Thursday, June 30, 2005

When it's better to be a lamb

"If you can't be strong, be clever and make peace with someone who's strong. But always better to be strong yourself. Always," Illinois Senator Barack Obama's step-father told him when he was a boy.

“But always better to be strong. Always.”

Let's go back to the sexual harassment that I recounted in yesterday’s blog. The next day I went to church and prayed desperately. I didn’t know what to pray and my prayers seemed like rain falling on granite. The event became one more in a series of humiliations that were part of becoming disabled.

The immediate shame of each event dried and crusted and I went on with the task of surviving as one of the weak of the earth.

In the same way that I brought to our marriage gritty joints that were prone to sudden flares of pain, I also brought humiliations.

“Men take advantage of weakness in other men.”

Of course, part of me was strong. At the end of my freshmen year I was elected president of my university’s Inter-Varsity chapter. I remember my shock. What did the other students see in me?

One of the reasons Sarah was attracted to me was that she could take care of me. She’s a nurse and part of her loves being a care taker. When we had our first child Sarah suddenly had someone else who needed her care even more than I did. We had a rough stretch as I figured out how to handle physical tasks that she had been so willing to do before--like washing my hair.

So I entered our marriage as a leader and someone others felt free to take advantage of.

One Christmas after our second daughter was born I decided it was time to revisit the shame of the dorm. It had always been hard to talk about. Molested by a man? And I wasn’t even sure it had happened, since I was asleep. That Christmas, something in me said that it was time to stop running away from the shame.

I began writing about it in my journal. Soon I was furious at God. Weak, I had allied myself with God and yet he hadn’t protected me. What good is God if not for protection? And all semester long I had tried to stay pure. I had thrown away the picture of the naked woman they put in my King James Bible. I had said no to the drunk co-ed who wanted to get in bed with me. Once they had blocked me from entering my room to get my suitcase to go home. When I got back from home they asked me what I thought of the porno magazines. But there was no porn in my suitcase when I got home. They swore they had put it in there. I was sure God had evaporated the porn to protect me.

Then they got me while I was sleeping.

I raged in my journal. Eventually I wrote what I had concluded about the event: I was ruined for life.

Those words rang like the distant tolling of a church bell at a funeral. Ruined for life. Journal in hand I looked at those words. They were exactly what I had concluded. Ruined for life. Then a little voice inside me asked: Was I really ruined for life?

I was married. I had children. Not exactly ruined for life. I was living the life I had longed for ever since I was a little boy. Then I remembered another phrase, this one from a song we sing at Plow Creek: The lamb who was slain has begun his reign.

I wrote that phrase in my journal--the lamb who was slain has begun his reign--and it set off a geyser of joy.

Yes, that was it exactly. I was like a lamb in the dorm, an innocent lamb that was molested. But that was not the end of the story. I knew the original story, Jesus of Nazareth going through a day of humiliations ending in his death. He too was molested but his story didn’t end there.

It isn’t always better to be strong. Sometimes it’s better to the lamb who was slain who has begun his reign.