The boy was relentless. I could not escape his eyes, his voice, his hands. In a place where being alone with a boy was a sin I found myself alone with this boy…a lot. In the classroom. Downstairs beneath the balcony. In the kitchen. Trapped. Alone. With him. He was once my friend. He was once someone that I would climb trees with and play attempt to play baseball with and laugh with. But he didn’t understand who I was and we both were the product of a twisted religion. And for 9 long, agonizing months we played a game. I hid, he found me and I’d hide again. And I would repent and ask forgiveness for not protecting myself and for causing him to attack me. And I never told anyone. Because if I did it would be my fault and they’d publicly shame me for being seductive and I’d be sent home to my parents. For I was the “wild child”. I was the one that they knew was going to cause all the boys to do bad things and lose their salvation. And then I graduated. I was free from the boy. And the man I trusted, the man who listened to my ramblings, who never touched me, who never asked me inappropriate things, who never told me what exactly he could do to me if he got me alone, this man asked me to date him. And I said yes. When I was 18…and if Pastor said yes…of course.
One afternoon that summer I took a walk up the hill to get ice. I loved being on the campus during the week when it was just me and the flowers and God. I’d talk to him about my future and the man who was making my stomach flip every service. I’d sing and write songs about how much I loved Jesus. It was my safe place and I loved being there. Often one of the small handful of teens would be on campus and we’d hang out together. This day I ran into the boy. I smiled at him and continued walking. He began to taunt me. I told him to leave me alone. He continued following me. I chose to ignore him and the impending feeling. The feeling that this was not going as I hoped and my brain was about to exit left and leave me standing there vulnerable. He asked to carry the ice jug for me. And I stupidly said yes. When I got to the door, I told him to hand me the jug. He was not allowed in the house and I was not about to let him in the house. I told him goodbye and he began his taunts. I slammed the door in his face. Why I didn’t lock the door, I don’t know. I went upstairs to finish getting ready for work. I was listening to music so I didn’t hear the door shut. He scared me. I screamed and jumped and he stood there and laughed. He began to start the game again and my brain began to leave my body. And I just shut down. I went into my room to get what he wanted and he followed me. I was pinned between him and a dresser and I was not there. Nothing I could do could get my brain and my body connected enough for me to kick him as hard as I could and run. I ended on the floor and I laid there, telling him no and trying to push him and having no strength. And then I looked over and I saw the picture. The one of the man who I knew wanted to love me and date me and marry me. And I looked at this picture and thought, “I don’t deserve him. He doesn’t need me. I’m not worth it.” But something inside me snapped back and I pushed hard and told this boy that he was going to leave and if he didn’t I was marching up to the Pastor’s office and tell him what just happened. *I* for once, was not taking the blame. And he left. I told God I was sorry and to please make this boy leave me alone forever. And he did. For a while.
One Friday night I went with my friend and her sister after service. The man was now my fiancé and he was out of town. For some reason the sister wanted to take the boy with us. I climbed into the back of the car and as he followed me into the back he began the game again. I froze. You see, I’d been told to forgive him for what he’d done. To not tell anyone. To protect his reputation and give him the chance to not pay for his immaturity. I whispered, “Leave me alone.” and he whispered, “You don’t mean that.” I wanted to tell my friend to stop the car and throw this boy out the door, but I didn’t. I sat in the back, curled up as hard as I could, trying to stay as far away from him as possible. Pushing away his hands. And feeling horrible and awful and begging my brain to stay in the game. We arrived at the restaurant. I couldn’t sit next to him as that would be inappropriate. So I sat across from him. And he continued harassing with his foot. I told my friend I was not feeling well and could we please go home. We finally left and returned to the campus and I went into my room and cried. My friend came to check on me and found me crying. She asked what was wrong. I told her. She asked me why I didn’t say anything and I told her I didn’t know how. I finally told her about the game. And she said I needed to tell my fiancé. “I can’t. He won’t understand and he will break up with me.” She looked at me. “That is the stupidest thing I’ve heard you say. And if he does that, he is the stupidest man I’ve known.” So the next night the fiancé was back and we went out. On the way I told him about what happened. And I waited for him to tell me how I was imagining things and he couldn’t believe how stupid I was. Instead, this man, looked at me and said, “I’ll take care of it.”
The day he did that was the first day I considered that I was worth more than what I had been told. I never learned what he said to the boy, but the boy went up front for prayer and ended up apologizing to me afterwards. The horrible nightmare that began when I was 7 years old ended with the actions of this man.
One reason I loved the husband was because he stood up for me. He told me that a man doesn’t mistreat a woman and he doesn’t violate her dignity because of his own selfish desires. He told me that a man would protect and not hurt. And then he showed me that was true with his actions. He never pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do and he taught me to use my voice. To say yes when I wanted to say yes and say no when I wanted to say no. And for that I loved him.
23 years later I still think that I wasn’t worth it. I still think that I trapped him into a relationship he didn’t want. And although I’m desperately in love with him, there’s a part of me that still believes I don’t deserve this. And we keep working on my issue and he looks at me and says something so simple, “Maybe the reason we are together is because we were meant to be together.” I so want to believe it, but I can’t. Because I still struggle deeply with acceptance that I did not cause the boys and men to molest me. And I ask Abba to help me see, to remember, to bring back the memories of a love that wasn’t tainted by my nightmares.
I find myself back in therapy. I have to work through the acceptance or I’m going to destroy what we have again. And I have only seen her once. I sit on her couch and she begins talking. But it’s not her. It’s my Abba. He’s talking to me through her. She’s saying things I’ve not told her yet. She’s speaking to my soul at a depth that only Abba knows. She’s prophetically speaking truth into my life and unraveling a religion that destroyed a 3 year old girl and I’m sitting there stunned. And then she begins to talk about the man. The man who didn’t know who I was and married me anyway. The man who I love and loves me but that I don’t truly believe was meant to be mine. She stops, “He’s a miracle you know.” I look at her. She doesn’t know. She doesn’t know that I’ve asked Abba to help me see why we are together. “You’re married to the man God wanted you to marry.” And, with that, I am undone. I can’t stop crying and I tell her she has no idea what she just said. And then she won’t quit talking. She tells me that there is something different about me. That they had to break my spirit and keep me down because I’m a threat. Because I’m a daughter of the Most High and they knew that. And that she’s going to help me heal and do the thing that my Father intended for me when he made me. And as she spoke life into my world I saw him. The boy who knew of a God without being told and prayed every night he’d be a great man. The boy who would look toward Idaho because he thought he’d marry a girl from there one day. The boy with a deep soul seeking something he didn’t know. The boy who became the man who calls me his love. And I saw that we are together because our Father made us to be together. I have the answer to my question.
It’s Valentine’s Day. I sit in our big trailer listening to the sounds of the rain hit the roof and the husband making bacon on our little propane stove. The girls and my other daughter (my daughter’s best friend) are stirring and it’s going to be another rainy day at the Oregon Coast. And I’m so thankful for a love like this. To know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Safe. Loved. Whole. It’s still a battle. I still have to accept what happened and move forward. But I no longer have to question why he’s mine.