Just FYI—this post is a little heavy; not intended to overwhelm anyone, but do know it is dealing with serious subject matter.
Mulch and I walked hand in hand down the dirt road, lit up dimly by a streetlamp ahead of us. It was our second anniversary, and upon realizing the restaurant we had planned on going to was closed on Tuesdays, decided to walk to downtown Cahuita (located in Costa Rica) and find a place to eat. We walked past a few restaurants and approached two young men drinking beers. All four of us stared at a huge crab that made it’s way across the street, and exchanged “hola’s” as we passed one another.
Except, that wasn’t the only thing exchanged. One of the men brushed up close to me, looked me up and down, and then decided to use a couple demeaning and expletive words to describe me.
Perhaps it is difficult to understand the humiliation (and sometimes anger) that is partnered with being verbally harassed. As a woman, I am more oftentimes than not aware of my surroundings and potential “threats” of harassment, because unfortunately they happen more than I am comfortable admitting. Should I smile? Make eye contact? Is he going to say something to me? Sometimes I can do all the right things and still be treated like an object to be inappropriately gawked at; sometimes not. You never know. If the harassment does come, another million questions come rushing in to my head. Am I wearing something that’s drawing too much attention? Did I do something wrong? What should I do now? (I’m not placing the blame on myself, but rather expounding my own thought process and, I would think, that of other women). I’m not a flashy girl, so we can safely rule out some article of clothing that’s screaming for inappropriate attention. My assumption is the harassment comes because I’m a young woman, and perhaps a little vulnerable and defenseless looking. The perfect target because I’m not going to “fight back.”
A few months ago I reached my limit of frustration with not knowing how to respond. I cried out to the Holy Spirit to give me supernatural wisdom and discernment to know how to respond in a Christ-like fashion to such negative attention (which my knee-jerk response is anything but). The beautiful thing about the Holy Spirit is that He does give us wisdom. If anyone is lacking wisdom let him ask of God who gives richly without reproach (jms 1:5)! I felt very clearly that I was to trust Him in those moments, and he would give me the grace I needed to walk in love.
My cheeks went hot. “Did he really just say that to me?” I thought to myself. Before I knew what was happening I had turned around.
“Excuse me? What did you just say to me?”
“Why do you think you could say that to me?? Do you actually believe that is okay to say something like that to a woman walking down the street with her husband? It is NOT ok. “
I repeated myself several more times.
He mumbled a few things, something about the crab and stared dumbfounded at me, shocked I had responded to him.
“Do you actually think it is okay to say something like that to any woman? What makes you think that you can treat someone with that kind of disrespect??”
The silence and dumbfounded-ness ensued, and before I could start giving him a good explanation of what a real man was, Mulch was gently pulling me away.
My hands shook from adrenaline while we retreated into a nearby restaurant. I had no idea where that had come from; where was the timid, frustrated girl who curls up like a humiliated dog when a guy talks to her in that way? Mulch gave me a kiss and told me he was proud of me; that he truly believed that Jesus had prompted me to say something (before his fists had a chance to do something else). To you, our exchange may have seemed small, but to me it was a big deal. I’ve never stood up for myself like that. I was worried I had been too harsh, that I had ruined a chance to share the gospel. But as soon as Mulch said that, I suddenly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit confirming that He in fact had led me, and I could trust Him. He had answered my prayer. Of course, I am not taking this as my cue to verbally stand up to every man that says something; no, rather I am taking my cue to determine even more to live a life in submission to the Holy Spirit.
I believe that God very purposely allowed the whole situation to take place. Earlier that day I had been reflecting on how unusually blessed I am to have grown up in an environment where I still have rights even though I am a girl (because the heart-wrenching fact is that many women are treated no better than cattle). After reading the verdict of the men convicted of gang-raping a young indian woman, leading to her death, my heart had been heavy and I spent some time in prayer for my sisters world-wide who endure such terrifying conditions based solely on the fact they are female. I asked, as I have too many times to count, that the blessings I have received would not be in vain and I would be able to use the freedom I have to empower other women for the glory of Christ.
So on September 10, 2013, I was able to do what that young indian girl was not able to do; nor what the scores of women trapped in dingy brothels across Southeast Asia are able to do; nor the child brides of Afghanistan, the millions of women and girls still reeling from their recent rapes all over Africa and South America and even the girls in my neighborhood that have been forced to hide the scars of their abuse. I was able to stand up for truth, say no to that attention and walk away unharmed.
Of course, true “justice” wasn’t served by me confronting that man. That is not my job. Christ confronted evil, but oftentimes not how our human nature desires for it to be confronted. So, until I see my Savior face to face, I will choose to follow His example on this earth. He was the one who continually entrusted Himself to Him who judges righteously. He uttered no threats in the face of slander and unfounded reviling. He is our High Priest who can sympathize with every human being on this earth who is wrongly treated; He himself was despised and forsaken, oppressed and afflicted. And because of His suffering, He has been exalted to the highest place of honor. We can trust Him to make all things new.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep…Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 2:21-25