There Lives a Monster, Who was Once a Little Boy

A monster moved into Providence, RI sometime in the past two weeks. At least, that’s what the mobs who protest outside his building have written on their signs and shout up at the windows.

He’s a monster who preys on young boys and they want him turned out of their neighborhood.

The scenes on the evening news look like the mobs in Frankenstein when the villagers go after Dr. Frankenstein’s creation bearing torches and ropes. Even local politicians who claim Providence as a sanctuary city have taken a stand against providing safe haven for this man – because, after all, “he’s not a man, he’s a monster.”

Civil discourse has fled the scene as panic and fear guide the decision-making, fueled by understandable outrage that the legal system has somehow found a path for release for a “monster” highly likely to strike again.

Only, he isn’t a monster. Once upon a time some fifty years ago, he was a little boy. Made in God’s image. Vulnerable, fragile, easily twisted and destroyed.

In all likelihood, that little boy wasn’t protected from abuse by some other predator. Perhaps he didn’t receive any effective interventions to cope with the trauma of his abuse and this allowed the monster that can arise in any of us to overcome the little boy who might have been.

And so, the terrible, unthinkable cycle was perpetuated by him, a twenty-one-year-old who hurt children and was caught and put away – but now he lives among us again.

It serves no one to call this man, Richard, a monster. There are no monsters except in our imaginations.

But, there are broken men and women who have wrapped their brokenness around them like armor, carved their pain into daggers and shivs, and stored up their wounds deep in the dark cellars of their minds where they fester and become fuel for demonic thoughts that lead to demonic deeds.

Children are gifts, and since they abound, we sometimes take the treasure of them for granted.

Each child is born with their potential to reflect Christ, to step into the freedom He provides, and to inhabit the idea God had when they were conceived. This one with the potential to cure cancer. That one with a composition that will unite the planet. This one to lead. That one to nurture. This one to build. That one to heal.

These gifts, our children, are meant to be nurtured, protected, and guided until maturity. They are fragile, complex, and still forming in many ways.

They’re vulnerable to the enemy of God who, if he cannot destroy them in utero, will seek to crush them upon delivery or shortly thereafter. Those who injure, abuse, or violate them wield the power to warp their beings at their genesis and create the potential for life-long damage.

Many, many children will grow up without facing abuse.

Many children who are abused will find the treatment and healing they need to grow to their potential despite their early wounds.

A few, though, a few of the wounded will be remade in the image of their abuser and the evil one will lure them into the darkness repeatedly to continue the dangerous cycle. While they face strong urges and powerful temptations, they retain their ability to choose, so when they are caught, they must face strong consequences. And there is an argument to be made that they have forfeited their ability to live in the vicinity of children.

Child predators are notoriously resistant to treatment and change. I once heard a training instructor say that he’d never known any treatment to be effective, and had only seen one or two predators manage a lasting change  – and these only after authentic conversions to a relationship with Jesus.

With Jesus, there is always hope. As Christians, we declare no man or woman a monster. We remember that we are all fragile, all sinful, all capable of extreme acts of evil. None can boast except in Jesus.

And yet, it is our calling to protect the most vulnerable in our midst. Every child is the responsibility, not only of their parents, but also of those who say they are light in their community. It is our job to shine brightly against the forces of the dark.

So, we cannot afford to be squeamish about the topics of sexual predators, human trafficking, or child abuse.

We can’t afford to pretend that predators won’t try to infiltrate our churches, daycares, youth groups, or schools – even the ones with crosses on the buildings or Christian statements of faith. We must take proper precautions to make these places less attractive to those who prey on children.

We can’t shy away from hard conversations when someone’s story doesn’t line up, when children make disturbing statements, or when we are made aware of allegations against someone in our midst. Mature adults will endure discomfort to prevent even one child from harm. Predators will try to pressure others to escape the discomfort of discovery.

And when a person is caught abusing a child, we cannot allow tears and immediate pleading for forgiveness to cloud wise judgment that says they must bear fruit in keeping with repentance. We know how easy it is for wolves to weave cloaks that resemble sheep, so we must insure lasting boundaries around anyone who has proven themselves unsafe around children even once.

Matthew 10:16 says, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” These days cry out for wisdom to be our word and our way. We must be wise about protecting the children in our charge and in our communities from harm.

Jesus fought the powers of death and darkness and defeated them on the cross. We must be willing to face them squarely now and remind them they are defeated in our midst.

This calls for courage, wisdom, discernment, cool heads, compassion, and strong stomachs.

We have all we need in Jesus so let’s be the force of light and allow no sanctuary for darkness in our midst.

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    The Conversation

  1. Rob McCullough says:

    Lori, thank you for your willingness to have the hard conversation! Be Blessed! Be Strengthened in Christ!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this very important message. From ages 4-6, my precious daughter was sexually molested by my brother in law, who was also the pastor of the church we attended. She did not tell anyone until she was 11. It was devasting onnso many levels. A man I totally trusted, injured my child in such a way, that the effects would haunt her for many, any years. We think child predators look a certain way, or maybe act creepy. Not so. It can even be a pastor! I praise God that as my daughter grew older, she was able to overcome the shame and insecurities associated with the sexual abuse. However, not all victims are able to achieve that.

  3. Carole Sparks says:

    Thank you, Lori, for not giving us pat answers but for recognizing these are hard situations with no simple solutions.
    BTW, the sentence with “wrapped their brokenness around them like armor”? Beautiful, powerful imagery. I stopped and read it three times.

  4. Tammy Breeding says:

    You clearly are anointed to be a truth teller. Unafraid! I thank you for generating the hard thought and conversations that must follow a powerful message like this. I thank God for you!

  5. Bethany Yagci says:

    This conversation is too hard for me. You expect your fellow Christians to handle a situation the right way. Actually they not only fall far short of your expectations, they go entirely the other direction and cause more pain and lose the one window of opportunity for the perpetrator to come clean and find redemption, if at all possible. That little boy, whoever or whatever he once was, is no more. He is a true monster, goes to church like the monster before him. Lives are left ruined in his wake. Families broken.

    • Bethany, I’m so sorry about your experience. I, too, have known of churches who allowed predators to remain unconfronted in their midst and it created terrible, life-long sorrow in their victims and families. It is not the way we are called to operate.

  6. Barbara Flores says:

    Such a timely and lasting message. Wish I could have read it years ago, when a family member was “played with” in ways that made her so very frightened, not want to talk about it, feel sad, etc. The perpetrader was not confronted and went on to do the same to other young girls… Thanks you again for expressing your God given insight to this and other topics, in ways we can grab onto. Love your posts. God bless you and your family.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Lori, come bring your children to live next to this wonderful man so loved by Jesus. Where was god when these boys were being raped in their tiny child behinds? Where are you ? Are you helping?

    • I think you should read my post more carefully. Love sets limits, even enforcing those who hurt children from ever having access to them again. This is the point of the post.