For women who have been sexually abused and follow Christ as the center of their spirituality, this is often a painful and confusing issue. Let me be clear... no one calls my office and says, "Hey, I was sexually abused and I struggle with my Christian spiritually because Jesus has a penis." This is because we are unaware of the fact that we feel this way, or if we are aware of it, it feels undignified to say it aloud.
Women often talk with friends and family in a respectful tone about how we feel trapped by the behavior-focused attitudes or the damage that is so often done in the name of God. We may even venture to say we feel something about God is unsafe or dangerous, but we never ever say it's because Jesus has a penis.
The reason I can safely make this assertion is because it is my story and the story of many other women.
Over the course of many years, I began to understand how the sexual, spiritual and physical abuse affected me and my view of God and spirituality.
I consider myself a Christian, a follower of Christ, but I like to believe I'm a Christian without all the shaming, blaming, bumper sticker nonsense that often comes with it. I'm intimately familiar with the abusive, condescending, fear-based Christianity that uses the name of god to run from God. Between going to church, prayer meetings, bible studies and baptisms, I was being sexually abused by the very men who should have protected me.
Once when I was processing some of the spiritual abuse with a counselor, he asked me what it would feel like if Jesus walked into the room. Then he asked what I would say if Jesus wanted to hug me out of His compassion for me. I told him that would never happen; because Jesus has a penis. I'd never let him that close to me.
It was the first time I ever verbalized the truth of what had kept me so spiritually trapped. It was the first time my soul allowed the truth to be exposed and my heart to be honest about how I saw Jesus.
I did not trust men, believe men, or want them near me. The focus was that below their belts are body parts that can double as weapons. The idea of Jesus, a loving God who is a man who also has a penis, became inconceivable.
This Jesus... supposedly loving, compassionate and gentle, had all the same parts and pieces as the men who were indifferent to the destruction they caused my little girl heart. I could not reconcile those two things.
As I began to tell the truth about my fears, I was able to verbalize the devastating lies I believed about men, spirituality and sexuality. I was allowed to say how pain and pleasure and Jesus and shame all got twisted in my soul.
There is a brilliant, male counselor who has gifted me with many things. One of the most essential things he taught me is the understanding that the penis isn't the problem. If there is a problem, it's the man's soul, his heart, his character... not his genitals. When I would feel frozen in fear in my counselor's office (because he's a man and all) he would explain, "I'm in control of my penis; it's not in control of me."
It is still difficult at times to think of Jesus as a man. But, I have tender, strong men in my life who are modeling for me a cleaner picture of who Jesus is. God is using these men to teach me that penises weren't ever intended to be used as weapons. They are teaching me that a man's soul and his heart are what make him relationally and physically toxic, not his body.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.