Made in God’s image: thoughts on sexual harassment- Part 1

I hesitate to approach this topic because I have so much to learn. Yet, my silence isn’t much use to anyone. So, I’m lunging forward, hoping that victims of sexual harassment will grasp the power of knowing that harassment cannot touch their intrinsic worth. 

MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:27&31a)

God made man and woman–He made you— in His image. And He called you “very good.” Although “very good” included the human body, God wasn’t just talking about the shape of your nose or how pleasing your figure might be.

At a deeper level, God’s image on your being–the rational, moral, and spiritual–is what gives you beauty and worth. You are “very good” because you were created in God’s image. It’s integral; you cannot be separated from it.

But you can choose not to believe it. 

When someone’s value as an image bearer is undercut, there is pain. It’s the sort of pain that no amount of “I must have done something to deserve this” can take away. We can bury it, but we can’t really hide it. And after a while, we start to believe that we are no longer worthy of God’s image. 

Today, the discussion focuses on sexual abuse, a much more intricate and painful topic. But sometimes in our haste to address the big issues, we skim over the lingering pain of those who have been harassed but not abused. 

“Harassment is normal,” we think. Indeed, we have normalized harassment to the degree that we don’t bother addressing it. Even as a victim, this was my approach… until recently. 

IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT OKAY?

Harassment is common, not normal, and the more we normalize it, the more we give the message that it’s acceptable to harass and to be harassed. 

During my first experience with harassment, I thought I was overreacting because everyone else ignored it. So, after a few fumbled attempts at addressing it, I accepted it as par for the course in my work environment. 

Only recently have I been able to say, “This is not okay.” Why not? Because someone is trying to cheapen the image of God in me. God’s image is being objectified for the sake of someone’s pleasure or lust for power.

Clearly, harassment isn’t something we should dwell on; but, until we find healing, we will dwell on it, like it or not. By “dwell,” I don’t mean in conscious thought only; much of our “dwelling” can happen in the subconscious realm. My first incident was set aside and rarely thought of. Yet, inside of me there was a simultaneous shrinking from and hunger for the positive attention of men. 

MY EXPERIENCE

I didn’t know how much my first experience with sexual harassment had affected me until another incident occurred. Suddenly, I was dealing with the emotional aftermath of two incidents instead of one. 

But the emotions didn’t come from the incidents themselves as much as from the shame that wound its way through the memories. 

  • It is my fault. Someone implied that I had been too friendly, too familiar. 
  • I have to get over it. It wasn’t a big deal. Nobody else thought I was worth standing up for. Nobody seemed to think he should get into trouble. I tried to ignore it, but week after week of the same issue left my defenses ragged. (Sometimes I felt like I could just give in.)
  • Maybe I haven’t forgiven. Surely, if I just forgave, all of the pain and shame would vanish. 

Along with sexual harassment, there is often a sense of pleasure that comes with being noticed and desirable. That sense of pleasure is God-given (read Song of Solomon!), but in cases of sexual harassment, it typically serves to deepen the shame. We think to be a “real” victim, we must never feel anything except disgust. 

Sexual harassment attacks a vulnerable spot; therefore calling the pain to light also calls our vulnerability to light. So we hide behind masks of disgust, anger, or indifference, to name a few.

The offender is not the only victimizer. Many of us have also experienced a level of rejection from those looking on. “Get over it,” is a common sentiment from those who acknowledge what happened but don’t believe in the emotional aftermath. And there are always people who are skeptical, downplay the incident, or even defend the offender. 

Regardless of how others respond to your experience, it still happened. 

Next week, I’ll share a few ways to respond during and after an incident. In the meantime, I would be glad to hear your advice and wisdom as well. 🙂 See you next time. 


Photo by Shoeib Abolhassani on Unsplash

Stop and wonder

Psalm 23 is one of those familiar Psalms that I tend to glaze over because I know it by heart. I don’t stop and see or wonder at the depths. However, recently, I got stuck on verse 6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”

I pictured myself following God and goodness and mercy trailing along behind like an obedient but somewhat distracted dog. (Note: “mercy” as it appears here actually means “steadfast, unfailing, and unconditional love.”)

