I was in my early thirties. I was one of those who should have married; but instead, I was burning with lust. Since I had no husband, I was struggling with love, meaning, value, and sexuality and I was losing.
Repeating the name of Jesus didn’t make me feel loved and valued. I wanted someone to hold me. I wanted someone to look deep into my eyes. I wanted someone to bring me flowers. I was searching for love in the arms of men. I was worshiping earthly love. I put my immediate pleasure ahead of any plan God may have had in mind for me. It was idolatry. I was angry. I was hurt. I was sinning. I was sinning sexually.
I did not seek out sexual partners from my church. I did not seduce Christian men. I’ve never been a seducer; but rather, more of someone who has trouble fending off advances. I thought that since I was no longer a virgin, my obedience to God’s rules regarding sexual abstinence didn’t matter.
Since virginity is so prized in the Christian community, it was hard to convince myself that remaining celibate would matter.
I was attending a terrific church with many great teachings. The church was elder-led. That means that a group of men were in charge. There were several “teaching elders” who regularly gave the Sunday morning message. Some elders received a salary from the church. That church did not draft the wives of the elders; those women were free to use their gifting as they saw fit, whether it was in raising children, working, or doing other ministries and I liked that. I enjoyed that church a lot.
I didn’t feel “plugged in,” as they say, but I didn’t feel excluded. They had no singles ministry (surprise, surprise). I once heard from the pulpit the sentence “People over thirty are difficult (after the word “difficult,” I burst into tears) to reach for Christ.”
I don’t recall any women in leadership. I don’t remember a women’s ministry or even a female administrator. There was an occasional event for women, but only men led the church.
I had been dating a man we will call Jay for about 6 months. We slept together regularly during that time. I had helped him resolve some sexual issues. My guilt due to my sexual sin had been growing. I determined that it was time to repent and stop this foolishness. I broke up with Jay. I sincerely repented. I resolved to sin no more.
About a month later, I invited Jay over to play a game of Scrabble. And by that, I meant that I really wanted to play Scrabble. We had enjoyed that together too. Jay thought I invited him over for sex. And Jay raped me.
It wasn’t a beating or a violent rape. It was a you-have-no-other-option rape.
After the board game, he corralled me with his arms, and walked me down the hall into my bedroom. He bounced me onto the bed. I rolled off on the other side and walked around it towards the door. He captured me again, and bounced me back onto the bed. This was all done with laughter on his face, but he was firm.
At this point, I stopped resisting. I knew that he wanted sex, and that I wasn’t getting out of that room until he had sex. After all, I was just a sexual sinner. What did one more sexual act matter? I was worthless. I was a slut. I was only valuable for my sexual services. I was only getting what I deserved.
You see, I had been carefully trained with ideas of submission.
When he was done, I remember crying as I lied on the bed beside him. Crying quietly. He spent the night.
I called a friend later the next day and said “Last night, Jay had sex with me when I didn’t want to have sex.”
“You mean he raped you?”
“Um, no, I just didn’t want to have sex but he had sex with me anyways.”
“He raped you.”
I was stunned. I hadn’t thought of it as rape. It took me a while to realize that it was rape.
It was rape. I had no choice. I had said no several times. He had physically restrained me. It wasn’t painful. I wasn’t beaten up. I wasn’t threatened. But I had no choice.
I prayed and pondered. I wanted to go to my church and have the elders pray for me. I wanted to make confession and formally repent, with a capital “R.” I hoped that this would help me to stay strong to obey God in the area of sexuality.
But I was afraid. It didn’t seem safe to call up a male elder and say, “Hello, I’m a slut, I was raped, and I want you guys to pray for me.” What if I walked into the office of an elder who was struggling in this same area? What if I encountered an elder who wanted to have an affair? I wanted holiness and support in my resolve, not to find a cheating louse in my own church.
So I sent the elders a message, asking them to have a wise woman contact me. It took several weeks. She was a single woman, not the wife of an elder. We met a couple of times and she served as a go-between. She tried hard, but I felt judged by her. There was not a deep friendship between us.
She did not have the heart of a pastor, a shepherd, or a called and trained minister.
Although I agree that there needs to be strong male leadership in the Church, I also believe that it is imperative that there be strong female leadership. If there were in my past church, I would have gotten the help I so desperately needed. I had several weeks of struggle, confusion, and suffering and I went through it alone. The body of Christ isn’t supposed to work that way. It took far too long for me to find Christians who would help me bear my pain and weep with me.
I know that Jesus loves fallen women. He loves “sluts” like me. So go ahead and call me a slut or whatever name, but I know where I stand with my Savior.
I am the sinner who sits at the feet of Jesus and that is a wonderful place to be. His love and grace abounds and it is sufficient for me.
Lori Hopkins graduated from Johns Hopkins University. She studied cultural anthropology and continues to marvel at the interplay of faith and culture in the modern church. She hangs out with ninja church ladies in Maryland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @lorrainehopkin.
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