By Rusty Wright and Meg Korpi
It hits you in the gut: Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State football coach, a convicted child molester. For Josh, it brings back agonizing memories. He knows how Sandusky’s victims must feel. “You never get over it,” says the now septuagenarian.
A male housekeeper sexually molested Josh from ages six to thirteen. At age nine, he told his mother; she whipped him for “lying.” As a teen, Josh finally could resist the pedophile physically, but years of torment left him angry and vengeful.
I (Rusty) have known Josh for over four decades, but only recently learned of his heartbreaking sexual abuse. His story is gripping.
Problems abounded. Josh’s father was an alcoholic, “the town drunk,” who beat his mother and humiliated Josh with his public displays. Consequently, the family was a mess. One sister committed suicide. Another joined the army “just to get away from home.” His brother sued his parents.
For retribution and to avoid embarrassment when friends visited, young Josh would tie up his inebriated father in the barn. He urinated in his father’s hidden wine bottles. “I would do just about anything to humiliate him.” By eleven, Josh felt so hopeless, alone and abandoned that he damned God and cursed his father. Emotional wounds from years of sexual abuse and his father’s alcohol-fueled tirades plagued Josh with deep-seated shame and mistrust toward his assailant, his father, and God.
Intellect Overcomes Emotion
In college, hardened and cynical, Josh particularly disdained Christians. He ridiculed people who spoke warmly of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When one challenged him to disprove Jesus’ Resurrection, he tackled the issue with arrogant determination, researching intently. He even traveled to Europe to study historical texts.
But the results of his investigation surprised him: “I had started my journey an obnoxious, agnostic university student, who thought Christians were airheads. I had set out to refute their beliefs, and disprove the Resurrection. But after all my research—in spite of my prejudice—I realized I didn’t have a valid defense. The historical evidence all pointed the other way, and I realized my rejection of the Bible and Christianity was based more on emotion than intellect.”
Convinced Jesus’ story was true, Josh says God’s love drew him to personal faith. He cites an ancient Jewish prophet: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. With tender kindness I have drawn you.” “That’s what God, in His mercy, did for me,” Josh says.
Surprising himself, Josh told his father he loved him. “I was used to loving those I loved,” he recalls, “but I never had the capacity to love someone I hated.” His father’s subsequent spiritual rebirth amazed local citizens. In a step of faith, Josh sought out and forgave the sexually abusive housekeeper.
Today Josh McDowell’s impact as a Christian activist spans the globe. A prolific author, he’s addressed millions worldwide, explaining evidences for faith in the biblical Jesus and extolling the resultant psychological and relational benefits. His humanitarian relief projects have sent over $46 million worth of aid for children in the former Soviet Union.
Hope and Healing
“During my youth, people didn’t talk much about sexual abuse,” he told me recently. Only in 2008 did he tell his wife his own experience, then his children, a close friend, and a counselor. All encouraged him to share it publicly. The Sandusky case only magnified his desire to spread hope to victims. “Don’t go it alone,” he advises. “Seek good counsel.”
Undaunted, a new DVD docudrama that Josh narrates, depicts his youthful journey from abuse and anger to hope and faith.
I’ve long appreciated Josh’s personal and professional encouragement. His compelling film moved us both. In a world filled with personal and familial pain, Undaunted can help bring hope and healing. It’s well worth the look.
DVD available October 16, 2012. www.Josh.org/Undaunted
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com
Meg Korpi studies character development and ethical decision-making through the Character Research Institute in Northern California. She holds a PhD in Education from, and formerly taught at, Stanford University.
Copyright © 2012 Rusty Wright and Meg Korpi
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