Why Do Men Act Like This?: A Journey into R*pe Culture

TW: Discussion of r*pe culture and harassment from men

Readers,

I’m over this. As an almost 27-year old woman, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with heterosexual men of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. I’ve experienced enough men to confidently say that many men believe in r*pe culture, and most aren’t aware of it.

Here’s the tea:

Several months ago, as I was coming home from work around 7 PM in the dead of winter (so, super dark and cold outside), I heard a man’s voice yell at me, “Did you have a good day at work?” I was startled and creeped out. I didn’t know any of my male neighbors, or really any neighbors at all, and I was astonished that someone would think that this time of day would be the best time to strike up a conversation with a woman getting out of her car (RED FLAG #1). I looked everywhere to make sure that no one was following me, yelled out in a shaky voice, “Yeah!” and ran upstairs to my apartment. Initially, I felt badly for assuming that this guy could have bad intentions, and I tried to shake it off and just chalk it up to awkward timing and good intentions.

Oh, Gabby. Sometimes you’re too nice.

A few days later, a young man asked me how my day was going as I was headed to my car. I recognized the voice. This was the guy. Oh, okay. He seems normal enough (although you never know). I said it was great and I asked about his day. See, Gabby? He’s a nice guy.

We had several brief interactions like these without him ever asking my name and I never cared enough to ask his. I just thought of him as a friendly neighbor I would greet but wouldn’t really get to know. I didn’t care enough to pursue anything further than a nice greeting every once in a while.

A few weeks later, I got sick and had to go to the hospital. My Mom asked him to take my dog Doree out for a walk while we were there because she was old and couldn’t hold her bladder for very long. He agreed and when we got back from the hospital, he finally told us his name. I told him mine. He then asked me if I had a boyfriend. I told him that I didn’t. He said that he didn’t have a girlfriend because women were “too much” (RED FLAG #2). I said that maybe it wasn’t that all women were too much, but that maybe he wasn’t enough. He laughed and said he would tell that to the men at his next men’s meeting.

Over the course of the next few weeks, he began flirting with me more and more. He exchanged numbers with my Mom and they began a friendly text exchange…about me (RED FLAG #3). He told my mother that he liked me, thought I was smart and great, and that when the pandemic was over, he wanted to take me on a date. My Mom, not knowing that I didn’t like him, encouraged him to pursue me.

So, this guy asked me out and I said no. He still texted my Mom, asking for tips on how to win me, and telling my mother that he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t admit that I liked him (RED FLAG #4). I never flirted with him and was very curt with him because I knew he liked me. I didn’t want to lead him on. While I thought he was just a friendly platonic neighbor, he was interested in me from the beginning, and I didn’t want to encourage him.

Unfortunately, my mother and I often needed a strong man to help us lift massive furniture and put things together we didn’t know how to do. Granted, we could’ve learned at some point and being a man doesn’t make someone good with tech or lifting, but it was easier for her to ask him for help than to try and figure it out. No problem with that. He’d come over every so often and fix things or carry heavy things for her. I imagine that he did this to try and impress me. Look, he’s good with Moms! I didn’t care. He had already turned me off by his arrogance and belief that I would naturally want to be with him because he’s such a great guy. He would often tell me I needed to take more charge of my life after I told him I wasn’t sure if I would be moving across the country during a freaking pandemic (RED FLAG #5). He didn’t know me at all. He didn’t know the situation. He inserted himself into the conversation and tried to advise me. Like I’m a helpless woman who needs guidance from someone more knowledgeable. Little did he know that I’m much smarter than him. He didn’t believe that my “NO!” meant “NO!” He thought it meant “Try harder.”

So, he did.

He continued to ask me out (RED FLAG #6). I continued to say no. After a few weeks of toning down his advances, he asked me if I would go to this new golfing thing with him. I told him I would only go as friends. I didn’t want to be too hard on him. Maybe he’s socially awkward. Maybe he doesn’t know how to interact with women. I shouldn’t slap labels like “misogynist” and “sexist” on someone I don’t know that well. Still, women are told they must give men chances and always give the benefit of the doubt. He said that he was fine with being friends and that he really just wanted some company when checking out this new place to hang out.

Ok. Sure.

Today, he tested my patience beyond its endurance. While popping by our moving sale, he used some of our hand sanitizer and I made a joke that since it’s a luxury, he shouldn’t use it. He said I was flirting (RED FLAG #7). He said he wasn’t going to fight with me and I made a smart joke back. He flipped me the middle finger. (RED FLAG #8). That is an act of violence, particularly if you don’t know the person. I closed the door on him and told my mother, who was there.

She texted him that he was inappropriate and shouldn’t joke like that with me. He told her that I “brought it out of him” (RED FLAG #9). This is the argument men use for when they attack women. “She made me do it.” He then texted me and called me a tattle-tale (RED FLAG #10). Later this evening, he texted me and asked why I “wasn’t interested in talking to anyone” (RED FLAG #11). “Anyone? Or certain people?”, I responded. I told him that I’m not interested in romance with anyone at the moment. I told him that I never intended to flirt with him or lead him on. If I had liked him, I would’ve made it clear. He said that he understood.

Let me ask you readers this. We’re almost at the end of July. He started “pursuing” me (harassing, rather) around January or February. I’ve never changed my tune. I’ve always said no and tried to keep my distance. Why has it taken so long for him to understand?

Does he understand?

This man, whom I believe is sexist and deep-down a misogynist, as well as a participant in r*pe culture, decided that he was going to go hard after me for several months despite my constant response of “no, thank you.” He didn’t respect me. He didn’t listen to me. He wanted what he wanted. He wanted his prize. I was just an object for his consumption; for his pleasure.

Like Princess Jasmine said, “I am not a prize to be won!”

I’m a person. I have feelings. Why do I even have to say this? This guy gives off vibes of “If she turns me down…I’m going to lose it. I’m so awesome. Why wouldn’t she want me? There must be something wrong with HER.”

Did it ever occur to him that his approach was all wrong?

Why is the woman always at fault for everything?

Readers, I’m tired. I’m tired of these men and their nonsense. I’m smarter than this guy. I’m nicer and more respectful. I’m more mature.

And I know how to take “no” for a damn answer.

No means no,

Gabrielle G.

Choosing Singleness and Celibacy

Readers,

I feel like most of my recent posts have started with “This is not something I ever thought I’d write” or “This one is hard” but this one is both hard and something I never thought I’d write.

I have chosen singleness and celibacy…for now.

For many years I have felt that marriage was not something I would experience. As a young girl, this was because men scared me and marriage seemed like a prison. As I grew older and became a sassy college girl, I was boy-crazy for a few years but ultimately grew into a person who saw both marriage and motherhood as a prison for women. Marriage was a prison for my mother and for most women in my family. I saw countless cousins and friends have children as teens or young women and couldn’t help but think, “I’m so glad that’s not me!” I no longer think that marriage and motherhood are prisons for all women, but for some women they are.

Many Christians worship marriage and a husband is seen as proof that God is pleased with you and that you’re growing in Christ. Show me that Scripture, please. So many Christians marry so young that I wonder if they’re really sure. I don’t want that to be me, yet I find that at my age (almost 27) I’m asked questions about marriage and children so often. I feel like Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice (2005) when she gives Elizabeth Bennet her reasons for marrying the boring Mr. Collins: “I’m 27. I’ve no money and no prospects. I’m already a burden to my parents.” Was Charlotte Lucas a grad student? I feel her pain.

Why is it odd to be unmarried at 26?

Why is it odd that I don’t want babies?

I’ve always wanted to get as many degrees as possible, travel the entire world, and live with freedom. I want the freedom to be able to pack up and go when God calls and to live in any situation God may call me to. For example, I feel a call to a certain level of poverty and simplicity and have for some time. Is it possible or right to intentionally raise children in poverty? Would I want to subject my children to something I feel God has prepared for me?

Considering how my call to poverty and simplicity is interesting at best and downright weird at worst (depending on who is thinking about it), marriage will not be easy. This is because most people have not been called to this lifestyle. I need to marry a man who also feels this call to simplicity. This is not impossible, but coupled with my call, it may not be realistic or beneficial to think of marriage.

I am called to cross-cultural work, particularly overseas. I have lived in villages and next to slums in India. I’ve eaten at communal tables and shared my things with those who have nothing. This is the life I have been fashioned for and though I’ve tried to fight against it over the past five years, it keeps calling me.

“Ghar Aaja Pardesi Tera Des Bulaaye Re”

Come home O Foreigner, Your country calls you.”

I’ve chosen to permanently answer the call and wait while God prepares my steps to go back overseas. In the interim, I will live as I feel is best for me. This means embracing extreme minimalism with the amount of material things I own as well as limiting the amount of primping I feel I have to do to myself to be attractive. I will limit the amount and types of outside noise and will embrace moments of silence and boredom. I will reuse and recycle as often as possible as well as buy sustainable goods as often as I can. I will eat simply and healthily, thanking God for each grain of rice and each scoop of dal. This is how I will live best. This is how I connect to the God who provides all things, the God who loves all people, and the God who lived so humbly on earth instead of choosing to enter this world as a rich ruler.

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” – Luke 9:58

If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s more than good enough for me. I want to be able to live in any circumstance so that I can live in solidarity with my brothers and sisters around the world who live with less. I want to be useful overseas instead of being a spoiled American who is unable to bear heat, insects, and sleeping on the floor. I want to be prepared for the life that exists outside of this American bubble. This is what Paul was talking about in Philippians.

‘I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11-13

For the life that I feel called to, marriage may not be possible or helpful. Considering the fact that I want to leave this country in a year or two, unless my husband is called to this life as well, there is no point in being married. I am not opposed to marriage, but I will marry only if and when marriage will further my journey on God’s mission and if the marriage will be God’s plan. I will not chase marriage. If marriage comes, it comes. Either way, I am content. It will be hard, but I will be celibate. As a single woman, sex is not possible for me. This makes me sad sometimes (just being honest), but I will honor God with my body. I have a strong sexual desire, so it’s possible that God may bring me a husband, but it’s also possible that this is a desire I will have to master. Whether God will eventually call me to marriage, I don’t know. Until then, I will be celibate. God help me!

