My cold hands held on to the back of the metal chair in front of me. White knuckles to keep from shaking. I hated the purple dress and strappy black shoes. I wanted to scrape back the carefully curled and styled hair into a pony tail, scrub off the makeup and run. Just run away. To somewhere safe. It had been such a good evening.
Count it all joy.
Surely this counted as a “diverse trial”. I could still feel his breath on my neck, his hands at my waist and those awful, ugly words raced through my head. Over and over again.
Just breathe. Count it all joy.
I had promised myself, were I ever to be in that position again, I’d do something. I would stand up and defend myself. And yet, I had frozen. My adult self reduced to a three year old who didn’t understand.
That was 10 years ago. It is hardly the worst thing that has happened to me yet it resonates down through my life as the first time I realized that predators lived inside the church and they looked like middle aged men who are flattered by surrounding themselves with naive young women.
He was wrong. I wasn’t flattered and I wasn’t naive.
When his advances weren’t strongly rebuffed I was subjected to weeks of tiptoeing around him in our little fellowship. Trying to be “nice” while he continued to pursue me.
I should have told my husband. I was so ashamed by my own lack of strength and we were so young in this love thing that, somehow, the lie twisted into the perception that he’d somehow think I asked for this and, since I hadn’t told him sooner, I must have wanted this attention and…
I didn’t know how to count it all joy.
I can now. Looking back on that situation.
I did say no. I was protected. I did, eventually, sever all ties. I was kept.
I learned to be stronger. Not to flinch. Not to freeze. Not to accept his behavior as a reflection on me but to allow him the full weight of his own choices.
Counting it all joy isn’t saying that the difficult and the terrible are filled with joy but rather that there is joy in our being kept despite the difficult and terrible. It is in the testing and the trying that we grow. That patience is allowed to have “its perfect work”.
Five years ago, in a different town, a different man, a different scenario. A different me.
I turned away from that man and I didn’t look back.
Can I count that joy too?
Will it happen again?
I don’t know. I’m not the interesting young thing anymore.
And I’m not quiet either. My husband is not ignorant.
For that growth alone?
I can count it joy. All of it.