In light of the recent events concerning Hurricane Matthew, today’s Sunday school lesson was very timely, and I enjoyed myself. I am always happy to “pay it forward” by using my trials and tribulations to hopefully keep my young Sunday school charges from getting into similar pickles. Today we talked about having a strong foundation.
I reminded them of points I make several times a month–I say things repeatedly because I really want them to understand. The life of a Christian is difficult, and I say that as an adult. Imagine being a kid, just wanting to fit in, facing the temptation to sext or post nude or semi-nude pics on whatever website the kids are using, Snapchat or whatever; to try the latest fad or Youtube challenge, which may or may not include the possibility of getting yourself hurt or harming someone else; living in a world where your parents are either too busy or too self-absorbed to properly parent you while the fascinating stranger on the Internet thinks the world of you…etc. I always tell my young people that just because they don’t have adult problems doesn’t mean their problems aren’t significant. I am glad I grew up in the eighties and not now. I don’t want these children’s society.
After informing them again that the Bible does not ever say that Christians will be rewarded with an earthly life of ease, I attempted to stress the importance of developing good habits in your youth. In one way or another, I have been in church my entire life, or at the very least, exposed to God and Christian teachings. I couldn’t tell you of my first experience in church or even the first time I heard about Jesus. I was entirely too young. Obviously, something stuck, because as I grew older and more worldly, unfortunately, I pulled away from God, but I knew right where to go when trouble came.
It was several months after having been raped. I was still struggling, but putting on a brave facade for my loved ones. Despite my parent’s hesitation I went back to Grand Valley State University, having been told that my assailant had left the school and I would be informed if he attempted to re-enroll.It was the summer session, and I wanted to try to knock out as many classes as I possibly could before he came back. I was certain he would try, and I wasn’t too confident that GVSU wouldn’t allow him back. I also knew that if he came back my next course of action to have him removed would have been a campus judicial review, where I would have to face him in an almost court-like setting. After the harsh treatment I had already received from the prosecutor of the county, I was not interested.
Something happened that had never happened before. In every past instance, I would register for classes and a bill would be generated and sent to my parents, who had paid promptly every year since 1999 (this was 2003). All of a sudden, my classes were dropped not once, not twice, but three times in a row. I was told it was because no payment was received, yet the school had never even billed my parents. I found out the true reason why my classes were dropped when I almost walked directly into my assailant, who was coming out of the bookstore with a bag of books, looking as carefree as he could be.
That was when I realized I was not going to make it at Grand Valley. I already had some of my assailant’s football teammates calling me a liar. I had people I thought were my friends not even attempt to put aside the beefs THEY caused between us to offer me even a kind word. These were people that I had fed, people that I had provided a place to sleep when they needed it, and they had nothing to say to me. I can’t decide which was worse–finally having to admit defeat and acknowledge that someone had gotten the best of me, which was extremely embarrassing for someone who had prided herself on being smart and tough, or having to tuck my tail between my legs and return home to my parents, who had invested so much in my Grand Valley State education. I had no plan, but there was nothing else I could do but go back home to Ypsilanti.
I kept up the fight from home. Once I gathered myself, I let GVSU and the prosecutor know the full extent of my fury. I and some of my family members deluded the prosecutor with letters and emails. I contacted several members of GVSU’s administration and let them know how poorly I had been handled. Some of the responses I got from the campus officials was sensitive, although it offered little help, but the response from the prosecutor was what sent me to the edge.
Out of the blue one day, I got an email from the prosecutor, stating that I had missed a meeting with himself, the detective who had handled my case, if I recall correctly, and some other law enforcement official. There may have also been someone from GVSU. I had never heard of a meeting, never been invited to one, and up until the prosecutor faced heat from my loved ones, he hadn’t shown me any interest at all. His email accused me of being difficult to contact and elusive. In my eyes, he had scheduled the meeting to make it seem as though he was attempting to be fair and responsive and didn’t let me know on purpose so I’d look bad. That let me know that he had zero interest in helping me. I couldn’t go to school, so that meant four years of education had essentially been wasted. I had sang in the Gospel choir, been the president for a volunteer organization that helped senior citizens, been a site coordinator for Make a Difference Day, participated in Alternative Spring Break–I had done a lot of good for GVSU. But it didn’t matter because I couldn’t catch a football like my assailant..
I saw no way out of my devastation. I was not used to dealing with pain, because during the seventeen years I lived with my parents, they had done an A+ job shielding me from the garbage the world had to offer. The plans I had for my life had come completely unraveled. I was NOT going to graduate from GVSU. I was going to have to leave my friends behind. I had lost some friends that I had been very good to. The legal system had NOT sided with the good guy. My parents had been so proud of me–I was returning to their home an abject failure. I was going to be a burden to them yet again. On top of that, the hatred and disgust I felt for myself was insurmountable. I couldn’t see any other way out.
After drowning my sorrows in a bottle of Hennessey one night I felt numb enough to actually do it. I got the sharpest knife I could find and sat, holding it, actually actively talking myself into it. I kept reminding myself of how I’d let my family down and how my life could never be the same. Everywhere I would go from then on out, the rape would follow me.
I had the blade of the knife on my vein when a sharp sliver of light came through the blinds. In that very moment I pictured my parents and thought of how hurt they would be if they found me that way. The tears kept coming, but my self-doubting and devaluing words were replaced with prayer. I cried out to God to help me, and I don’t remember dropping or throwing the knife, but somehow it ended up across the room.
Although I hadn’t been praying like I was supposed to…
I hadn’t been reading my Bible like I used to…
My participation in the Gospel choir was even tainted because my focus had shifted from singing songs of praise to the cute drummer…
I rarely attended church…
If people approached me at that time they would not have even known I was a Christian…
Yet and still, the very moment I cried out to the Lord for help, I got it. Just as Peter cried out for help when he was sinking on the water, and Jesus immediately stretched out His hand. We should not wait until we’re sinking to learn to trust and rely on the Lord. It’s best to get the foundation settled before the storms come.
This is why I have given out Bible reading plans and encouraged the kids to use their resources to get a Word in every day. I remind them that daily devotionals are available. They can use their email addresses and subscribe to websites that will send them right to them. They can download Bibles onto their phones and tablets. I encourage them to start their day out with prayer. We all need to make it a habit to commune daily with God, even if we’re not going through something. Because in due time, we will.
Pray for all of those affected by Hurricane Matthew.