But “follow” is a much stronger word than “trailing.” It connotes pursuing relentlessly, running after, or tracking. In short, God’s goodness and steadfast love aren’t going to let us go. Not today or any day.

“All the days of my life,” David writes with unwavering confidence in God’s attributes. He had his days in lockdown too, hiding in caves, fearing for his life. Outside of lockdown, he had marriage problems, disobedient children, years of war, etc. Yet, he says that he knows God’s goodness and steadfast love are in those days too.

My roommate and I recently read Unseen by Sara Hagerty. Chapter 6 is titled, “Invitation to Wonder: Training Our Eyes to See God’s Beauty.”

“… [I]t’s harder… to see God’s beauty,” Hagerty writes. “… in the thousands of minutes in the middle of my days that don’t seem worthy of photographing or scrapbooking or sharing with others. He tells us in His Word that His glory is ever available, and it’s tucked inside every day. Every single one” (p. 107).

All the days of my life.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.

“Aurora Leigh” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (as quoted in Unseen p. 112)

God’s wonder–His goodness and steadfast love–are in each of our days. “Our flitting eyes… need to be trained to see them. They need to be trained to see the face of Jesus” (p. 118).

Stop and see.

Stop and wonder.


Photo by David McLenachan on Unsplash

We esteemed Him not

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

Isaiah 53:3

We esteemed Him not.

This phrase has stuck with me this Easter season. I prefer to focus on Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Christ is risen! But this declaration that we esteemed Him not

What does it mean? As I dug deeper, I noticed that this rejection is passive rather than active–apathetic rather than hateful.

At least hatred acknowledges a person or a deed. Apathy goes beyond; apathy doesn’t even care.

Apathy. For our bleeding Savior. Barnes’ says, “…he was regarded as cut off from man…that he was the most abject and vile of mortals in the estimation of others; so vile as not to be deemed worthy of the treatment due to the lowest of men.”

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

Isaiah 53:3

This verse speaks in first person plural of the Jewish nation, but I, for one, can see myself in the “we.”

I am so focused on my risen Lord that I don’t esteem my dying Lord. I grow apathetic to the suffering God on the cross, bearing the weight of sin and shame of mankind. My sin and my shame. 

Esteem Him this Easter season. Esteem the dying God and worship the living One.


Photo by Henrique Jacob on Unsplash

Well? What are you thankful for?

Well? What are you thankful for this year? 

Thanksgiving is one day that we set aside to be thankful for our blessings. 

Of course, we shouldn’t only practice our thanksgiving sitting down to a feast of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, homemade dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie. We know that. And I hope we practice that. But it doesn’t hurt us to recap a year of thankfulness before every Thanksgiving feast. 

I look back on 2019 and see things I wish had not happened, things I wish I had done differently, and things I wish others had done differently.

But even though we bumble through life, getting a few things right and a lot of things wrong, the “High King of Heaven” is always in control. He’s not up there sweating bullets that we will mess up His plan. In fact, He is letting us be part of His plan. Our sin and sorrow are never too big to be turned into a beautiful redemption story in His plan. 

As this year closes, I am thankful that after all I have done and faced this year, the Father blesses His child’s prayer:

“Thou and thou only, first in my heart.”

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Attr. Dallan Forgaill, tr. Eleanor Hull

No one understands me!

Do you ever feel misunderstood? Like the big, bad world is judging you by circumstance with no desire to understand your motive?

The truth is, we can never understand each other. Not fully. We have tools, like personality tests, that, on their best days, help us offer grace when we don’t understand each other. Living together helps too. But we just don’t quite get each other. Even those people who confidently nod and give you a smug smile when you do something predictable.

You’re not the only one who feels misunderstood. Ask God about that. He even had His people write about it in the Psalms and later in Romans. 

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”

(Ps. 14:2-3.)

“…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”

(Romans 3:10-11)

We humans, in our fallen brokenness cannot fully fathom a holy God. So, if anyone is allowed to complain about being misunderstood, it is God. 

