“…is a choice I leave to you.”
Yes I just quoted The Matrix. Haha!
So here it is, the last installment of the series relating my personal journey through issues of feminism, sexuality, and Christianity. I’ve actually tried to condense and skip over things to not glorify my weaknesses or throw a pity party. But the issues are so complex and my journey so winding that I feel like I’ve only just touched the surface after all this. But now I want to move on. I want to and need to focus on the now and the next.
At first, upon arriving in Williamsburg, I felt myself keeping a fair distance between me and other Christians, not getting too close because I wasn’t sure how my life would be received. Then the pendulum would swing and in my more rebellious state of mind would think, screw that! I’m not holding back any more. I’m gonna share every painful dark struggle I’ve ever had with all its gore and guts! So just deal, Jesus freak, deal! Somewhere in between is quite healthy.
God gave me a gift early on. I had moved in July 2007 and only began going to Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in late August. It amused me that people thought I was a college student (this is a William and Mary town) but soon I discovered what I was fearing about returning to church in the first place – I had no idea where I fit in. Single, female, no kids, and mid 30s is not your average church demographic, particularly in a small town like Williamsburg. New York, DC, LA, sure. Not the first colony.
But then I met him. Ok not “HIM” him, but a guy. (He may very well blush at this, but whatever.) I’ll call him “Bryon.” Bryon was that token single dude in a sea of couples, well, at our church anyway. I was invited to a small group where, on my first night there, he gave his testimony. The significance of this was not beyond me. (Thank you Jesus) He is a successful career man, honest and open, and ridiculously good looking, a lethal combination to my worldly sensibilities. But all that aside, it was a perfect reminder that I am not alone in my journey and that, again, I am not beyond hope.
One thing I have grown to appreciate more from him was the reminder that no matter what I had gone through, there was someone else who could relate at least on some level, and I’m not alone. Once we break through the layer of superficiality and take off the rose-colored glasses, we discover all the pains and guilt we all carry just under the surface. And if we really “lean into the awkwardness” (as our assistant pastor likes to say) we will find a common bond and a support system that is so vital to our growth.
So these days, it’s easy to fall into this self-righteous mentality (ironic as that is) of how much “better” I am than others (or maybe just “deeper”) because of what I’ve been through and done. I’ve seen Christians giving testimonies like they’re expecting an award for Most Improved Player (there’s that worst of all sinners title again). But in the balance of things, I can only believe that my specific set of experiences can now be turned into something uniquely glorifying to the One who brought it all about.
I won’t even dare to say that I don’t struggle daily. I still wrestle with self-doubt and trying to straddle some imaginary line between purity and depravity. I clean my intentions drawer out constantly, checking and rechecking myself for the things I’m doing to be sure I am not slipping back into the same patterns for selfish gain or ego boosting.
In the past, I’ve heard from women’s groups who slam me for “giving in” to religious bruhaha and write me off as weak for needing a God (characterized as “male” by our language notwithstanding). Any discussion on women’s issues for a Christian begins with Eve, but for a nonChristian there is so much more material to be covered from evolutionary and survival processes (reproduction and gender difference) and the development of women’s roles through history. Again, I feel like I’ve only begun to touch the surface of this all. And unless this turns into a full-length book, which it very well might, I had to decide what to include. I chose my personal experience so this had to begin with Eve.
I have also been told that I am blatantly wrong and faith is futile and that I have become a witless fool by more than one woman in my life. I don’t argue with people, well, atheists and agnostics. I argue all the time with Christians. But I don’t argue pro or con because I’ve been there and let it settle into my psyche that God doesn’t care about me, never has and never will. I lived with that for years. I understand it and respect it and would find no point in trying to change that for someone else who is there now.
But this is where I am now. I’ve considered that my faith is just a crutch and I’m a cripple. I’ve considered that when you are plummeting down a pit you grasp for anything to break your fall and cling to whatever does the trick. I’ve also considered the possibility that this is where I was meant to be all along. And like a dog who always wanted to fly, I instead just learned to sit, speak and play dead. And sometimes rollover and pee on your slippers. I really don’t think I will ever “arrive” any where and I think that to some degree we have never been called to “arrive” – we are called to “follow” and that’s what I’m trying to do now.
