Part I of III: Response to news of her death.
This weekend marks the one week anniversary of the death of Shelley Lubben (1968-2019). To my knowledge, she was the first survivor of sexual abuse, exploitation, trafficking and the porn industry, to develop a faith based, non profit committed to rescuing and restoring victims, as well as, exposing the myths of the multimillion dollar industry. She was a pioneer that I discovered online over 15 years ago that inspired me to be transparent and open about my past and involvement with the sex for sale industry. She approached ministry in a new, fresh and bold way like no other. She built her identity as an “x porn star” who could quote scripture like a second language. She embraced me as a sister in Christ and went on to be a mentor, friend and co-laborer for years to follow.
The news of her death crept its way through the Internet resulting in most of us being shocked, coupled with an enormous amount of mixed feelings. Feelings of shock, doubt, anger, guilt, confusion, sadness, mixed in with disbelief. The news of her unexpected death has left many of us grappling with the process of the stages of grief. For some, it’s become a trigger to unresolved hurt, woundedness and unforgiveness, as evidenced by feelings that she got what she deserved: dying alone of a suspected overdose, resulting in not even an obituary or memorial service. Even the man who was obsessed with her, and sadly the primary source of the news of her death, who committed nearly a decade to stalking, tormenting, and exploiting every wounded person he could find that was willing to have him quote and even video their recounts of what she had done to them, went to twitter asking people to pray for her in the end.
Wounded people wound other people.
For the record, Shelley wounded me also, more times than I can count. However, by turning that pain over to God and His divine grace, He enabled me to forgive her. He helped me to trust that what I experienced was part of His bigger plan to develop my character. Trust me, it wasn’t as easy as it is to type this right now. It was a process that involved me having to transition through the grieving process, the stages of grief, over and over again, even before she passed into eternity.
I had to grieve losing what I expected her to be and accept responsibility that I put unreasonably high expectations on her. God showed me that she was hurting and wounded. Please understand that this in no way is an excuse for the decisions she made that hurt me or others, nor do I want to minimize the deeply layered pain and trauma that some have suffered from their experiences with her. However, it was God that enabled me to release her from a poison of unforgiveness that if I held on to it, I knew would kill me and quite possibly seriously, if not fatally, wound those who care about me.
That’s what unforgiveness does. It poisons us like a cancer and it eventually kills us. It separates us from God and typically starts its destructive process rooted in the seed of pride. Pride in not trusting God that what’s happened is part of His ultimate plan to develop our character. That it’s not about them and what they did to us, it’s about us, what He did for us and what He’s refining in our hearts.
Unforgiveness breeds grudges, guilt, and grief. You don’t have to look very hard online to discover countless people who are struggling with grief, guilt and grudges.
Our response to guilt are three things
- Compromise – We deal with guilt by compromising, meaning that we lower our standard(s) in an effort to try to convince our heart what our conscience knows is wrong.
- Blaming other people –When we feel guilty, we often might blame other people.
- Blame = “b” lame and it’s why people don’t want to forgive.
- Unprocessed grief will result in battling guilt and all the fruit it manifests. Life has losses. There is no growth without change. There is no pain without grief. Grief can actually be a good thing. It helps us get through the transitions of life.
Guilt can set you up for failure by rationalizing, compromising, minimizing, beating yourself up (sabotage their own success and don’t realize they are doing it).
Guilt can make you depressed.
Only one thing works to resolve guilt and that’s, confession. The greek translation for confession is homo = same, logeo = to speak. In order to be free ourselves, we need to confess our unforgiveness.
As a believer, I look to God’s Word for answers, guidance, comfort, and peace. It’s pretty amazing that there is something for anything we are going through. I found the below scripture and I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve never experienced this. Actually, over the years, these could be my words exactly. Knowing Shelley as I do, I believe these were her feelings and thoughts the evening she went to sleep and passed into eternity.
O Lord, help me again! Keep showing me such mercy.
For I am in anguish, always in tears,
and I’m worn out with weeping.
I’m becoming old because of grief; my health is broken.
I’m exhausted! My life is spent with sorrow,
my years with sighing and sadness.
Because of all these troubles, I have no more strength.
My inner being is so weak and frail.
My enemies say, “You are nothing!”
Even my friends and neighbors hold me in contempt!
They dread seeing me
and they look the other way when I pass by.
I am totally forgotten, buried away like a dead man,
discarded like a broken dish thrown in the trash.
I overheard their whispered threats, the slander of my enemies.
I’m terrified as they plot and scheme to take my life.
I’m desperate, Lord! I throw myself upon you,
for you alone are my God!
My life, my every moment, my destiny—it’s all in your hands.
So I know you can deliver me
from those who persecute me relentlessly.
Smile on me, your servant.
Let your undying love and glorious grace
save me from all this gloom.
Only God knows for certain where she is today. There is nothing we can do now about the fact that she is gone, and although she did leave a trail of wounded persons in her path, the fact is she did a lot of good also, and there are lives who will be forever in heaven because of her work for the kingdom. Don’t let unforgiveness cause you to only see the bad in her life.
I have prayed a lot before posting this and feel strongly that the Lord has given me a series of messages to share. I’ll be posting the other two in the coming days. In the mean time, especially if you knew her personally, know that you are being prayed for. I’m already grateful for how He’s used her death to unite so many of us. I’m super thankful for the training I have now as a therapist and experience working with people and grief, including my own journey. Below the post will be resources that I hope will help you to #embracethejourney versus getting stuck.