We’re waiting for Christmas in this season of advent, waiting for Christ the Redeemer, the Rescuer. As for me, I’m still waiting for EMDR therapy. It’s been nearly two years since I was first assessed by psychological services (or whatever the heck they’re called). I had to see several different people, for several different assessments. On the second appointment, the woman asked me “So, how do you compare yourself as you are now to how you are normally?”
I considered this and eventually replied, “I don’t know. I’ve never really known what ‘normal’ is like.” I then told her a brief life history. She referred me on. And then the next person referred me on. And then the next one put me on the EMDR waiting list.
Sometimes something will trigger a memory and I struggle to maintain a hold on reality, on normality. And then, even though I manage much better these days to keep the veneer of ‘okayness’, I feel drained and discouraged. I can’t even talk about the triggers, because they’re too personal, too intimate. Why do I feel ashamed of these ‘intimate’ triggers and their ‘intimate’ effects? I’m too tired to even be angry about it all any more. It just is. But being awash with disgust is soul destroying. It’s disabling in the very real sense of the word. What is the most disgusting thing that you can think of? What makes you physically nauseated just to think about it? Can you imagine living with that, and the shame and disgust associated with your own, private being, within your own self? I know that the shame is not mine, but because it is linked to me in such a deeply personal way, it is mine. I hope that when I do finally have the EMDR therapy I can be stronger, more resilient and better able to take care of everyone. I try my best, for the children in particular. Every day. One day at a time, but for how many days? I waited before. I waited and waited for years and years and years for God to act, for God to intervene, for God to stop the evil.
In the past few years I have read the following passage several times and wondered why it’s there. I have wrestled with it. God doesn’t intervene to save the woman. God doesn’t even punish the murderers, or the cowardly men who pushed her outside to save their own skins. Her ‘husband’, who had just travelled for days and days across the country in order to fetch her back after she had run off – ‘husband’ in inverted commas because she doesn’t even warrant the status of a wife, she is less than a wife; she is property, a thing – this man who is at least supposed to protect her instead deliberately pushes her into the midst of a violent, seething mob. She is attacked and violated so viciously that she dies. And what happens?
…[The] servant said to his master, “Why don’t we stop and spend the night here in this Jebusite city?”
But his master said, “We’re not going to stop in a city where the people are not Israelites. We’ll pass on by and go a little farther and spend the night at Gibeah…”… It was sunset when they came to Gibeah… They went into town and sat down in the city square, but no one offered to take them home for the night.
While they were there, an old man came by… The old man noticed the traveller in the city square and asked him, “Where do you come from? Where are you going?”
The Levite answered, “We… are on our way home deep in the hill country of Ephraim. No one will put us up for the night, even though we have… everything we need.”
The old man said, “You are welcome in my home! I’ll take care of you; you don’t have to spend the night in the square.” So he took them home with him and fed their donkeys. His guests washed their feet and had a meal. They were enjoying themselves when all of a sudden some sexual perverts from the town surrounded the house and started beating on the door. They said to the old man, “Bring out that man that came home with you! We want to have sex with him!”
But the old man went outside and said to them, “No, my friends! Please! Don’t do such an evil, immoral thing! This man is my guest. Look! Here is his concubine and my own virgin daughter. I’ll bring them out now, and you can have them. Do whatever you want to with them. But don’t do such an awful thing to this man!” But the men would not listen to him. So the Levite took his concubine and put her outside with them. They raped her and abused her all night long and didn’t stop until morning.
At dawn the woman came and fell down at the door of the old man’s house, where her husband was. She was still there when daylight came. Her husband got up that morning, and when he opened the door to go on his way, he found his concubine lying in front of the house with her hands reaching for the door. He said, “Get up. Let’s go.” But there was no answer. So he put her body across the donkey and started on his way home. When he arrived, he went in the house and got a knife. He took his concubine’s body, cut it into twelve pieces, and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Everyone who saw it said, “We have never heard of such a thing! Nothing like this has ever happened since the Israelites left Egypt! We have to do something about this! What will it be?”
Extract from Judges 19
Why is this passage even in the bible! I’m sure there have been arguments and debates over this, but my (unlearned) opinion is that this passage is here, in Judges, part of the inspired Word of God, for people like me: people for whom someone could have acted to stop evil, people for whom someone should have acted to stop evil, and people for whom the help didn’t come.
Hundreds of years after this woman (she is not even given the dignity of a name) was brutalised, Jesus came. He was rejected, beaten, humiliated, shamed for sins not his own. In Jesus, in His birth, His life, His teaching, in His healing, His death and resurrection, that woman and I, we find hope. I find myself.
‘Jesus Is Rejected at Nazareth
…Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath he went as usual to the synagogue. He stood up to read the Scriptures and was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed
and announce that the time has come
when the Lord will save his people.”
Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All the people in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him, as he said to them, “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.”
They were all well impressed with him and marveled at the eloquent words that he spoke. They said, “Isn’t he the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “I am sure that you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Doctor, heal yourself.’ You will also tell me to do here in my hometown the same things you heard were done in Capernaum. I tell you this,” Jesus added, “prophets are never welcomed in their hometown. Listen to me: it is true that there were many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah, when there was no rain for three and a half years and a severe famine spread throughout the whole land. Yet Elijah was not sent to anyone in Israel, but only to a widow living in Zarephath in the territory of Sidon. And there were many people suffering from a dreaded skin disease who lived in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha; yet not one of them was healed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were filled with anger. They rose up, dragged Jesus out of town, and took him to the top of the hill on which their town was built. They meant to throw him over the cliff, but he walked through the middle of the crowd and went his way.’
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word do I hope.
Come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel.
For we are all
Captive as well,
Ransom captive Israel.