The Cross & the Pen: Deborah Bedford on Sexual Abuse
- Eva Marie Everson Contributing Writer
- 2004 11 Mar
Welcome to "The Cross & the Pen," Crosswalk.com's author-to-author interview column! I initially met Deborah Bedford over the Internet – two novelists, talking about their craft. One evening I surprised her with a phone call; we chatted like old buds! In July 2002, we met formally. Deborah was signing copies of her latest release, and I stood in line like a star-struck fan. When it was my turn to get my book signed, I said, "Could you sign it to Eva Marie Everson?" Deborah jumped from her seat, leaned over the table, and we hugged like the sisters we are.
Recently Deborah has released a new book, "When You Believe" (Time Warner Book Group, 2003). I should say she gave birth to it. The subject matter is difficult to talk about in any situation, but somehow she has managed to give us a story and a message with gentleness and heart. Not too long ago we got together at a trade show and chatted about it. Wanna listen in?
Eva: Deborah, you know I love everything you write.
Deborah: Thank you, Eva.
Eva: But, I'm going to start off by asking you a really tough question.
Deborah: Okay. (Smiles)
Eva: What made you decide to write about sexual abuse within the Christian market?
Deborah: Because I thought it was a subject not touched upon – hush/hushed in this market. I have a friend who had such a story that never able gained a level of forgiveness. I see her battling, even as she helps women within her ministry. I still see her battling with questions like: What did I do? Why didn't my mother listen to me? There are as many if not more dysfunctional problems within Christian homes as those who don't know the Lord.
Eva: Amen. ...
Deborah: We've overlooked that for a long time. If we want to show the world that God is real, we have to show the world how God deals with real things.
Eva: ... with reality. Yes!
Deborah: These things happen.
Eva: Even in Christian homes.
Deborah: That's the amazing thing. I kept asking the Lord, "Should I be doing this?" And He didn't reveal Himself immediately as to what He wanted about HIM. I literally had to write the whole story ... and when I'd want to write about God, He'd hold my hand back. So, this became a personal search for me, as well.
Eva: Why do you think this happens in Christian homes?
Deborah: When we are in a Christian environment, we feel protected. We're in a church ... a Christian family ... and there may be a shell of protection on the outside. And there's freedom, but in that freedom we rub against ugliness. It's so much more insidious because it's unexpected – more unexpected than if we were walking down a dark alley and our defenses are up.
Eva: Thirty-three percent of our pastors are involved with pornography. Forty percent of our parishioners are involved in porn. OF COURSE it's going to happen! Because porn just feeds right into abuse.
Deborah: That's interesting because ... a long time ago ... when I was growing from this place of being a teenager and looking at the pastor as the best, and my pastor's wife said to me one time, "What makes people think it's any easier for him because he's a pastor?" And I think it's harder. I know Satan works harder. ...
Eva: Oh, absolutely!
Deborah: He says, "Okay, let's grab this one."
Eva: Absolutely! It's the easiest temptation because it's part of the natural man. To be sexual is a part of natural man. It's like, this is a done deal. Not everyone has the makeup to be an alcoholic or a criminal, but everyone has the makeup to be sexual. Otherwise there would be no people in the world.
Deborah: (laughs) That's very true!
Eva: God said to Eve, "You'll have pain in childbirth BUT your desire will be for your husband." But don't let me go there right now. When you wrote this book, Deborah, who did you talk to?
Deborah: My friend who had talked to me as a friend for years and years and gave me permission to tell her story. I talked with school counselors who had dealt with these types of things before. I had a hard time – it's interesting – when it came to talking to people in my own town. So I had to go to a source that was willing to talk about it, but not in my own town.
Eva: Can a person who has been abused ever feel like they have a pure heart before God?
