One time, a dude grabbed my butt on the street. It’s true.
A couple of months after we got to Costa Rica, I was walking home after Spanish classes and a guy started following me on his bike. He rode about 20 feet behind me for a block or so, and then he started to get closer. A couple of times, he zipped past way too close, obviously reaching for something, only to turn around and resume his spot just behind me. I thought he was trying to snag my backpack, so I started walking really...really...sloooowwwwly....
I know - counterintuitive. When someone is following you, you’re supposed to get away fast. But, when someone is following you on a bike? Well, sometimes the best thing you can do is mess with their intertia until they fall over.
So that’s what I did. I screwed with his inertia by walking like a had two wooden legs. While I inched along, I planned out how I would ask the guard on my street to save me from this creeper using a vocabulary limited to ‘Things you can buy at the market’ and ‘Things you can find in a house’. I decided on, “Please, sir. The fresh boy on bicycle at my back want consume the wrapped sheet of books I wear.” And I just knew that if I could make it to the drunk, toothless guard in front of my house I would be safe. He would protect me. He would use the broken, empty revolver he kept tucked in his pants pocket to run this turd off.
But the slowing down thing seemed to work. Creepy dude got sick of having to whip his handlebars back and forth to stay upright, and finally, he rode off, past the turn to my street. I ditched the cement feet act and bolted toward my house, but I hadn’t made it to my block before he reappeared. He came back fast, skipped up onto the sidewalk, right in front of me, and stopped my forward momentum with the front tire of his bike. As I reached back to protect my backpack, he reached forward - to grab my butt.
“Que Rico!” That’s what perverts on bicycles say when they grab your butt on the sidewalk in Costa Rica. Ask anyone.
This is the part in the story where people say things like, “What did you do?! Boy, that guy picked the wrong girl to mess with! Did you slap that little punk? Did you punch him? What did you SAY?!”. Their eyes gleam with anticipation, ready to hear how I kicked him in the nuts, or whatever. This is the part where I get called a “tough cookie” and God gets thanked for giving me “thick skin”. The disappointment registers clearly on their faces as they hear the truth. “I cried.”
I stepped over his bike tire, and ran home...crying. That’s what I did.
I get hate mail. To be honest, it’s probably the nicest hate mail you could imagine. It comes from really nice people, nicely telling me that they find the things I write not nice. They say it’s unsavory, or unwholesome, or that it’s “satan-pleasing-evil-from-the-fiery-depths-of-hell” or whatever. And I believe they are well intentioned. I believe they want good things for me and for the world, and I think they’re trying to help me by encouraging me to be more like Jesus them. I read the things they have to say and, if they are well reasoned, I might think on them a bit. Otherwise, I delete them.
I also get love mail; emails from cool people. People that really like The Very Worst Missionary, and seem to understand what it stands for. Sometimes, among the encouragements, I see things like “I wish I could be that honest on my blog.”, or “You have the guts to say what others are thinking.” or “Damn girl, how do you get away with this stuff?!”. Often, people want to know who our sending agency is because of the insane freedom I am allowed on my blog. I read these emails and they make me smile, they make me want to keep writing.
Sometimes I think that the freedom I feel to say the things on my mind is interpreted as some kind of brazen toughness. Which is cool, except that I’m not tough. I mean, I may not be the most sensitive person in the world, I’m not easy to rattle, and I’m certainly not going to fall to pieces when a stranger from the interwebs rebukes me, having never met me. But I am not tough.
I am... You know what I am? I’m safe. There’s a really big difference.
See. I have these amazing people in my life - people who know me, who can hear the actual sound of my voice in the things that I write, people who knew me before I was a missionary, some who knew me before I was a Christian - and these people have given me the freedom to be who I am. EVEN if who I am looks really different from who they are. These people know that I have a longing for God’s heart, and sometime I fail to find it - and they’re ok with that.
THEY are the reason that some might perceive me as tough.
They have given me a soft place to land when I fall flat on my face. They have been Christ to me, and I feel secure in Him. I’m safe because I know that these people will not withhold their love from me, even if I disappoint them. And neither will my God.
When I was molested by that creeper on the bike, I felt alone and afraid. My instinct didn’t tell me to make a fist around my keys and get ready to stab him in the eye - it said get to the guard, he’ll protect you. I didn’t want to be tough, I wanted to be saved.
What I want you to know is that I have a heart. And it’s actually kind of tender.
When you say shitty things to me, it may not rock my world, but it still hurts. And when you say awesome, kind things to me, it totally lifts me up. If I were a tough person, I wouldn’t care at all about emails from strangers, good or bad, I’d just slip into my brass knuckles and start throwing bows.
But I’m not “tough cookie”, remember? I run away crying.
I think that’s why I love what’s happening here, on the VWM, so much. This place has simply become an extension of the freedom I’ve been allowed in my “real” life. Freedom to try and fail. Freedom to do it all wrong. Or how about the freedom to be completely awesome once in a while! I have freedom to be part of a community of people who look around at the church and its place in the world, shrug their shoulders, and say “this can’t be right” and at the same time to pat each other on the back and say “well done” when we do hit the nail on the head. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the living, breathing body of Christ around me. The church family that says “Go, Jamie, go! We are right behind you!” I live boldly because of the safety they afford me. This is the real deal, the real church.
This is a safe place.
This is what I want for you.