Here is Part IV of my four part series on “Boys, The Good & The Bad.” You can read Part I and Part II and Part III here. This series is a look back on my life and my interactions with boys. My purpose for this series is to show both the pain and the encouragement that males can bring to females. It’s to explore the ugliness and beauty of relationships with the opposite gender. It’s a complicated issue, but so many us of struggle with our identity when it comes to the opposite gender. We have a profound impact on each others’ lives, for good or for ill.
I graduate from college. I move into an apartment. The girls I live with are staunchly single (at least at the time), and we have amazing nights of deep discussions and making fun of chick flicks. We laugh and we cry and we muse about life and love.
It’s a pretty boyless year, actually. I have a few younger guys that come over every now and then. They’re like younger brothers. But they’re consistent, they’re healing in their own ways. They don’t know anything about the pain I’ve endured, but they keep coming over, and we play games and make pizza.
And it’s what I need. Just some younger brothers to love.
January 2012. I leave the church I’m attending and go to a much, much smaller church. Instinctively, I know I’ll be leaving Chicago soon. I feel it in my bones.
It’s a great church.
I meet a guy there who drives me home from the Bible study I start going to. He actually listens to what I have to say, he’s interested in it. He doesn’t shush me or condemn me for thinking. I kind of have a crush on him. We talk on car drives to and from church. Those talks are healing. He treats me like a person, he likes what I have to say about church and Christians and God.
It’s refreshing. I begin to see that a man doesn’t have to be pounding his Bible and acting all smart and holy to truly be following God. This guy is in business; he has a gentle strength about him. He’s safe.
But even though I have a crush on him, it wasn’t meant to be anything but a friendship.
I’m learning to let go of control. To trust that God sometimes brings people into our lives NOT to date, but to learn from, to speak into one’s life, to care for each other.
Even if I like someone, it doesn’t mean I’ll be with them. It doesn’t mean anything. I don’t have to over-spiritualize everything. I can just be.
Men and women can be healing in each others lives in beautiful and profound ways.
And it doesn’t always mean dating, or marriage, or anything.
It means loving. Loving someone as a person made in God’s image, and encouraging each other in our dreams.
One Sunday, in my new church, which is more charismatic, one of the guys up front points to me and says, “You’re hurting. I see your pain. When you were a little girl, you fell off the tire swing, and you scraped your knees, and you bled everywhere, and there was no one to pick you up.”
I break down into tears right there in the front of the church. Because it’s so true. I fell off the tire swing long ago, and I scraped my knees, and I bled and bled with no one to help me. There was no one to help me. I’ve felt so alone for so long in my pain.
But I feel hope as some church members pray for me.
I get a job in Colorado. It’s a job in publishing. My dream! I apply, interview, and get the job in a week. I move in three weeks. Everything is about to change. A new dream is beginning, one I had no idea God would truly grant me.
For a month or so before I move, my roommate and I are taking self-defense from a Christian guy who trains in martial arts. *John teaches us every day.
I’m a little wary of him, as I am all guys I don’t know at this point, but the more he instructs me, the more I can’t help contain my passion.
I love martial arts. I love learning these kinds of things. I get so excited and passionate. I love kicking and punching the bags he brings. I love learning to things like “The Flying Elbow.” It’s all so exciting. (Have I mentioned I’ve always loved Asian culture ever since I can remember?)
John likes to see this passion come out. He encourages me.
“You are a warrior, Teryn,” he tells me. “You are my warrior sister in Christ.”
Suddenly, I don’t feel bad about about how passionate and strong I am.
“Do you fit in with church women well?” he asks.
“No,” I wrinkle my nose. “I always feel like I should’ve been a boy. I like adventure and great stories and fighting and exploration. I’ve never liked sitting around talking about kids or weddings.”
“Don’t feel ashamed for who you are,” he says. “You are a warrior. Women need other women who are warriors, too. They can learn from you, too.”
