*While the following story is true, names of people have been changed.
I hung up the phone with my good friend Carson, and I was annoyed.
Carson and I were planning a beach trip for mid- summer. Of course it can be stressful trying to accommodate dates, location requests, and budget considerations for multiple people, but my conversation with him had been stressful for another reason. Carson had requested that I carefully select my wardrobe for the beach trip; some of the young men in his Mars Hill small group, who would be coming along on the beach trip, had lust issues.
I replayed his words in my head as I sat dumfounded on the couch with the phone in my hand.
“Now, the guys in our group, some of them have confessed that they struggle with lust. I would appreciate it if you would only pack modest clothing on the trip.” He sounded like he was smirking on the other line.
“What?” I kind of laughed. “Carson, you know me. You know how I dress. Do you think I dress provocatively?”
“No,” he replied.
“I’m going to wear what I want on this trip. I’m not going to be walking around in a bikini all day, but seriously, it isn’t my responsibility to help them out with their lust issues.” I surprised myself with my boldness. Then again, I was recently free from a marriage to a sex addict. I wasn’t exactly sympathetic toward men who had lust issues.
“Alright, alright,” he chuckled. “It is too bad this house we’re reserving doesn’t have a hot tub. I would love to see you in a bikini.”
“Okay Carson, I gotta go.” I ignored his MAJOR foot-in-mouth comment. “I’ll call you later.”
Dude. Did you even hear yourself? You want me to watch what I wear, but you also want to ogle me in a bikini?
About a month later we arrived at the beach house, and once we got there the tension mounted between the two of us once again. Carson tried to tell me which room I would be sleeping in.
“The girls can be in here,” he motioned toward a large room off the kitchen.
“I’m not sleeping in a room with people I don’t know. I’m sharing a room with Jason and Rick. We already talked about this. The guys are fine with me staying in the same room.” I frowned at him. “I’m paying a portion to rent this house, and this is my vacation too. I don’t want to share a room with people I don’t know; sorry, I’m not comfortable with that. You know we’re all just friends. This situation doesn’t need to be sexualized. I don’t know why you’d have a problem with it. Do you have a problem with it?”
Carson ignored me. Jason and Rick shrugged their shoulders, and we finished unloading the car.
Later that night, the rest of Carson’s Mars Hill gang rolled in, and we all got to know each other a bit as we played some games. I went to bed first.
I woke up the next morning to a quiet house. I thought everyone else was sleeping. I got up and showered, and went into the kitchen to have breakfast. Boom, surprise! The whole Mars Hill group was gathered reading their Bibles, and they weren’t too keen on having a conversation with me. After feeble attempts to engage them, I went and woke Rick up.
“Rick, you gotta get up. Come get coffee with me. I gotta get outta here. They are all just sitting in the living room, and no one is saying anything!” Rick got out of bed and went to get coffee with me.
Granted, this beach trip did take place during my “Desert Days” from organized religion, and so to be fair, my reaction to their impromptu Bible study was a sensitive one. But this is what I knew of these guys from Mars Hill: They struggled with lust and so a request to dress accordingly was administered to me, and then they were all reading their Bibles, refusing to engage in conversation with me.
The trip was basically horrible. Carson and I got into multiple arguments. I cussed him out on the 4th of July. He was trying to control the whole trip, and what part I was to play in it. I apologized for cussing him out later that night when we were all down at the beach for a bonfire.
There was another facet to the dynamic between the two of us; Carson liked me, loved me, or so he thought. He had told me as much before, multiple times. The first time he professed his feelings, I was seventeen and a freshman at George Fox University. I never returned his feelings. I was busy falling for all the other boys in his dorm.
We reconnected after my first marriage ended, and it was nice. I was happy to spend time talking with someone from a happy, carefree part of my past. He fell for me all over again, and wanted me to move to Seattle. He raved about Mars Hill all the time, and how Pastor Mark called the men to a high standard of loving God and their sisters in Christ. Now, during this beach trip, I was finally getting to see more of the influence that this church was having on him.
While we were at the bonfire, apologizing to one another for words that had been spoken, he began to ask me what kind of man I was hoping to find. He was baiting me; I knew where this was headed.
I just apologized to you. You’re probably going to make me wish I hadn’t. This is about to get awkward.
“I’m not sure what I’m looking for in a guy. I don’t know if I really want to get married again. All I know are things that I don’t want in someone…I can’t really tell you what I do want,” I stared into the fire.
“You’re an incredible woman, but you’ve been through a lot. I don’t even know all the details, but it is going to take an amazing, godly man to redeem a woman like you.” He smiled and put his face too close to mine.
I’ve thought about his words many times; obviously I’ve never forgotten them. They stung me, sure. I was angry, yes. More than anything, I was confused. What did he mean? Did I need redemption because I wasn’t a virgin? Did I need redemption because I had been abused? Did I need redemption because I had stopped going to church? Was he hoping for some weird Driscoll style retelling of the Boaz and Ruth story to happen between the two of us? I didn’t ask for clarification. I was too stunned.
Here is what I would say if I could go back in time:
“Redemption? You want to talk about a woman needing redemption? Jesus Christ was born of a woman so HE could be my Redeemer. End. Of. Discussion.