I don’t know any girls at church camp. They seem like they have no idea what life could throw at them; they are stupid, innocent, seemingly flawless, spoiled girls. I’m angry at God. I’m a stone wall—hardened and cold. I don’t think about how there is “power in the blood” or “washing in the blood of the lamb” or being “covered by the blood of Jesus” until I wake up in my bunk covered in my own blood. And I don’t tell a soul because they’re all just interested in saving my soul.
Camp is not the first time I’ve seen the blood. Several months earlier when the blood appeared, I knew I’d “become a woman.” But when it disappeared for months, I guessed it was a false alarm. Perhaps I wasn’t actually ready to be a woman. I felt like a girl, a bud not ready to blossom, too ugly and stupid to bloom. I wanted to shut the world out and remain tight, forever in a bud.
I have stained sheets and stained faith. I tear strips of my white washrags. I then wind toilet paper around the rags and wrap them around the crotch of my panties to keep everything secure while wondering why those ridiculous wing commercials on television make having your period seem glamorous. I don’t think I can speak to anyone about supplies. I’m never good at asking for anything, especially asking for things I need. I bet the girls in the bunks surrounding me would have no problem asking. They seem like they wouldn’t be ashamed about talking to their moms about shaving their legs or using scary looking tampons or needing a stronger deodorant to prevent sweat stains from going all the way down to their waists.
I don’t think I can speak to anyone about anything. I can speak, technically, but what I can’t do is hear, not very well. About a year before I came to camp, God decided to take most of my hearing, take it away from the girl who is scared and awkward already. We went to hospitals and specialists. No tumor, no blow to the head, no ear infection. God just took it suddenly with no good reason. Now I feel stuck in my own world where the real world is muffled and muted, slightly spinning and baffling to me.
The bell signals flagpole time. I waddle to the circle hoping blood won’t seep through my jeans. With my luck, today’s Bible lesson will involve Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. Instead, we’re each given a notebook. I am handed a red one. Red must be the theme, the color of the week. I run my hand over the smooth cover and fan the pages. The first page is so white, so blank, and so pure. I stare at the first page for two hours. I write, “God, You feel far away.” There. That sentence wasn’t so bad. The act of writing was easier than holding hands around the table and listening to my disappointed parents beg God to fix me. Writing was easier than my dad’s idea of allowing the Elders at church to place their hands on me. I didn’t want them to touch me or hear them say, “Thy will be done- heal this child- out demon, out- restore her- to God be the glory.” I could, however, handle a notebook. I could control a notebook. I could fill it with what I wanted. I could take away from it what I wanted. I could close it when I felt like it. I could rip out pages. I could chuck it across the room. I could sleep with it under my pillow.
I tried to explain that I couldn’t pray out loud. When my youth minister took me to a shelter house to talk, he didn’t actually make me speak. He simply sat with me and read to me Romans 8:39 NIV: “Neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of Christ that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I wondered, “Nothing will be able to separate? Not my wall, not my distance I put between us, not my faith so spotted with questions and doubts and the embarrassment of being me?” Did God take away my physical hearing so that I could spiritually listen? Though I don’t know the answer to that question, I do believe God started listening to me. In Genesis, when Cain kills Abel, the blood cries out from the ground. God hears the blood. God heard what was happening inside me, inside my hopeful, pumping heart, inside my changing body.
That night, as I took my flashlight, virgin faith, pen, and red notebook under the stained covers with me, He heard the words I no longer hesitated to write but instead thrust onto the paper. I spilled out questions. I reminded myself that even Job questioned. I poured out fears, anger, and brokenness, knowing I’d heard somewhere that God uses brokenness. Faster than I could think, my words dripped out of the pen. At that moment, I realized writing was submission. Writing meant opening up, stretching, tearing, releasing, and most of all, giving and letting go. It was writing that redeemed me. Writing is what broke the shell, tore the curtain, destroyed the wall, and awakened a woman.
During invitation, I put one foot in front of the other until I made it to the altar. Jesus bled and died for me. Blood stands for sacrifice, for pain, for lifeblood, for womanhood, for birth, and for me—rebirth. As I emerged from the water with the floating melody of “Now I belong to Jesus,” I noticed, with a slight smile on my face, that I had stained the baptismal water with the slightest tint of red.
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