Monday, August 14, 2017

Choosing a Cyberstalker/Christ Collision

Cyberstalking is a crime. 

I refuse to call myself a "victim", but I've definitely been the recipient of this crime in recent days.

Cyberstalking is using the internet to harass another individual via electronic means, including (but not limited to) emails, instant messaging, or chat groups. It may be done anonymously, but it can also be done by someone the target knows. The cyberstalker is, of course, the person doing the electronic harassment. Emails might not seem harassing to anyone else, but if they're unwanted by the recipient, and they don't stop, they're a form of cyberstalking. 

What's really strange to me is that the cyberstalker may not consider what they're doing as harassment. 

As a physician and an elected official, I've been in the public's eye for most of my adult life. I'm used to it, in a way. When I started the blog in 2013, my borders expanded in amazing directions. My posts have been read literally around the world every single day. 

Writers need readers. When you write blogs every day, you need lots of readers. You also need to interact with those readers, and you do that through comments and replies. I LOVE comments. I don't think I've ever deleted a single one. They're all appreciated.  (Please, make more!)

The blog was just one of the ways the cyberstalker was drawn to me. (Please, don't even speculate about this man's name.)

The cyberstalker met me in a church setting years ago. He was a married man with adult children. I don't actually remember any conversations with this man, but there must have been a few words exchanged in passing. 

I had no idea he had developed an inappropriate attraction.

When I started the blog, Mr. Cyberstalker was a great fan. When I started at Global, he was a faithful supporter. I knew he liked my blog a lot, and I knew he respected me a lot, too. There's nothing scary about that, right?

He sent lots of emails, but I didn't think much about that, either, because my name wasn't the only one in the address line. I didn't have time to read so many emails, so, to be perfectly honest, I didn't always open them and rarely read them. 

Eventually, emails started arriving at night. I already had the habit of not reading the emails, so I didn't read these either, and that was my mistake. 

I was being cyberstalked, and didn't even know it.

He'd read about Sam and felt like he knew him. He called, wanting to visit Sam and, for no good reason, I thought he was visiting for his church. I was uncomfortable with the idea, but I let him come. I had a hard time getting him to leave and, after he left, I was even more uncomfortable and just a little afraid. 

He wanted to come back. I said no.

A few days later, I noticed that the opening line of one of those evening email said something like, "I hope you're not offended that I've shared my feelings with you..." and I thought WHAT??? 

I was shocked, and angry, and frightened. 

I read back through the emails I'd ignored and I was horrified as I read of this married man's feelings for me. His feelings weren't new. The decision to share them was.

Imagine reading through two weeks of cyberstalking emails at one time. I was sick about it, and I wrote a email that, I thought, would stop all contact. It didn't. 

I blocked electronic access. It took me a while to get all the social media outlets blocked completely, and, during the blocking period, the comments/messages continued as if they were the most natural, sensible, kind thing in the world. I believe he thinks they are.

It was unnerving and I felt as if my words had no impact at all. I felt impotent and inadequate to protect myself in this situation. 

I hate to admit it, but I was afraid.  

I prayed a lot about the situation, but I didn't surrender it to the Lord. I thought I could make it stop. 

When another email came, after the email that would stop all contact, I sent another cease and desist email. 

I think it's over now. I hope it is.

I'm not completely sure how the cyberstalker got started with his obsession, so this is my personal opinion, but it may not be accurate. I believe he genuinely, and innocently, admired me in the beginning. 

He probably believes his feelings are still innocent. From what I've read, they aren't. 

Ephesians 6:11 tells us that we are to "stand firm against the schemes of the devil." The word translated as "schemes" is methodeia and can also be translated as "lie in wait." 

I believe in the difference between good and evil. Between forces of evil and forces of good. I believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. As such, I believe Ephesians 6:11 is true. There are schemes designed by the evil one to trip us up and destroy our testimony.

The enemy of our soul is neither omniscient nor omnipotent. He doesn't know everything that happens, but he does know us, the things we fear, and the sins to which we're vulnerable. He can't be everywhere at once, and he has a limited amount of fallen angels, so he strategizes about plans that may take years to unfold. He sets them in place, very effectively, and lets them run. Somewhere down the road, that land mine of a plan is waiting.

In this situation, the plan included an intersection of two people with a possibility of destruction for all involved.

The enemy took something positive and twisted it. Mr. Cyberstalker, a married man, could have taken every thought about a woman who was not his wife captive and kept himself from this treacherous path, but he didn't. 

Scripture tells us, as a man thinks in his heart, so he is. (Proverbs 23:7) He must've thought  these things in his heart for a long time before he began to act on them. At any point, he could've taken his thoughts captive, but he didn't.

This, dear friends, should be a lesson to us all. When Paul told us to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), he meant it, and with good reason. Our unguarded minds are the playground of Satan and will drag us through unimaginable stupidity and sin if we allow it.

Now, with those thoughts rattling around in his head, we add the blog. My writing style is conversational. Many readers have said they like to read my blog because it feels like they're having a conversation with me. 