I want to make it clear that singleness and celibacy do not equate to not being a mother. I am a mother to all children. I have been called to be a spiritual mother to children everywhere. Choosing singleness and celibacy does not mean that I will not be a mother to children already alive and in need of a mother’s love.

It’s not lost on me that I feel called to a vow of poverty and of celibacy. God has been calling me to a more monastic life and I’m excited to see how that will manifest in my life.

Let’s see what God does.

Blessings from a spinster,

Gabrielle G.

Releasing My 5-Year Plan & Embracing Minimalism

*This picture was taken in 2015 in our living room in our Kolkata apartment*

As this pandemic rages on, as we witness more and more devastating examples of White supremacy’s bloodthirsty power at work in this world, as the economy rises and falls, I have been reflecting. This is an unprecedented time. We’re all aware of that. I think deep inside our hearts, we think that we’ll be able to return to our former sense of “normal.” We will be able to go shopping and dine at restaurants without fear of illness. We will travel and explore the world again, coming back together with our friends and family.

I don’t think that’s possible. I don’t think the former sense of normal is worth returning to.

Something in the atmosphere has shifted. Since George Floyd was murdered over a month ago, people have been protesting every single day. Confederate flags and monuments are being torn down and burned. Many companies have altered their approach to their Black customer and fan base. We hear of some legislation that promises a faint hope that things might change.

We are tired of dying.

No more.

No justice, no peace. No racist police.

Everything has changed. We’re questioning the ways we do life in every possible way. Defund the police. What about racist indoctrination in schools? What about the military?

Vanessa Guillen’s blood cries out from the ground.

How should we now think about our consumerist and capitalist attitudes? I can’t count how many toilet paper shortage memes I’ve seen on Instagram. It hints at a genuine problem in the way we think about consumption.

We are disconnected from nature and the rest of God’s creation. I began thinking recently that if the grocery stores shut down, would we know how to grow our own food? A lot of us started baking bread during quarantine as a way to de-stress and be creative, but what if we actually had to live like that?

Could we sustain that type of lifestyle?

What if we lost our jobs, as many people have, and subsequently lost our health insurance (because America)? Would we know how to care for basic ailments? Do we know anything about holistic healthcare and First Aid?

Do we know how to live in nature? Should the worst happen, should WWIII happen or something horrible destroy life as we know it, what will we do?

Do we know how to build a shelter? How to find fresh water?

Do we know how to survive? I don’t think we do.

I know I don’t.

This thought scared me as I began to think about the ways we Americans are so reliant on consuming in order to survive. We really don’t know how to care for ourselves in any meaningful way. We hire someone to do it. We buy it ready-made. We spend our dollars on things to sustain us rather than learning how to do it ourselves.

The result is a spoiled society of humans on the brink of collapse. We’re harried humans who don’t know how to connect with each other apart from through a screen and after we’ve penciled them into our schedule and rushed to and from our meeting with them.

We always have something to do. But, is what we’re doing meaningful at all?

What do most of us do every day anyway? We work, study, cook, clean, care for family or pets, and…what else? Isn’t that it? So why are we always so busy? Why do we put so much in our schedules every single day? Does it make us feel more important? Does it make us feel better or productive (as if we’re just an object that needs to produce)?

Or does the constant noise serve as a distraction from facing the darkness in our souls?

When I turn off the TV, put down my phone, turn off the music, and sit with myself…how do I feel? Do I like myself? Am I happy with how my life has turned out so far? Am I content?

The answer is always a firm no. I don’t like how I am now. I’m not happy with how my life has turned out. I’m not content.

I’m overwhelmed by a mountain of stuff, just garbage really, that I’ve collected over the years. I’ve held onto things for sentimental reasons, for practicality, and out of fear that I’ll need them some day. I live a life tethered to my knick-knacks and tchotchkes, tethered to the memories that arise when I hold them in my hands. I’m tethered. I’m not free.

I’m overloaded by a plethora of things I don’t need and never use. I buy them…why? So I can feel like I’ve made it in life? That I’m okay after all? That I’m not broken and lost? Is this what life is about?

When I reflect on the three trips I’ve taken to India, I remember one thing most clearly: freedom. In India, particularly during my first trip there, I lived in extreme frugality. I was the most minimalist minimalist. I had two shirts, two pairs of pants, one bra, a handful of underwear, and one pair of shoes. I had a couple of books to occupy my evening hours, unless I were thick in conversation with a teammate. I had a journal for processing my thoughts and experiences. That’s it. I was happy. It was refreshing to not have to worry about what I would wear each day. I just put my clothes on and went about my day. Our meals were simple: breakfast was bread and jam with an egg, lunch was a small fried thing from a street vendor, and dinner was rice and dal. I was often hungry because we ate so little, but that hunger was an opportunity to understand what our Indian neighbors experienced every day.

I welcomed each learning opportunity.

We washed our clothes by hand, would pray that God would allow our water to come on so we could take showers, and we (this is gross) shared a nail clipper. I shudder a little now but that’s how committed to communal poverty we were. We shared everything and we were content.

How quickly American consumerism once again swept me up in the myth that these material goods would make me happy or prove my worth. I grieve that.

Five years after my first trip to India, I’m not where I thought I’d be. I’m unemployed during a global pandemic in a country that is about to burst from the centuries of unaddressed racism and violence it has sanctioned and decreed. It is impossible for me to think about where I want to be in another five years. I hope to have my MDiv by then. I hope to be married. I hope to have a child. I hope to have a thriving ministry. But is that promised to me by God? No. What has God promised? What we need for today. What I need today is to know God as my Father, Mother, friend, savior, and healer and believe that God is who God says God is. That God will do what God has promised to do.

For the first time, I (a middle-class American) am experiencing what it’s like to not be able to plan for your future. This is the reality of our brothers and sisters around the world. This is the reality of many of our Black and brown fellow Americans who live in systemic poverty and violence. We are now living day-to-day. They’ve been living like that forever. We are now realizing that being American won’t save us from anything. We are not exempt because of our nationality. We do not get to thrive and triumph forever while our global brothers and sisters suffer. We accept it because we think that’s the natural order of things. There are those that have success (as we deem it) and those who do not. We are the successful ones. We are chosen ones. We deserve glory.

God forgive us our delusion. Forgive us and have mercy on us for the ways we’ve ignored our brothers and sisters around the world and in this country. Have mercy for how we’ve accepted their poverty as normal and acceptable.

This is evil. This is wrong. This is America.

Inwardly, my spirit fights against this day-to-day living because it goes against everything I’ve believed as an American. I’m not better than anyone else. I don’t deserve more. I’m not guaranteed anything.

Jesus does not owe me a single thing.

Jesus doesn’t owe me health. Jesus doesn’t owe me a thriving vocational career. Jesus doesn’t owe me a husband. Jesus doesn’t owe me children. Jesus doesn’t owe me a long life. Jesus doesn’t owe me zero debt. Jesus doesn’t owe me travel experiences. Jesus doesn’t owe me a good salary. Jesus doesn’t owe me freedom from persecution and suffering.

Jesus doesn’t owe me anything.

So now I’m focusing on living day-to-day. I’m working on trusting God for my daily provision, as that is all He has promised to give to us. The things I want may come in the future, but right now, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s not likely. That’s okay. I want to experience life as my global brothers and sisters do. I want to live in community with them and honor them with how I live.

I believe I will honor God this way.

I’ve decided to begin developing a practice of minimalism in my life. I have already gone through most of my belongings and am releasing most of them. Where I will live in the future, I don’t know. Right now I’m sleeping on an air mattress in a spare bedroom. That’s okay for me. I personally know brothers and sisters in India who sleep on the floor. I want to live in solidarity with my friends as much as possible, until I can get over there.

Minimalism is hard. It goes against our natural desire to accumulate things in order to feel valued and safe. I recognize that my Puerto Rican family members live in systemic poverty and live a minimalist lifestyle as a result of that poverty. I recognize that it’s a choice from my privilege as a middle-class person to choose not to consume and what I will consume. I fight against that voice that tells me my value comes from my material goods or worldly achievements. I fight against the voice that tells me that I’m better than my family because I’m middle-class and college-educated.

God forgive me.

I want to release the material things that weigh on my shoulders so that I can learn what it is to actually depend on God for my daily provision. I want to be freed from my sense of American entitlement that tells me I deserve anything. My Christian brothers and sisters around the world do not have this sense of entitlement. They’re wiser than we are in that way. We lack and they have.

I’m not sure where this journey into releasing my five-year plan and embracing miminalism will take me. I sense the Spirit taking me on a monastic journey. I may embrace a vow of poverty in the near future. I’m discerning that.

But, this is where I’m at right now. Friends, don’t let this moment slip by.

See what God may have for you during this time.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

I Left My Church Because of Racism

Readers,

This is a hard one. I considered not writing this, especially as I was told that my previous posts about my church were making relationship and community difficult. But after listening to the stories of my Black and brown Christian brothers and sisters, and realizing that we are all telling variations of the same story, I know I need to. Being a Black or brown person in church is not easy, particularly if your church is predominantly white. White people don’t like to talk about race and racism. Their emotions around race are so fragile. Anything that threatens to disrupt their delusion is met with hostility and vitriol. They don’t like being reminded that they are indeed white and that their people have oppressed our people since they brought us to this country. They don’t like to face the truth.

They prefer to live in their delusion.

I first came to my church toward the end of 2018. I had just moved to the area (the Deep South) a few months prior and hardly knew anyone. I was excited about joining a church because I desperately wanted friends. During the first church service I attended, the pastor led us in a time of prayer for those affected by the mass shooting at L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh. The shooting had happened a day before so I was still experiencing fresh grief at the slaughter of my Jewish brothers and sisters. My heart hurt. Seeing the church openly talk about the mass shooting and actually begin a time of prayer for the victims’ families was pleasantly surprising to me. I wasn’t accustomed to many churches addressing the issues of our day, although to me it is beneficial and realistic to do so, and I was impressed.