Because, guess what else. You are understood. By the One who is least understood. He has searched and known you and discerned your thoughts from afar. He is acquainted with all of your ways. You cannot speak without Him knowing exactly what you will say. (Ps. 139:1-4)

You are understood. May that knowledge be too wonderful to wrap your mind around! (Ps. 139:6)

Are you a people-pleaser?- Part 2

Last week, I wrote about my struggle with people-pleasing. And I’m still learning how to deal with this fear of man. (By waiting a week, I was hoping to be so much wiser!)

On my journey, I’m learning how much my thought life affects my everyday life. My thoughts aren’t as private as I think. Jesus was right, of course, when He taught that sin begins on the inside.

I know how critical and dark thoughts can be because I think them all too often. But when others think those thoughts about me, I am panic-stricken. Could I be the object of disdain rather than admiration or affection?

My negative thought patterns subtly place others as the wrong doers and me as the victim. (As if!)

How do I get out of this negative rut? Pep talks? Surrounding myself with positive friends? Hardly.

By asking God to redeem my thought life.

Notice I said “redeem” rather than “distract.” When I catch myself slipping into my “nobody loves me, everybody hates me” rut, I confess and surrender that thought. But rather than leave my mind as a gaping hole (which is impossible for women, by the way), I work to fill that hole with worthy thoughts and praise.

One day, I specifically asked God to help me take every thought captive. While dwelling on a wrong thought, I suddenly jabbed my hip into a doorknob (and Spanish doorknobs are sharp!). In pain, I managed to laugh and thank God for the not-so-gentle reminder. Other days, I, in essence, tell God to go away and leave me alone to think my negative thoughts.

Sometimes, we write off negativity as discernment. But they’re not the same. Negativity eats at your soul. Discernment can see and analyze the negative aspects of a situation without being controlled by them.

When your thought life is redeemed, you can be discerning without being negative. People may still sling unrealistic expectations at you or think mean things about you, but when you don’t dwell on it, it can’t control you. 

See, whether or not someone means offense in a comment, you can leave it. You can walk away because when you do, that comment–whether intentional or unintentional–is between that person and God. When you take offense, suddenly the the relationship is much more complicated. Suddenly, the comment is between them and God, you and them, and you and God. And that takes a lot of clarification, repentance, and forgiveness. 

But when you re-calibrate your focus– take it off of whoever you are allowing to control you, and place it on God– your world begins to bloom. You can hear advice without letting it dictate each decision. You can hear criticism without being in the depths of despair. You can love those who think little of you, even if their opinion never changes. And you can hear praise without feeling like it is watering the thirsty soil of your starving soul. Affirmation becomes a blessing rather than a necessity. 

And you– I should say “we”– can be content in our identity in Christ rather than our identity in the eyes of others. 

Are you a people-pleaser?- Part 1

I was sweating under my blanket and it wasn’t because of the leftover summer heat. 

How could I have made the situation different? How could I have walked away without leaving a bad taste in their mouths? What should have I done to make them like me?

The night hours ticked away as I fought a bloody battle with my thoughts.

If you haven’t caught on by now: I have an overwhelming fear of man. I want people to love me and delight in me. I want to be the desired friend, the confidant, the one to diffuse tension in a situation. 

But that night, my heart was pounding so hard that I could feel the bed shaking along with it. And all because of a negative reaction that felt like a personal attack.

More hours passed before I was able to stop “problem-solving” and surrender. My heart, now guarded by God’s peace, relaxed until I could no longer feel the oppressive beating. And I fell asleep.

Not every wave of people-pleasing is like this for me. Sometimes, I feel invincible to others’ opinions because I’m too tired or too stubborn to bend anymore. Other times, I never surrender and spend days or weeks in agony, enslaved to another’s opinion and trying to think up ways to wriggle myself back into their good graces.

Can you identify? Are you a people-pleaser too?

I don’t have a once-and-done solution for us. Or even five easy steps to follow.

Recently, in talking with a friend, I realized that this area of my life is slowly changing. It may always be a struggle for me, but by God’s grace, it will no longer be my prison.

Next week, I’ll tell you a bit of my ongoing journey. And maybe you can tell me a little of yours too.

