I am one of those girls. You know what I mean, those girls that has another name. Those names that describe an action. I was called those names even before I knew what they meant, even before I acted it out. I was called those names by girls and boys, by men and women. By family and by strangers. They were names I seemed destined to become.
You’ve heard those words, haven’t you? The disparaging words we call women? Those words that get tossed around as if they don’t mean anything. From little girls to grown women, we’ve been called those names. They’ve been said to hurt, they’ve been said to joke. Yes, many of you have been called those names. Sometimes so much that it became true.
The first time I heard those words I was astounded. Who would want to be that? But I did what teenagers are supposed to do; I tried to fit in and be cool. Those words, they were there. Whispered in the school hallway. Yelled in the stands at football games. Whistled by construction workers on the street. I never actually thought about what I was doing. Everyone else was doing it too. As a little girl I didn’t dream about drinking at high school football games. I didn’t dream that I would attend parties and end up in back rooms. I never intended to date all those boys. I never thought I’d be the one to get pregnant. But I did. Out of all the girls I partied with, I was the one.
No, I dreamed I would marry the first guy I fell in love with. I dreamed I would be a Senator of the United States. I dreamed I would live in a big house in the city I loved. As we all know, life happens and it surely happened to me. What I dreamed about didn’t come to pass. My plans and dreams got wrecked by bad choices and circumstances. Stuff seems to just happen.
To those of us who have lived hard and partied hard, life seems to just happen, doesn’t it? We think, in our foolish young brains, doing what is fun is freedom. In reality, it costs us dearly. We connect ourselves to things unseen and with an unhealed past we live restlessly. Looking to and fro for the last time we were fulfilled. Those party days were fun in the moment; then they leave you feeling dirty and disgusted. Maybe you escaped becoming the name but the party left you feeling the same anyway. Everyone says, “it’s okay to sow your wild oats.” We’d prefer to forget the truth is that you reap what you sow.
Then there are those of us who had real consequences. Rehab, DUI, couldn’t keep a job, flunked out of school. Reality would no longer let us hide. Then there is that consequence, the one that gives us a name. A pregnancy that just happened. It lays your life open, everything is upended. When you get pregnant without being married you are already living outside of the life you dreamed. You know it, the guy knows it, your family knows it. And those words; the ones they call girls, yes, the ones that make us feel uncomfortable. In the moment we learn that we’re pregnant; they become real and true. Life after that unplanned pregnancy comes with a black garment adorned with a red letter A. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we feel ashamed.
The fallout of bad choices is more bad choices. All you can think about is running, getting out of your problems and feeling good again. When the only way out is another man at another party, what’s bound to happen is another round of all bad. There seems to be no way out of this terrible cycle. Except to just stop. Just stopping means isolation and isolation is death. Death of the fun, the dreams, and the pursuit of that guy; that special guy. But the party people don’t really love, do they? No, not really.
I met the guy, the guy I thought I dreamed about and we married. We married and had babies, I was moving on with my life. But even having found my holy grail, I didn’t feel fulfilled. I was still searching, still grieving, wanting more but couldn’t find it. Grasping at straw after straw; my life was a growing tornado of messes. Messes I couldn’t seem to get out of. But I was married and I had kids and I was moving on with my life. That is what they said I would and should do. At least it seemed right.
Then the day came when the threats of divorce became a promise. I couldn’t deny the truth of the hard life I had lived anymore. Knowing that was the final straw, I landed in church, with my broken family in tow. That day, I saw something that I had never seen before. Something that spelled H.O.P.E. As my sleepy eyes opened I saw change on the horizon. It wasn’t clear yet, like a blurry scene from afar. The glimpse was all I needed to start walking forward.
I had never believed in a loving God. I had a hard time saying Jesus. But as I walked forward, toward hope, I saw a rescue coming. That rescue took work and it took help but it was mine and included a ticket for restoration. Talking with my counselor, I went way back, back further into my life than the looming divorce. I went back to high school and that first wine cooler. I went back to the back rooms and the bar noise. To the names and the faces, the characters in my story. All to forgive in order to be free. To be healed so that I could really live.
Sitting in my counselor’s office, I cowered as I thought I was about to be stoned. When I looked up, I saw Him, drawing in the sand. He looked around and asked, “Where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?” I replied with a sheepish “no”. He looked at me with serene eyes and said, “Go now, and be free of your life of sin”. And with healing true restoration began. I became new so that I could tell my story; to bring others to healing and give them their ticket to restoration. Because that is what Christ in me compels me to do; Jesus pushes us toward healing through His stories. Can you see? He came to make us free. The beauty of healing and a ticket to restoration is that it comes with a free gift; the gift of a new name. Mine happens to be pearl, precious pearl. Would you be so bold as to do the work, grab your ticket to get your free gift? It’s all worth it.