Former President Gerald Ford said this was one of his favorite Bible verses. It's a verse I loathe.
It was used as a weapon against me when I was a young church girl. Now, whenever I encounter it, I can scarcely breathe.
As a kid, I loved God with all my heart and wanted only to do whatever God called me to do. My faith was pure, true and absolute. God was as real to me as any flesh-and-blood person.
So when my minister told me God had called me for a special role, I believed him and listened. Doesn't every kid want to believe they're somehow special?
Week after week, he wore me down telling me how I was called to serve as his helpmate. It was "God's will."
I didn't understand. But he said men in the Bible sometimes had more than one wife and even had concubines.
He also admonished me that I wasn't supposed to try to understand. "Lean not unto thine own understanding."
Dozens of times, that verse rang in my ears. God wanted me to "live by faith," he said.
So that's what I tried to do. I guess you could say that, sip by sip, I drank the Kool-aid.
As the abuse escalated, I would sometimes balk. But he would invariably chastise me with "Oh ye of little faith." And he would remind me of how it wasn't my place to try to understand.
So, like the good Baptist girl I was, I deferred to male pastoral authority. Of course, he was also older, bigger, and stronger.
He said God was testing me, and I wanted God to see that I was willing to go the distance in matters of faith. I was a girl who would have laid down on that altar without so much as a whimper and let Abraham plunge in a knife.
In fact, that was another thing he often said. "Think of Abraham - think of Moses - think of Noah. Do you think what God wanted made sense to them?" He pointed out how God was able to use these men in great ways because they had the faith to do whatever God wanted even when they couldn't understand it.
He threw in Mary, too. "Where would we all be if Mary hadn't trusted God even when her special role was something she couldn't understand?"
I remember thinking about that one quite a lot. I wanted to serve God, and it's certainly true that faith is the very essence of things not understood. So over and over again, I relinquished my own attempts at understanding.
I tried to ponder it all in my heart, like Mary did.
That path of faith ultimately led to a bottomless pit of darkness and degradation. Clergy sex abuse rips the very soul out of kids and bludgeons it into oblivion. It's no wonder so many victims eventually commit suicide.
Like many combat veterans, I relive pieces of the trauma in a fragmented nightmare. Unable to move, unable to scream, and suffocating, I have died a thousand times in that dreaded dream.
But my story isn't unusual. I've heard so many similar ones that I've wondered whether Baptist seminaries might be teaching a class on such blasphemous tactics. What I really believe is that it's simply what happens when a predatory mind carries religious authority as a weapon.
What I cannot comprehend is why Southern Baptist leaders don't seem to care about taking that weapon out of clergy predators' hands.
Four months ago, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) asked Baptist leaders to take action to rid their ranks of clergy predators. Baptist leaders haven't even bothered to respond.
Catholics and other mainline Protestant groups are beginning to implement procedures to combat clergy sex abuse. Why not Southern Baptists?
Perhaps they don't want to address it because they think it's about sex. It's not. It's about power. It's about brutality. It's about having absolute control over another human being a kid.
What was done to me in the name of God and with words of God was utterly blasphemous beyond what most people can imagine. Certainly, it was way beyond my own capacity for understanding when I was an adolescent church girl. Besides, I wasn't supposed to even try. "Lean not unto thine own understanding."
So far, Southern Baptist leaders have chosen denominational inaction in the face of widespread clergy sex abuse. It appears they just don't care about the brutality and brainwashing of it.
But how can leaders who profess belief in the inerrant word of God not care about stopping the horrific biblical blasphemy of it?