This prayer was the deciding factor in choosing this church as my church home. It had been so long since I had been a part of a church that I jumped at the chance to join a church that seemed to be so relevant and purposeful. And they are. This church is indeed relevant and purposeful, but it has limitations. This church is incredible when it comes to making people feel welcomed and valued if they struggle with an addiction, if they’re from a lower economic status, or if they have “baggage” like having a child out of wedlock or being a divorced person. This is beautiful and rare to find in a church, which is unfortunate. This church has done incredible things for so many people who’ve felt unloved and unwanted by more clean-cut, pristine, precious churches.

However, if you are a person of color, you are valued best at this church if you behave the way they want you to, always deferring to them. They say that everyone is a mess and we’re all “broken.” So things are brushed aside. They are completely unaware of this, by the way. They don’t know that they are this way. If you never speak of race and racism, you’re the best type of PoC, because they can’t address their own prejudice toward you and they can continue to live in their constructed world where racism isn’t real and they don’t have prejudice because they have a Black friend.

If you do speak of race and racism, there are a few who would possibly listen to you and be somewhat open, as long as you present your argument in the most sweet, delicate, inoffensive, and forgiving tone. Then their response would encompass urging you to be gentle and gracious with racist white people, remind you that we are all “broken people”, and that since you have knowledge about this area, you should teach white people how to deal with the prejudice in their hearts. This prejudice is minor, of course, and individualized, and really you should just teach them that saying “colored” is offensive and asking to touch Black women’s hair is wrong because Black women are sensitive about that.

There are some who move beyond this second level of white Christian and they actually believe that systemic racism exists. They admit that there is rampant racism in our nation’s institutions. They freely admit this. In fact, they’re just as mad about racism as you are. They’re just as tired of police brutality as you are. (White people, this isn’t possible.) They present themselves as “woke” and progressive in this area, but they still sing the same tune as the second level of white Christian. Despite systemic racism, which couldn’t possibly be in the church, you as a PoC Christian must respond with gentleness, humility (as they define it), deep wells of perpetual patience, and the ever-present desire to teach white people. These poor white people who don’t see their prejudice and racism. Poor them. Don’t you lament such brokenness? You should have patience for their brokenness and teach them.

Jesus didn’t come for the healthy but for the sick.

Oof. After wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt to church and being told that I was racist, prejudiced, and “liberal”, I stopped wearing it for a while. On Facebook I was told by a white male pastor, not the pastor of my church, that I was “selling crap” by talking about white supremacy in this country. When I told a person I’d consider to be a white ally, I was asked to find the opportunity for grace in those situations. When I’m walking into church wearing a shirt or posting pertinent articles on my Facebook and I’m told that I’m a problem, that is wrong. It’s abuse. All I have to do after an attack like that is separate myself from the attacker, surround myself with people who understand (other PoC Christians), and work out with God how to forgive them. I do not have to reconcile with abusers. I do not have to reconcile with racists. I do not have to reconcile with Trump supporters. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation. To force PoC Christians to do everything in their power to reconcile with people who refuse to repent of their racism and ignorance, who refuse to admit that they hurt PoC, is to urge PoC Christians to willingly re-enter into abusive relationships.

This is manipulation. This is wrong. This is evil.

If these racist Christians repent, admit their sin, and seek healing while receiving correction, then that’s a different story. Then a PoC Christian can choose to engage in a relationship with them, but I would not require it of another PoC. You are not required to reconcile with someone who abused you just because they repent and begin a new life. The memories may be too painful. There’s nothing wrong with permanently separating from an abuser and demanding that PoC Christians always reconcile with racists who have repented and changed is unfair and damaging.

I admired a leader in my church for their kindness and intellect. I thought that this person was an intellectual equal, someone who would survey an issue from multiple vantage points and do their best to not allow their own upbringing or biases to affect their understanding. But, I was wrong. In every other area that we discussed, this person was easy to talk to. On the topic of race and racism, it was like I had ignited a lightning storm of racism that they had been waiting to unleash. They said that undocumented immigrants were “illegals” and were adamant about using the word. I was told that race was an idol for me; that I was speaking so forcefully about it because I had been “burned” in the past. They said that I am a Christian first, and a Puerto Rican last. I was told that because it was hard for me to try and reconcile with someone who shamed me for being an activist, I wasn’t obeying Jesus well. This other person had said that being an activist was inconsistent with the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. I was hurt by that. I brought it up with this intellectual person and when I told them that I didn’t know if it was worth it to try and reconcile, I was asked, “Obeying Jesus isn’t worth it?”

Manipulative and shaming.

At that point, I didn’t know if I needed to move on in my own heart and forgive, or if this needed a conversation. I didn’t know if I was ready to have that conversation. I just didn’t know what I should do. They shamed me into trying to have a conversation with someone who hurt me and gaslighted me before I was ready. I felt like I was the wrong one, the bad one.

I had begun to believe the people around me who told me that I was the racist one. I was prejudiced. I needed to have more grace for white people. I needed to teach white people. I needed to explain things more gently to white people. I needed to meet white people where they were and take them for who they were, even if who they were hurt me and my people. I needed to.

I needed to.

I needed to.

I needed to speak less forcefully.

I needed to speak less passionately.

I needed to speak less often.

I needed to speak less.

I needed to not speak at all.

I needed to center myself around the comfort of white people and their needs.

After a year and a half of being gaslighted, I realized that I was indeed being gaslighted. This realization broke my heart. I felt ashamed of myself for not having been aware of this abuse. But those who are being gaslighted are never aware that they are being abused. Gaslighting is so subtle and so manipulative that you actually begin to believe that what the gaslighter is saying is true.

You are wrong.

You are the problem.

I left my church because of racism. I didn’t intend on leaving my church but after speaking with my pastor for two hours, I knew I could no longer attend this church. I had become a first-time church member at this church. I had never wanted to be a church member before. That’s how committed I was! I had experienced so much healing and revelation while at this church. But there were limitations. If I were a white woman, I’d have had a different experience at this church. I probably would still be a member. But I’m not white. I’m Puerto Rican. My culture has not been celebrated at my church. I’ve been told to just focus on my Christian identity and that Kingdom people don’t see each other by their color or culture. We’re all “just Christians” which really means that white people don’t know how to be genuine friends with PoC in their church and so they bypass differences in color so that they can feel more comfortable.

There have been perhaps two or three people in my church who are white and are not like this. But that’s not enough to make me stay. They are the exception to the rule.

I’m done. On this topic, I’ve been spoken to forcefully, yelled at even, and I’m done. I’m done feeling like I’m the problem. I’m done believing that there’s something wrong with me because I care about anti-racist activism.

There’s nothing wrong with me.

Nothing.

I’m done trying to make others see that.

Whether they see it or not is on them. It’s between them and God.

I hope and pray that they wake up to their delusion before it’s too late.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

2 Years Later: Still Struggling with Hypochondria?

Dear Readers,

Every so often, I check my stats. I’m interested to know how many people find my writing helpful, where in the world my readers live, and what topics seem to be most important. Every time I check my stats, I see that more and more people keep reading my post from 2018, “Living with Hypochondria as a Christian.” Almost 500 of you have read it, which is a lot for my little ol’ blog. This is my most-read piece. I wrote this piece while in the thick of my battle with hypochondria, when I had little answers and mostly just honesty about my own struggles. It seems that saying that I saw you and I also suffered in this way was deeply encouraging for many readers!

Well, I say it again two years later.

I see you and I also suffer in this way.

My struggle with hypochondria has altered in the sense that I don’t feel consumed by thoughts of dying, at least not regularly. Sometimes I get a twinge in my chest and am thoroughly convinced that it’s my heart. Other times I’m able to use my logic to say, “Gabby, you’re due for your period. You always get pain in your breasts during this time. You have no heart issues. You don’t have high blood pressure. You’re alright.”

And then I’m able to move on with my day.

The way that hypochondria attacks me now is the general sense that I’m sick or that I can easily become sick. In recent months I’ve been hospitalized with kidney infections, UTIs, ovarian cysts, intense stomach pain, allergic reactions, and random hives. I do have genuine health issues at this time, but many of them don’t have a clear cause. I can’t help but wonder if they’re caused my stress due to my OCD and depression. Hypochondria often goes hand-in-hand with OCD. These are the thoughts I work through on a daily basis. How many of my health issues are caused by my stress/OCD/depression? Which ones are not? And most importantly, what can I do about it?

I’ve been on an antidepressant for about three weeks. This antidepressant also works for calming OCD obsessions and compulsions so it’s doing two things for me. I still feel depression symptoms, but I have noticed that my OCD symptoms have significantly calmed down. I haven’t been on this medication long enough to weigh the pros and cons of it or to have some testimonial about how it has completely improved my life, but it has helped so far.

Hypochondria, or some measure of it, may always be present with me because I suffer from OCD. This is something I’ve had to come to grips with lately. My PCP mentioned to me that since I’ve had a few bouts of depression throughout my life, it might make sense to take an antidepressant for life or for as long as needed. This has oddly freed me. Rather than have seasons of “feeling okay” enough to not be on any medication or to “be strong and take care of it myself”, I feel the freedom to honestly say that I have suffered from mental health issues for a decade. They come and go. Wouldn’t it be kinder to my body and to my mind to take a medicine that will prevent breakdowns and random bouts of deep depression? Wouldn’t it be kinder to maintain a balance in my body and mind through medication? I think so.

Readers, I say all of this to encourage you to seek medical treatment as well as spiritual treatment. Jesus has created miracles through medicine. If your doctor believes you will benefit, please consider it. Also reach out to Jesus and believe that He can heal you. Believe that He is willing to heal you. Believe it and receive healing from Him, however He gives it and whatever it looks like.

Jesus is with you.

