Last week’s victim impact statements in one of the nation’s most prolific sexual assault cases prompted a wide range of emotion in many… grief, shock, sorrow, horror, anger, etc. To see a seemingly intelligent adult take advantage of so many children for so many years with so many people simply looking the other way or even telling the teens to be quiet, seems nothing short of unfathomable.
Rachael Denhollander was the first survivor to file a police report against Larry Nassar, the now convicted, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor. Denhollander was the last to testify. Note this poignant portion of her words…
“… I want you to understand why I made this choice, knowing full well what it was going to cost to get here, and with very little hope of ever succeeding. I did it because it was right. No matter the cost. It was right.
And the farthest I can run from what you have become is to daily choose what is right, instead of what I want.
You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires. A man defined by his daily choices over and over again to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others. And the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially. No matter what it costs me.
In our early hearings you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness, and so it is on that basis that I appeal to you:
If you have read the Bible you carry, you know that the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that He gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit.
By His grace I, too, choose to love this way.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness, but Larry if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance. Which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of it’s utter depravity and horror, without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen in this courtroom today.
The Bible you carry says it is better for a millstone to be thrown around your neck, and you thrown into a lake, then for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds. The Bible you speak of carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and his eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing.
And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet, because it extends grace, and hope, and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so that you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well.
Throughout this process I have clung to a quote by CS Lewis where he says, ‘My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of unjust and just? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?’
Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was, and I know it was evil, and wicked, because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means, I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation and I can call it evil because I know what goodness is.
And this is why I pity you, because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good. When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love.
Larry, you have shut yourself off from every truly beautiful and good thing in this world, that could have, and should have brought you joy and fulfillment. And I pity you for it. You could have had everything you pretended to be. Every woman who stood up here truly loved you as an innocent child. Real genuine love for you and it did not satisfy.
I have experienced the soul satisfying joy of a marriage built on sacrificial love, and safety, and tenderness, and care. I have experienced true intimacy in its deepest joy’s and it is beautiful and sacred and glorious and that is a joy you have cut yourself off from ever experiencing and I pity you for it.”
Too often, it seems, when we wrestle with evil on this planet, we omit God from the equation. We attempt to have all sorts of conversations without acknowledging God’s presence and character. And yet, it is the comparison of acts to God’s unprecedented, holy character that shed light on exactly what evil is; it is the comparison of the crooked line to the straight.
What does that straight line include? … grace, forgiveness, sacrificial love… as Rachael Denhollander so beautifully, poignantly stated… a testimony for us all.