“Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. This is what your Sovereign Lord says, your God, who defends his people: See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, Fall prostrate that we may walk on you. And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on. Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive” (Isaiah 51:21 – 52:2 NIV).
Several weeks ago, God laid it on my heart that I am not a widow anymore.
I have long identified with the woman of Isaiah 54 – a widow. Some of the words used to describe her? Barren, childless, deserted, distressed, rejected, afflicted, lashed by storms, comfortless. In the days of the prophet Isaiah, widowhood was shameful, a reproach, a sign to the self-righteous that God had abandoned the bereaved.
Thankfully, widowhood has lost that stigma in our day, and I’ve never lost a husband, anyway. I do know the stigma of being a single woman in her late twenties, however, something that often worsens coming from the conservative Christian homeschool movement in which I grew up. While both of my older sisters married (relatively) older, many girls from this movement are in committed relationships in their late teens, and married right out of high school. They are often raised to be married, and if that’s what they want, I say more power to ’em. It’s unusual (though not unheard of) for someone to be my age, not married, and even more importantly, not looking for marriage. Sure, someday, I’d love to get married and fost-adopt a mess of kids, but as I told my younger brother, living independently has been my dream since I was eight or nine years old, not the white wedding and everything that comes after. Well-meaning people have made me feel like less of a person because I’m not married yet, and have very little desire to be.
Add to that how I’ve somehow managed to simultaneously be too much and not enough in every relationship I’ve been in. Granted, there haven’t been that many, but there have been enough to give me a good idea of my place with men.
I’ve accepted it all. I’ve accepted that my being takes a unique shape that doesn’t fit the culture in which I grew up. I’ve accepted the stigma and the rejection.
Then God says, You’re not a widow anymore. Stop identifying with her. And so I have. I put myself – all of myself – out there, and people have noticed. I’ve been feeling pretty good about myself – not in a prideful way, but I’m coming into my own, you know?
So I’ve been a little upset about a situation that has cropped up over the past several weeks. I can’t go into specifics, because this is too public a place, but physical and emotional boundaries have been overstepped. I excused it and excused it, but early last week, it hit me that this had gone too far for too long. It made me feel like a widow all over again.
After a series of panic attacks, I called a good friend and was given a pep talk about empowerment. I was told it was 100% acceptable for me to ask not to be touched by this person, 100% acceptable to tell this person that the answers to their questions were none of their business, and 100% acceptable to not take any tasks working with this person in the future (and to give up the tasks I had working with this person). I was told – in essence – that I did not have to lay down and take it.
Then last night I was reading the passage in Isaiah 51 and 52, and I felt God telling me the same thing: This is not your story anymore. Get up and be empowered.
And so I will. I will get up every. single. day. and refuse the stigma, the rejection, and the unwanted attention. I will not let it touch me anymore.
It will be a battle; heck, it already is a battle. But I can do it. I will do it.
Because God said so.