Readers, you’re not alone. I love you all so much and want to encourage you to remember that you’re precious and beloved by God! You’re not a failure because of your mental health problems. Mental health problems are the same as physical health problems. It’s just a health issue. We don’t blame someone for breaking their leg or developing stomach ulcers. We treat the illness or injury with love and proper treatment. Let’s stop trying to think we’re failures for suffering mentally and forcing ourselves to grin and bear it. We deserve better.

Let’s be kinder to ourselves, okay?

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Gaslighters in the Church #BlackLivesMatter

Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor.

George Floyd.

There are more. There are others who have left us before them, have left us since them, and will continue to leave us as we fight this war against white supremacy.

Since these glorious black people have died, I have experienced a myriad emotions and thoughts ranging from deep sadness, lament, furious anger, cynicism that anything will change, and hope that things might change during my lifetime. I often feel all of this all of the time. I remember last year when I was relatively new at my church, that I was absolutely alone in dealing with racial trauma. Last year, when black people were murdered by the police, I could hardly talk about it with people at church without hearing, “Well, Gabby, All Lives Matter. There are two sides to every story, you know.” When I’d talk about the little Latino children stuck in cages, Latin women being sexually assaulted and torn from their children, Latin men treated like less than animals, and about the Latinos who have died in U.S. Border Patrol custody, I was met with words like, “Well, that’s sad but they shouldn’t have come here illegally.” “We don’t know the full story.” “Build the wall.” “The Liberal media is biased and not revealing the full truth.” When I’d share with someone an encounter with the police where I felt unsafe or scared, I was told, “Gabby, the police aren’t all bad. There’s just some bad apples out there.”

“Bad apples” is a peculiar term for “murderers.”

I became known among my church friend and peer group as the opinionated, outspoken, contentious one. I could see people become uncomfortable when I spoke up about injustice. I was told I wasn’t focusing on Kingdom things. Is salvation merely a personal thing? Is Jesus not interested in subverting broken systems and establishing His righteous way? They said that I was too angry and loud about these painful things in our nation and church, as if justice is all theory and no praxis. Can we remain monotone and unaffected by things that are killing us? I was told that I needed to have more grace and understanding for white people who don’t know any better because they’ve grown up in the South, while they don’t express an ounce of understanding toward me. They said that I needed to teach people about these things because I had expert knowledge on racial injustice, as I am a PoC. So I need to perform free emotional labor for the sake of white growth? I was told that my hyper-vigilance around white men was because of my own personal pain and brokenness, not because there is a history and a system of white supremacy and abuse. I was the one who needed to extend grace and make allowances. Not them.

All of the labor fell on my shoulders and mine alone.

I was just a broken person.

This broke me. I began to believe that maybe I was too passionate about this. Maybe I was too angry and I needed to have more grace and understanding for racists. Maybe I was making too big a deal about racism. Was I sinning by advocating for justice? I was told that the things I’m passionate about can signify my weakness in those areas. Was I the one who was missing the Kingdom?

It seemed like it to everyone else.

Then 2020 began. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. All of a sudden, the church is acting like George Floyd is the first black man to have ever been killed by the police. Now we’re hearing sermons on racial justice. Some pastors have begun saying “Black Lives Matter.” Church people have started protesting. White Christians are asking themselves hard questions about their own internal world, repenting before the Lord of their selfishness, racism, and passivity. These are all incredible things that I didn’t think we’d ever see. But George Floyd isn’t the first black man to have been killed by the police. Black men and women have been murdered by this country since 1619.

This has happened again and again.

It has never stopped.

We people of color have been crying out about this trauma, pain, fear, and injustice forever. We’re always silenced by the authority figures whether that’s the government or the church. We’re gaslit into believing that we’re imagining the racial injustice we see and experience every day. We’re taught that things would get better if only we were nicer, gentler, more understanding, and more patient with the white people who have their knees on our necks.

Their knees have never not been on our necks.

Every one of these aforementioned things is a form of spiritual and mental abuse and manipulation. The worst part of this is that the abuse comes from a place of ignorant delusion. A place of white supremacy. You can’t make people hear what they don’t want to hear. Jesus said that (Matthew 11:15).

I have to try and reconcile the fact that one year ago I was divisive and now I’m seen as a truth-teller and someone to seek guidance from regarding racial justice. I’m still seen as too loud and angry, but my words hold truth for some people. Many people still see me as a problem. Or if they don’t, they don’t speak encouraging words to me when people rise against me and my words.

Their silence signals their complicity.

Jesus said that if people refuse to hear you and receive your message, shake them off like the dust from your feet (Matthew 10:14). When you enter a new place, speak a blessing over that place. If the people there are peaceful, the blessing will stand. If not, the blessing will return to you (Luke 10:5-6).

When I arrived in Augusta, I spoke the truth of how we as Christians and Kingdom-minded people are to view each other and fight for justice. I spoke peace. The blessing stood in some places. It has returned to me in many cases. After two years of living here and continuing to speak up and prophesy, I admit that I have not been well-received by this city. I have been able to speak life into the lives of black women I have known here. Through my kindness, I have been able to tell them that I see them and I believe them. That has brought healing. Apart from them, white Augusta has not taken to me. White Augusta sees me as racist, angry, divisive, and flat-out wrong.

It’s time to shake them like the dust from my feet. I will leave and I will leave for my own mental and emotional health. I’m leaving so I can go to a place where I can learn with others who are chasing after the Kingdom in all ways. No longer will I keep screaming for my voice to be heard by people who do not want to hear it.

This is not my calling or my vocation.

I’m using the floor-level of my gifting while I could be exploring everything that God has made me to be.

It’s time to be released from this place, while being thankful for the lessons I’ve learned here.

I’m ready to go to a place where I can heal from the racism and gaslighting I’ve experienced in Augusta.

I deserve it.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

I’m Leaving Augusta—Here’s Why

Dear Readers,

Nina Simone once defined freedom as “no fear.” She, a talented musician and vocal Civil Rights activist, fled the U.S. and lived in Africa and France for a time. James Baldwin, another powerful Civil Rights activist, also moved to France to escape racism. It’s that spirit, that strong desire to live a full life and to be safe, that I feel as I write this.

I first came to Augusta in July 2018. I had recently arrived back in the United States after living in India for a few months, and I was living in New York (my home state) prior to that. It wasn’t my intention or desire to live in Georgia. In fact, my parents had previously offered for me to move down to Georgia to make a new start but I had vehemently refused them again and again. Why would I live in Georgia when New York City was my playground where I could freely run about and live it up with my girls?

When that fun life in New York City came to a close, I jetted off to India, determined to live anywhere but Georgia. After my time in India ended, I had nowhere else to go. I had to move to Georgia. So I did. I’m so grateful that I did, because I learned some hard lessons while here. God Himself brought me to Georgia, because there were lessons to be learned here that I could not learn anywhere else, because Augusta is like no other place. Having lived in NYC and the Deep South, I can honestly say that Augusta is a whole other world. It feels like an entirely different country down here, where many people are blatantly racist and woefully ignorant.

So why am I leaving Augusta if I’ve learned so much here? Simply put, my time of sitting and learning here is steadily coming to a close and Augusta is not a safe place for me as a brown woman. Who I’m meant to be, the work I’m called to do, and the life I want is impossible in Augusta.

I am a truth-teller, an anti-racist activist, and a reconciler. That is the work that God has called me to do and that is the person that the Holy Spirit has made me to be. I’m most passionate about working with vulnerable groups, people who’ve been told that their lives don’t matter, and people who come from deep and systemic brokenness. I have studied American history, learned about the racist and sexist systems in place in this country and around the world, and witnessed/experienced enough racism myself to know that it is alive and well in this country, and in the church. Our churches are deeply segregated. Most white people are unaware of this, because they see themselves as “just people.” Not as “white people.” They see themselves as the standard. They play only Bethel and Hillsong at church because that’s considered standard Christian music. I love Bethel’s music. (Their theology is a whole other story…) But, it’s not standard Christian music. It’s white Christian music. Whiteness is seen as the standard and anything that departs from whiteness is seen as “different”, “threatening”, “exotic”, “questionable”, or “not traditional.” Because, again, Western church tradition is understood to be white church tradition. It’s important here to differentiate between “whiteness” and white people, although there is often much overlap. Whiteness is a construction, a system of superiority that is grounded in the myth that race exists and that those who could be classified as “white” are masters. Whiteness is dominating, loud, controlling, silencing, and dangerous. White people are not inherently this way, but they have been taught by whiteness to behave as such when threatened (white fragility). White people are people who were born with the phenotype society has deemed “white” and so they are labeled in this way. They have been raised to believe they are superior because of their whiteness, which has created a horrific world for us PoC, but they themselves are not the problem. The demonic system of whiteness is the problem. The false teachings of whiteness are the problem.

Prior to coming to Augusta, I was filled with perpetual anger with white people. I didn’t differentiate between whiteness and white people. I was hurt by how I and my brothers and sisters of color have been treated throughout American history and in our present day. I hated white people. But by living in Augusta, I learned that it is imperative to have grace so long as I’m not being abused. Let me explain that. So often I’m told that I need to have grace for people who are racist in general and toward me. That looks like recognizing that they didn’t grow up around Black people, that they’re super old or super Southern, and that I should lament their brokenness and pray for them. Ok…but what about me? White people hurt me and I have to defer to them, offering grace upon grace while receiving no love in return? That sounds unhealthy. We don’t do this with other sins. If someone were verbally or emotionally abusive toward me, I’d hope I’d be told to sever the relationship and be safe. If a friend constantly lied to me or betrayed me in some way, I would not be that person’s friend. I’d pray that they heal and get the help they need, but I wouldn’t stay in community with them. We hear of pastors, worship leaders, and church members who are kicked out of community for sexual sin or greed. What about for unrepentant racism? Should we be staying in community with racist people who refuse to repent? How many times did the Apostle Paul tell us that if someone is sinning, and willfully remaining in sin, that they need to be removed from the community until they repent? (I Corinthians 5). That’s a hard word. Why doesn’t the church see racism as a sin, huh? Oh yeah, because many white people don’t believe that racism exists anymore and because it doesn’t affect them, it doesn’t matter to them.

