A Seed to Feed Generations
In addition to the story of Christmas and the celebration of the end of a year, this month we are also marking the 30th anniversary of Recovery Week—a holistic, immersive space for survivors of sexual abuse to engage their stories in a more impactful way. Here, Becky Allender writes about her experience at the very first Recovery Week 30 years ago, and about how God gave her husband a mustard seed vision that would come to move mountains in her own life. This post originally appeared on Red Tent Living.
“Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, “Move!” and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”
–Matthew 17:20, The Message
I grew up with a Baptist mother and a Methodist father. We sometimes went to church three times a week. I did not question the routine of sitting on a hard pew with my family. I somewhat liked having time to look at the beautiful sanctuary with a very long maroon velvet curtain behind a beautiful gold cross. I listened to the minister as he read, word for word, his sermon to our congregation. I often found myself starving and believed that it was the devil that was making my stomach hurt and growl fiercely.
I liked looking at the intricate carvings in the chancel and choir areas of the church. In the summer, I watched the clouds move in the sky and heard the rustle of limp maple leaves when the stained-glass windows were open on a miserable, hot, Ohio summer morning. It was during summers that the same itinerant minister would visit. I liked his white hair and the kind cadence in which he spoke. His portly body looked stout in his black robe with a satin green stole that hung around his neck. I clearly remember the sermon when he mentioned that as a teenager, God had called him often to get serious about Jesus. Each time he heard this summons, he said, “Not yet, God, let me have fun first.” I listened to that sermon and thought having a bit of fun was well within reason while I was young. Later, I, too, would be serious.
I graduated from high school in 1970 when the Vietnam War was raging. Kent State had happened, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Four Dead in Ohio” was ringing in my ears while I was moving into our dorm. Life seemed out of control. I did not even hear God say, “Becky, what about Jesus?” The Methodist Church seemed very far away.
My college years were wild and serious, full of questions and deep harm. The summer before my senior year, after a darkly abusive violation by a professor, I remembered the faint mustard seed faith of my childhood and ran to Jesus with abandon. My life and friends changed in a blink of an eye.
I remembered the faint mustard seed faith of my childhood and ran to Jesus with abandon.
A few years later I married a seminarian and signed up to be a minister’s wife with little worldly possessions and a serious heart to love and care for others. I was ready to live a simple and plain life. I was passionate about having children, and my God-fearing husband said that would happen only after I memorized the Shorter Catechism and after we had saved enough money for a down payment for a home. I took his words seriously and studied and saved my tips from waitressing. I knew he was stalling out of terror, and I figured I could beat back his fear with a feat of memorization.
The pastorate gave way to two other degrees, as a PhD replaced his MDiv. I trusted that God was calling Dan away from the pulpit to become a counselor. The good news, it paid a bit better than a minister. The bad news, he traveled a lot. And I missed him.
It was exactly 30 years ago in December that I had the opportunity to attend the first Recovery Week Dan led in Warsaw, Indiana. I had heard that a woman often begins to ponder her own story after marrying and having children. Andrew was 10 months old and almost weaned. There were things stirring in my heart, and being able to leave the house during the day for six days sounded attractive.
I loved and trusted the colleagues who were working alongside my husband in the area of sexual abuse. This new venture seemed to be an awesome opportunity to be with nine other women who had registered for teaching, group work, individual counseling, and time to be with other women and reflect on our lives.
No one knows when life will change. It comes in a phone call, a passing encounter with a stranger, or attending a dream that rises in one man’s heart. How could I predict or arrange for a man I blessed to pursue his dream to create a process that would unearth the nightmares of my past abuse? How could I know this man that I married would move mountains of debris in both of our lives simply by letting a small seed grow in him?
Truly, those six days changed me for a lifetime. Hands down, it was the greatest gift that I have given to myself. There have been more than 120 Recovery Weeks in the past 30 years, and as glorious as they are, they are but a small, almost infinitesimal part of the glory God grows when anyone takes a risk to create goodness on behalf of others. Write your poem—it is a mustard seed gift. Start your business—it is going to move mountains. Go back to school, attend a Recovery Week, sing the song he wrote for you to offer the heavens. It is the seed that will feed many for generations to come.