When I was in seventh grade, I had a locker on a lower row next to a boy. Between every class, I had to kneel down at this locker to retrieve my books. And nearly every day, this boy would kneel down next to me at his own locker, grin wickedly, and then rest his hand on my thigh.
Or on the back of my neck, with his fingers in my hair.
Or on my crotch.
I would shove him away every day, but still he persisted. He bragged about it to his friends. They started hanging around his locker just to see me turn red in anger and shame, laughing and hooting at me.
I eventually started lugging around all of my heavy textbooks in my backpack, just to avoid him. I did this for several weeks before determining that I would tell a teacher. But before I could, the boy had gotten into trouble elsewhere and was suspended for different reasons.
When I was in tenth grade, I worked as a student trainer for the football team. One of the players acted on a dare from his buddies and tried to unfasten my bra while I stood in front of him on a school bus.
I only wore sports bras for a very long time afterward because of it.
When I was in twelfth grade, a drunk college guy at a party shoved me up against a wall and put his hand down my shorts.
I kneed him in the groin, got away, and counted myself lucky.
I don’t talk about these experiences much for obvious reasons, but I decided to come forward with them for this post. I’m not doing so to gain pity, but to convey to you the absurd commonness of their occurring. A majority of my female friends have stories just like these – and way, way too many of them have stories that are so much worse. I’m writing about them to put a face on them. These are not just “some women” – they are me. They are women (and young girls) you know, and they happen in places you know.
And now, a man who has openly bragged about committing assaults like the ones I endured is president-elect of this nation.
This has been a hard year. For me, it’s been full of disbelief at the support for a perpetrator of the abuse I once received (and sometimes still do, from men on the street or in the mall or in the grocery store or at the movies or…). It’s been full of loss and loneliness. It’s been full of angry prayers and cynical arguments with God. It’s been full of pregnancy announcements for what feels like everyone except me, which has in turn caused a landslide of confusing joyfulness and bitterness.
Christ’s command to pray for one’s enemies has never felt so real to me as it does today. And yet, when the command was first given thousands of years ago, the dangers were so much more visceral. Enemies really were enemies. Praying for them meant praying for community members (perhaps even family or friends) who stole your money, kept some for themselves, and then gave the rest to an oppressing army. It meant praying for that same army, who would arrest and crucify at the slightest provocation.
How did those first Christians do it? How did they pray for those who could actually kill them without any fear of retaliation? I often find fault with people in the Bible (how dumb were the disciples, y’know?), but in this, I find the fault in myself. It still seems unthinkable to pray for Donald Trump. I can’t bring myself to form the thoughts or the words.
If there was one thing I could confidently say God is teaching me in this season, it would be to trust His promises, even when I, in my sinful fickleness, think they seem weak.
Please, fellow Christians. I’m being really, really raw with you here. I am struggling, and you admonishing me to not put my trust in princes isn’t helping.
Please, be patient and gentle with me as I work to separate Trump and his presidency from the boys who stole pieces of me.
Please, let me grieve while I re-learn how to turn the other cheek; how to offer my cloak and my tunic; how to walk another mile; how to trust God’s plan.
Right now, I’m clinging to the belief that the promises of Jesus are better than positive pregnancy tests or election results.
I’m clinging to verses like this: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I’m clinging with all my might to my baptism.
I’m clinging, so please – don’t tell me to use my bootstraps.
Instead, give me a hand and tell me – and others, especially the vulnerable, marginalized, and voiceless – about the width and height and depth of the love of Christ.
I promise to jump in and do the same tomorrow.