I read once that you cannot have grace for both the abused and the abuser. One you show grace to. The other must be held accountable. Their actions cannot be waived away under the guise of “showing grace.” We don’t demonize them or curse them (which is showing grace), but we hold them accountable for their abuse. This is how it should be with white people and racism. I learned that I also have to take into account people’s genuine ignorance due to not growing up around people of color (and not caring enough to learn on their own about PoC), and being brainwashed by this false narrative that white is right and black, brown, Native, and Asian are “different” or “un-American.” Author Toni Morrison once said that racism seems crazy because it is crazy. To distrust or hate someone because of their skin color or cultural group is absurd. And yet, how quickly it is tolerated in this country, and especially in Southern places like Augusta. How quickly that way of thinking, that white is right and the safe standard, is actually fought for. People go insane for their defense of whiteness. We see people in the street with guns and masks (ironically), demanding that lower-wage workers (predominately PoC in this country) go back to work so that these good, hard-working, entitled white folks can get their hair and nails done. They won’t get sick because they’re working from home. PoC are unfortunately predominantly still in servant roles, and therefore the ones at risk of COVID-19. The white folks with guns and masks are fighting for their right to consume (peak Capitalism) and demanding that PoC go back to work for them, for their benefit, and for their use. As if we were nothing more than objects for their consumption.

This is whiteness at its peak.

This is the spirit that exists in Augusta, and every other place in the United States. However, in Augusta, it’s much more blatant and after moving here, I became angrier. I came to Augusta with so much anger and hatred already in my heart and I felt the sickness of hatred continue to gnaw at my spirit. It felt so heavy and I hated it. Through healthy and healing friendships with white people at my church, through my pastor’s help, through my Latina chaplain’s guidance, and through the Holy Spirit opening my heart to try and love white people, I am changed. I no longer hate white people at all. I lament that many white people are filled with hatred and distrust toward me and other people of color. I’m angry about their racism and tired of their nonsense. But I don’t hate them. It shows so much about a person’s heart if they are boldly racist and prejudiced. It tells me that, if they are a Christian, their theology is completely out of whack. It tells me that they have idols of white supremacy that they have not laid down and repented of. It tells me that they have not been regenerated all the way through. Racism is sin. We must call the beast what it is and forbid the tolerance of it we find in so many churches.

In white churches, racism is explained away with, “Well, that’s just how they were raised.” “It was a different time then.” “They didn’t grow up around a lot of Black people.” “That’s how Southerners are.” Readers, I don’t buy any of that. We live in a global age where all of the information we want and need is available with the click of a button or tap on a screen (if we have the Internet). Even if we don’t, news channels that are not Fox News speak openly about racial injustices in our modern age. We’ve all heard about the countless murders and lynchings of Black people throughout the ages. We’ve seen the footage of little Latino kids in cages. We know all of this already, unless we have hearts that are so hardened that we cannot see what we do not want to see. Hearts that are so full with white privilege that they do not care about black and brown people enough to get angry and stay angry. And no amount of preaching from me will do anything to change that. I can’t change anyone, not even myself. Only the Holy Spirit can change a person.

I can’t save white Augusta from themselves.

For a time, I believed that my calling while in Augusta (for however long that would be), was to openly speak about these issues and to prophetically call the white church to repentance and reconciliation with people of color. While I’ve been here, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I have written blog post after blog post, article after article, sermon after sermon about this. I had hoped that I’d be well-received because for me, anti-racist work is a natural part of the Gospel. It’s Kingdom work. To be a Christian means believing that race is a construction and has been used to oppress people not fortunate enough to be labeled “white.” To fight against it in our own hearts and in our churches. To simply speak the truth. But what did I find when I spoke up? What do I still find? I was consistently told that what I was saying was inconsistent with Kingdom work, that Kingdom people don’t see each other by our “race” but by the Christian label alone, and that I needed to understand that most people aren’t racist and they mean well. That race was an idol for me. That intentions are more important than impact. That’s a lie. I don’t know if this is the reason, but I stopped receiving invitations to some events and gatherings. I noticed that people would stiffen and look away when I’d speak about these issues. After a while, I didn’t feel safe sharing what God has shown me about this because I was afraid I’d be seen as too emotional, passionate, and contentious. And I was. Little did I know that I had garnered an unwanted reputation for myself. A white friend told me that I wasn’t seen as contentious, but I was seen as opinionated. This makes me laugh a little because are they not opinionated in their opinions about my opinions being wrong? Another white friend recently told me that I make people uncomfortable and that I am seen as very opinionated. But she encouraged me to keep speaking up and telling the truth because their discomfort has little to do with me and everything to do with the prejudice in their own hearts they don’t want to see. It’s as if my words hold up a mirror to their faces and they don’t like what’s reflected. So instead of pressing in and seeing where they may have prejudice, they tell me that I’m too opinionated, racist, angry, and divisive.

People don’t like prophets, that much is obvious and well-documented in the Bible. I know that I have a prophetic gift and I call the church to live in a higher way in this area. To imagine what could be if we all truly believed that every person was equally human and valuable. How much more effective and impactful could the church be if we truly believed that? No longer would our pews be segregated. We wouldn’t put white Christian music on a pedestal, essentially forbidding other cultural expressions of worship. We wouldn’t have all-white church leadership. We could openly talk about culture without fear of being mocked or appropriated. No one voice would supersede another’s. It would be beautiful. But no one likes to be told they’re wrong or sinning in some way, particularly if that sin is tolerated or even promoted in some churches. Anyone who speaks up is seen as divisive and a nuisance. They must be silenced and so the person is gaslighted into believing that they are too passionate, opinionated, and emotional (white Western intellectuals prefer logic over emotion). As if their understanding of anti-racist work is merely emotional and as if they haven’t studied and been trained by leaders in this work. They’re gaslighted into believing that this is all personal pain derived from their own personal bad experiences with individual racists, not that this is a legitimate systemic problem that is rooted into the fabric of our so-called Christian nation, and in most American churches.

This is who we have been and continue to be.

This is our legacy.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

My voice on these issues is praised by a handful of people here in Augusta, but silenced by others. I’ve heard horrific racist comments from people here. Augusta is an odd city because it is primarily white and Black, so Asian and Latino people are somewhat novel. A white coworker once said that Korean people eat dogs. She said that a white male coworker would never date a Black woman because he wasn’t hood or ghetto enough. She freely used the n-word and justified it by saying, “I didn’t say ‘n****r’, I said ‘n***a.” A white former supervisor dressed in a stereotypically Mexican “costume” for a Cinco de Mayo celebration at work, shook maracas, and yelled out “Hola! Hola!” A white friend told me that my fear and distrust of white men was the same thing that racist white people felt for people of color. Later we spoke about this and she apologized. But that reaction from her was so visceral, as if my fear (in response to how white men have behaved throughout history) equated to years and years of white supremacy and oppression. Random people have told me to go back to Mexico and that Trump would kick me out of the country. White friends have told me that they couldn’t handle all my “political” talk. I’ve been harassed and called racist for wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt. I’ve been harassed for speaking Spanish. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been told, “All lives matter.”

This is abuse. This is trauma. These wounds don’t simply go away with time. They aren’t merely a personal pain either, although personal pain is valid pain and is enough to say there is a problem here. This is a systemic issue, where white is right and anything that deviates from whiteness is questionable and dangerous. This is how it is here. After two years of living here, I don’t believe that this fight is my fight. One of my white friends told me that maybe I’m meant to be a missionary to the white church, to help them unlearn racist thought patterns and behaviors. For a time, I thought she was right. And maybe some people are called to the white church, but I don’t believe I am. My heart, passion, skills, and talents have always been directed toward vulnerable groups like women, children, PoC, and the poor. Am I to ignore my own people groups to focus on white people alone? By giving all of my time and attention to teaching white people (without being paid, by the way), what time would I have for helping PoC, women, and children? I wouldn’t have any and would find myself screaming into the void, begging for my voice to be heard by a group that doesn’t really care for it. My voice is not usually wanted nor heard by white people as a group. I am called to individual white people, as I am called to any person, to help them with their pain and to love them, and to the oppressed groups mentioned above. I will not spend my life trying to get white Southern people who’ve already heard the Gospel to see that racism is real and that it is alive in the church. I don’t believe my life will be best spent in that way. I want to do what I’ve always done and have been fashioned for: loving oppressed people and showing them that their lives matter. That they aren’t alone. Will white women, men, and children be in those oppressed groups? Yes, but not because they are white. They’ll be there because of their gender, age, or economic status. Not their color. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I would never deny counsel or comfort to a person because of their color. But, I do not believe that my life should be spent in service to the white church, waiting and hoping they will listen to me and see the light. I want to love and serve the entire world. In the white church, my voice is not seen as trustworthy. But white voices are and they must speak.

To my white friends who are anti-racist activists like myself, recognize that your voice carries much more weight in white spaces than mine does or ever will. There are some white spaces where I would be outright forbidden. Fellow white people will see you as enlightened. They, as a group, see me as contentious and dramatic. So I implore and commission my white anti-racist friends to lead the fight in white spaces. Speak to your people and let them know the truth. Because it’s not my job, as a person of color, to hold white people’s hands and teach them about racism. One of my Black friends recently told me, “Gabby. You can’t teach white people about racism. How can you? They invented it.”

Let that sink in.

It’s not my job to constantly share my painful stories, reliving terrifying moments, and lay it all out there day after day in the name of “educating white people.” Most of the time, no one learns anything. All that happens is that I, and other people of color, continue to suffer emotionally and mentally, as we’re made to share our stories for the sake of white learning and growth. Still, in this we are considered tools or objects for consumption, for white people’s self-improvement. Self-improvement is not the goal. It’s not about you. My job isn’t to save white people from the terrifying demon of white supremacy. My job is to live into the life that God has for me, and to continue to become the woman He has fashioned me to be.

