Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sex: To Be Known on a Deeper Level

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame Genesis 2:25
"I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid" Genesis 3:10
"Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from" Genesis 3:11

This semester in prison we ventured into a topic that we felt ill-equipped and quite apprehensive to handle: SEX.  However the more we tried to ignore it, the more questions we were receiving from the women.  The extra challenging piece to the story is that most of the women that we work with are sex workers.  Not only were they sex workers, most of them have a history of sexual abuse. My fear has always been not to open up Pandora's box without the tools to help them deal with what comes out.  So we prayed and came up with a six weeks lesson on Sex: to be known on a deeper level

When we first started the lessons, the mention of the word sex would have the ladies giggle like middle school girls.  They could not get the image of what they know of sex out of their minds to embrace a new definition.  We repeated over and over again; the point of sex is to be known on a deeper level; this is not a knowing that can happen over night but this kind of knowing takes time, commitment and it is reciprocal. That first week, we received question after question because the ladies were trying hard to understand how does this "deeper knowing" work? We dove into scriptures giving them some basic foundations; we discussed what being "naked and unashamed" meant.  Man these women had some great insights.  We talked about physical and emotional nakedness.  The more questions they asked, the more you can tell they were buying into God's plan for his children in the context of sex, relationships and going deeper. 

We offered examples of biblical characters who modeled those kinds of deeper knowing intimate relationships; Adam and Eve, Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, God and Moses.  The more I opened up the box of the variety of intimate relationships God desires for his children, the more comfortable they felt with the topic and the teenage giggles lessened. 

Then we moved on to how sin tainted that beautiful plan God had for his children as they engage in relationships, intimacy and sex.  Instead of being naked and unashamed, we became naked and instant shame pervaded.  We looked at the account of the original sin with Adam and Eve and compared it to how we respond now when we sin.  The women were ticked off by how original sin overhauled God's plan for humanity.  They knew far too well how the affects of sin destroyed relationships and intimacy.

Last night, we discussed the sin of rape.  We anticipated for it to be a hard night for the ladies and us leaders.  And as expected, it was hard to hear the many stories of many accounts of rape and the complete dehumanization of God's daughters for selfish pleasures.

We went over the staggering statistics of rape in the US:
  • A woman's chance of being raped in the U.S.: 1 in 5
  • 54% percent of rape crimes are never reported to the police
  • Percentage of rapists who are never incarcerated: 97 percent
  •  A woman's chance of being raped in college: 1 in 4 or 5
  • Every 2 minutes someone is raped in the US
  •  2/3 of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows
  • 44% of the victims are under the age of 18
  • 38% of rapists are a friend or an acquaintance
One woman raised her hand and said "do you know why many of us don't report when we're sexually assaulted?  Because who will believe a prostitute?  If we report rape, they will get us on other charges".
I don' know about you but when I hear things like this, I'm instantly enraged and disgusted by a system that would not do whatever it takes to make sure all of its citizens are safe .  The cycle of sexual sin seems to continue to follow these women. 
There has to be some Good News in all of this chaos.   
Our last lesson, which will be taught in a couple of weeks, will focus on redemption, how Christ's sacrifice gave us an opportunity to go back to Eden and unashamedly regain dignity over our bodies, intimacy and sex.  That is why Christ came: to turn this mother around. We were created to be known on a deeper level where we can be naked and unashamed both physically and emotionally.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Grief Revisited: Grief Anniversaries are Hard

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” Psalms 46:1-2

Last night I shared with the family that today would mark the one year anniversary of my father’s passing; my oldest replied, “it’s been a year already?”  That was my exact sentiments.

The concept of time when grieving is quite interesting.  On the one hand it seems like life has come to a halt where a part of you is living in slow motion; as if your every steps were taken through a sea of molasses. But on the other hand life seems to continue to progress at a pace that is too fast for healing to take place; time doesn’t really wait for your emotions to catch up with the pace of life.  Some days I’d wish for a place to hide in isolation to just grieve and heal but we all know healing doesn’t really occur in a vacuum, isolated from people and living.  The miraculous journey of grieving and healing occurs with and through people while finding moments of isolation to just be in the presence of God.
So here’s a synopsis of what this first year of grieving has looked like:

I remember the day quite vividly, a Sunday afternoon; I dropped off our twins to swimming lessons.  I sat in the car to get some work completed, lap top on my lap, fidgeted around a little bit to get my laptop and the steering wheel at perfect positioning for comfort.  I remember the smell of summer ending and fall entering in the air. 
About 25 minutes into my work I was interrupted by a phone call from my sister which was quite common for a Sunday afternoon.  When you have a terminally ill parent and you live far away, you do different things to soften the blow when you ever receive that daunting phone call to tell you the inevitable has occurred.  One of the ways I’d prepare for that conversation over the years is to engage in small talk before I’d receive the news.  So every conversation started the same way: Hi, sa kap fet? What’s up? How are the children? How’s Jersey? This conversation followed that same script but the answers I received from my sister were a little bit more distant so I knew this phone call was the phone call I’d dreading for many years.   

Of course the response is never as you anticipate.  I prepared myself to be strong and accepting but the emotion that came out was denial, shock, emptiness, loneliness, helplessness and all of the sudden everything came to a halt.

All of my efforts to fly back home were met by one obstacle after another.  One of the biggest obstacles was a hurricane that devastated the East Coast, hurricane Sandy.  So my father passed, now there’s a hurricane, power outages everywhere, freezing weather and all flying was suspended until further notice.  When we were able to get seats to return back home each ticket was over $700 and we have a family of 5; I was enraged over what was happening.  Nothing was going according to plan.

But in the few days held hostage in Texas I was able to write the Eulogy/sermon for my father’s funeral.  God was so gracious in allowing me to use the time to put words together to speak to a community who were in desperate need to hearing from the Lord.  In fact they’d never had a woman stand on their pulpit to deliver a message; they were shocked to hear from God through a woman at her own father’s funeral.  Who else but God could have orchestrated those events?

 After the funeral I returned back to Texas, emotionally spent and broken.  Now I entered into a different side of grief, the side that would last longer than the initial shock.  I went back to work almost right away (which I don’t always recommend) and by the end of the week I found myself furious and agitated mostly at my husband for not knowing that I needed time, poor guy, he couldn’t do anything right. 

I found myself going through cycles of emotions; one moment energized the next lethargic.  One moment excited about new projects, the next overwhelmed by the amount of mental work it would require to get things done. One moment I would miss my dad, the next angry by the mess he had put us through.  Up and down were my emotions.

I found myself visiting depression more than I care for.  My depression kept friends at a distance.  It kept projects on a high shelf.  And I would often find comfort in just being still in the presence of God where I didn’t have to work.  You know it takes a lot of work to maintain relationships and be socially engaged, so my times with God allowed me to be present without the pressure of performing. During my times of mental highs absent of depression, I accomplished many great projects.  And during my times of mental lows I just allowed myself to slowdown. 

Grief and Healing cannot happen in just a vacuum isolated from life, friends and activities; it is moving through the natural rhythms of the cycle without guilt, shame, denial and being stuck that has helped me survive this first year of grieving. 

Throughout the year, I was comforted by the presence of God who has been an ever present help throughout this process and he continues to show up in my times of great need.  Grief is a journey, not a destination so I journey on.