It’s the first time I realize that I can be a woman and be strong and be a warrior. I can like adventure and fantasy and great stories and action. I can have that fighting spirit I’ve always had and always felt bad about having because other women (and men) didn’t understand it.
I’m a warrior.
And a woman.
On the last night of being in Chicago, John sits me down.
“Teryn, I’ve seen so much passion and fire in you since we started training,” he says. “But you hide it. You hide your passion from people, don’t you?”
I want to burst into tears. It’s true. I’ve learned to hide so much from people.
“Don’t hide,” he says. “Don’t be ashamed. Be a warrior. You’re going to do great things for God. I see God is going to use you. Just don’t hide anymore.”
Those are the words I need to hear as I embark on a new journey to Colorado.
I’ll never see this man again. But for that brief month and a half, God used him to speak something truly deep and profound in my life.
I move to Colorado in a blur. As soon as I move, I have hope that with this new change, a new me will begin. That somehow I can leave the pain in the past and just forget it all.
This isn’t the case, of course.
The pain follows.
I realize how painful Chicago was, how those five years were just brutal. Yet God was working through it all trying to refine me.
But I’m so glad I’m gone. I’ve always loved the mountains. Colorado was calling me, and God let me go to Colorado to heal. To get away. To start over.
I find amazing roommates who are supporting and loving. They don’t simply look away when I tell them a little of what has gone on. They are genuine people. They won’t just leave me when it gets tough.
I don’t have many guy friends. I just don’t feel as if guy friends are essential to my life right now. It’s a time for me and God, where I learn to rely on Him as my strength, my comfort, my love. I’ve finally embraced singleness. I don’t feel wrong for being single. I felt for so long that in order to be a good, godly woman, I had to be married and with a man. But I never had peace with any of the guys I liked, and I now know it’s because they weren’t right. Yet I tried to force myself to think they were right.
I realize how often I depended on guys for my healing and my identity.
Yet I realize that God wanted to have that central place in my life. I see that so much of the hurt I’ve experienced was intensified because of placing my identity in guys, not God. I begin to accept God’s crazy, amazing love for me.
I begin to wonder if I might be single for a long time. If not for life, at least for a long time.
And it’s freeing. And it’s wonderful. I’m okay with being who I am–single and whole! Free to be myself, to dream big, to accept my life, and to follow God with passion.
I hike and I explore God’s creation. I write Book One of my story and finish the 2nd draft. I learn so much from my job (and I really do love it). I meet new people in Colorado who are amazing.
And it is all healing.
I start praying for human trafficking and getting involved in a ministry here that combats human trafficking in Colorado. I pray every Wednesday. The leader of the prayer group is a guy named *Andrew. He’s much older, like a big brother or father type figure. We pray every week, but I’m really standoiffish to him.
One day he asks me, “I want to get to know you. I don’t just want to use you for a ministry opportunity.”
He doesn’t like me, he says. He just can tell I’ve been hurt a lot—especially by guys, and he wants to earn my trust.
“What can I do to earn your trust?”
I get really defensive. “You can’t do anything,” I say. “Just be patient.”
He nods and is respectful even when I’m slightly rude.
“I just want you to know there are good guys out there who aren’t wanting anything from you other than to be a friend.”
I leave a little flustered. I want to run away, to abandon our prayer evenings because suddenly it just seems too scary. I know I’m getting comfortable having no guys in my life. It just seems safer. Easier to just keep them at a very. Long. Distance.
But gradually, as the months pass, I realize this man doesn’t have ulterior motives. He isn’t trying to force me into anything. He’s just nice and friendly and wants to talk with me because he respects me. My walls come down a little, and I respond less hesitantly to him.
He’s part of my healing.
Months later, he tells me. “I just wanted to show you that trust is earned. A man should never demand your trust or your emotions or your space or anything. He earns it through treating you correctly.”
I get the point.
It’s a point I wish I’d learned so much earlier.
I feel healthier than I have in a long, long time.
My Kindred Spirit is allegedly murdered.