Augusta is a very racist city. Throughout the past few months, I’ve begun to think deeper about whether or not I can really thrive in a place where my voice is not usually wanted, where people of color suffer racism on the regular, and where the conversation around race has been stuck at a pre-school level. Augusta is at the “Wait, it’s okay to talk about race?” level. They’re at the, “Saying ‘Black’ isn’t racist?” level. They’re at that level. I’m not. I want to be a part of a community that is actively fighting against racism in the church. A community that openly speaks about racism, that dares to use the word, but doesn’t stop at talking. A community that takes steps to ensure that diversity and inclusion are fundamental to their understanding of the Gospel. A community that intentionally rejects the “white is right” belief that is so prevalent in many churches. I’m far beyond the pre-school level of discourse and I refuse to continually have that same conversation while being told that I’m contentious and divisive. I am not meant to cast my pearls before swine over and over again, using the bare minimum of my gifts when there’s an opportunity elsewhere to flex all of the spiritual gifts God has given me. I want to live in a place where I can thrive, where I can speak Spanish without fear, where I can be around Asians, Native folks, Black people, other Latin people, and white people. Where we can live together, or at the very least, go to church together. Where I can sing in Spanish, Korean, Hindi, Tagalog, and Shona during worship. Where Bethel isn’t the only music permitted. Where PoC and women can fully flex their gifting and calling. That’s what I want. I can’t have that in Augusta and so I will leave, shaking them like the dust from my feet.

The secondary reason for my move is that Augusta is not a place where you can make a living unless you’re in the medical field, military, or education field. Augusta has a horrendous job market. There are few jobs here and the ones they do have pay very little. The most I’ve been offered for a full-time position here has been $13 an hour. That’s less than the minimum wage in New York. Rarely do you find full medical benefits. These things are seen as luxuries. It has been impossible to build a life here where I don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck. I want a life where I can live comfortably, save for a family, pay off my debt, and have enough to bless others.

For all of these reasons, I’ve decided that I am going to carefully and intentionally plan a move to California, where I can attend my seminary’s classes on Fuller’s campus (after ‘Rona calms down a little) and grow from the mentors and training available to on-campus students. There’s just no reason for me to live here and attend classes online. I do not have anything keeping me here, like a great job, a ministry position, or a boyfriend. I admit I have considered this once before and have hoped during these past several months for a reason to stay, but I can’t find even one.

So over the next few months, I’m going to plan my move to California. Should the Lord, during that time, present me with a reason to stay, I’ll gladly stay. I just want to follow Jesus and be where I can thrive and grow, and Augusta isn’t that place for me. I’ve given it two years and it’s just not working. I want to feel safe in my brown skin and as a woman. Augusta is not safe for someone like me. Georgia has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. I’m almost 30. I have to think, “Is it even safe to try and make a life here when WoC die during childbirth at higher rates here than anywhere else in the country?”

These are the things WoC have to consider.

We’ll see what the Lord does. Our God is a God of migration. His voice calls people to up and leave their comfort and homes, going where He calls because He continually does new things. I don’t hate Augusta. It’s just not my home. It’s where God called me for a time, but I know that I’m made for so much more. While I’ve been here, through my pastor’s teaching and love, and through the love of so many wonderful church friends, I’ve unlearned bad theology about suffering and learned good theology about so many things. I’ve healed a lot. I’ve been questioned and challenged, which has led to a lot of personal and spiritual growth, as well as deep, deep pain.

I’ve been lambasted and hurt by a lot of white people here.

I’ve been loved and cared for by beautiful people here.

Augusta, flawed as she is, has oddly been like a hospital to me, where I needed to come to catch my breath, heal, and be put back together.

But we don’t stay in the hospital forever.

We’re discharged out into the world again.

And I’m ready to go.

It’s not a matter of if God’s voice will call me to migrate, but when.

That is what I’m discerning.

This is my prayer:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior” – Oceans by Hillsong

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

My 2014 Baptism and the Ensuing Spiritual Warfare

Readers,

While discussing spiritual warfare with my chaplain a couple of weeks ago, I began to reflect on my spiritual experiences after my baptism. And through her encouragement and insight, I realized a couple of things:

  1. Satan is terrified of the powerful woman of God that I am and will continue to become.
  2. Satan has no new tricks. He’ll continue to use the same tactics over and over again, so it’s important to learn them so we can shut them down.
  3. If Satan attacked Jesus at every possible opportunity, no doubt he will attack you, too.

In Matthew 4:1-11, we read an account of Jesus’ life post-baptism by John the Baptist, where He is tested and tempted in the wilderness for 40 days:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God

Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”

 Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

There is so much to unpack from this Scripture, about how Jesus showcases His humanity by responding that men are meant for more than physical food. Jesus is God. Jesus is man. Yet while Jesus is God, on Earth He was still susceptible to attacks from the enemy, from physical hunger, tiredness, loneliness, betrayal, and thirst. As a man, He was susceptible to desires for greatness on His own terms, like we all are. How many times a day do I have to remind myself that my life is God’s and that His will is better than mine?

I have to remember that He must increase and I must decrease.

Satan used three tactics to tempt Jesus into giving up His life’s purpose:

  1. Physical Hunger-This weakens our thinking and can force people to do all manner of things which they’d never do on a full stomach. I’ve had friends who’ve gone on dates just so they could eat dinner that day. When you’re desperate for your daily bread, whatever that is to you, you’re liable to behave irrationally and out of character. Satan knew this about humans. As ruler of this world, he had studied our nature quite well and knew what points to hit in Jesus’ humanity. Jesus responds that as a man, He gets His sustenance from God’s word.
  2. Throwing Himself Down(This is how I and my chaplain have interpreted this part of the temptations, in this particular context, but it’s not necessarily the only way to interpret it) It doesn’t surprise me that after Jesus has been quite hungry for a few weeks, and after dealing with Satan constantly bothering Him, that Satan would choose this moment to tempt Jesus to test God by essentially attempting suicide. By telling Jesus to throw Himself, if the Father didn’t save Him, He would’ve died. Either way, it’s unacceptable to test God in this way. I’ve known people who have thought that they could attempt suicide and God would stop their hand. This is dangerous. It’s at our lowest that we can even entertain this, because deep down we want life, and Satan came at this particular moment to possibly try and make Jesus die before His preordained time, effectively canceling the beautiful work that Jesus was meant to do on the cross. If God saved Him, Jesus would have sinned by testing God. If He didn’t, Jesus would be dead. Jesus responded that testing God is a sin. He is not to be tested nor is the Father to be tried in this way. Satan tried to misuse Scripture to lead Jesus astray, as so many people do, but Jesus knew Scripture, too and used it to fight.
  3. Worshiping Satan-Those who feel as if they have no power or control of their lives will give it over to someone else who can give them a sense of purpose. We sell our souls to our jobs and do unspeakable things for more money. We worship the way we look, paying more than most people make in their entire lifetimes to look like the latest hot celebrity. We worship our romantic partners, giving them free reign over our lives, thereby being vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment. Satan wanted Jesus to worship him. Through this worship, Jesus would rule the world. But Jesus was already meant to rule everything, at the time preordained by God. Satan wanted Jesus to bypass the painful parts of His journey on Earth, completely skip the cross, and cheat His way to a kingdom, through demonic means. Jesus rebukes Satan and remarks that God alone is to be worshiped. He is both God and man. He is to be worshiped and He worships the Father. This is a beautifully mysterious thing.

A couple of thousands of years later, Satan used these exact tactics on me after I was baptized in the summer of 2014. I was 20 years old, almost 21, and felt very grown up. I was looking forward to taking this next step in my walk with Christ. In the days leading up to my baptism, I was excited, like a bride on her wedding day. I was giddy at the prospect of performing this special sacrament and being obedient to Jesus in this way. I was curious to see how my life would change after my baptism, as I’d heard stories of people experiencing healing, gaining new spiritual gifts, or deeper spiritual insight after their baptism. My friends were traveling a couple of hours for the occasion, and my father would join us at the church, although at that time he was not a Christian and was not comfortable with what I was doing.

Everything seemed to be exactly as it should.

On the day of my baptism, my wonderful pastor, Pastor Torrey, gave me space and time to read my 5-page long testimony, single-spaced, and I used that opportunity to speak to my father and other non-Christians sitting in the pews, who did not know this Jesus I was so in love with. I used it to speak up about depression and suicidal thoughts, about how the Christian life isn’t a series of constant highs but a relationship like any other that requires work and has seasons of dryness, and about how God had used my Christian community in college to bring me to the place where I even wanted to be baptized at all. It was beautiful and profound. Parishioners remarked to my parents afterward that they had never heard a 20-year old speak or write so eloquently and powerfully and that this was certainly a way that God was going to use me for the Kingdom in the future.

I was ready for this new chapter of my life.

Pastor Torrey asked me a series of three short questions and after I responded “Yes!” to all of them, he held me and dipped me back into the baptistery. As I came out of the water, I felt this incredible warmth all over me, coming from inside and outside, spilling over and filling me. I felt at peace for the first time in my life and could not stop smiling and crying. The Holy Spirit had appeared to me as a dove, hovering over me, and I kept feeling that Jesus was smiling and saying, “Good job, little one. I’m so proud of you.” Afterward, my friends and I went to the beach, cooked good Puerto Rican food, and watched movies. Life was great.

The next morning ushered in a new normal which I had not been prepared for. I did not expect it and so when I tried to handle it on my own, I felt overwhelmed. If I dared speak about it with my Christian peers at college, I felt crazy. Satan had come at me hard, with everything he had, to destroy me and my life’s purpose. I have not ever turned stones into bread, although I totally believe that if it came down to that, the Holy Spirit could perform that miracle through me. So if Satan had told me to do that, it wouldn’t have made sense and I wouldn’t have fallen for his lies. He chose instead, knowing my nature as Gabrielle, to choose the latter two temptations to kill me.

