Today's post is for women who know the pain of sexual violation - of rape, molestation, assault. It is for women, like Tamar, who need to hear the truth about worth and love. It is also for the friends, family, and communities who love these women. May this truth speak into your heart. (I will begin by telling Tamar's story and then respond via a letter to the broken woman.)
Tamar's story is found in 2 Samuel 13. Let's look at the story:
David's son Amnon fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of David's son Absalom. Amnon was so obsessed with his half sister Tamar that he made himself sick. It seemed impossible for him to be alone with her because she was a virgin. Amnon had a friend by the name of Jonadab, a son of David's brother Shimea. Jonadab was a very clever man. He asked Amnon, 'Why are you, the king's son, so worn out morning after morning? Won't you tell me?' 'I'm in love with Absalom's sister Tamar,' he answered. Then Jonadab told him, 'Lie down in bed. Act sick, and when your father comes to see you, say to him, 'Please let my sister Tamar come to feed me. She can prepare a meal in front of me as I watch her, and she can feed me.' So Amnon lay down and acted sick, and the king came to see him. Amnon asked the king, 'Please let my sister Tamar come and make some bread in front of me, and she can feed me.' David sent for Tamar at the palace. 'Please go to your brother Amnon's home,' he said, 'and prepare some food for him.' So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's home. He was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made flat bread in front of him, and cooked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread. But he refused to eat. 'Have everyone leave me,' he said. So everyone left him. Amnon told Tamar, 'Bring the food into the bedroom so that you can feed me.' Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in the bedroom. When she handed it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, 'Come to bed with me, Tamar!' 'No,' she told him, 'don't rape me!' That shouldn't be done in Israel. Don't do this godless act! Where could I go in my disgrace? And you will be considered one of the godless fools....' But Amnon wouldn't listen to her. He grabbed his sister and raped her. Now, Amnon developed an intense hatred for her. His hatred for her was even greater than the lust he had felt for her. 'Get out of here,' he told her. ...Then he called his personal servant and said, 'Get rid of her. Put her out, and bolt the door behind her.'
If those words seem maybe all too familiar to you, if you feel the ache of Tamar's story deep in your heart, please let yourself hear the words that Tamar needed to hear.
I heard what happened, and I want to tell you that I'm sorry but it feels like the words would never be enough. There isn't a whole lot worthy to say in a moment like this; this burden of brokenness in our world is a heavy one. Nothing seems adequate right now. But I want to try. Because I want you to see more in the mirror than maybe you think you can. Do you still have your mirror, Tamar? Or have you shattered it because you cannot bear to look at yourself?
The shame here is not yours. It never was. I know those are hard words to hear. It's hard to reconcile that you could be anything when the man who once thought you were everything can't even look at you. It's hard to think that you could have a place when the man who pursued you put you out. It's hard to think you have any worth at all when a man who found you worthy of his whole life doesn't want to even hear your name, when you feel like you've been thrown away by your own brother.
I want you to know that whatever Amnon did, whatever Amnon said, however Amnon responded in those critical moments when you were asking yourself how you got so worthless...were no statement on your worth at all. Amnon never saw you for who you are; he only ever saw himself in you. And that is all he sees in you now. It is how so quickly he went from loving you to hating you. To Amnon, you are the reflection of a broken man.
When he saw you in love, it was his own reputation he was thinking of. He was thinking he was the kind of man who deserved a woman like you - beautiful, strong, gentle, pure. He was thinking what it would mean to be known as the man so lucky to have Tamar. And as he sent you away grieving, violated, broken, he saw in you his own brokenness. He saw in you his flaw. He saw in you his imperfection. He saw in you his sin. No wonder he can't stand to look at you; you remind him of who he was and how far he has fallen. It is he who was never worthy. Not you.
The key, beautiful girl, is to look in the mirror and discover yourself. The key is to see in your eyes the beautiful woman God created you to be - strong, gentle, pure. Because you are still pure, dear sister. You are. If you can't see that in your eyes, I have to wonder - are you looking at Tamar or are you looking at Amnon? Don't waste your eyes on him; he will haunt you from that mirror forever if you let him. Dare to blink and see yourself. There you are - as lovely as you ever were, as incredible as you always are. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are God's.
And don't let today tarnish what you think of love. I know Amnon said he loved you. Maybe he even told you so as he violated his body, but this wasn't love. It never was love. This was a man who loved what he saw of himself in you. He loved what you did for him in his own mind. He loved the way he felt when he thought about you. That's not love. That's ego, at best. His thought had nothing to do with you. His heart had no interest in you. He was purely focused on himself; he only pretended it was love.
True love, Tamar, has no thought of self. True love is captivated by its beloved. It is sacrificial, always dying so that its love may live. Giving itself up for the sake of its beloved, that the object of its affection might grow, prosper, and thrive in beauty and grace and goodness. True love sees you for who you are and loves you even more for it. True love longs to see you fulfilled, to see you full in beauty, marked by grace, and treasured beyond your wildest imagination. True love never considers what you can do for it. It is always searching for what it can do for you.
I hope you'll recognize true love when you find it. I hope you won't let Amnon's ego stand in the way of the very real, very powerful, very true love that will one day come your way. He said the word. Maybe he said the word a lot. "Love." But you know in your heart that wasn't it. Trust your heart again to know when it is. Trust your heart to recognize true love and abandon yourself to its beautiful gift. You deserve that, dear woman. You absolutely deserve that.
I know these words may not be a comfort right now. I know you need some time to grieve. I know you want to sit in the ashes for awhile and just think about all that this is, all that this has been, all the questions Amnon raised in your heart when he failed to control the wickedness in his. Take your time. It is a long, hard road. That much, I know. But never let yourself be so mired in the questions that you forget to hear the answers - that there is worth, and you are worthy; there is love, and you are loved; there is beauty, and you are beautiful; there is hope. What Amnon did cannot take a single breath of God's promise away from you. You are as perfectly, beautifully, strongly, gently, humbly, wholly, and purely His as you ever were. Never forget that.
Maybe it goes without saying, but I want you to know this, too. Know that you've got a brother out there - lots of them - and sisters, too, who aren't about to just let this happen. You have people right now who are working toward justice for Amnon. They want to see him reap the full benefits of all he ever wanted - the fullness of his own glory, now crushed under the weight of his own sin. His blood will never bring you back; I know that. I know it doesn't seem that one evil for another evil serves any justice at all. I know it's hard to think you might be the death sentence for another man, and that only makes you feel more guilty. But you are innocent here. This was never about you. It has always been about him. It has been about the way he's wanted himself more than anything, his own glory, his own pride. And we are about to give him all the glory he will ever know. It was always about him, but we - your brothers and sisters - are about to make this about you. We are about to take a stand for beauty, for grace, for strength, for justice, and for women around the world who know just what you're going through.
But don't worry about any of that. That's our fight. Your fight, dear sister, beautiful Tamar, is to reclaim yourself. Sit in your ashes as long as you need. Ask the questions your heart aches to have answered. Reach out to those of us who love you and are fighting for you and who are ready to join you wherever you are. And stand in front of the mirror, as long as you need to, until your eyes see Tamar again. In all of your created, worthy, treasured, beloved, beautiful, strong, gentle, pure glory. As God intended you to be. As God created you to be. As God promised you to be. As you are.
Yes, even now.