She’d been dating this awesome, Christian guy for two years now. Every time she talked about him, she gushed as to how amazing and godly and on fire for Jesus he was. (I only meet him three times, and although I don’t quite see it, I still believe her because she thinks so). They lived in a Christian community that seemed so awesome.
(In fact, I was a little jealous of her, in a way. It seemed as if she’d never, ever had the relational pain I’d had to endure the last few years. She was just in this safe bubble where everyone loved each other.)
Yet she was changing. Over the last few years, I’d seen this gradual change in her. I visited her in December of 2011, and I remember for the first time really seeing such a stark change in her. There wasn’t joy in her eyes. There was a sort of wary, distrustful look. She didn’t shine like she used to. She seemed a shadow of herself. She laughed, the laugh was empty—even a little mean.
She told me, “When we were back in high school, I think was just pretending to be introverted and to think about things and love nature all all that. I don’t really like those things. I am who I really am now.”
I didn’t like who she was now. She was becoming shallower, emptier.
I didn’t say that.
But I did say, “You’re not okay with yourself.”
“No, I’m not,” she said. She seems very alone, desperate, sad.
“You can be yourself with me,” I said. “Don’t be ashamed.”
And slowly, the bristling wall came down, and she softened, and she shone just a little bit. I could tell she felt safe again.
I brought her back to those high school years when people were kind to each other and didn’t just use each other and everything was brimming with potential.
Oh, how wrong we all were.
The safe bubble was actually a cage in disguise.
Her husband had become a cult leader.
He was systematically destroying her and her personality. He made her feel horrible about herself. He didn’t want her to write or think or read good books. He hated artists and thinkers. He wanted everyone to hang with each other all the time (which is hell for introverts). He didn’t want anything but his own interpretation of the Bible. He called himself an Apostle of the Apostles. He was going to lead them all to Africa where they’d be in the End Times together.
People who disagreed with him were labeled “rebellious” and weren’t following God. He had thrown people out of the community in the past few months, and the little group was closing in on itself in unwelcoming, unhealthy ways.
I didn’t know all this, of course. None of us knew. To everyone on the outside, they were this great, Christian community. A little…well, getting a lot more clique-ish. But nothing horrible, right?
Until my friend was murdered after she moved with her new husband into the guys’ house. After she was allegedly sexually abused by some of the guys, after her husband blamed everything and all their marriage problems on her…
She tried to get help. Maybe she tried to run. She might’ve even committed suicide. We’re not sure what happened.
Because she didn’t tell any of us. She was probably so ashamed at that point that her life was unraveling, and she didn’t know what in the world was going on.
So she tried to handle it all herself.
But her death exposed the truth.
And we are left to pick up the pieces.
It is not an easy time. In fact, it’s one of the hardest times I’ve ever been through (I still grieve her death every day).
There are days I feel suicidal, as if life just needs to end. I can’t go on. Not when the world is full of so much pain.
There are days I scream at God. Why could You let this happen? I already had enough men issues to begin with. How will I ever recover from this? How could something like this happen?
There are days I really think things like, Men are pretty much the worst things on the entire planet. As if somehow all Men are responsible for my friend’s death.
Yet I know I can’t let bitterness and anger control me.
I know I must let love win over hate.
It’s a battle, but slowly, I learn to grieve healthily.
Because Men are not the issue here. One man was, yes (or multiple men). But not all of them. I begin to think over all the amazing men I’ve known in my life, and I know that I can’t lump Men into a single category.
I learn to replace bitterness with hope, despair with joy, darkness with light.
(I’ve been learning to do this the past few years, actually. It’s as if everything leading up to this death was preparation for this moment).
The moment when I choose not to cave into darkness and never recover.
The moment when I choose to shine light and love no matter what has happened in life.
The moment I choose to place my trust in the God who loves me (and who loves my friend) no matter how painful life can be sometimes.
I cry and cry, I think and think.
Suddenly, all the things I’ve been struggling over the last few years make sense.
You see, we were Kindred Spirits in the good ways and also the bad.
