Author Dan Balow

The Damaged Reader

Not like I am some overly sensitive guy, but often when I hear a sermon in church or some Christian presentation, I cringe when a pastor or speaker might say something to the effect, “Raising a family is the most important thing a married man and woman do in their lives.”

I agree it is very important, but I also think about the middle age couple four rows in front of me who had multiple miscarriages and spent much of their relationship in emotional and spiritual pain, wondering why God was taking them through this valley of shadows.

And then I see a book in the bookstore proclaiming, “Raising a family is the most important thing a married man and woman do in their lives.”

I feel like hiding it.

Probably because I have been in the communications business my entire working life, I have taken the communication maxim of, “know your audience,” to an extreme. In general, I tend to think of the audience first when determining what I should say or write and change my presentation to fit them.

I communicate differently to aspiring authors than I would to people who work at a publishing company.  Same general message, just with a little different tone and angle.

You have an idea for a book, you write it, it’s published and sells well. You get emails (no one sends notes anymore) through your website about how helpful your book was, how it made them see a new aspect of Jesus, a new way God is working in their life. You feel like God has used you and you are faithfully working for his purposes. That’s because you are.

What they didn’t tell you in their note was they are a damaged reader. And not because they were the victim of some terrible thing from years ago, or they overcame some unspeakable tragedy in their life.

Some readers are the person who did a terrible thing from years ago or caused an unspeakable tragedy in someone else’ life.

Do you personally know anyone who is a registered sex offender? In American society, this is lowest caste of all. No one is more hated. They would be classified as damaged readers.

Some RSO’s read the Bible and Christian books.

God is not finished with them and neither should Christians be finished with them. Recognizing that some of your readers are actually part of the problem and not the solution makes this very complicated.

Many people write books about overcoming the effects of abuse as a child. God works miracles in lives every day allowing people to deal with the damage caused by it.

But there was an abuser who needs the presence of a loving God in their life. The guilt they may carry follows them all the days of their lives.

The damaged reader is a tough issue to grasp. It is not simple. Most books for damaged readers are written for the victim-readers, not the sinner-readers.

Parents need to know how to help their children deal with bullies at school. But bullies have parents too and they need something a little different.

Women who have been victims of domestic violence need strong and swift help to get out of danger and rebuild their lives.

The perpetrators of the violence need to be punished, then told of God’s grace and forgiven if they want it. This is not easy.

Whatever you write, it is going into a damaged world where unexpected audiences are reading what you write.

Often we feel like one group of damaged readers should be handled with great care and spiritual maturity and another group of damaged readers should be shown the gates of hell.

The abusers. The predators. The killers. God has no room for them.

Or does he?

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:31-39 NIV)

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