There was a large hand mashed against my chest and another against my face and I strained to yell, though muzzled, until finally, the night erupted into noise as I mustered a loud cry into the darkness, “Dad!”
My sweet husband Mike rolled over and comforted me. The nightmare was so vivid it took a while for me to remember—I am a grown, 58 year old woman, sleeping in my safe, comfortable bed, next to the love of my life, who never, not in ten million years, would ever hurt me.
I’m not usually a sleep talker. I sleep like a log. Maybe I snore (there are those who tell me I do) but I sure couldn’t testify to it. Most nights I remember nothing from the time my head hits my pillow until the alarm rings in the morning. If I remember a dream, it’s a dream I was having as I was awakening for the day, not one I had well before midnight. That’s not the case with the nightmare that interrupted our night’s sleep a couple weeks ago. When my yell woke us up, the digital clock read 11:20. I rolled over and managed to fall back to sleep quickly, and if I dreamed more through the night, my dreams were not a continuation of the one that had thoroughly awakened us both.
In the morning the panic I felt in my sleep, the will and determination and strength it had taken to cry out to my Dad for help, left me feeling weak in my knees and emotionally weary. Over coffee I played Freud with my dream. Of course, the origin of the dream was the news reports of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations in regard to her teen-aged experience with Supreme Court nominee Brent Kavanagh, how he covered her mouth when she tried to cry out for help as he pinned her to a bed and groped her. In my dream it wasn’t clear I was being sexually assaulted. All I remember is being held down, with a strong male hand over my face muting me. Dr. Becky Freud asked herself over her coffee, “Why do you suppose you called out for your Dad when he’s been dead for almost a decade?” I replied to myself, “He always listened to you and believed in you. Your Dad encouraged you to use your voice and to speak the truth.” “And why,” Dr. Me-Freud persisted, “was this experience of being muzzled so vivid as to cause you to yell out in your sleep?” And my coffee began to quiver in its mug.
I am being silenced by men who do not like what I say. The assault I am experiencing is not against my body, but against my being. It is against my being a woman with words.
I am a woman with a clear, true voice. I am a minister gifted and called by God to preach and teach and care and lead. I speak words of love and passion and conviction. On occasion, called and ordained as I am to be a minister of the Christian Gospel I am also a prophet, speaking truth to power. Truth that the last shall be first, and we are all refugees and foreigners and black lives do matter and Jesus was a brown-skinned man and he died at the hands of an ungodly empire run amok. Truth like Jesus listened to women and gave them full voice in a world that worked devilishly hard to keep them silent and in their place. Truth that Jesus loves all the children, and so must we.
This past spring I spoke the truth to a man who could not bear to hear the truth. I spoke it to him in private to protect and preserve his dignity. I spoke in hope he would take heed and take action and take care of what only he could do. But the words I said cut too close and in a couple weeks’ time he figured out a way to silence me.
Complicit in the assault against me are other men quick to agree, “A strong woman is, by her very nature, a threat.” Strong, as in I see things clearly and tell the truth about what I see.
Complicit in the assault against me are also women, like the contrary octogenarian who two years ago cautioned me against being so passionate about the Gospel. “Some of us just want to come to church, have a little communion with God and go on home, dear.” Complicit in the assault against me are women like the woman trained to take orders without question, because the orders of a man of higher rank supersede written policies and procedures. Complicit in the assault against me are the women who look the other way and pretend they cannot see, because if they see they’d have to speak, and if they speak, they too, may have to pay. Good girls keep quiet.
Complicit in the assault against me is a system that allows one man the power to insist I be quiet and good and keep my thoughts to myself –just roll over now, and act as if this didn’t happen, if you want a good reference, if you want to be able to work again. Don’t tell. Don’t complain. Don’t raise a fuss. Just let us sweep this under the rug and move on, because I’m busy with more important things.
Wearing the robes and reciting the verses, like armor. Protecting the church, protecting the powers that be, protecting the “just want a little communion with God” and then go golfing crowd from gospel truth that might discomfort them and keep their pocketbooks closed when the offering plates circulate in the sanctuary. “Protecting” but not healing, not helping, not holding the church to the church’s true calling. Allowing the church to rot from within. Sick in self-serving sin.
Yours isn’t the church of Jesus Christ if you do not see the others whom God has invited to the table. Yours isn’t the church of Jesus Christ if you look blindly away from the racism and sexism and nationalism that is tearing God’s good creation apart at the seams. Yours isn’t the church of Jesus Christ if you remain complacent when injustice is done right smack dab in the very midst of you. Yours isn’t the church of Jesus Christ if you allow yourselves to be led by thin-skinned men more interested in their own power than in proclaiming and living the Gospel with integrity and truth.
My dad called “foul!” years ago when the politics inside a church became as vile as are the politics in our nation today. I was a teen-aged girl at the time. I witnessed my father speak truth to the powers that be. And he voted with his feet and dusted off his sandals and moved on and he taught me to be unafraid, and bold and brave. And so, I called out to him in my sleep. “Dad!”
And he is helping me to remember who and whose I am.
I am not anyone’s good girl.
I am a woman gifted and called by God, and by God,
I am reclaiming my voice.