I’d liked manipulative, controlling guys who sapped me of my self worth. I’d thrown my identity into men because I thought it was godly and biblical to do so. I’d sacrificed myself to make sure the men could follow their dreams, while killing all of my own out of “love.”
I’d been attracted to abuse, and I’d been abused, and somehow…
Somehow through all the pain, I’d risen above it and dealt with it and wrestled with God and grown and become strong.
My friend never had that opportunity. The whole thing was so brilliantly and subtly done that none of us knew what was happening until it was too late.
But suddenly, I saw.
I had to be a voice.
A voice for spiritual oppression.
A voice for spiritual and emotional abuse.
A voice for girls who just want to be loved, but get these guys who just use them.
A voice against violation and oppression when it’s masked as godliness.
I had a dream about *Becca about three weeks after she died.
In this dream, she was dressed in white, and we were sitting under a tree. She was herself again. The warm, brilliant, loving, radiant girl I’d known. She was herself, but she was also so much deeper, as if her pain had somehow sharpened and wizened her into a lovely, wise, immortal being.
In that dream, Becca tells me, “God is going to use our pain. People will find hope and healing because of us.”
She talks about us and our. As if somehow, we are linked and we always will be. As if she will, in a sense live in me, and her pain and tragedy is also part of my own pain and tragedy.
Kindred Spirits in the good and the bad.
I would be our voice.
And people would look to us because of our pain.
I woke up after that dream, and I knew. I knew that was no ordinary dream.
The calling of my life began.
The call to write and to speak out against injustice and to help others embrace their identity and God’s love.
The call to break oppression in the church.
The call to help women (and men) heal and learn to love each other, not just use each other.
The call to bring light and love into a dark and despairing world.
So that is why I write.
And it’s why I write to this day. Why I haven’t given up hope even in all the grief over losing one of the deepest friendships I have ever (and will ever) know.
Throughout all this, you know what I’ve learned?
First off, men are bad.
Second off, men are good.
My life has been a strange mixture of men, both the good and the bad.
Men have a profound impact on women—in both harmful and beautiful ways.
But you know what?
Women need men.
We need them so badly.
We need them to show us love, to show us trust, to show us encouragement.
(And they need us).
No, I don’t hate men. My bitterness and anger towards them has been healed over the last year or so. I grieve there are so many who are hurtful. But I rejoice that I’ve known so many that are good and are trying so hard to love and to be men of God.
I honor and admire and respect these men. The men who are trying, despite hard odds against them, to be honorable, decent, loving, respectful. To treat women with love even if they get nothing out of it in return. To treat women as humans.
I thank God for them.
And I ask every man reading these posts to be that kind of man.
You are needed, men.
I’ve also learned that Jesus, the very Son of God and the exact representation of God’s likeness, came to be the perfect Man. He came to show us that there is a better way. That men don’t have to hate women and demean them and trample them. Jesus spoke life and love into every woman He encountered. He listened to their pains, He didn’t just judge them for their past. He loved. He called them out of their sins and brokenness, but He didn’t simply label them by their past, either.
He grasped them by the hand, and He pulled them up off the ground, and He said, “Sin no more.” He gave them hope, dignity, and dreams. He gave them Living Water that is never, ever quenched.
He let them listen to His teachings and sit at His feet as a Rabbi. He let them follow him from village to village and support His ministry. (This was unheard of in that day). He let them do things no women were supposed to do because they were inferior.
He loved women.
He was the truest and best God-Man that ever was. (Okay, the only one.) :)
And He showed His heart for all people as He walked this earth.
He called for us to live from the heart, to see others with compassion, to help each other along this dark and painful road.
He called us to love the Lord with everything in us. Because only when we know His love–that’s when we’ll love others, too.
He called us out of anger and bitterness and cynicism to hope and life and healing.
And He does the same today.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I will follow this Man.
He is my identity.
I will love Him until my dying breath and forever after.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord
*Names changed for privacy.
(This concludes my series. Hope you enjoyed it!)