How Does God’s Love Abide In Him?

*trigger warning.*

Hey, Christian friends?

Yeah, you. The people I’ve known since I was a teenager. The ones who introduced me to Jesus at those Catholic youth group meetings every Sunday night. The ones who showed me that it’s okay interact with God without the presence of a priest. The ones who entreated me to seek the righteous path, who inspired me to reach out in love to my fellow man, who taught me to embrace the gift of emotional healing available to those who lay themselves at the feet of the Lord.

We need to talk.

Right now, there is a bunch of girls, aged 5-12, who grew up in a home where their bodies were violated repeatedly by someone they were supposed to trust, someone they were supposed to look up to and admire. This guy has now admitted to having touched his sisters — it’s unclear how many, but he has lots to choose from — on their breasts and genitals while they were sleeping, sometimes when they were awake.

Think about that for just a second: he has admitted to molesting his sisters while they slept.

Not just once, guys. Multiple times! Over several years!

I’ve been watching carefully for your response, because I’ve seen you vocally supporting this family, the now infamous Duggar nineteen, which has risen to fame because of their devotion to many of the same fundamentalist principles you promote; the man is the head of the household, follow God’s plan for you in all things, be a symbol of God’s love in this evil world.

They will know you are Christians by your love.

Except what I see now, in the light of the revelations about these young girls whose peace of mind and sense of right and wrong and innocence and healthy self-esteem has been irreparably damaged by their BROTHER…what I see now is either silence or a fervent insistence that we should all forgive Brother Duggar because God has forgiven him.

(How exactly do you know what God has done? Never mind. That’s a question for another time.)

The hand-wringing about how people will perceive Christians in the wake of Duggar’s revelations is making my blood boil. Really? THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT?

Why haven’t ANY of you expressed even a hint of concern about those GIRLS? Where are the heart-wrenching photos and links to websites devoted to caring for young girls who have been molested and raped by their relatives? Why do the victims of this crime get less of your Christian compassion than the PERPETRATOR?

I know for a fact some of you know women who were molested in their childhood homes. I know because we once traveled in the same circles, and knew the same women, and heard the same stories: their nightmares, their attempted suicides, their spirals into depression, their inability to form healthy relationships with ANYONE, their fear of becoming a mother and being unable to protect their children from the same abuse they suffered. I KNOW you know the long-term damage inflicted by child sexual abuse.
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And yet you want us to just “forgive” Duggar for what he’s done. Love the sinner, hate the sin. You call for an end to the “opportunistic vilification” of his “youthful indiscretions.” You claim that because he apologized for what he’s done, that’s the end of the story.

I can’t even describe how sick that makes me.

And what’s worse — or at least equally bad — is that the parents of all of these kids knew about the abuse and did nothing to help those girls. They took measures to get their pedophile son “help” — although I have serious doubts about the nature of the “help”. But for the girls? Nothing. Not even an acknowledgement that they needed help. The girls are treated as mere objects in this twisted drama about one young man’s “youthful indiscretions”, as if he’d been exposed as a shoplifter instead of a child molester.

And guess what? Most molesters were once molested themselves. I have a strong feeling we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

In that same Duggar family, the ones you held up as examples of good, faithful Christians, the ones you lauded as wholesome, there are girls whose lives are now forever changed because this guy decided he had a right to do whatever he wanted to their bodies. Their suffering has just begun; they’re in the middle of a media frenzy, thanks to their parents’ decision to thrust the whole family into the public eye. They get to publicly process this shit sandwich they’ve been force fed.

The show started in 2008: the father first acknowledged the allegations in 2006. He made the decision to put this family on TV long after he knew about the abuse.

I wouldn’t be saying anything right now if the Christians I know hadn’t placed the Duggars on a pedestal, if you hadn’t pronounced your admiration for this family. After all, evil comes in all shapes and sizes.

But the Duggars have been shoved in our faces largely by fellow Christians who want the world to see how wonderfully God works in the lives of people who follow Him. Many of you held up this family as an example.

And now you want to run from them.

Now you want to deny and deflect, because the reality is too sickening for you to contemplate.

But here’s the deal: that’s the WHOLE STORY of humanity. People do bad things. Other people are victimized by people doing bad things. The Bible is FULL of stories of pain and sickness and healing and redemption. Not just for the people who perpetrated evil, but also for the victims of that evil.