His pleasure in forgiveness

I always assumed that God forgave sinners because He had to. Not grudgingly necessarily, but because He needed to uphold His end of the bargain. Jesus, the sinless, took our sin and our shame, and God chose to look on Him and forgive us.

But recently I read the phrase “God’s pleasure in forgiveness.” It made me stop and wonder: Does God really take pleasure in forgiving us?

Can He really be pleased to erase our shame when justice demands that we remain alienated from Him forever?

I am beginning to grasp a level of God’s grace that goes beyond fulfilling an obligation or “just doing His job.” He wants us to be restored to a right relationship with Him. If He didn’t, He would not have provided a Way.

Jesus stands with arms outstretched, beckoning us to step into His perfection. 

And I continue to wonder: God finds pleasure in forgiving us. But how much pleasure do we find in repentance?

One minute too late

One minute too late. I watched the bus roaring away, atypically on time. 

Where could I have gained that missing minute? Not talking so long with the receptionist? Running down the street? J-walking? Not stopping to greet the kebab owner? Dashing out of the phone repair shop without the normal pleasantries when I found out the owner spoke English? I had known my time was limited, but…

But as the bus roared away, suddenly I was excited. Right there, surrounded by empty benches, I felt a thrill go through me.

I had missed the bus by a hair. Maybe God had orchestrated this for a reason. What else could He have in mind? 

I looked around me, expecting to see that one person that God would nudge me to talk to. But there was no one. Slowly, I meandered out of the station, determined to put myself in the way of what God was up to.

I ended up sitting at an outdoor table of a café, sipping a drink and watching the world pass by. A world that took no notice that I was waiting to be used by God. 

When the hour was up, I made my way back to the bus station and endured an uneventful ride home. I stared out the window. “God, why did you let me miss the bus? Why didn’t you send anyone for me to talk to? God, did you really redeem that time or not?”

How will I ever know? But does it even matter? God may have been up to something. Or maybe all He was up to was showing me that He doesn’t need to give me an account of what He’s up to.


Photo credit: M.L.K.

Go ahead and hurt

Not acknowledging your own pain in light of someone else’s worse pain does not cultivate a heart of gratitude.

Last fall, I was hurting, but I noticed that there was always someone hurting more than I was. So I began to bury my pain inside, believing that my struggle was not valid compared to what others were going through.

I did a lot of people a disservice. Had I acknowledged that pain to the Lord and sought healing, I could have been part of the healing process of others. Instead, my own hurts handicapped me because I sunk them deeper and deeper into myself. On the surface, my pain gave way to resentment. It made it almost impossible to respond to others in need.

I stopped seeking out a place to share my pain because it wasn’t supposed to be real anyway. And I reminded myself over and over that I had so much to be grateful for. 

What was I doing? I was comparing myself to others and saw them as more needy and thus more worthy of care and attention. And my hurts…what hurts? I don’t have any hurts!

When we compare ourselves to others, it can cultivate faux gratitude. “This relationship may be broken but at least I have a solid roof over my head, unlike those war torn refugees.”

Real gratitude comes after we acknowledge our pain and still find God bigger. And still find Him good.

Have you ever read the Psalms? The psalmists don’t pretend that everything is okay. Instead, they often pour out their hearts in startling honesty. But then they rest in God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and His love. They see their pain in light of God’s bigness and they are grateful.

I’m not sharing this piece of my journey with you because it’s pretty (it’s not) or because it’s eloquent (it is only notes jotted down on my phone); I’m sharing this because maybe you are here at this point with me where you feel like your pain isn’t worth God’s time of day, or anyone else’s, for that matter.

We can keep believing that if we would like, but life is so much richer when we seek  healing. What does healing look like? I’m not an expert yet, but I know that sometimes it looks like confession, sometimes like forgiveness, and sometimes, it’s just acknowledging that the pain is real.

None of those options mean we magically stop feeling the hurt, but that we relinquish control of it and its control on us. And without the “at-least-I-don’t” comparisons that tell us we should be grateful, we find that we have tasted God’s goodness and we are truly grateful.