this post was originally called “confessions of a Christian slut”.
then i changed it to “the date rape nobody talks about”.
now it’s called what it is,
if that tells you anything about the emotional journey i took in writing it.
She told me to type & i did, scowling as the voices that haunted me appeared in black & white on my screen.
You hurt me.
You led me on.
You seduced me.
You hurt me.
You can’t be trusted.
You just like the attention.
You need to stay away from us men.
YOU HURT ME.
Every epithet that any Christian boy had ever hurled at me – the roots of which poisonous weeds had sunk so deep that as I wrote, I could not distinguish lie from the truth. I had hurt them. I had wounded them. I had let them down. I had failed; failed to do the only thing they’d asked of me: to respond to their advances with open arms.
Of course, few of these slurs had been cast directly at me – out in the open where I could savor them, turn them over on my tongue and feel each one’s weight individually. They were whispered behind closed doors; they were passed from man to man till I could not tell – and no longer cared – where the lies had originated from.
They had no discernible source, and therefore must be true.
I used to stare up at that imposing, straight-up fifteen-story edifice they all lived in at Bible school and it felt as if I personally carried the weight of each weathered brick. I imagined their faces. I carefully picked up the hearts that I had thrown aside and gathered them, like children, on my bowing shoulders. They were my necessary burdens; my thorns in the flesh. They were my sins, and every day I repented of them anew – as if every day I committed each one again.
Our hearts seldom allow for the logical fallacies we so quickly point out in the arguments of others.
One January morning, after months of this torment, I trudged out into the bitter cold to meet a dear, sweet friend who had walked the streets of foreign marketplaces & eaten sheeps’ brains & run in the rain with me a thousand times. We were bosom friends. Kindred spirits. Anne & Diana. That sort of thing. All I could think of was the little flame of joy I’d leave with after seeing her, cupped & protected between my two shivering hands.
I had plopped under a big old oak tree on our shared lawn & almost immediately, saw her walking through the grass towards me. She was keeping her eyes on her feet & she greeted me with just a fraction of her usual effervescence.
“Hannah,” she said slowly, haltingly, “I have something I need to talk to you about.”
She proceeded to tell me about the rumor she’d heard from so-and-so who’d told it to that other guy who heard from it the best friend of the man whose heart I’d most recently broken. She said she knew that I didn’t used to be the flirtatious type, but that maybe I’d been caught up in the attention and the excitement of thirty eligible Jesus-loving bachelors at my disposal & forgotten how to properly behave.
She was just concerned, she said, and of course she wouldn’t be a good friend if she didn’t say something.
I turned my head towards the street to hide my suddenly impaired vision & the red lipstick I’d so joyfully applied that morning.
I somehow felt that this particular shade of red somehow proved my guilt – that I was the whore every self-respecting Bible school student would avoid if he just had the sense to.
By Valentine’s Day I’d dropped out of school & fled the country.
If I couldn’t stop hurting men & keeping my eyes and thoughts and smiles and damn red lipstick to myself, then I would simply remove myself from the equation and there’d be an end to it.
I typed and I typed and I felt each accusation, fresh and humiliating, just as I had heard them so clearly from the sheepish mouths of the men who’d been brave enough to tell me what they’d heard. Again I wondered, just as I had that frigid January morning, how anyone could ever actively choose to be in a relationship with someone of such ill-repute? Three years and a thousand miles later, I felt as though their faces hung on me like stains that every new love interest of mine would either have to forgive or ignore.
Then she asked me to say their names.
One of them had run off & started a new life serving the poorest poor in the far reaches of rural India. He’d sent me a friendly message a few months ago, a Facebook postcard of sorts, checking in on me & telling me about his adventures. Another had gotten married & graduated, in that order, and we perused the pictures of his new life & wife & city. He looked calm & peaceful, like a man finally come home after a long journey. Another had moved back to his family’s house in the misty mountains of Colorado and was now running the old youth ministry he’d grown up in.
They were all, to my utter disbelief, HAPPY. They were all overwhelmingly WHOLE. They had no need of my suffering.They had all decided to go on living without me.
My shoulders alone were sagging with undue weight.
My judgment alone was still blinded.
My heart alone was still paralyzed.
And so that night I forgave Christian men for the offense they took at my existence.
I forgave them for making me despise me and my personality and my occasionally devilish grin & most of all, my RED LIPSTICK.
I forgave myself for the feelings I’d bruised and the hearts I’d bent (but never quite broken) and I laid them all to rest in the graves they belonged in.
I don’t hate or fear my brothers anymore, so that’s a plus, I think. I don’t automatically assume that they’re going to abuse me or defame me or make me bear the weight of their embarrassment and sorrow. Some might still try – but what they don’t know is that I have since become a woman of valor, and I will gently, graciously reject all condemnation in the name of Jesus, for such words are not of Him who healed the lepers and chose the tax collectors and drove away the executioners of a woman accused & scorned by her community.
This weekend I wore some red lipstick & I held hands with one of these men & I told him I’d like to see what happened if we tried to grow together. He held my hand right back & listened to all of my sob stories & then he smiled & said he’d like to try and redeem all that mess & he told me – oh praise Jesus – that IT WAS NOT MY FAULT.
That there was no one left to condemn me.
This is just another step in the long road towards taking back my personhood. But I like to think I’m making progress.