I write that way on purpose. That's how I want it to feel.

You all know you're not actually having a conversation. You know it's a writing style, but it's an easy to read style. Right? Of course you do.

When the words of the blog prick your heart, that's the work of the Holy Spirit. 

However, if your thoughts aren't captivand you read a conversational blog, it might seem to you as if the writer was actually speaking directly to you. She's not, but you might feel she is...and that feeling might join in with your other wrong thinking to drive you further down a confused and dark path that eventually leads to emails that are unwanted. 

The scary thing is that, if the emails seem sensible to you, you can easily be led to more aggressive actions by the enemy of your soul, even if you haven't yet. 

The only sensible and self-protective action for someone in this situation is to repent, ask God to cleanse their minds, and take their thoughts captive. Get medical help if needed. If what you're doing doesn't seem inappropriate, however, you won't see a need for repentance, much less change.

I hate all this. I want it to stop. I'm embarrassed by it. 

At first, I thought it was my fault somehow for not realizing the problem sooner. It took me a while to understand that I didn't cause this. It's not my fault. 

I struggled with the idea that I was overreacting. When I read back through the emails, however, I knew I haven't. Thoughts lead to words. Words lead to actions. This must end now.

I've done what I can to stop all contact from this man. I have unfriended and blocked on social media, and I've blocked his email address. I've notified my mission director, my pastor, and his. I have a full can of wasp spray by my front door, I'm keeping my doors locked, and I've reported it to the police, but did not press charges.  

Here's where my big decision point came in. These emails are not threatening but they are harassing and unwanted and, as such, constitute cyberstalking. He's committing sin in his heart in which I want no part. This is a crime for which Mr. Cyberstalker can be charged. Since Mr. C lives in another state, it probably falls under the jurisdiction of the FBI. (I'm not sure about this, but I think it's true) 

As a novelist, calling the FBI in appeals to me. I'd learn more about FBI techniques and they could definitely bring this to an end. I could write a novel about it. 

But what's happening now isn't fiction. It's real life. Calling the FBI isn't what brings great glory to God. Obeying Jesus does.

My first priority is not to novel writing, anyway. It's to Jesus. 

The enemy has had free reign in this situation long enough. He's brought circumstances to the point where I can easily misstep and do the wrong thing...I can do the thing that sends this man and his family down a worse path than they're on or the thing that glorifies God and makes us all stand in awe of how amazing our God is. 

Put that way, the choice is pretty clear. 

It's taken me long hours with the Lord to come to the point of surrender. God's goal in every situation is not to see what the FBI will do. His goal is repentance and redemption. (2 Peter 3:9) If I'm going to be like Jesus, my goal needs to be repentance and redemption, too.

I've done what I can to stop all contact from Mr. C.  

I can let the police handle it from here, or I can do what I always do. Leave it with my heavenly Father. He's my shield and defender. (Psalm 28:7, Psalm 18:2) Goodness and Mercy follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6) I'm surrounded by the goodness and grace of God. No weapon formed against me will prosper. (Isaiah 54:17)

If I believe all those things, and I do, then I need to act like it. It's not the easiest thing I've ever done, but I'm pretty sure what is needed is a Cyberstalker/Christ collision. 

I'm turning him over to God. 

That may seem like a lot of nothing to you, but I've turned people and problems over to God before. I've seen Him handle a situation. He can do what needs to be done, whatever that is.

The most important thing I've decided to do is exactly what Jesus said. Pray for my enemies. (Matthew 5:44) I don't guess Mr. C is actually my enemy, but he's certainly been a harassment to me. 

I'm praying Mr. C will repent of his sins, be delivered from his obsession, and set free to serve God with a whole heart for the rest of his days. I'm praying he becomes so crazy-in-love with his own wife that he'll wonder what he saw in anyone else. 

I'm not just praying for Mr. C, though. I'm praying for this wife who has been betrayed by her husband...that she'll feel loved because she is loved. For his children, whose father has been such a bad example, to see a new man in Christ and stand in awe of the good work God has done. For his grandchildren, whose grandfather did not have his mind focused on heavenly things, to find the wisdom of heaven in their earthly grandfather. 

I'm praying, too, for us, the body of Christ, that we will not pick up the offense but will use this opportunity to give grace and pray hard for the very thing the enemy thought he was preventing by all his tactics: Repentance and redemption for this deceived and deluded man. 

I've seen the enemy take someone captive and keep them there for years. It's tragic, but a situation of evil doesn't have to end that way. 

As Joseph said after his brothers sold him to the passing traders, "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." (Genesis 49:20)

That's how I want this situation to end. What looks like it's for evil can, and must, be turned to good to preserve many people. I'm counting on that very outcome. 

I'm speaking directly to all who're still reading: I hope you'll pray with me for a good outcome, too. Pray, too, that we (you and I) will not fall into the schemes of the devil as this man did, for the evil one has plans for destruction directed as us, as well. 
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Jesus Wasn't a White Supremacist and Other Thoughts On Charlottesville

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line

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