May 21, 2012

Tara had been raped.  She had been violated by a man who had no respect for her personhood or for her physical or emotional well-being. She felt dirty. Degraded and filthy. A sense of uncleanness rose up from the very core of her being.

Was she to blame? No. The man who assaulted and raped her was to blame. He, and he alone, was responsible for his behavior.

Tara took care with her dress and behavior. She didn’t allow herself to be in places she knew were unsafe. Yet, one night, on her way home from the house of a friend, a man appeared from nowhere. He had evil on his mind. The deed was done. And she was left to grieve the loss the loss of something she considered of great value. The pureness of her identity was stolen away. Or, was it? Purity is not something that can be stolen. We, ourselves, can determine to give up our purity or consciously turn from a life of purity, but no one can steal this virtue from us. Purity, it has been said, is not so much of the body but of the soul. In Tara’s eyes, much had been lost. But, in the eyes of God, Tara—who had not compromised her virtue—was still pure.

On Good Friday, Tara attended church with her family but she did not go home with them. Instead, she lingered in the quiet sanctuary. There, she asked:

“Why, God? Why did this have to happen? Will my future husband consider me spoiled? Will there be a wedding for one so shamed?”

Tara wept. Tears of sorrow quickly became tears of anger. Then fear. Had evil ruined her life? Thoughts began to swirl in her head. Strangely, Tara remembered a day in the kitchen with her grandmother. It was the place where lessons in cooking often turned to lessons for life. More clear than the image of her grandma’s face were the words she often spoke: “Dear one, when you are in doubt, look to God’s Word. It will not fail you.”

Tara sighed. Looked around. There was a Bible in the pew. She flipped through the pages with fumbling fingers, embarrassed that she felt so awkward with the book her grandma knew so well. Her eyes came to rest upon Psalm 25:20-21:

 “Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in You. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait on You.” 

Tara looked up to the Cross over the altar. Again, she heard her grandmother’s voice:

“Tara, when you cannot find the words, God’s Spirit speaks them for you.”

Now, more confident, Tara turned the pages to Psalm 56:

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (8-11)

Later, at home, Tara wrote in her journal:

Today, I am thankful for my Grandma who, years ago, reminded me that I can trust God with my life. I am angry with the man who hurt me. I will never forget what he did. But, I don’t have to let this evil thing define me. The man did wrong. I did not. The man sinned against God. I choose not to sin against God by turning away from Him.

“Dear Jesus. Hold me close. Move me forward—out of darkness into Your light.”

A question remains. It is for the grandmothers of young women like Tara. Are we reminding our granddaughters that their identity is not shaped by what happens to them, but by the Lord Jesus who died for them?