(Photo courtesy of All Things Possible Ministries)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
An Epic Tale
An Interview with All Things Possible Ministries Founder, Victor Marx
By Sarah Komisky
Victor Marx is a born fighter. Disowned by his father and born at a time when his parents were separated and divorced, he is a self-proclaimed, “leftover reminder.” Throughout his turbulent childhood, Victor survived molestation, being locked in a commercial cooler, a broken home with multiple step-fathers (one who abused him severely), attendance in 14 different schools and lived in at least 17 homes –– all before high school graduation. In Victor’s own words, the experience of being “left for dead” contributed to a spirit of mistrust for everyone he encountered.
He found discipline in martial arts and he was able to earn his 7th degree black belt while he served in the United States Marine Corps. Martial arts gave him a way out of the darkness of his home life and past.
In 2003 Victor and his wife Eileen founded All Things Possible Ministries to help troubled kids and teens in youth prisons deal with abuse and the aftermath of trauma. From humble beginnings, the ministry has grown to include an expansion in youth outreach, speaking engagements around the world, books, documentaries and high-risk missions trips in terrorist inhabited countries. The Victor Marx Story, a documentary on Victor’s life, has been translated into 15 languages and reached more than 600,000 views on YouTube in 2013 alone. In this film, he reflects on doing what he does in so that people who go through their own “craziness,” can understand that they are not alone and that others care.
Like all journalists, I find interest in a good story. When I knew the topic for this month was abuse, I knew I had to talk to someone who had credibility and unfortunately, survived abuse first hand. When Victor’s name was suggested as a potential fit, I went to YouTube to watch his documentary for myself. I was astounded by what I watched and I knew this was the story I needed to tell here.
Like a phoenix, Victor experienced the fire that tried to extinguish the flame of his life and emerged from the ash with the same bravery of the champions in Homer’s The Illiad. Although this humanitarian is indeed fearless, he is quick to draw attention to his own humanity. Although Victor leads would some may define as an epic life his greatest passion is to point others to the author of his epic overcomer-story –– Jesus Christ. He credits his Savior as the One who saw his life and rescued him from the pit, giving him hope and real healing that would have been impossible without God.
I wanted to get Victor’s perspective on how he overcame such a traumatic childhood. When I met him, it felt like two worlds blended together. One, a secret agent world filled with shadows and intrigue. The other, the world of a down-to-earth, relaxed, hospitable and fun uncle. When we began our conversation he turned the tables and asked about me, saying in his Cajun draw, “So tell me a little bit about you and what you do?” Although he has a million things on his to-do list, Victor was more concerned about being present, answering my questions, sharing stories about him and his family, and even adding a little humor in between.
When we began talking about the subject of abuse Victor prefaced the topic with, “I think it’s the silent epidemic of our nations. If it was measles, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys having it, walking around –– people would freak out like it was cancer. I think it’s the root problem to so many behavioral issues: drug abuse, sexual issues, violence, relational issues. I’ve dealt with so many people over the years. Harvard did a study and some of the most acute levels of PTSD were actually linked to people’s childhood trauma.”
When asked about how he was able to take the first steps past denial and silence, he noted that he didn’t tell anybody until he was in his thirties. Victor learned that not all of his story has to be disclosed and was adamant that his story not be used to create dramatic effect saying, “I don’t want to glorify evil and darkness.”
While there are many survivors, Victor also believes that sharing your story is not a calling for everyone. If God calls you to share your story, it is important to know what level God is calling you to do that, which might be as simple as acknowledging you’re a survivor.
“No one ever told me there’s a difference between being transparent and vulnerable,” he confessed. “I had to learn that because telling your story to people you don’t know, some will take advantage of you, some will belittle you, or look down on you or label you. I learned what to share and how to share and when to share it.”
Victor adds, “Because of what God did to restore and redeem my life, it has been a catalyst to what I do by wanting to reach and help those who currently struggle, those who are in it and those who need justice from it.”
Going hand-in-hand with his story, I also wanted to ask the questions I knew other survivors could benefit from in his life –– the prevailing question for many survivors, “Why me?” As we talked, I could tell Victor was not intimidated by big questions, instead he obliged and saw them as an opportunity. He would then brighten up the tone of his voice and respond with, “That’s a great question! And I think it’s a normal question for those that experience any type of trauma.”
Slowly unpacking the questions, Victor always shares from a personal place in an uncomplicated manner in a way that pulls these experiences from the resources of his own life. He acknowledges that for any abuse as a young person, it doesn’t make sense and it’s always a struggle to understand it as a child. He also adds that you can’t make sense out of sin and evil.