From that morning on, for probably around 40 days, Satan told me to kill myself. Every single day, he told me to kill myself. I thought this was my old depression creeping up after four years of freedom. I didn’t recognize it as a tactic that Satan had used on Jesus after His baptism. So I began to become depressed, believing that I’ll never truly be free of my mental health issues, and lamenting that I was powerless to overcome the enemy. I didn’t know that God had given me His strength. I didn’t know that Satan had already been defeated. That God fought and fights for me. I knew so many people who had problematic theology surrounding spiritual warfare and thought, “Well, if this is spiritual warfare, I’m doomed. It’s best to brace myself for the attacks and just pray they go away. Satan will never stop attacking me.”

That last bit is true. Satan will never stop attacking me, but it’s not because I’m unworthy or lacking in some area, but because I am a powerful woman of God. I am a powerful woman of God who has a past, who deals with unhealthy habits in messy ways sometimes, who doesn’t know how to navigate adult friendships and romantic relationships after experiencing so much pain, and who doesn’t know where God wants her to go or what specifically He wants her to do or when. But, I know God. I love Him and believe that He is good. That He wants to redeem people for heaven but that He also wants to redeem people for living into the Kingdom right now. And if you can get people to hope that their life could become whole before heaven, that’s dangerous. That makes you susceptible to attacks. Satan likes a sleepy church that longs for the afterlife so that we’re essentially useless right now in the battlefield we live in.

When Satan noticed that I wasn’t killing myself, he began to shift his attack. Suddenly I was consumed by thoughts of worshiping Satan. This is something I have hardly shared with others because I know how it sounds to your average Christian person. Or to any person. It sounds absolutely insane. And I had dealt with mental health issues before, so was I indeed going crazy? Or was this Satan using another tactic he used on Jesus on me, too? I am a spiritually sensitive woman, and I can detect when something is not quite right in the atmosphere. I felt these attacks as a thick, cloud of darkness hovering over me. I felt the enemy creeping on my back, breathing down my neck, and desperately trying to murder me. At this point, I do want to say that there is a name for this experience: Scrupulosity. It’s a type of OCD that targets the religious life of a person. There is a fuzzy line between Scrupulosity and demonic attacks, so please do speak with a mental health professional should you find yourself encountering constant obsessive thoughts. I’m of the opinion that mental illness and demonic attack can occur simultaneously, but that there are mental health issues which are purely due to chemical imbalances and the brokenness we experience in this life. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

The temptation to worship the devil ran throughout my mind all day, just like the previous temptation to suicide had. It felt like obsessive thoughts that I could not control. I’d attempt to control them but they just kept running. At this point, I knew it wasn’t me. It was something else, something sinister sent to torment me. It felt like it was coming in from the outside, if you can picture that. Again, I didn’t know why this was happening or how I could be free from this. I chalked it up to my failings as a person and as a Christian, but six years later I am able to see that Satan was just doing to me what he did to Jesus. And in an odd way, that says something profound about me.

What about me is so threatening to the enemy of my soul and yours that he would pull out the big guns to try and bring me down with him?

What do I have that makes me dangerous to the kingdom of darkness?

I’m still figuring that out. At this point in my life, I think it’s an ever-present hope in God, no matter how small at times. It’s compassionate, deep love for my fellow human. It’s great openness to the differences that we have. And it’s a primal belief that every person matters. That’s a belief I’m willing to risk ridicule and reputation on. Let them say I’m too opinionated, too focused on justice, too angry, or too loud. That I make people uncomfortable by speaking prophetically. God wants me to speak and I will not be silenced, because as soon as humans figure out that we are all worthy of the same love and respect regardless of our color, disability, age, sex, status, education, or appearance, we will have won a big part of the battle that keeps raging, that keeps the church at odds with each other and ineffective against the kingdom of darkness and a world that’s crying out for redemption.

Eventually, after trying to handle this on my own, I knew I needed help. I e-mailed Pastor Torrey who, bless his heart, didn’t see the e-mail until months later. But when I received his response, I was encouraged. I began to see that these attacks had nothing to do with the weak parts of me, like my issues with depression and suicidal thoughts as a teenager. These attacks had everything to do with the woman that God is shaping me to be, and the great potential that I have to make a difference in someone’s life. Satan chose to use the parts of me that I was ashamed of to make me think that I had no future. While this experience was traumatic, painful, isolating, and scary, looking back as a woman who is about to be in her late-twenties, a woman who has experienced so much life throughout the past six years, I can say that I am grateful that God trusts me enough and believes in me enough to have let Satan sift me like wheat. Through this experience, by peeling back the layers of what Satan said to me, when he said it, how it made me feel, and what God had to say about me, my fear of Satan has diminished.

A few months later, as I began a new semester at school, I became a Bible study leader specifically for seekers. I led three people to faith. I helped a new believer in her battle with suicidal thoughts and how to submit her same-sex attraction to God’s loving care. I mentored a wonderful college freshman who needed to unlearn purity and rape culture. I reached so many people with the Gospel message, from various religious backgrounds, and experienced a lot of demonic backlash. I began having nightmares that seemed so real, where the enemy was coming after me. But at this point, I wasn’t afraid, because I already knew that he could not do anything to me. I took it as confirmation that I was doing the right thing. But be careful not to seek confirmation in this way. That’s a dangerous thing.

Prior to this experience, I was deeply scared of Satan and demons as I think most people are, even Christians. Although we know in our brains that we have the power to shut this stuff down, when faced with this unseen darkness that suddenly appears as a demon speaking through our family member or obsessive thoughts that try to get you to die, we shake in our boots. We don’t know what to do. Since then, since I’ve seen Satan for what he is, which is mostly a pest who torments us in the same exact ways over and over again, I am not afraid. The following year, summer 2015, I embarked on a two-month trip to India. It was my first time overseas and I was going alone to stay with a team of college students whom I had never met. I did not know what my living conditions would be. I didn’t know the people who were supposed to keep me safe. I knew nothing. I knew that I was going to India and that was enough for me. A few days before leaving, I received an onslaught of attacks from the devil. But this time, I knew his tactics. He spoke through a family member who cursed me and cursed India, telling me that I was going to be assaulted and violated and that my work in India would come to nothing. So I immediately knew that God would do something great in me while I was there. A classmate I hardly knew told me that I had a mental illness because I loved Indian culture and connected with it more than I did my Puerto Rican culture at the time. So I figured that my ability to move between cultures would deeply benefit me as I served Indians. I was able to see that these attacks had nothing to do with anything negative about me, but everything to do with what Satan was afraid I was capable of through God’s Spirit. He was afraid of the good things I would do in India and how I would grow and change through the experience. So, unafraid, I shut that down.

Over the past few years, I’ve had friends come to me when they experience spiritual warfare. When they get random thoughts in their heads that they’re going to die or that they won’t make anything of themselves. And I teach them to shut that down. I remember one morning, a friend I had made in India, a sweet teenage boy who was like my little brother, texted me about his irrational fear of dying that he began experiencing when he led worship at church. I helped him through it, explained a bit of spiritual warfare to him, and prayed with him. It was night-time in India, so he went to sleep and it was quite early in the U.S., so I went back to sleep. As I drifted off, I began hearing a cacophony of voices in my ear, high-pitched, sharp, flat, gurgling, low, growling voices in my ear. They yelled at me. And they all said one thing at the same time: “GO TO HELL!” So I picked my head up off the pillow, looked around the room, and said, “In Jesus’ name, you go to hell. You go back to hell!” I went back to sleep. I’ve had this experience another time, when I was feeling particularly low about myself, and I heard that same cacophony of voices in my ear, this time yelling at me, and then saying, “You’re a whore!” I responded with “That’s a lie. I’m a beloved daughter of God. In Jesus’ name, go back to hell.”

Readers, I truly hope that what you glean from this piece is not that fighting Satan is fun or exciting or something to be desired. I do not recommend seeking out demons or becoming obsessed with them. I think that’s a dark thing that gives me pause when I hear some folks tell me about their experiences with it. I used to envy my Christian friends who had no experience with spiritual warfare and the darkness that exists around us. I longed for that innocence. But, as I grow in Christ, as I see the things that He has called me to do, the dark places that I have walked for Him, I see that there is no way I could have done any of that if I had not been trained in this way. On the mission field, there is much darkness, and what use would I be if I were scared of Satan and had no idea what to do when a demon presents itself? My chaplain told me that God prepares us for the positions we are meant to have. Therefore everyone has different training. This has been a part of my training and I’m grateful to no longer live in fear of the enemy and to firmly be confident in my ability, through the Holy Spirit in me, to deal with spiritual warfare as is appropriate.

Ephesians 6:10-20 gives us the blueprint for standing firm in our identity as Christ-followers, because that’s what the enemy attacks: our identity. If he can get us to doubt who we are, he’s already gotten a big foothold in our lives. This is why we need others to remind us who we are as we continue to fight, always recognizing that Satan has already been defeated.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

If you’re experiencing spiritual warfare, you are not alone. You have power in and through Christ. You can shut it down! Do not feel ashamed. Speak to your pastor or small group leader. Speak to me. And be at peace. You will survive and then thrive. God is with you.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Spiritual Consequences of Habitual Sin

Readers,

As someone who has recently come out of a habitual sin practice that was steadily killing my soul and my calling, I have a stern warning to issue.

If you continue in habitual sin, you are forfeiting your destiny and possibly your very soul. It will be difficult for you to hear God speak when you ask Him about your calling or how He’s working and you will find it hard to focus on anything other than your sin. You will tip-toe into His presence constantly aware that you are living in sin. You’ll feel that consistent tug to repent, to turn back to God and away from your sin, but you’ll find it nearly impossible to do so. You’ve become so accustomed to your sin being a part of your daily life that you can’t imagine life without it. You hardly remember what it felt like to be close with God, to hear His voice speak through the ceaseless thoughts in your brain, and to feel His tangible presence with you throughout the day.

You wonder if you’re a Christian anymore; if you’re saved anymore.

