Prayer: When Life is Too Hard to Stand...Kneel
When I sat down to finally write this I found myself with my pen in hand just hovering above an empty page. It's not because I had nothing to say but because I had so much to say that none of it was coherent. Instead in my mind there were flashes of the map with 8 States highlighted due to their new "heart beat" style laws. Mugshot after mug shot swirling as the headlines of perpetrator on top of perpetrator is released with little and/or no consequence despite admitting assaulting a woman or child. Visions of legislators who say things like, "rape is God's will" or "find the silver lining" after assault haunt my thoughts. I had to take numerous breaks writing this just to clear my mind because the emotions this whole situation brought out of me as a woman left me feeling angry, frustrated, silenced, and defeated. The overwhelming feeling of not being protected or appreciated makes approaching this fight logically difficult. I wanted to shout from the rooftops," MY BODY IS NOT UP FOR DEBATE!" "MY SAFETY MATTERS!" While inside I know those screams would fall on America's deaf ears.
As a woman of color in this country oppression, disregard, hate, and judgment aren't new to me. I've known since childhood that my body and autonomy were always threatened.
I was 5 years old when 2 very important things happened for the first time. My mother sat me down after a bath where she discovered blood in my underwear and asked me what happened. I explained that at school during story time I had cut myself on a staple sticking out of the rug. I told her my teacher asked if I was OK but told me she couldn't check because it wasn't OK for a grown up who wasn't my mom to pull my pants down and to make sure I told my mom when I got home but I had forgotten. It was then my mom explained "good touch" and "bad touch" to me and told me that my body was mine and no one had a right to touch my private parts or any part of me without my permission. In that moment my mother gave me charge over my own body and control over what happened to it, a lesson that at 30 I realized was more important than my 5 year old mind could have ever grasped. It was also that year that I felt shame for the first time a feeling this country is great at weaponizing against women. You see it was that talk that made me realize that the actions that took place the previous summer could be my fault. A feeling I now know is false but 5 year old me hadn't figured that out yet. While visiting my southern cousins I was abused for the first time.
It began with a game my older cousin called "hide the hands". In a moment I would never forget my body's rights were violated and not realizing until much later I allowed it. Hide the hands was a silly game I realized because our hands are connected to our arms so clearly you will always know where to find them. Well that fateful day my trusted family member decided it was OK to hide his hands in the pants of a child. It felt wrong and resulted in me wetting the bed for the first time since being potty trained and as my aunt rinsed my underwear and told me it was OK putting me back to bed without them I laid awake afraid another game was coming. It didn't and the rest of the trip is a blur in my memory but that day my mom told me no one had a right to my body but me I felt ashamed that in the discomfort of that back seat I didn't say no something victims all over have felt time and time again.
Those feelings would carry me through life as I was cat-called by grown men as a young girl, listened to inappropriate comments that were made about my body and those of girls around me and later when I was the victim of multiple assaults. You see the world did its best to remind me and women around me that our bodies were not ours to own. Despite the positive reinforcement to the contrary that my mom and other women around me gave it seemed very clear that in this country ownership was perceptional at best.
As I entered the medical field years later it was even shown in the various institutions I worked in as I listen to doctors tell women they "advised" against hysterectomies or tubal ligations that they wanted because the woman's husband (whom she may or may not even have )may want another baby some day. I listened to patients stories of assault as they lay clenching swollen bellies unsure if they would be able to love a child brought forth by force and hate. I cried in the bathroom as women screamed in pain from lack of epidurals because the family's patriarch said," no pain medication," so the young girl on the bed would LEARN HER LESSON all while thinking how could this still be happening in this "free" country.
This country again proved its power over the female body when 8 States (so far) passed various types of heartbeat bills. These laws tell women not only are they not the masters of their fate but that they are also at risk of criminal prosecution if they seek an abortion after a heart beat is audible which can be as early as 6 weeks. Now many women don't even know they are pregnant at 6 weeks and this supposed heartbeat beat isn't actually one because a fully functioning heart is not even formed that early on. Leaving little to no provision for cases of rape and incest they added insult to injury by choosing in some states to add legislation that would investigate a woman who suffers miscarriages which is devastating on its own without adding fear of prosecution. The laws passed under the guise of morality have sparked rallies, marches, and debates across the country begging the question does religion have any place in lawmaking?
The easy answer is no but the reality is religion has played a major role in policy since the beginning. For me personally I say yes and no. While I don't believe religion should play a role in policy that governs so many of various beliefs, it is policy that has pushed me so far in to prayer in order to cope. My aunt told me that attacks on women not only require a physical response but a spiritual one. In my frustration,anger, resentment, and fear, I did the only thing I could do. I stopped, took a breath, closed my eyes and began to kneel.
The first time I found myself kneeling in prayer all I could think was," Lord FIX IT! Fix me. Fix the hate that fills my heart. Just please fix it!" I had so many emotions and not enough words to express the pain and mental exhaustion I was feeling.
That "fix it " became HEAL IT! Heal the scars that run deep. Heal the hate that guides so many. Heal the rift between men and women that allows us to get to this broken place. It was in this "heal it" phase that I realized the amount of work that had already taken place. I was no longer full of anger but instead found myself seeking peace.
Whenever I felt frustrated I would hear myself out loud saying, " Just stop. Take a minute. Breath. " In moments where I would typically turn to rage I was instead asking myself ,"what do you need to feel better?" He was already working in me and through me without me even knowing a transformation had begun.
When I started kneeling in ACKNOWLEDGEMENT instead of in NEED the tone of my prayer changed. It was no longer tear stained cheeks you saw when I lifted my head but a smile because I knew a force much larger than myself was already at work. Was there still hate? Yes. Was there still a battle to be fought? Absolutely. But with the knowledge that I and millions of other women wouldn't be fighting alone my praise evolved. It began to move from a place of defeat to a solid foundation of hope.
As I watched women come together of all ages, backgrounds , religions, and nationalities I finally understood that in the throes of spiritual warfare armor may not always look traditional but still protects you just the same. We are armed with knowledge, hope, fearlessness, determination, empathy, and an invisible connectedness that tells us when one sister is tired in this fight she needs only look around for the helping hand of another to pick her up. I've seen images of women embracing one another, heard stories of tragedy surrounded by feminine support, and witnessed women rallying behind strangers encouraging strength and love. Knowing that God is real and can not be used to mask hate, oppression, or any other selfish will of man leaves me in a place of POWER.
God gave me a voice so I'll use it. He gave me empathy so I'll use it. He gave me examples of strength so I'll use them. He gave me forgiveness so I will Grant it. And he gave me a chance at life so I will use every moment of it to speak power and glory to his name drawing all I need from him to protect the women he created so beautifully and fearfully.
We kneel in need.
We kneel in honor.
We kneel in respect.
And starting today we will kneel in preparation to fight!
*Turns on India.Aire's God is Real and vibes out*