“There is a difference between causing and allowing. Because I really think what people are asking is, ‘Why did God cause this to happen to me? I didn’t deserve it. Why God?’ There is a difference between God causing and allowing,” says Victor. “And He [God] has put into order in our world, that people have a solemn right to choose to do good or evil. He [God] allows people to do good or evil, with the hopes that they would do good, but sometimes they don’t.”
Victor continued, “But when I learned that truth that God didn’t cause this, that He didn’t in His sovereign nature, wisdom and omnipresence, say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to plan on Victor being abused, tortured, electrocuted, dunked in a tub, locked in a cooler, because this is how I want it to happen.’ When I realized that it wasn’t His perfect plan, that it was the work of darkness, I had to just agree and go, ‘OK, you allow people to make good choices, but they chose to do evil.’ But, what I am so grateful for is, yes, God could have stopped it, and maybe He stopped things—maybe things I don’t even know about that kept me alive—but, what I’m so thankful for, is that He chooses to redeem it. I know God is a Savior and I know Him as a Redeemer. I pray I spend more time focusing on Him redeeming my life from both the evil others have done and just for my own sin. The choices I made out of brokenness, pain, anger, all of that.”
In the documentary of his life story, Victor candidly shares about the realities of evil and Satan. Being left for dead was enough to make his mind break, yet God overcame the power of evil and the Devil in his life. Having more than 120 visits to a trauma specialist in a nine-month period, he found help to unload the different parts of his mind that were compartmentalized from the different experiences of trauma. He notes, “As a child, it was a blessing (to be able to separate the circumstances). The problem is when you get older, if you don’t get help, it can destroy your life.”
“It really started interrupting my life. I was having flashbacks and I started becoming low functioning. And it took my wife actually saying, ‘You can run into heaven or you can limp.’ She said, ‘I know God wants to heal you better than you are now.’”
Victor’s wife, Eileen, told him he would have to see a counselor, and this is where healing began as God used an amazing “soul surgeon” to help him on the path of recovery. Counseling is something he credits to saving his marriage and his life –– always showcasing God’s faithfulness through it all.
“It had been ingrained in me so hard to, ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.’ You fight, fight, fight, and all that. There are some good aspects to that, but people who’ve suffered have to be willing, I think, to look at the past and accept what’s unjust, what happened, not blame it on God, but blame it squarely on the perpetrators. Not blame it on themselves, ‘I was drunk, I was high, etc.,’” he shares. “I think of girls that have been raped, date raped, and it’s like, ‘Ahhh, I put myself in a bad position.’ That’s all true, but it doesn’t matter; no one has the right to touch your body. Even by your own verbal consent because you’re under the influence. Guys who take advantage are absolute cowards.”
Victor’s wife was the very person God used to show him His love, especially at a moment when he experienced a PTSD flashback at his weakest and most broken state. He says, “A woman, a wife, has more influence than most know. She did not belittle me, make me feel less than, she just held me and cried with me. If His [God’s] Spirit is in us, isn’t that one of the ways that He does love us by physically using others to show us His love? That’s why it’s so powerful when we love and care for one another. It’s God through us saying, ‘Let me use your hands right now. Let me use your tongue to speak life. Let me use your smile.’”
For the spouse who is married to a survivor, Victor says to never give up on that person. He quotes with admiration for his wife saying, “I love what Eileen says. ‘What a privilege. What a privilege you have that God chose you. We need them just as much as they need us. God will use their life to help us conform more into Him and we get to be vessels of love –– it will always pay off.’”
Forgiveness was also another game changer for Victor, and something I wanted to talk about especially when the initial thoughts of forgiveness towards your perpetrator seem insane for most survivors. While some view the hold of bitterness or vindication as the solution, he suggests another pathway to freedom, one he acknowledges is not in our capacity and one that is impossible apart from God.
“Unforgiveness never heals a wound. Justice helps but personal vengeance doesn’t. I believe in walking in areas of white – pureness, what God wants. I believe some things must be done in the grey and the grey is where people never want to go or look because that is where harder decisions have to be made. But I always say, stay out of the black, stay out of the darkness,” he comments. “Grey is a police officer using a weapon. Those are hard areas. But I will say this, don’t go into the black. It’s like that movie Spider-Man, where the black thing came on him and it done took ‘em over.”
Victor continues, “The first thing I had to do was get the right definition because forgiveness sounds so weak and it also sounds like it makes you vulnerable to victimization. It’s neither. As a matter of fact, I know how to shoot and use a lot of weapons. And we trained my body to be a weapon. Now, I’m just old, I just fall on people, maybe trip ‘em. [Laughs]. I would say this, forgiveness is the greatest weapon I’ve used to free me from bad situations.”
