Twitter has introduced me to many cool people, but none perhaps as cool as Tamara. Through the too few, too brief exchanges we have had, we've discovered we're quite a bit alike. So much so that were we ever to sit down in real life over a few drinks, we'd bug the snot out of anyone who was within a ninety-mile radius of us because we'd be utterly, annoyingly, brilliantly, obnoxiously loud. And we'd love it.
Recently, she wrote an amazing, gut-wrenching piece over at Deeper Story, which set afire the heats and keyboards of a number of readers. I encourage you to go read her story first, then come back for my feeble response.
What’s a girl [or woman] worth? and Have you ever struggled to believe what you’re worth when God and the world disagree?
The answer to the second question is obscenely easy: only every stinking day of my life. The answer to the first question is a therapy session.
Coming from a home where more often then not my parents dragged me kicking, screaming, and wearing uncomfortable shoes to church, it was hammered into my skull that we are all children of God. We all have worth and value. Yes, we're all foul sinners who deserve damnation and hell (a great lesson for any ten-year-old) but Jesus still loves all the children of the world. We won't debate here if that was in fact lived out in how people acted, but it makes for a nice idea.
We later learned in youth group that Jesus wants boys to be sexually repressed nigh-androgynous men who should celebrate our manhood but not in a way that reflects we have "those" urges. We were told to respect women, to honor them...but that was it. Hold them at arm's and heart's length, else we fall into temptation to, like, touch their boobs. Guard your heart, your mind, and your junk.
We were taught your worth wasn't worth the risk of opening our hearts for fear of opening our pants in the process.
This was just GREAT for me, since I already was the perennial "big brother;" you know - the guy that girls invited over to play Nintendo with in high school, in your room, with the door closed, while you talked about your boy problems. While you talked about why you couldn't find any good guys. Why all they were interested in was your body and not the sum of who you were, why you kept going back to the jerks, the jocks, the same old same old when all you wanted was to meet someone nice - "You know, someone like you, only someone I'd date." - for a change.
And so I was taught your worth was greater than mine, because I could never be worthy of you.
This mentality carried with me into college, where I suddenly, inexplicably (to me), became desirable. I was "cute." I was interesting. I was fun to be around. I was also suddenly thrown neck and groin deep into situations I was unprepared for emotionally, physically and sure as hell wasn't spiritually prepared for. You anticipated and expected way more than my zero-experienced self did. And when we began to cross boundaries...you expressed regret. Remorse. I went from being the guy you wanted to be with to the guy you felt the need to repent of. With me. And so the guilt of me not honoring you in the way I thought I was supposed to was compounded with the questioning of was I still not good enough, like all those other guys...?
And so I was led to believe that your worth was variable, contingent upon the lesser value of me.
I held this belief through my young adulthood. It made me subservient, compromising myself, acquiescing to requests, demands, and conditions placed upon our relationships...because I was afraid. I was afraid that since I had never seen you as a gender express that I held worth to you, I would lose you. And when I wasn't enough, simply at times because I questioned myself or the "us" that we were, I was seen as weak. Unstable. And fit only for discarding because a stronger, more stable man was around the corner.
And because I had devalued myself, I began to devalue you as well.
But the boy in me - that scared dreamer who still held faith - would not let me fall far. He held out hope. He screamed for justice. And eventually he stood outside of a wedding chapel on May 26, 2007 and felt years of shame, regret, remorse, and pain wash away as he wept openly in the presence of his friend who was about to perform his wedding ceremony, joining him with Ashley. Because he had lived for so long under the crushing fear of thinking he could never or would ever deserve to be happy in his life. That he had no right to ever be happy. That he could never or would never find anyone who loved him, or who thought his worth was more than simply what they could bring to her.
What's a girl [or woman] worth?
Everything. Every risk.
At least mine is.
And so, so, so much more.