That one time.

So I’ve been working through some significant church wounds and last night, I was hit with an old memory.

Most people know that I’m the type of girl that makes the first move. I’ve always tried to make it really easy for the guy. I can handle a gentle no. Rejection is a part of life. What I can’t handle is what happened two years ago.

I had been attending this church for a few months, making friends, getting settled. My community group leader was someone I had known for about seven years. He seemed like a stable guy, level-headed. He seemed to value people and had a gentle heart.

I started to develop feelings for him. Usually when this happens, I make a move pretty quickly. I like to know soon if things are going to go anywhere.

So I told him I liked him. If I’m honest, I fully expected a no. I just wanted to be sure.

He didn’t say no.

He asked me to leave the community group. He said he couldn’t lead effectively knowing that there was a girl in the group that liked him.

I was taken aback. I thought that was a really extreme way of responding to my feelings. I went to the pastors, fully expecting them to say it was wrong.

They didn’t say that.

They said I needed to leave the community group. He was a leader and they said that I had made him uncomfortable. The lead pastor said that they needed to look for the interests of the leader.

I had been making friends in the community group. I was finding my place in the church and suddenly, because I had been honest about my feelings, I found myself kicked out of my community group.

It shook me. I never imagined that something like that could happen. I’ve always been really upfront about how I feel but I’ve realized that experience still has me shaken up. I don’t think I can make the first move anymore. I make a big talk about female empowerment and initiating with a guy but what happens if he treats me like that again? With that other guy, I could have never suspected that he would behave that way. And for a church to support that kind of response, what’s to say that won’t happen again? Every church comes across healthy until they’re backed into a corner.

I love my life. I don’t want to risk everything falling apart because I put myself out there again. That leader eventually had me removed from the church. He was vindictive and cruel. And it all started because I told him I liked him. He was someone I didn’t recognize and I haven’t really trusted my perception of people since.

I guess I’m just waiting for a guy to take the pressure off me. Trust me, if I spend time with you, talk to you, ask questions about your life or your past, I like you. It’s really not that complicated.

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Faith

I knew a woman once who told me this amazing story upon our first meeting.

She and her husband had two children and were living in California when they heard of a ministry opportunity to serve in a Muslim country. In order to pay for this opportunity, they would have to sell everything they owned and relocate to this country. So they walked in obedience. They had a plan; they were sure of what God would do.

It was not until they had sold everything they owned that they discovered that the ministry organization only wanted the husband for the first year of ministry. So he went to this country and the wife, along with her two children moved in with family in Arizona. The plan became that they would join the husband in a year. It was during this waiting period that I met this woman.

She was a breath of fresh air as she told me this story. She was sure that God wanted her family to serve in this ministry. She did not mention until years later that she was struggling financially, was without the support of her husband and sleeping on couches with her children. Her family never made it to this country and her husband eventually returned back to the States.

It was years later that she told me she would never make a mistake like that again. She had acted in faith and put her family and marriage in jeopardy. She projected this fear on me repeatedly, as I struggled to make decisions. And I fought her every step of the way. Something was off, it seemed wrong.

She hadn’t acted in faith by selling her possessions for this ministry. There was nothing faithful about what she had done. She had done something with the expectation that she knew what would happen and when it turned out she was wrong, she concluded that she had been misguided. And she was right. By assuming she knew what God would do, she placed her faith in her understanding of the situation, not God. If she had sold her possessions without expectations of a particular return, she would have been acting in humility.

*On a side note for my readers, it is never biblical to sell all your possessions without first making sure you have enough to live on. God does not ask foolish things of us.*

I’ve been thinking about that story a lot lately. As I’ve been learning more about faith, I’ve been contemplating what it means to look at the assurance of things unseen. What it means to act in faith.

It means saying you’re sorry without expecting forgiveness.

It looks like forgiving even when reconciliation isn’t a possibility.

It might be joining a church in spite of the fear that you’ll just get hurt again.

It means opening up to a guy when you’re not sure it’s going to go anywhere.

It looks like taking a job that’s out of your comfort zone.

I’ve tried not to judge that woman. She went through a lot in a short amount of time but I don’t agree with the conclusions she made about what she should have learned about faith through the choices she made. It was really sad. She trusted more in her logic and reasoning to protect her than understanding that what she lacked was humility. I have walked in faith and had horrible things happen but I don’t regret doing so. God doesn’t have to give me what I want in order for me to trust Him. I don’t stop following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If I only walked in faith when I was sure that I wouldn’t get hurt, well, that’s no faith at all. That’s just me and self-preservation.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret the choices I didn’t make. I have rarely regretted the pain I’ve gone through because of choices I made in faith but I have regretted all the times I told God no.

