“Something happened to her.” I told my husband, after scrolling through her Facebook posts. “I don’t know what, but she seems so angry.”
I remembered her as a young child giving her first piano recital, sitting on the bench with feet swinging a foot above the floor, playing with all her heart, all the time looking straight at the audience with the biggest grin on her face. She was the youngest in the family, and it was finally her time at center stage.
She worked for me as a teenager, cleaning house. She was really good. I loved having her around. Personality plus. She had (still does) a heart as big as a castle, fiercely protective and generous, feisty and adventurous. She was (still is) beautiful, and so talented, but oddly unsure of how beautiful and talented she was. We had some great conversations while she worked for me, she burrowed a place in my heart, and I will always have this warm, soft spot for her.
When she finished her training, she moved from working for me to doing the job she really wanted. I was happy for her. Missed her, though. Our paths rarely crossed after that. She had her life, and I continued with mine. She and my teenager stayed in touch for a while, but even their busy lives crossed less and less often. As for me, I figured, what teenage girl really wants to hang out with her mother’s friend?
But her posts. They changed. It hurt to see them. Once or twice I messaged her, “Hey! Let’s get together!” But we never did.
“I have a feeling she was raped, or assaulted in some other way.” I told my son when he commented on how different she seemed. But I didn’t push to meet with her. I wish I had. I have a hard time “meddling.” What could I say? What if I was wrong? Don’t know that it would have made any difference except perhaps to let her know someone cared.
This past week she wrote about her experience, about an acquaintance who took her flirting as his right to take what she refused to give him.
Her story hit me hard.
“I was raised extremely conservatively and I believed that my virginity was what I should value most as a woman and that’s what would make me worth something to a guy. Now that’s just what I picked up from growing up in a super conservative church where abstinence was the only thing taught and the idea of anything else was condemned.”
That’s how she starts her story. I am part of that church she talks about, and I want to tell her I am sorry. Not sorry about emphasizing the importance of abstinence, but sorry about making her believe that her virginity defined her value and was the object of greatest importance. I am sorry I didn’t provide a place of emotional safety where she could run to and know no matter how “defiled” she felt, she was still loved and cherished. She is not disposable. She didn’t have to be the picture perfect person she thought she needed to be to still be a child of God.
She has every right to be angry. With me. I failed to show what I am supposed to show. I am not to be a reflection of the law. I am to be a reflection of God’s love: the love that called the adulterous, murdering King David a man after His own heart, the love that forgave the woman the Pharisees wanted stoned, the love that sought out the woman at the well, five times married and living with the sixth. It is a love that drove the guilt laden BACK to him, didn’t drive them away.
I am so sorry.
Today’s “sexual freedom” has caused more harm than can be measured. Women, in particular, connect emotionally where physical intimacy occurs. With each partner goes a chip of her heart that she never quite recovers. She learns to build walls, defenses, hardens her heart so it doesn’t chip so easily. After a while she has a hard time trusting. I am not saying that this doesn’t affect men as well. It does, but often differently. The numbers of single mothers continue to skyrocket, the number of abortions remains high. The brunt of the penalty for sexual freedom is carried by the woman.
Sexuality is a gift. A gift from God, to be shared by husband and wife. Virginity is the protection of that gift until it can be given to the one who would most appreciate it. In an ideal world, it is given to the one person who loves you enough to commit the rest of his or her life to you. It is not some cheap bangle to be worn and used by whatever costume artist is standing in line. It is precious, and should be treasured as such. Precious the first time, and each time thereafter. We teach abstinence to encourage the ideal, to minimize the pain. Guess our reasons didn’t reflect in how we taught.
And this is not always an ideal world. Choice is not always an option.
Rape. Men who think they can take what they want, no matter. And often get away with it. They are bigger. Stronger. The woman feels guilty, like somehow it was her fault. Wrong place. Wrong dress. Too friendly.
Intimate assault—even for the non-virgin, tears deep down into the soul, drowns the victim in helplessness, shatters her security, annihilates innocence, destroys with a sense of being “defiled.” Tarnished. Dirty. Unworthy.
This is not an ideal world, and this is no small matter. Sins of fathers are passed down to their sons. Sins of a society that fails to teach men to value and protect, to respect and honor. To take a woman at her word. No means no.
This atrocity, this violence, is something that has percolated through all of history. How do we make it stop? I wish I knew.
Jacob’s sons killed all the men in a Canaanite city as revenge for the rape of their sister Dinah. Overkill? Perhaps.
Be angry, dear friend. Angry with me, angry at the church for failing to emphasize that you—YOU as a person, imperfect like the rest of us–are of extreme value, because you are made in the image of God. You are God’s child.
He made you. You, with your quirky personality, your artsy, crazy phenomenal talents, your drive to experience life, your love for the underdog. God will avenge the harm done you. He loves you more than Dinah’s brothers loved her.
I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.
But, after the anger, can you find a place in that great big heart of yours–can you find room to forgive me? Forgive the church? Consider, perhaps, it wasn’t what we taught that was wrong, but what we emphasized? Can you forgive us for failing to show that we care?
We are a work in progress, in need of a makeover. To be made new. Some day, we will stop hurting each other. Someday. Meanwhile, can we help alleviate your pain?
“Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold I make all things new.”
I’d love to get together sometime.