Reconciling the Hero and the Harmer

“Pastor, how are we to respond?  Yet another of our heros has fallen to sexual misconduct or abuse!”

   “We are trying to reconcile the man we knew him to be

with his unacceptable behavior we now have become aware of.”

(Today Show, November 29, 2017).

******* TRIGGER WARNING*********
(Sexual misconduct+children)
 
My grandfather (paternal) was a kind man to me. He was gentle, sang, and played the organ, he snuck me hard candies and spoke Norwegian to me.  He taught me to love music, woodwork, and cars. He lived a Christian life and spoke of God with regularity.  He was like this with all of his grandchildren. 
My grandfather (same one) also molested me as a child. He molested other family members, too. Many in the family knew but my brother did not until he was nearly an adult. As he and my father flew home to my grandfather’s funeral, my dad told him my story so that he would not be caught off guard. I also think Dad still held anger that his own father had done that to his little girl and was struggling with going to a funeral to hear all nice things about someone who had broken an innocent child.  
The hardest part for my brother was reconciling the grandfather he had experienced with the one I experienced. I remind him regularly that our grandfather’s actions with me that were unacceptable do not undo the good he did. Each act stands alone. His good behavior did not excuse his bad behavior- but neither should his bad behavior erase the good. I remind him that it is ok to remember our grandfather with love and fondness because that is the authentic memory he has. He need not bear my anger, pain, or brokenness, even though I welcome him comforting me and holding me in it as I continue to grow and heal from it.  
I am not excusing my grandfather.   I am not justifying, supporting, or protecting him. I am a woman who has gone through deep healing and I now see clearly through waters that seemed impossible to move through once. In that clarity I see a broken man who broke others. I also see a man who tried to live right and sometimes failed. I pray that he found forgiveness before death- I pray that he reconciled himself. I myself, have reconciled that I can remember him with love and smiles of the good things that he did for ALL the grandchildren.
There is no sacred place from this kind of trauma.  Our news now fills our living rooms with story after story of sexual misconduct and abuse.  The more stories we hear, the harder it gets to make sense of the person we thought we knew through media or even personal experience with one who could do such things.  
But there is this- when we are ready, when we have caught our breathe- we can turn this over to God.  God heals and judges.  God comforts and chastens.  God is with us- and with them.  And God cares and loves until we can once more.  I for one, am grateful that in the years of anger and distress that followed when I was unable to forgive or heal, God was with my grandfather just as God was with me.   And I thank God for that because it is a difficult struggle to reconcile the harmer and the hero.

 

Author: mistressofdivinity

Pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Riverside, California; a congregation of the Pacifica Synod in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Even though the diploma reads "Master of Divinity," the learning continues. I lean into this pastoral role more each day, learning to balance vocation and family, life and passion, living and loving.

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