One word, scribbled across the picture of a bride he’d ripped out of a magazine. It was one of many “presents” he’d been leaving me. A pair of stolen underwear, generously returned to me when he left them in my church pew. An obituary notice with my name glued onto it. Pages ripped out of my own Bible with underlined verses:
‘Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.’
Judah said, ‘Bring her out and have her burned to death!’ (For the record, I was neither a prostitute nor pregnant.)
Do not allow a sorceress to live. (Even though Hagrid never showed up at my house…as far as I’m aware.)
I was eighteen. I had just gone through all that courtship, purity, a-woman-is-only-worth-as-much-her-hymen crap. This was just an extension of that. Any which way I turned inside that church, my worth was in providing a man with what he wanted.
“You belong to your future husband” isn’t a far cry from, “You belong to a stalker, just because he wants you.”
Nobody told me, “You belong to yourself.” Well, screw that.
Jesus told them to watch out for wolves and they embraced one with open arms. Jesus told them, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” but there I was stumbling all over the damn place.
Only a few months before this, I’d had to defend a satirical courtship website I’d made. But here a man was threatening my life and that was totally acceptable. What message could I take away from that except, “You don’t matter.”
After he broke into my house the first time, a woman I respected cornered me in the Fellowship Hall. She told me there was no way this man had broken into my house. After all, she had prayed for him. Her prayers had released him from his demons and healed the delusions his schizophrenia caused. At any rate, if he was doing these things I was “asking for it” because of how I dressed.
None of the Elders told this man to stop attending church. So, when I came home on the weekends, I could either not go at all or sit in a small sanctuary with a man who wanted to rape/marry and/or kill me. I was cut off from the support system a church “family” is supposed to provide. I didn’t get a single phone call, letter, or visit from any church member checking up on me or offering any type of support.
I never felt safe. Never.
My take-away from all this? If he gets me, he’s going to torture and murder me… and none of these people care.
The Sunday we announced we were leaving the church, an Elder put his arm around my shoulders and told me I was “precious.”
Precious? Don’t we value and protect the people who are precious to us?
I wasn’t precious. I was just a prop they pulled out now and then so the church could feel superior about raising up good, God-fearing teenagers. The only time I needed anything, they shoved me into the closet and snapped, “Shh! Don’t make so much noise in there. You’re distracting us with all your, ‘I don’t want to get raped and murdered’ nonsense. We’re trying to preach the gospel out here, ya know!”
After I moved, I tried to keep going to church for a while, even though I wasn’t “feeling it.” I really did try. But every time I walked into a church, I felt like nothing. When people talk about their awesome, supportive church family, I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. All I got were lies, judgment, and indifference.
I was never treated like a person. I couldn’t be afraid, or have doubts, or need protection, or ask any of them to step outside their comfort zone the least bit to help me. If I didn’t play my role, I was useless.
I was not loved. I was not wanted. I was not worth protecting.
I was not a multi-faceted human created in the image of God. I was just an inconvenient, broken thing. We throw away broken things. I loved them and they threw me away to the wolf.