Who Made Thee?
By Walter Wangerin, Jr.
O child, it’s not your fault. You do not have to earn the approval of your tormentor-no, nor his forgiveness either!
Is it strange that a victim thinks she caused the wrong and must right it again? Well, not so strange when we consider her helplessness. She’s looking for leverage. She needs some principle by which to control her horror. And if her sin caused the punishment, then she might prevent it by a confession. See?
So the victim seeks her own iniquity-and the Christian faith is made grotesque thereby, allowing the guiltless to suffer guilt. And the abuser’s become a Destroyer therefore, both of the body and the soul.
No, child-it was his act.
He was its cause. He was its doer. He took the wretched benefit. He must own it now, not you, not you.
He did it!
But because of your native innocence (which your tormentor encourages, since it shifts his guilt to you), and because you crave order in dangerous chaos (some ethical order anyway), you see a connection between one’s behavior and one’s fate. The good get goodness back again; and the bad get hurt-and look what a mess you’re in; therefore you must be bad. Is that how you think? It saves the world from absurdity, doesn’t it? It argues a certain rationality in human affairs. Good is rewarded, evil is punished, right? And your punishment proves evil in yourself, right? WRONG! Absolutely, unequivocally wrong.
If you’ve suffered abuse, the one who abused you sinned.
Sin is an uncaused evil. Responsibility sticks with the sinner. The sin came from him. He is the source. He bears the blame. His is the shame. Not you! Not yours! Do you hear me?
You, my child; you, dear lamb-you are beautiful and clean.
This sin occurred because a fool considered himself superior to you. He considered his whim superior to your health, his desire superior to your body, his mood superior to your peace. But you were made in the image of God, so his action condemns him: he demeans the creature whom God exalted; he attacks the child whom heaven loves. Listen: such spiritual blindness, such bestial selfishness, such a pitiful lack of self-control, declares this fool your inferior after all. You needn’t seek kindness from him. Rather, he can’t continue to live without your forgiveness. He needs you!
But his is the more desperate state, because right now you need do nothing for him. No, no, you may withhold forgiveness until (1) you have regained a genuine wholeness again after his savagery, and (2) he has ceased to blame you, and has sincerely recognized his sin, and has acknowledged the guilt, and has confessed aloud his ruinous guilt, and has confessed before God the bloody treachery of his guilt. Somewhere the sin must stop!
The sinner tells me that it-was his parents’ fault in the first place. His father did him the same way. His mother was silent and critical. He didn’t (he tells me) have a chance. He can’t help his breeding and his personal shaping.
But if this is true, then we’re all a cosmic landfill for every sin that ever occurred; they fall on us from the past generations, all the way back to Cain. Such a weight of sin (everyone else’s fault except our own) must crush our innocent souls. Such an undeserved history must kill us.
But it hasn’t killed us. In other words, there must be some break in, this chain of responsibility, sinners causing sinner to sin-abusive parents turning their children into abusive parents.
And there is: it is the acceptance of responsibility by the sinner, by none other than the sinner himself, so that when divine forgiveness transfigures that one, the sin and the sinning are canceled together, and the chain breaks.
No, sir, it doesn’t do to blame another, neither the parents before you nor the child behind you. You, sir, as perpetrator of a vile abuse, must with a contrite heart confess.
And you, the child whom he ravaged, must not call yourself ugly. You aren’t. His action does not define you.
You, child: you are as soft as the blue sky. Touch your cheek. Do you feel the weft of life there? Yes: God wove you more lovely than wool of the clouds, smoother than petals of lily, sweeter than amber honey, brighter than morning, kinder than daylight, as gentle as the eve. Listen to me! You are beautiful. You are beautiful. If you think you’re ugly, you’ve let a fool define you. Don’t! Touch your throat. It is a column of wind and words. Stroke your forehead. Thought oves through its caverns. Imagination lives in there. You are the handiwork of the reator. You are his best art, his poem, his portrait, his image, his face-and his child.
And if the Lord God took thought to create you, why would you let a sinner define you?
God caused the stars to be, and then bent low to make you.
God wrapped himself in space as in an apron, then contemplated the intricacy of your hands; he troweled the curve of your brow; he fashioned the tug of your mouth and the turn of your tongue; he jeweled your eye; he carved your bones as surely as he did the mountains.
God conceived of time and in that instant considered the purposeful thump of your heart-and the blink of your eyelid.
God made galaxies and metagalaxies, the dusty infinitude of the universe-then filled your mind with dreams as with stars.
You are not an accident. You were planned. You are the cunning intention of almighty God. Well, then, shall you think ill of yourself? NO! You shall think as well of yourself as you do of any marvel of the Deity.
Please, my sister, do not allow a sinner to steal you from yourself. You are too rare. No matter what filth has befouled you, your soul is unique in the cosmos. There is none like you. Whatever thing you admire-a leaf, a little cup, a sunset-you are more beautiful.
Sleep peacefully, you. God loves you. And so do I. And so ought you in the morning light, when the dew is a haze of blue innocence. But sleep now, child, in perfect peace. You are God’s-and he spreads his wings above you now.