Advent is officially here! And so are the devotionals, calendars, and wreaths. The special services, the songs, and the candles. Oh how thankful I am for these things. They are good things. Spirit-led things.
But sometimes the pressure to have a meaningful Advent season overwhelms me. What if I miss it?
This past week I finished reading Rachel DenHollander’s book What Is a Girl Worth?.
Before reading the book, I knew some of Rachel’s story and had even heard her speak at Calvin’s 2019 January Series. But it wasn’t until I read the whole story that I began to understand the courage and sacrifice it took for her to speak up.
In the book, Rachel shares how she was sexually abused both in her church and at the hands of former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar. And then she describes the impact of the abuse on her life.
Again and again she is asked: “Why didn’t you say something when it was happening?”
Here are the thoughts that were running through her head:
“I am a child, he is a doctor. There has to be a reason he’s doing this.”
“I must be reading too much into it.”
“Maybe I’m the one who has a dirty mind.”
After being abused, Rachel explains, in heart-breaking detail, why victims/survivors often remain silent. She explained how organizations and people in power cover for each other — often hiding reports or turning a blind eye. She helped me better understand things like systemic injustice and victim blaming (in all its forms). And how when victims/survivors do find the courage to speak up, they are almost always met with resistance, accusations, and disbelief.
She also helped me understand the humanity of it. She spoke of fear that came on suddenly, especially when someone was behind her. She would have given anything to not have to share deeply personal and painful details in such public ways. She spoke of how the abuse impacted her marriage, and even the birth of her children.
All this to say, the cost of speaking up was enormous.
But Rachel went ahead because she believed it was worth it. She believed those girls were worth it. “May you know how much you are worth,” she told them.
And it was here, in her words, that the weight of Advent found me. That God would send his precious Son, an innocent lamb, in order to tell us: "May you know how much you're worth."