John I 3:16 THROUGH 20 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Job 2:11-13 ‘Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.’

You want to show the world the mercy and power of God’s love?

Help those girls.

Make a show of it.

Plaster it all over your websites, elevate them in prayer at your church services, put them front and center in your prayer requests on Facebook and Twitter, because I know you have those. I see them every day.

You want us to set aside what Duggar has done? You want to avoid the stain of his sin on the entire Christian community?

Wash it clean by being Jesus on earth for those girls, and for other victims of sexual assault.

Reach out in love and mercy to the hurt and sick.

It’s not *our* focus on Duggar’s sins that’s making Christians look bad.

It’s yours.

For my Children

I hate Mother’s Day.

I know my children love me, and it’s nice of them to take the time to let me know, but I loathe this day as the pre-ordained time to do it. It’s so forced, so Plasticine a celebration that I can’t accept the sentiment.

When my kids were younger, and I was full-time Mom, all I ever wanted for Mother’s Day was to have the day to myself. And, bless them, my family always accommodated that request. I got to garden, play piano, go to the movies by myself, and Tim made it so I never had to cook or clean.

And now that I’m away from my kids most of the time, the impending holiday sits on me like a guilty weight. I don’t *want* my kids to feel like they have to do something for me this weekend. I don’t want my kids to feel like they HAVE to do something for me at all! I want our relationship to be free and loving and giving, with no expectations on either side except that we will always love each other and always be in each other’s corners when we are needed. We spend time together when we can, but requiring each other’s presence or presents just because some external force says we should just pisses me off.

When my daughter texts me a picture of hyacinths in bloom outside her dorm — THAT is love.

When my son brings home a pound of my favorite coffee beans for us to share — THAT is love.

When my youngest defends me to family members taking pot shots at me in my absence –THAT is love.

I don’t need flowers or candy or a sickeningly sweet fake bullshit card bought because they feel like they have to in the middle of finals or a busy job hunt or preparations for new living arrangements. They have lives to live, and there is ample evidence the rest of the year that they haven’t forgotten me and still feel the bond we made when they were growing up. We catch up when we can, make plans that involve being together, send each other references to inside jokes.

Maybe there will be a day when my nose is out of joint because they didn’t get me a flower-shellacked Mother’s Day card. I’ll encourage them to call their dad in about a month, but I’ll leave it up to him to say whether the day itself of Father’s Day is essential to his understanding of the kids’ appreciation for him.

But kids, for the record, all I want for Mother’s Day is to not have to cook and clean. And by having your own lives, you’ve made that wish an everyday reality, so thank you. I’ll get myself some chocolates and go see a movie. If I talk to you, that’s wonderful. If I don’t, it’s cool. I know you love me.

I don’t need you to prove it on some Sunday in the middle of May.

They All Laughed

Tim and I have an anniversary coming up. It’s not one of the big milestones, but as we were calculating the years we’ve been married and the years we’ve been together as a couple, we realized we’ve been together almost 20 years.

Okay, so we’re four years short of 20 years.

But I was hit hard by the realization that I have now lived my life for nearly 20 years with the man I pined over from the time I was 16.

I have now been with him longer than I spent pining for him.

The other thing that hit me was how wrong people were about us. And we had a LOT of people telling us not to get together, and not to get married. I mean, it was a shocking number of people.

Of course the people warning him about me were those who didn’t know me all that well, just like the people warning me about him didn’t know *him* all that well. I look back on these years in which we have built and rebuilt our life together and marvel at the idiocy of those warnings, and the audacity of the people issuing them.

Without attribution, allow me to share with you the ways in which we were warned not to get together.

–She’s cut from the same cloth as your ex-wife, only much worse.

–He’ll abuse your son and molest your daughter.

–He’s getting divorced, so he’s not a good mate. (I got divorced too, but that was irrelevant, apparently.)

–He’s a bad influence on you because he’s not a born-again Christian.

–He doesn’t really love you, he really only loved someone else.

–You’re only doing this because he was your first love. It will never work.

–She just wants you to save her.

–He just wants someone to rescue.

