Sometimes It Feels Like There’s a Bomb in My Head, Waiting to Explode…

I’ve always been a victim of my own destructive thoughts. I have a habit of day dreaming that I’ve cultivated, fertilized and tended to for years now; I’m pretty much standing in a tangled mesh of roses, thorns and bristles at this point. This all started a few years ago, when I began suffering from psychotic episodes. My concentration was awful; I’d practically sit in class staring at a wall, and only regain consciousness with ten or so minutes of the lesson to spare. It was during this time that I saw just how sinister and self-destructive my thoughts could be. My day dreaming often led to long moments, sometimes hours, of lying in bed with my eyes fixed on the ceiling. And I’d think, and think, about how awful I was, how much I was unloved; that I was ugly; that I should be dead. This usually resulted in physical self harm. One night, I boiled the kettle and poured the water on my arm.

Thankfully, God brought me out of that. But the vestiges of the past haunt me from time to time.

If I’m honest, my levels of lust within my relationship has been hard to cope with. Before I had ever been in a relationship, I naively thought that ‘lust’ wasn’t a huge issue for me; that I could always control myself. Well, now I’ve grown up. It’s been difficult, but I prayed; I set boundaries and curfews; I spent more time studying the Word, got involved with loads of church work to keep me occupied. Those things worked brilliantly, in fact, but every now and then I slip, and end up feeling really awful about myself afterwards…

Today has been a low day. I got home really late last night (fell asleep sometime after 1am), and ended up waking up at half six in the morning, only to find I couldn’t get back to sleep, despite my eyes stinging with fatigue. I rolled over and looked at my university email from my iPod and saw that I received my lowest score of the year so far. That already put me in a bad mood, but coupled with the tiredness, and the spiritual stumble that I took the night before (I broke the curfew) led me to think again. I was thinking, thinking, thinking, becoming more entangled in the thorns; cut and bruised, I emerged in a fit of literal tears. I cried for quite a while and the more I cried the worse I felt. I tried to get rid of this image I’d created of myself in my head, but I couldn’t. I kept thinking, ‘how far are you going to push yourself to the edge before you end up participating in something you’ll really, really regret? What are you really worth? Why are you making yourself so open? Since when were you a prostitute?’

I understand that a lot of the self-blame stems from the cultural belief that a woman needs to exercise more chastity than men, and in the church, a woman who is ‘hard-to-get’ and perches herself on that pedestal, away from all male hands until her wedding night, is a woman truly fit to be given the title of ‘Proverbs 31’. A virtuous woman, indeed. And my boyfriend holds nonof these views. Not even a little bit. I kept reminding myself of this fact, but I chose to listen to the voice that did not have my best interest at heart.

We spoke on the phone in the morning. When we ended the call, I burst into tears again, mainly because he sounded so sorrowful and I thought I’d caused him unnecessary upset. I felt as though I shouldn’t have said anything, but I wanted to be honest.

I’m yet to eat a meal today. I had my shower late; popped to the shops to get some water and household stuff; got back into my nightclothes retreated to my bed, eating chocolate and turning on the laptop to write this post. I felt sorry for myself, but I checked on Facebook before logging onto WordPress, and the statuses I saw almost took my breath away.

I have many Adventist/Christian friends on my Facebook, so I’m used to Bible texts on my Newsfeed, but this afternoon something else happened: all the passages that people were putting up were about sin, and the penalty that Jesus paid in order for us not to feel guilty and dejected and depressed when we do something wrong, but for us to give all our burdens and baggage to Him, at the foot of the Cross. I almost cried again, but for a different reason this time. So many people, so many texts and words of encouragement–I hadn’t told anyone about how I was feeling or what was going through my head, but it was as if the Spirit moved, so that they all wrote texts that corresponded with each other. The text that really stood out to me is taken from 1 John 2:1-2:

My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world…

I was also reminded of the lyrics to a hymn that has been in my head ever since I read the Bible text: Jesus Paid it All:

I hear the Saviour say
“Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness, watch and pray
Find in me thine All in All”

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a Crimson stain
He washed it White as snow

Sometimes, God leaves me lost for words. Despite what has happened today, with my habit of self-destruction reaching such a high level, it’s finally taken a turn for the better…

…Because God has the power to save me from myself.