Deborah: (almost chokes up) Yes. I believe that's why Jesus died, so we are wiped away ... the old man is gone ... and we are new creatures. Even though we struggle. There's an interesting mix in what God promises are for us in the Bible and how the world deals with things. Part of all this is that God has forgiven you, and we think we have to forgive ourselves. When you look at the Scriptures, it doesn't say anything about forgiving ourselves. We are forgiven by Christ.
Eva: Right. But, we can't put a band-aid on it and say, "Okay. Now you've been forgiven by Christ. Go and sin no more. You're a Christian and you'll never have another sad thought." So where does that put us with Christian therapists – those who feel called to help?
Deborah: When Christ heals something in my life, so much of the first step is bringing it to light. While it may not be good to look at, that is always the first step. Like a wound, it needs to heal. Yes, Christian therapists do amazing work. Pastors ... counselors ... and then also the hand of God.
Eva: It's allowing yourself to be healed. Being sexually abused makes you feel that you are not worthy of being healed. That's why I thought it was so interesting that your main character is not the one abused, but the counselor ... an academic counselor ... but the girl is drawn to HER. Why did you make the main character – the fiancé of the accused – a counselor, of all things?
Deborah: (laughs) I needed someone at the right place at the right time.
(Eva laughs with her.)
Deborah: How's that? (laughs some more) Because of my own source of information, my friend who was abused is a counselor. You know, Eva Marie, the story that I think cries out here is: how can a loving God allow something like this to happen to a young girl with a pure heart? That's the question we always ask. However, above all things, is Christ's love ... how God sees us in our fullness. Sometimes I think that with this book I opened more questions than gave answers.
Eva: Okay, that goes to my next question. You're a fiction author. I'm a fiction author. People ask, what does that have to do with furthering the Gospel ... to further the kingdom. ... Do you ever get that question and what do you say?
Deborah: Yes. Yes. I believe that our role as writers isn't necessarily to answer the questions; I think it's to quicken people's hearts ... and God will answer those questions individually.
Eva: We raise the questions. ...
Deborah: Right. And I know how Christian Fiction has affected me in terms of – like Frannie's book (Francine Rivers, The Atonement Child, Tyndale House) when I was dealing with my own abortion ... and I had done the band-aid. I had the band-aid on it. You know. I'm forgiven. It's all done. What God wanted to show me was that NO, it's not all done. I know you trust me to me to make it be all done, but now let me show you what it means to make it all done. God is so personal! He knows the exact process that each of us must make to come to a more understanding of who He is.
Eva: I was talking to Bette Norberg recently – award-winning author. We were talking about the difference in writing theological nonfiction and fiction. And she said, "The thing about fiction is it's all make believe." But we all know – all us fiction writers – that the stories are based on truth. What parts of novels are based on true stories?
Deborah: A LOT. And I'm guessing yours are the same way. You know, Jesus spoke in parables. C. S Lewis wrote these books that have touched the world ... people are drawn to the Word in whatever shape or form it comes. God delights and loves all the different styles because these are just bites of who He is. Sometimes when you are telling a fictional story you can tell more of the truth than if you are writing nonfiction.
Eva: That's true. Deborah. This is an important question: If a child tells you he or she has been sexually abused, how should one respond?
Deborah: Protect. Listen. Don't fly to pieces. Be gentle and hear. Quietly make decisions and follow up on them. Make sure that child knows you care.
Eva: Deborah, would you pray for those who have been abused and who have broken hearts?
Deborah: Father, Lord we come to you in joy and love. Father, I lift up to you the broken hearts – the hearts that feel they are dirty and dingy and will never be good enough to be in your presence. Father, I pray you will at this very moment touch people. I pray for protection around them and that you will send people in to listen and protect. I pray you will start your journey of healing into their lives. Father, protect these little tenderhearted ones. For the women who have covered their hurt with shiny veneers, I pray you will take them to a deeper place and will show them how you heal those places they don't even know need to be healed. We thank you so much for your perfect purpose and plan for our lives, God. In your Son's name, Amen.
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and the recently released and highly anticipated Shadows of Light. She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com.