Mary DeMuth

Mary E. DeMuth is an expert in Pioneer Parenting. She enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow. Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005). Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, Watching the Tree Limbs (nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006). Mary has spoken at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the ACFW Conference, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, and at various churches and church planting ministries. Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, and planting a church.

The Mark

For those of us who have survived sexual abuse, life twists and turns in alleys of confusion. Thank God, He picks us up thousands of times, dusts us off, heals us, and enables us to continue walking. That’s been my story. I was sexually abused by neighborhood boys throughout my kindergarten year. That was nearly forty years ago, but the mark they left on me, though faded, is still there.

Thin PlacesSome would argue that once a person comes to Jesus, the mark is beautifully erased. Perhaps for some that is true. But I liken that hellish year to healing and scars. Yes, I’ve been healed. But the scars remain. I am marked.

I knew this growing up. Predators had some sort of mark locating device. They’d find me in horse stalls, in tree houses, on the playground, in homes. They’d try to take away what I had already lost. Thank God, I had legs that could run. With every advance, I’d take off running.

It baffled me, though, when the mark attracted men during my dating years. And believe me, if anyone tried anything, I broke up or ran. I joked the other day with my kids that when my “boyfriends” tried to kiss me in my early dating years, I did two things: freaked out, then broke up.

Once I was married to the man of my dreams, the antithesis to the predators, I settled into a kind of comfortable safety. No one would see my mark now!

And for many years, that was true. As a stay-at-home mommy, I didn’t see many men, didn’t interact much, other than at church.

Enter the Christian writing world. And a little of my own naivety.

I wrote a post in June in this column about dealing with boundaries in professional relationships, so I won’t reiterate that in this piece. But what I will say is this: the mark re-emerged. As if dormant from a long, happy sleep, it awoke with a vengeance. And predators once again saw it, noticed it, and sought to exploit it.

I write this today not to freak you out, those of you who are entering the business, but to issue a firm caution. Don’t assume that because we’re writing books for the Christian market that everyone in the market is trustworthy. Or the best thing for you. And particularly if you’re a woman wearing this mark, be ultra-cautious of men, particularly those in authority. Don’t seek publication so much that you turn off your creep-factor measuring device. Keep it on. If you’re married, be sure you meet those industry professionals (if at all possible) with your husband in tow. And don’t let the secret part of your heart thrill at an industry professional’s praise, particularly if it comes off with a hint of sexual innuendo.

In retrospect, I realize six things:

1. The mark, faded as it is, can inflame when I’m not building into my own marriage and family, or I’m not seeking God . . . and when I let my neediness for attention trump everything else. Truth be told, I like attention. I enjoy feeling like I’m pretty. But if I seek after that, rather than seek God’s heart, I become vulnerable to predators again.

2. I wish someone would’ve told me this way back when. So I’m telling you. If you have a mark or are prone to being preyed upon, take note. Watch your male/female relationships more closely. Don’t let your ambition taint your predator radar. And yet don’t merely be cautious about opposite sex relationships. I also found myself vulnerable to other women who were predatory (not sexually, but in other soul-demeaning ways. Predators come in every shape and size and sex.)

3. Prayer cannot be discounted. Your ability to notice predatory tendencies in someone has everything to do with discernment. And seeking to be very close to God in prayer will keep your discernment on high alert. It’s when you allow the fluff of fame to infiltrate your head that you let down boundaries.

4. It is entirely possible to have great relationships with people in this industry. I cherish my friendships, both male and female. Of course, not everyone is a predator. And many folks are dear, dear Jesus-loving writers, publishers, editors, and agents. Don't let your mark or fear prevent you from these relationships.

5. Nurture yourself. Realize your weak spots. Build into your soul.

6. Seek accountability. I have a small group of dear friends who know my journey through predators. And they pray for me, and ask me good questions, and pray some more.

Someday, when the new earth dawns, I’ll be free of this mark forever. And Jesus will use every trauma to beautify me—not with the earthly type of beauty I sometimes long to be praised for here on earth, but an ethereal, eternal beauty. I pray the Lord would truly, deeply use my own markedness to change the landscape of the kingdom of God. In this way, I can revel in the mark, be openly cautious about the vulnerability the mark creates, and thank God for His protection and provision along the journey.

Mary DeMuth