Knotholes

We said we would wait for God
before we did anything.
We ate our meals with a third seat between us
vacant, so He could sit and observe
our pure conversations
stilted devotional rhetoric
church banter
musings of creation;
amongst the blades of glass on the table
filled with apple juice
that cast chlorophyllic shadows
across the white table cloth
and reflected on the silvery pools of knives and forks
which glimmered in blank response.

You used to telephone me in the morning
so we could pray together;
at night for Bible study.
Visits round mine consisted of sitting by the coffee table
Bible open,
and our bottomless eyes staring at newsprint
becoming entranced in the thees the thys the thous the therefores
It seeped through in your prayers, this language
to take me back to a buried age–
your words fell upon me till I was foetal and surrounded
hands tied together, noose around my neck, shackles on.
Men calling–

WITCH

–to my face.

Our Bible was imperative to our meetings,
the paper thin, like the skin of a cocoon
fragile, wings of a moth
pure, like doilies on wedding tables
family, friends and anonymouses crowding around us
as we dance, Bible confetti snowing down on our heads
Bible petals falling on a consummation bed
dotted red with consummation blood
red turning to auburn, auburn to chestnut
the wild of me as we interlock, hidden in knotholes in the forest
and back again, to meet the disappointment
of cyclical blood: burnt umber,
the ashes of my hope swirls like dust unearthed
from a rug.

Trivial things of married couples
arguments, torn wedding dresses
reconciliations in bathtubs
counting down menstrual days like prophecy
until you can try again.

You and I failed to get there.
I remember staring at the ceiling
as it swam in my wetted eyes
and feeling forbidden blood oozing down my legs.
We were still young
and illegitimate.
Our Bible open above us but cold and foreboding
every swirl of the letter was like a dismayed Eye.
We were on the floor, by the coffee table. Behind us,
was the vacant chair
where God should have been.

Lust

For a while I’ve been at a loss for what to say on this matter because I’m still formulating my ideas about it. My feelings are subject to change, anyhow.

I had a discussion with a friend about Christians going to the beach a few days ago. I never thought that the beach would ever be a non-Christian venue, but people in general will find the worst in a lot of things. The problem arose when we went onto swimming attire. If I’m honest, even if I wasn’t a Christian I wouldn’t wear a bikini because to me it’s just underwear and I’m a self-conscious person. I thought that swimming costumes would be fine, not just for me but also for any of my Christian male companions that I am with. I said Christian because men in the world don’t worry about this problem as much as church men do (I really do believe we need to reassess how we talk about sex and purity in church. There’s something oppressive about it. People shouldn’t be agonizing or lamenting to themselves whenever they see a woman in short skirt, but anyway…).

My friend (a man) asked me if a swimming costume is a suitable outfit for a Christian woman to wear. I was shocked. I didn’t lose my temper as I would have in the past, but I thought the question was bizarre. One of the main things people like to do at the beach is splash about in the water, but in my friend’s world, the water would be off limits. I respected the fact that he made it clear that men also shouldn’t be in the water, seeing as though swimming trunks are made from even less material than a bathing suit, but I still found it hard to see his angle. Should Christians not go to the swimming pool, then? Because it’ll be hard to find a male only/women only public bath.

This is why I’m becoming increasingly paranoid about males. How lustful are they that they can’t bear to see a woman in a swimming costume? I just don’t know what is inappropriate for me to wear anymore and it’s tiring, because every man likes something different. I may wear something that fits one man’s “standards” but it will induce lusting in another man. What would I do then? What’s the point of dressing for male tastes? And why should I feel the need to?

