of self-hatred. I've been there. I've been the abused, and I've been the abuser. It is unspeakable misery. It is the road to recovery.
Regardless of what Teen Mania is or isn't, there are things I want my friends to know:
Love does not adhere to labels.
Love makes room for everyone and honors all experiences.
Love is patient, it does not require you to shut up and move on, figure it out, or become something or someone else.
Love asks you to learn it's highest lesson: Love without condition.
Love never abandons or dismisses anybody, no matter what.
Love listens with compassion and vulnerability.
Love holds everything, all the time, and does not demand anything or anyone to change.
Love does not take sides.
Love requires nothing from anyone, not even participation or agreement.
Love creates paths to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Love never stops loving, even in the face of terror, defensiveness, pride, abuse, or manipulation.
Love possesses bravery, chaos, the ability to be wrong, and a willingness to stay in it even when it's uncomfortable.
Love speaks for those who cannot (yet) speak for themselves.
Love does not minimize those who hurt, nor villainizes those who have done the hurting.
Love makes no demands, only promises.
Love offers and receives truth without judgment.
Love is all you need.
For anyone who wonders where I stand on Teen Mania, church, Jesus, life, family, politics, and anything else I can possibly value and abuse, this is it. Ultimately, I stand for Love. I don't do it perfectly, and at times I care more about justice and being "right" and fair than pursuing a path of unconditional love.
For those friends who have been hurt, who have done the hurting, who live in denial of the hurt, or just hurt all the time, I love you.
(Note: A few of the love declarations were borrowed from various sources such as The Beatles, the Bible, my husband, and Jim Spivey.)