If there is a theme to this blog, it’s “why do people feel they have a right to say ANYTHING?” In all seriousness, I would like an answer to that question. Especially in matters related to relationships, and in those, stopping short of calling out abuse, why on earth do people stick their noses into other people’s business? The only thing they achieve is resentment and defiance.

Don’t get me wrong: we’ve had some really hard times. It has not been an easy decade and a half. Tim and I are complex, difficult people, and after years of focusing on the kids, we’re just starting to figure out who we are as a couple. It’s been hard work. Now that our initial terror over that prospect has subsided, it is an exciting time in our marriage.

Some of the people making comments have since recanted their views, made peace with my union with Tim, and have embraced his presence in my life. Some of them haven’t. But their opinions have never once factored into my belief in Tim, nor (I suspect) Tim’s in me.

But thoPortland-20131001-04795se who held dear to their opinions…well, they have assumed a distant place in my life, if they have stayed at all. I interact with them cautiously, keeping them at bay, distrustful of their understanding of my life and who I am. They couldn’t see me or Tim for who we really were, and they continue to view us through their distorted lens.

It was sometimes sad to know we started our life together without the full love and support of our families and friends, but it sure made us lean on each other more. And that moment in our lives made us commit to absolute, unequivocal support for each of our children and their chosen mates, no matter who they are. We are determined to be the loving, warm extended family we always longed for.

So there you have it, folks; all your warnings and misgivings about Tim and me together have been proven wrong over and over and over.

As Tim and I plan our first big Oregon anniversary, which might include whale watching or a visit to the hot springs or a moonlit dance on Council Crest, I am enjoying the spoils of our hard-fought victory. We made it this far, and from the looks of it, the hardest part is behind us.

And this is my big fat “I told you so.”

 

 

 

 

 

Anniversary

Tim likes to tell people we were high school sweethearts.

Technically, it’s true. We dated in high school. He was my first love. But for me, “sweethearts” denotes something we weren’t; a long-term couple devoted to each other, their relationship spanning several years, unmarred by ugly breakups.

There were two couples who dated at the same time Tim and I did in high school, and both of those couples went on to marry after high school. One of those couples is *still* married. THAT, in my opinion, is the definition of high school sweethearts.

Tim and I dated for 6 months our junior year. Our relationship ended badly, and left me with a broken heart and an unrealistic template for the “perfect man.” Tim lived on in my consciousness as the man against whom all others were judged, and all others failed to rise to his level of near perfection.

And that ain’t high school sweethearts, people. That’s “obsession.” Nothing cute or healthy about THAT.

Our story isn’t notable or romantic for the idiotic mistakes we made when we were 15. Tim disputes this, but it’s true for me, and this is my blog. He can write his own if he feels that strongly about it. Our relationship at the age of 15 was merely the way we know each other, the incident that brought us together. For the sake of clarity, here’s the timeline.

First day of high school, August 25, 1982, 7:20 a.m., first hour class: French, with Mme. DeVoss. Tim sat in the row next to mine, the C to my maiden-name B, and I noticed him right away. He was a complete dork. He wore velour, v-necked shirts and bell-bottom jeans, had weird poufy blond hair, and walked like a duck.

I have never liked blonds.

End of sophomore year, still French classmates, Tim asked me on a date. The boy I *really* liked wasn’t interested, so I said “what the heck” and went out with Tim. There was shopping involved, because that’s what kids in the 80s did on dates, and then somehow, even though neither of us drove, we ended up at Pottawatomie Park, walking in the rain. Sounds romantic, right? Nope. I thought he was the biggest doufus I’d ever met, and couldn’t wait for the date to end. Seriously, this guy “liked” me but wouldn’t make a single move? I’d been on a date already, with an older guy, and HE held my hand in the middle of the date. He knew what he was doing, as all older guys did. Tim, on the other hand, was a perfect (boring) gentleman, and barely even acknowledged I *had* a hand. Proved everything I suspected about him: complete weirdo.

Side note: the guy I really liked grew up into an utterly gorgeous man who is a complete asshole. Pay attention, young people; pretty men can be just as vacuous and moronic as pretty women. Attractiveness does not indicate good character.

Tim and I walked along the river up to main street. It was raining, and I remember the smell of my yellow slicker on that warm day. I had Neil Sedaka running through my head, but felt cheated that my potentially romantic walk in the rain was spoiled by the presence of a guy I thought was a nerd. Oh well, maybe someday a guy I liked would ask me out.