You talk to friends about it but people don’t really like to talk about that type of sin too much. They encourage you to submit it to God and walk it out, but what does that even mean? You stop talking about it because you don’t think they understand. You wonder if they even know what submitting something to God looks like. It’s a nice Christian phrase, but do we actually know what it means? It’s not a one-and-done thing. “Okay, God, here’s my sin! I’ve submitted it for Your taking! Thanks for taking it. Ok, bye!” It doesn’t work like that.

Submitting your sin requires you to be aware that your sin is sin, to confess it to God and others, and to consistently turn to God when you find yourself tempted. It’s quite literally walking out the faith that you have, even if you don’t feel strong enough. It’s human nature to do what feels good and to find ways to justify it in our brains. You can find Christians who’ve published works about why sex before marriage is okay, why masturbation is healthy, why recreational drug use is relaxing, etc. You can find someone who will interpret Scripture in such a way as to justify their sin, and then they’ll impart that false claim onto you. You, a wounded warrior who is hungry for something to tell you that you’re okay doing that thing that you feel like maybe you shouldn’t be doing.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit inside of you, and the Spirit will continually call you to repentance. So while you’re involved in this habitual sin practice, you’ll feel that inward nudge from the Spirit and think “Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this thing after all.” Of course the enemy of your soul wants you to continue in sin, so he will lead you to justify it again and again. The cycle continues.

For me, the cycle began to break when I told my chaplain about it. After 8 years of feeling as if I was in bondage to sexual sin, I had finally had enough. I had gotten to the point where I could recognize that if I continued in this way, I would miss out on the gloriously redeemed life that Christ has for me, and there was a possibility I’d miss out on being in His presence for all eternity.

That frightened me. I confessed to my chaplain, who loved me and told me that my coping skills at 18 (which were to act out sexually), were understandable for someone who was experiencing the deep trauma that I was. My father had just left. My aunt had died. I was transitioning from childhood to adulthood. I needed to cope. And it felt good, for a time. It wasn’t healthy, but it was understandable. She didn’t shame or condemn me and she simply said that the skills that worked for 18-year old Gabrielle no longer serve 26-year old Gabrielle.

The way that she showed me deep kindness and grace set me free from feeling ashamed of my sexual sin. I spent time with the Lord not too long after that and asked Him to speak to me. He told me “I John 3:20” and I remember wondering if I John 3 even had twenty verses; that’s how long I had not read my Bible. I picked it up, flipped to that little book in the back, and read this:

“Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and He knows everything.” (NLT)

I cried and thanked God for His mercy and understanding; that He knew the pain and trauma behind my acting out sexually, and that He did not condemn me for my brokenness.

The path to wholeness did not end there. When your body has become accustomed to something, it wants it, whether that’s Chick-fil-A, alcohol, marijuana, or sexual release. After falling and feeling worthless a few more times, I began to invite God into this part of me. I asked Him why I was acting out sexually. He showed me what my triggers were. I asked Him why these things triggered me. He told me about previously silenced pain from my past. Every day I’d ask Him for the strength to say no, not merely because I wanted to modify my behavior, but because I wanted to be healed all the way through. I wanted to know Him completely. I wanted exactly the life that He had for me, and nothing less. I wanted to honor Him with every part of me. That desire for Him and for the future that He holds is what keeps me on this path toward wholeness.

I mark off the days, congratulate myself on one week, two weeks, three weeks sober and listen to my body when it starts to cry out. When I feel that my body is awakening in that way, rather than feel guilty for natural feelings of arousal and desire, I take them to God, let Him know exactly what I’m feeling and wanting, IN DETAIL (this helps me take power and shame away from my feelings), and I take my mind off of it. I’ll go for a walk, take a shower, cook something, watch Call the Midwife (seeing a ton of women give birth with no pain relief will really put you off of wanting sex), read a book, talk to a friend, or cuddle with my dog. These things help, but what keeps me going is not that I want to follow a strict set of rules (I have a big spirit of rebellion that I’m letting God deal with), but rather that I want that good life that He has! That’s my life, my true life! And I’m going to miss that for what? Something that feels good for ten minutes but strips me further and further away from my God every time? No, thanks.

Lately I’ve been hearing God’s voice in clearer and clearer ways. He speaks to the things my heart wonders about: vocation, marriage, children, mental health, and family. I’m much less jittery and angry now. Much less offended by things. I was dead before, but now experience God bringing up parts of me that He wants to heal, parts I could not see before because of my sin. Before I could hear nothing but condemnation from myself and the enemy. Now I hear nothing but love, grace, and the challenge to keep chasing after the life I want with the God I love, and who loves me.

The best thing that I can recommend for you if you’re in a similar situation, is to tell someone. Especially if sin has its hook deep in you, because often you will feel unable to connect with God and confess it to Him. You’ve probably forgotten what His voice sounds like and so you may confuse feelings of condemnation with God. God doesn’t condemn, but He does judge righteously, and He wants the best for you. So please tell someone who will not be shocked and unsure what to say. This means that it’s best for you to speak with a spiritual leader: pastor, youth leader, Bible study leader, chaplain, etc. Any one of these people will be able to help you. I’m not going to pretend that every spiritual leader will respond with the grace and understanding that my chaplain has for me. Not everyone will. If they do respond with condemnation and shame, they’re wrong and you need to find someone else.

Remember that this journey toward sobriety is a daily one. You will have to deal with this for quite some time, possibly forever. I’m sorry to say that, but of course God can completely heal this in an instant. If He will use this as part of your ministry is another thing. That involves discernment and you can figure that out later. Right now, your focus is on getting well and staying sober. As you continue to fight for your sobriety, focus on doing it for the RIGHT reasons, after you allow God to show you what those reasons are.

Please write down somewhere you can see every day that shame is a liar and it can go back to hell where it belongs. Shame has no hold on you anymore. Check out this wonderfully merciful story about Jesus:

John 8:1-11 (NLT)

A Woman Caught in Adultery

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

So what are you waiting for? Your whole life awaits you! Please, run to Jesus and your spiritual leaders, and then go out into the world and sin no more.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Grief Travels with You

Readers,

As I grow in Christ, in healthier theology, and in freedom, I am becoming increasingly aware that grief travels with you. It doesn’t entirely evaporate after a fixed amount of time, like many preach. There can always be a part of you that twinges with sadness when you remember that person who is no longer with us, when you think about when you were assaulted, or when a certain smell, sound, sight, or even temperature reminds you of a painful memory.

Yes, I said temperature. During the summer of 2009, I began to experience a deep depression and overwhelming levels of anxiety. These issues would tend to retreat to the back of my mind when autumn rolled around, because I could occupy my time with school. I didn’t have time to be depressed when I had papers to write. Yet every year, like clockwork, as the temperature would rise, so would my anxiety and depression. I’d remember how I felt during the summer of 2009 and begin to fear that I’d fall back into my mental health struggles. My body associated warm weather with mental and emotional pain and as I experienced this, I would become nauseous.

It had been several years since I had dealt with this association. I had absolutely experienced depression since then, specifically in 2017, the worst year of my life. But I had long forgotten about how it felt to feel that warm weather arise, notice my schedule lighten, and feel the fear of suffering yet again. Just the other day, it was rather warm outside and inside, as I was cooking something in the oven. I was also hungry and on antibiotics which caused nausea. Out of nowhere, I felt transported back into that exact feeling from 2009, hot and nauseous, and I began to fear the same fear: that I’d lose my mind. I felt like a 15-year old girl again, powerless and vulnerable to mental darkness and the enemy of our souls.

Instead of letting this fear grow in me in isolation, which is one of Satan’s tactics, I immediately told my mother about it. She assured me that I wouldn’t lose my mind and that I won’t go back to suffering like I did in 2009. Typically, I don’t need help processing anything. If someone gives me space to talk, I can free associate and come to a solution on my own. I just need that space. I began to allow this stream of consciousness to flow out of me. I spoke about how God gave me a dream a few weeks ago that showed I would birth new life on April 8th, the first day of Passover. I mentioned how I’ve been experiencing breakthrough after breakthrough throughout the past couple of months. I remarked how I’ve been intentional in spending a lot of time with the Lord, and how I’ve been repenting of unhealthy, habitual sin practices that have hindered me for about 8 years. I declared a word that the Lord spoke to me around this time last year, that the enemy will continually try and drag me back to the darkness, by bringing up old things from my past. The Lord said that the past is over now; it’s done. That Satan will try and get me to commit suicide throughout my life, but that it won’t work. I will not die. God said that I am meant to live, not die. I will live. And I will do great things!

Then I felt better because I had the Lord’s truth about Himself and my life to cling to. I no longer felt powerless and vulnerable. I still have those painful memories of suffering as a 15-year old, and suffering again as a 23-year old dealing with a depression so dark that I thought suicide would be my fate.

Those memories sting me and the Lord continues to set me free.

These two things co-exist in me, and I think that’s normal and to be expected. It’s very human. We rejoice in Christ and in His goodness and at the same time we are humans who experience pain throughout this life. Healing is a long, arduous process, with pockets of pain and seasons of sweet release. God sits with us through it all. Our pain does not scare Him. Jesus experienced deep pain at the human condition, He wept when Lazarus died, and His anxiety concerning His pending crucifixion was so strong that He sweat blood while praying to His Father.

Jesus is fully human and fully divine and lived life right alongside us.

Friends, be encouraged. You are not alone in your pain. There is no timeline on healing. You heal when you heal. I encourage you to ensure that you’re in constant communion with God, in deep community with others, and that you learn a healthy amount of theologically-sound spiritual warfare. This can be a lifelong battle for you. But remember that God is God and does not operate in ways we understand sometimes. He could absolutely heal you completely in a moment and erase the stinging memories. Just don’t feel abnormal or wrong or even in sin if that hasn’t happened to you.

See what Jesus wants to do with your healing and participate in it.

You may always write to me if you need someone to listen and pray. Or even just to listen. I’m here.

Please call this number if you need. They also have an online chat:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

Blessings,


Gabrielle G.