In the meantime, I deal with the fallout every day. Something like filing for bankruptcy, you get to relive all the mistakes you made along the way and can beat yourself up for it as much as you like. But in the end, the bills still have to be paid and something has to be done or they’ll take your house. There are things that need to be done and steps I have to take to correct my life as is, and at times, it’s overwhelming and I wonder how it will all play out in the end.
A friend and I have often talked about our pasts and how they play into our futures. In one conversation he was relating how he often struggles with telling a girl he is dating about his sexual history, or if it should be addressed at all. We had a long discussion about what’s appropriate and important for us to know about each other. Of course now that I’ve written all this out, I think I can just defer to my blog if it comes up. (I can just picture being out on a date and saying, well, go to robinjester dot wordpress dot com and search for the title “sex series” and you’ll get all you never wanted to know.)
This was one of the biggest concerns I had about writing such a thing as this, and being so personal. What I have come to rest in is the fact that whomever it may end up being, he will truly love and accept me for all I am and have been, in spite and even because of my flaws and sin. And through the love and grace of our Father, he will be able to see me as pure and whole in a new way, maybe even more than I can. Sounds lovely, right? My real fear is when I meet someone I’m really into, he will find out about me (possibly via this here blog) and suddenly lose my number. Or worse, he will never look at me the same way, something I’ve already experienced recently, and will feel completely at a loss on how to relate.
On the other hand, I mostly envision that this person will have to have travelled a similar road. One thing I’ve noticed is that God has consistently placed Christian men in my life recently who are very much on the same page as me and have seen and been in many of the same places, people like Bryon and others who have crossed my path. It’s almost like God is whispering to me, “hey, I got this, Robin. You have nothing to fear, nothing to worry about. He’s out there and he’ll be ready when you are.” It’s been so freeing and refreshing to know I haven’t screwed up beyond all hope. We’ll see. I have to trust in the One that holds all the keys. Something I’m relatively new at.
So there it is. I hope no one was expecting any epiphanies or trumpet-sounding revelatory, heavens-parting type advice, or anything of that sort. I am a work in progress, always have been and until my final breath, always will be. More than the bashed up car with a “DWI/Mothers Against Drunk Driving” sign on it, I want my life to be not just an example of what not to do, but in many ways, an example of exactly what God does. The depths He goes to, the expense He pays, even the destruction He allows, all to carry us through. It took a good long while to accept myself as I am from head to toe, heart and soul, as His daughter, His love, and His bride, and this all was the path I chose to get here.
The true beauty of my life now is that I’ve relinquished the artist’s brush, the writer’s pen, the musician’s instrument, to the Author and Perfector. This is a daily, sometimes hourly relinquishment, mind you, sometimes ceremonial and with great pomp. Other times, in quiet tearful desperation. I really have no idea where I go from here and where else this journey will take me. All I know is I’m done packing my bags and taking them with me.
Thanks to all who stuck with me on this.
May Jesus Christ be praised!
For further reading, may I suggest the following:
Harvest is a ministry based in Philadelphia but offers training and help throughout the east coast area. The ministry is specific to addressing sexual issues that the conservative church traditionally was not prepared to deal with outside of shunning and handing out red-lettered shirts.
Freedom in Christ Ministries, founded by Neil T Armstrong who wrote Bondage Breaker and Victory Over the Darkness, two books that helped radically change the way Christian fundamentalists were approaching the powers of addiction and sin.
Grace to You is a ministry led by John MacArthur, my personal favorite of all God-lovers out there today. His ministry and teachings have been vital to my growth. Though he doesn’t speak extensively on women’s issues (I’d venture to say that’s because he’s a dude) he has invaluable resources on pretty much all aspects of the Christian life in general.
Idols of the Heart, by Elyse Fitzpatrick
A study I’m doing right now, which I’d highly recommend.
Mercy Ministries is a treatment facility for females struggling with addictions, abuse, and other traumas.
Specific to sexual abuse healing, this is a ministry from Watermark Community Church, a Dallas based church.
Treasure Ministry is a ministry based in L.A., focused on outreach to the sex industry, founded by Harmony Dust, a former stripper and a current lover of Christ.
if you have any other resources you’d like to share, please do.