It’s frustrating because I feel as though men get pampered a lot with this issue. There’s so much pressure for women to dress modestly or “virtuously” and it can be suffocating at times. Sadly, its not just a church issue. In the world, a woman will be called a slut if she dresses a certain way, and people are of the assumption that if you want to be respected as a woman you mustn’t dress like a “hoe” (ugh). How laughable is that? Sorry, hun, but if you can only respect a woman because she dresses in the way that YOU want then you didn’t respect women in the first place. Having respect for women shouldn’t come with a condition. A lot of church men have the same opinion, they simply pretty it up in Holy Jargon. But really, if God doesn’t have a condition for valuing women, then why should mortal men?

I suppose I’m just tired of people judging women by how they dress. You do know that it’s possible to do the same for men? Trousers swinging by their knees, flashy watches and low baseball caps are usually indicators of a particular nasty stereotype of men that I don’t actually think is fair, but it exists and for some reason people don’t give it as much attention as all these women dressing “slutty”.

There needs to be a better dialogue on this matter. Because I struggle with lust sometimes. Loads of women struggle with lust, but when are these issues addressed? Most people think that lusting is only a man’s problem. How wrong they are.

(To be Continued….)

The Value of a Female Virgin

I used to be really proud to be a virgin, and most of the time I’m happy that I’m yet to succumb to external pressures, whether it be kissing, touching or other sexual things. I never really questioned why I felt proud, or why I, as a woman, was made to feel as though it was something I should wear like a badge of honour.

I still think it’s a good thing to save yourself for someone special and to make the commitment to only ever be with that person; to be in a courtship and exercise the art of self-control; to keep promises. But the double standard in our churches in regards to male/female virginity has really started to grate on me. Always, a woman’s virginity is valued more than a man’s. Society in general has an issue with female sexuality, hence the slut-shaming that women face when they admit to liking sex, and the appraisal men receive upon acting in the same way. But the church has this thing of thinking women are “precious” and “sacred” and it’s more damaging than men will understand.

If we were to look at countries where war rape is rife, we would see that it’s not just the rapists that are at fault, but the men in the victimised communities as well. These communities place such a value on women’s sexuality, branding them as “their women”, that when the rape takes place it not only shatters their morale but bruises their manhood: another man has tampered with their goods. And in this battle of the egos, the woman becomes collateral damage. In this same way, by owning the sex lives women in church, the church brothers leave them open to attack from people from outside; profane men who are craving the appeal of a virgin, and would like nothing more than to “show her a few things”.

This is also detrimental to our young men. When sexual purity is taught in church, if it’s implied that a woman’s virginity is more important, we’re going to implant a warped view of sex to the men.

I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately, mainly because I’m starting to see women my age feel doubly guilty when they do “impure” things. This battle to be the Ultimate Proverbs 31 Woman, to be strong even when we ourselves are struggling with our own lusts and sexual sins. The thought hit me this  week because there has been a bit of talk recently about the church men going through hell during summer when most women begin to dress in less clothing than they usually would. I’ve been talking to a few female friends about this issue and none of them can actually understand what the big deal is; women have always had to repress their sexual feelings because they’ve always had to be more chaste than men. So we either struggle in secret or don’t struggle at all. It makes me wonder whether these viewpoints further establish the notion that a woman’s body is a bad thing. A weapon that has been the downfall of men and it needs to be kept in check. This may be one of the reasons why people are more concerned when a woman loses her virginity; she used her sinful body to lure a man into a trap.

Who knows? I’m sure there are many reasons why this viewpoint exists. But I’m weary of letting people know I haven’t done anything before. It may attract the wrong crowd.

The Virgin

Mother said
that if I wanted to marry a Christian man
then I would need to be a virgin.
Because he wouldn’t appreciate
a woman that had been tampered with too tough.

Imagine, she said
if you took a new Mercedes,
ran it through every station in the neighbourhood:
BP, Shell, Esso, Texaco
and shoved greasy nozzles into it
for days and days on end
filling her up with diesel and unleaded and leaded and diesel again—
mixing the three into a poisonous concoction
that would inevitably cause her to choke and decay and catch disease.
Before you know it, said Mother, Mercedes would be left in the garage
to grow old alone. And dusty. Her paint would peel and her shine would vanish.
And no one would care.

Do you want to be like that? Asked Mother.
No. I said. I didn’t.