Defining forgiveness as giving up our right to hurt someone back for the hurt we received, Victor also makes it clear that forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation or trust, which is where most Christians, he notes, gets it wrong.
“We’re supposed to be goody two-shoes. I’m like, ‘Where is that even in the Bible?’ They make God out to be Santa Clause. It’s like, ‘Stop already!’ If He’s not just and merciful, how can we follow Him? So, people who want, ‘Well, it’s all good.’ No, it’s not all good. Jesus would never have to die,” says Victor. “We must look squarely at perpetrators who’ve done wrong and go, ‘You’re wrong,’ and, depending on the level, your work of iniquity, your evil, your messed up, etc., that way the person affected by evil can keep a level of sanity. Condoning it? Stop it already! Evil can’t take over a person without a level of yielding. It doesn’t mean we take responsibility for what anyone else did or blame ourselves, or whatever like, ‘I shouldn’t have gotten in the car.’”
Victor recognizes that when we acknowledge our inability to forgive a person, then we can be set free. Walking through his own past he shares, “I remember God saying, ‘You have to forgive him,’ [perpetrator who abused him and locked him in a commercial cooler]. This was later in life and the guy was already dead by then. And I said, ‘He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven!’ and the Lord said, ‘Neither do you.’ And I’m like, ‘But I never abused anybody, put ‘em in a freezer.’ And He’s like, ‘No, but that’s why Jesus hung on the cross. He hung on a tree.” Somehow it made sense to me. And the Scripture about the debtor, the guy who owed some money, remember that one? He gets forgiven a lot and then he goes and puts the other guy in jail. There’s no way you can ever be justified for not forgiving someone. So, what helped me is the component of justice. Justice will always be served.”
Justice, according to Victor, is necessary and vital to our spiritual health. He says, “We have to trust God in our forgiveness. No evil will never go unpunished. Every human will stand before God. And, unless they are standing in the cross, through the grace of God, they are going to face a very, very harsh price for all eternity. That gives people comfort even when they are dead.”
But the problem of injustice is not only seen in the world we live in, it also exists in our churches. This is something he passionately defends for the cause of maintaining purity and holiness in our churches. A subject Victor is rightfully fired up about. His boldness attributes to his direct approach in order to see change in churches across the board.
He shares, “I get plenty of feedback, ‘Vic, you’re always picking on pastors,’ and I go, ‘Well, I know a lot of ‘em,’[chuckles]. There [are] such a great many, faithful servants of the Lord as serving in that role. But there are others serving in that role and it boils down to fear. There’s many leaders in the church so fearful to address hard issues, maybe because they have challenges themselves.”
The problem: vulnerability for women.
Victor states, “This cowardly approach for leadership in our church leaves women vulnerable. There is no fear [fear of God]. That’s why no one’s talking about child abuse or weirdness in relationships.”
He calls for a transformation amongst church leadership where justice can co-exist with grace.
“Pastors and men’s leaders of men’s groups should be telling men, ‘Look here, if you’re having sex with a girl in church, or as a Christian man, you’re in sin. You’re wrong and you better repent. ‘Cause, if we find out, were gonna call you out,’” he says. “We’ll send one person to get in your face and say, ‘What are you doing man? Cut it out. Repent right now.’ Single or married. ‘Cause married guys are cheating. There is no more fear in the church.’”
Overall, Victor’s passion comes from a deep concern for people. To see wrongs made right and not ignore what is inside his heart. This is what propels speaking events, mission trips and his advocacy for social justice. He wants to restore dignity to those who have had it taken away –– the castoffs of society and the forgotten. This is Victor’s mission field.
While his life appears to be an unconventional adventure (and it is), times like this also show his other side. Unrushed. He tells me how his generator went down in a blizzard right before we talked. Victor graciously took time to chat, thanked me for being brave and shared fondly on and off about his family. At the end, he told me he really enjoyed our visit—kind of nice to think of an interview that way.
I’m grateful for our visit as he put it. To meet someone who is an overcomer is a special thing. When it comes to Victor, he is a person who has continued to persevere –– not giving up any ground in the battles that come his way. He persists when the odds are against him and stands for his convictions even when it’s against the cultural tide. I feel privileged to tell the story of a person who not only overcame, but ultimately desires to tell others they can, too! Now, this is what I call epic!
Find more on Victor and All Things Possible Ministries visit victormarx.com