When Tim dropped me off (again, I have no recollection about who drove us, because parents are largely invisible to teenagers), I barely looked at him, rushed in the house and closed the door on the whole experience.

By September junior year, a miraculous transformation had taken place. Tim had turned into the most magnetic, appealing, hunk-of-a-man teenager I had ever seen. I wanted to date him so bad, I asked him out.TimTimTimTimTimTim

That’s what he says.

I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that I would have opened my mouth to ask a boy out, but that’s the story.

Anyway, I asked him out. Or something. We went to a lot of football games together, during which I sat on the bleachers behind the marching band and watched him play tuba. After the football games, we’d go to the dance. And wow, could he dance! He danced with great abandon, and really good rhythm, and he had so much fun. I loved dancing with him.

I went to his hockey games, where I saw him skate and hit people. Quite simply, Tim skating is a thing of beauty.

Then we went to basketball games together, during which I sat once again on the bleachers behind the marching band and watched him play tuba. During the marching band version of Lionel Ritchie’s song “You Are,” he turned around and played the tuba part while looking at me the whole time.

I knew right then I was in love.

Lionel Ritchie played on a tuba will do that to a girl.

Suck it, Neil Sedaka.

Sometime that spring, and it doesn’t matter when, Tim decided it was over. He informed me, my heart shattered into a million pieces, which then stabbed me every time I saw him, and then threatened to slice me into pieces when he took a different girl to prom our senior year.

He loved somebody else.

That’s not a high school sweetheart. That’s a heartbreak. But that’s not the story that’s important. We were 16, for Pete’s sake. Stupid things happen when you’re 16, like blue eye-shadow and breaking up with people because your peers disapprove of the person you’re dating. High school is the worst time in many people’s lives, and I don’t care WHAT Bruce Springsteen says about Glory Days. He’s wrong. My phrase for people who enjoyed high school is “peaked too soon.”

On February 5, 1999, Tim traveled 350 miles from Chicago to Carbondale to take me on a date. Our first date as adults. In that age before the ubiquity of the internet, Tim found my address, took out a sheet of paper, wrote me a letter, put the letter in an envelope, addressed it, licked a freaking stamp, and put that letter in a mailbox.

A letter.

People, that’s special. Come on, you know it is.

And when he arrived in Carbondale, after I hadn’t seen him in 6 years (yeah, I counted…last time I had seen him was at a wedding of mutual friends), he was the most riveting, intensely attractive, incredible man I’ve ever seen.

And he still is.

That night, we went to a restaurant that no longer exists in Carbondale, had a real honest-to-God grown-up dinner, walked around campus in the dark, which turns out to be much more romantic than walking around St. Charles in the rain with Neil Sedaka in my head. We wandered around the campus’ newly installed Japanese garden, and I showed him the place I’d spent the last 12 years, the place I’d spent my entire adult life.

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And he met my children.

And the moment he met my daughter, he asked me to teach him how to pick her up.

People, THAT is romance. THAT is devotion. Not some bullshit high school fantasy about “sweethearts.” A man who steps up and says “okay, I see you’ve got a life here, and I want to be part of it. How can we make that happen?” is worth more than all the juvenile nonsense George Michael ever warbled. Careless Whisper? You’re right, George. Guilty feet have got NO RHYTHM.

So if you must swoon over our love story, please take a moment to note the true romance, and don’t get stuck in some distorted vision of naive, immature enchantment.

Remember this moment, the one when Tim mailed that letter, then one when he decided there was something about the girl whose heart he broke that he *had* to connect with again. Remember the effort it took for him to decide to buy a train ticket and travel six hours to see someone he once dated, someone he wasn’t afraid to face even though he had broken my heart. Remember the moment he stood in my living room and let me kiss him with all the passion of a 16 year old but with the improved skills of a 30 year old. Remember us running across the street, hand in hand, as we enjoyed our accelerated adult attraction and fresh, vivid chemistry.

This is our anniversary. This is the date we became the couple we are now. We may have married on a different date, but who we are together was created that night, February 5, 1999, on a chilly night in Carbondale.

And tonight, this couple celebrates 16 years together. Pretty good, for a guy who used to wear velour shirts and the woman who never forgot him.