I don’t talk to that woman anymore but I hope she’s learning what faith really is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me Too

I don’t ever talk about it.

I woke up this morning to a social meeting campaign, where people were sharing their sexual abuse/assault cases with the hashtag #metoo.

And by people, I mean women, because the narrative has effectively excluded men. It’s also portrayed men as the sole predators.

If you knew my story, you’d understand why I’m angry.

I thought about sharing my story in some heartfelt post but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Because social media cheapens my experiences.

I’ve often thought about what would happen if people knew about my experiences. Typically, when I talk about my history of sexual abuse, I don’t talk specifics. I don’t talk about my grandfather. I don’t talk about staring at his hands or the red shirt he wore with a white stripe. I don’t talk about the massive amounts of porn he exposed me to. And until two years ago, no one knew I had spent most of my life struggling with a porn addiction.

Because girls don’t struggle with that. And while I knew early exposure denied me any opportunity to see sex in a healthy way, I blamed myself for my addiction. It was not until I was sitting in front of another woman who also struggled with porn addiction that I was able to find freedom.

My story doesn’t end there, because it happened again. This time at a church by an older girl. It went on for months. I struggled with sexual identity until I was in my late teens, because once again, I thought it was my fault.

Recently, I sat in my foster care class and we were talking about the feelings associated with sexual abuse. And I blurted out that guilt is a common emotion you experience. Because you think it’s your fault. It takes a lot of counseling to understand that it’s not your fault.

I have no judgments for women using the #metoo campaign today. I just want you to remember two things:

  1. Men are not the enemy. They are not the sole predators. The prolonged sexual abuse I experienced was at the hands of an older girl.
  2. Men are also survivors of sexual abuse. They need to feel safe enough to talk about it.

So that’s my story. I don’t talk about it often but I’m starting to understand I should. I read somewhere recently that when you share your story, you open up another person to get healing.

He loves me

Once a month, I attend a women’s group through my church. We share what’s going on in our lives, what we’re struggling with, what victories we’ve had. Slowly but surely, I am learning to let these girls into my heart.

There’s one thing I haven’t shared with anyone. It’s not that I stopped believing in God; I just stopped believing I mattered to Him. My prayer life was dry and my bible reading was a headache. I started to doubt that God cared about my coming and going. I felt insignificant, like I wasn’t on His radar. And why should I be? I have nothing to offer Him.

So I’m sitting in this women’s group and we’re talking about marriage and someone asks me why I want to get married. And I respond by saying I want a partner to help me do the dishes and pay the bills, pick up the slack so that I don’t have to do it alone. And she responds by saying those aren’t very good reasons to marry someone. A maid could do most of what I’m looking for. She doesn’t tell me what I should be looking for but I break down anyway.

I don’t believe anyone will love me. I don’t believe anyone will be jealous for me. I can’t imagine anyone thinking of me and smiling or praying for my well-being. I give so much of myself to other people, encouraging, helping, praying but I never expect anything in return. It’s not selfless. It’s because I don’t expect anyone to love me back.

My friend suggested that I ask God why I would need a husband. What His heart is for marriage. Because I’ve studied marriage at length but something isn’t connecting. So I asked Him.

A few days later, I was sitting in this meeting surrounded by sixty plus people when I felt God in the room. And He was beckoning to me, I love you, do you not know how much I love you.

In this room full of people, I started crying. I felt like I was 13 again. I remember it vividly, sitting in that church and the pastor was talking about grace, that I didn’t have to earn God in order for Him to love me. No one had ever told me that before.

God loves me. He is jealous for me and chases after me when I stray. He takes care of my needs and considers my wants. He loves me because He wants to, not because of anything I’ve done.

No one can love me like God does but could I believe that my friends and family love me? Could I believe a man would love me? Honestly, I believe the reason I’m not married is because I don’t ever believe anyone loves me. I don’t believe anyone thinks fondly of me. I love others because that’s what God has done in my heart. Could I allow others to love me? Could I be that vulnerable?

It’ll be the scariest thing I’ve ever done but I think God is asking me to go there.