Surrounded. Surrounded by girls like me, hurt but hopeful. A tight circle, legs crossed, hugging knees, touching arms. A closeness I’d never felt before in 20 years, a closeness I’ve yet to feel again since that night. Surrounded by boys standing around us, shoulder-to-shoulder, enclosing us in the circle. I call them boys, but I mean to say men–I still have a habit of using the two words interchangeably, although I’m learning how much of a difference there is.
A boy or two had a hand in hurting me, making me feel less than, giving me a false idea of what love looks like. A man or two (or 20 or so) played a part in putting the pieces back together, making me feel like much more than, and showing me what love is. A true love. An endless love. A perfect love.
“We accept the love we think we deserve,” said Charlie, the main character in Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower, sparking deep thoughts about self-love and the love we receive from others in teens across the world. It sparked something horrible in me. In the midst of an unhealthy relationship that made me feel unattractive, unworthy, and unloved, I started to believe I deserved it. That’s the opposite of what Chbosky wanted me to get out of his incredible book, I assure you, but it’s how I interpreted it all at the time. This guy didn’t think I was worth it, and after a year I’d started to believe I wasn’t worth it either.
When I realized I could get out of that relationship, although two long years in, I finally did. I found a new boy, fell for him fast, then watched it slowly fall apart before my eyes over the course of the next year. I’ll keep it short and sweet. I had boundaries, and he pushed them. I had friends, and he didn’t like them. I had trust, and he broke it.
At this point, I was convinced the only good man left in the world was my dad. So what was I to do?
It was around the time I’d given up all hope in boys when God took me back to Young Life Camp.
I’d gone to Young Life Camp three times before–SharpTop Cove after my junior year of high school, Windy Gap after my senior year of high school, and Carolina Point as a lifeguard for three days my freshman year of college.
I did not know nor did I want anything to do with Jesus until I left SharpTop Cove. I really began to rethink my life (what was I doing and where was I going at this rate?) at Windy Gap. I learned how it felt to serve others and the Lord for the first time at Carolina Point. I wanted so badly to go back to camp and have those unbeatable camp feelings one more time, so I applied to be a lifeguard at three camps.
They all rejected me.
So I moved on with my life. I got promoted to assistant manager at the city pool back home and decided that was where I was supposed to be. I was working and enjoying the summer, but I had one thing on my mind all the time. I want to go to camp.
Then I got the email. A spot opened. They wanted me.
So I went to camp.
August 7, 2016
Surrounded. I don’t like being too close to people. It makes me feel self-conscious and trapped. I wonder if they are bothered if I accidentally bump their arm. I have no idea if they can smell the 2-year-old sweaty Chacos on my feet. But here, I want to be closer. Here, I want to lay my head on their shoulder and have them lay their head on mine. Here, if I accidentally bump their arm, they might just grab my hand. Here, their Chacos probably smell just as bad as mine do.
Surrounded. I’ve always been the short one. Now I’m sitting on the ground while they tower over me. What else is new? It’s intimidating, sitting in this circle, not knowing what’s about to happen.
They start to speak, one by one, apologizing. For being boys. For anything inappropriate they may have said. For any hurtful comments they may have made. Then, each one of them reads us a bible verse.
1 Peter 3:3-4
1 Peter 5:10
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
2 Corinthians 12:9
Some got on their knees while others continued to stand, and they prayed for us. We all hugged, and we all cried. A lot.
It’s not an experience that can really be put into words. I can never truly describe how I felt that night. I will never be able to say just how deeply I felt God’s love, grace, peace, and forgiveness in those few minutes. These words do not do it justice, and no words ever will.
“We accept the love we think we deserve.” That’s what God and Stephen Chbosky and all of those good, Godly men wanted us to understand–we deserve it. The best love. True love. Perfect love.
Journal Entry from August 7, 2016
I will never forget this night. We had community time, and it consisted of this:
The girls all sat in the middle of the room and the boys stood in a circle around us. [They] started by apologizing for being boys with inappropriate minds pretty much, then each of them read us a bible verse one by one. When they were finished, a few of them got on their knees and they all held hands while Corky prayed for all of the girls. It was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. It felt like God was apologizing to all of us who had been mistreated by boys through the greatest men I’ve ever met. It was the most powerful thing I have ever been blessed to be a part of. I am in awe of God’s love.