Friday, December 19, 2014

Chapter 38, part 1: Rush

I caught glimpses of Elk River lettermen jackets every time crossed the Quad the rest of that week. I wondered if Brad was looking for me. I wondered if he was avoiding me on purpose or maybe he didn’t even think of me at all.

I spent a lot of time telling God about my sorrow and hurt. Though I knew He forgave me completely, I still had the consequence of my sin to deal with: a broken heart. My stomach was bothering me too, worse than ever, but that was really nothing new. I chalked it up to my emotional state.

Zoey passed me in the hall outside my room in the German House on Friday afternoon. “Tonight’s the informal rush party. You’re coming to the Delta House, right?”

“Wouldn’t miss it!” I said. “I need something to keep my mind off things… you know.”

“Breakups are tough,” she commiserated. “We’re both better off without him though, remember? See you in an hour or so. We have something really special planned.”

I was surprised to hear male voices coming from the Delta House as I walked up.

“Giselle, you made it!” Zoey said, waving me over to a deep cushioned sofa in front of the fireplace where she and Owen were snuggled up. They made a cute couple. “Have a seat.”

Owen stood and winked at me. “I think it’s so cool that you’re checking Greek life out. Now, give me your right shoe.” He took the purple boot from my hand and disappeared through a door that led down into the basement.

“This some sort of hazing ritual?” I joked to Zoey, wiggling my toes inside the wool sock Mom had knit me as a Christmas present.

“No, no. It’s a Cinderella party,” Zoey explained. “Kappa Sig is our brother fraternity, so we’re holding this event jointly. Each guy will be blindfolded, pick a shoe out of the bucket, and try to match it up with the girl it belongs too. Then you’ll be a team for a game of Cranium. We do it every year and it’s hilarious.”

Owen came back into the room. “Gents, come with me. It’s time to retrieve the slippers of your lady fair for the evening. Ladies, wait here. Zoey will bring you down to the game room in a few moments.”

“There weren’t very many guys in here,” I whispered to Zoey. “Will every girl get a match?”

“Don’t worry. A bunch more of ‘em already headed down to the basement before I even got here.”

After five minutes had passed, Zoey signaled us to follow her to the basement.

It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. I headed for the table of faux cocktails and reached for a virgin pina colada.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey there Cinderella,” said a familiar voice.

Brad held out my purple boot. “I was glad when I picked this because it reminded me of you. Never thought in a million years you’d actually be in a place like this.”

“Is that so,” I said as coldly as possible. I leaned against the wall and put my boot on. “Looks like we’ll need to find different partners,” I said. I caught Zoey’s eye across the room and took a step toward her.

He blocked my path. “You’re angry, aren’t you.”

“You kicked me out, remember? Said I was neurotic, impossible to love?”

“Guess I was a little bit harsh. But you gotta know it’s hard on me to deal with you being so emotional and back and forth. Almost like you’re a split personality. I never know if I’m going to be talking to cool Giselle or her guilt-ridden evil twin. It’s exhausting. So I finally reached the breaking point. I’m not proud of it. I know I shouldn’t have lost my temper like that. I said some things I regret.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for one thing, I didn’t really want to break up over it.”

“So why have you been avoiding me then?”

“I’ve been laying low and giving us both a chance to cool off, so you’d be more likely to accept my apology.”

“I still haven’t heard one,” I said.

“What do you think I’ve been doing? Fine,” he said, clearly exasperated. “I never should have lost my temper and said all that crap. You deserve better than that. Can’t we try again?”

“Would things be any different?” I asked.

“Different how?”

Before I could answer, Zoey interrupted us. “Excuse me, Giselle, it looks like we’re out of margarita mix. Can you help me get some upstairs?”

I followed her up into the kitchen. “I’m so sorry,” she said as she gathered more supplies for the mocktails. “I had no idea he’d be here tonight. I think it’s probably best if you go. There’ll be more rush events next weekend.”

“Thanks. See you later.”

I found my coat and headed out into the cold January night. Just as I reached the stoop of the German House, Brad’s old silver Nissan pulled up.

“Giselle, I can’t believe you just took off like that,” he shouted at me as he shut off the engine. “We weren’t done talking! I didn’t think you were such a coward.” He slammed the door and stomped toward me.

“There’s a time and a place, and that wasn’t it.” I turned back toward the steps.

He grabbed my shoulder and whirled me around to face him. “How about now?” His tone changed abruptly. “Let me take you for coffee or something. I love you, Giselle. I really want this to work out.”

I searched his face. Did he really love me? A few days ago I would have given almost anything to hear him say that. I waited for hours in the student center for him to come and say those words.

But if he had showed up when I asked him to, would God have gotten through to me the way He did? Would I have been willing to risk vulnerability with Sylvie, and in front of CSF? Kirsten would still be struggling in shame and silence. Then there was Zoey’s warning to consider. Wasn’t Brad doing exactly what she predicted he would do?

“It’s freezing out here, Giselle. Let’s go somewhere warm to talk this out. How about your room?”

Visions of us sitting on my bed talking late into the night instantly sprung to mind. We’d kiss and make up and one thing would lead to another … “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Alright, then, let’s go for coffee. I’ve got my car right here.”

“There’s no need to go anywhere. It’s over, Brad. It’s right that things ended between us.”

“There you go again. The other night you were begging me to take you back. See what I mean by split personality?”

“Maybe. But neither of the Giselles you saw were who God created me to be. He’s called me back, and I’m not waffling anymore. Part of me wishes we could still be together—”

“We can. I figured out how. Let’s go inside so we can talk about it.”

“You can say whatever it is out here.”

“Giselle, you don’t know how much I’ve been thinking about you. And what I realized is, you really have been acting crazy and neurotic—admit it, you have—but it’s not your fault. My friend Jay, you know the one from my photography class? He helped me see it. I was torn up about us and told him everything. He’s really into healthy eating, and he said it sounds like you have a food intolerance. He said they can cause all kinds of symptoms, even mental problems. You know how your stomach always bothers you? Whatever is causing that could be messing with your mind too, making you feel guilty and depressed over nothing.”

“This isn’t just in my head, Brad.”

“Don’t get so defensive. I’m trying to help you, and you’re discounting everything I say. I know you’re mad but what about forgiveness?”

He had me there. God showed me so much grace. How could I not at least hear him out? “Go on.”

“Jay said to start by eliminating dairy and gluten and see how you feel. I wouldn’t be surprised if all your religious guilt and other mental symptoms just melted away.”

“Belief in God is not a mental symptom,” I huffed. “If you really think that, I don’t see how we can be together.”

“What gives, Giselle, why are you making this so hard on me? How could you even think that’s what I meant? Of course I know you’re really serious about your faith and this purity stuff. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m willing to start fresh like you said the other night. I may not agree with your view, but I love you enough to control myself.”

There it was again. He loved me. It sounded just like what I wanted to hear. I wanted so desperately to believe him. But we couldn’t just go back to the way things were.

“You might be able to control yourself,” I said, “but I’m afraid I wouldn’t. If we’re were ever going to get back together, we’d have to set new ground rules.”

“Of course we’re going to get back together. You just have to give me another chance.”

“I don’t know, Brad …”

“Tell you what. Don’t make any decisions now. Give the diet Jay suggested a try and let’s just hang out as friends the next few days. We can figure out our relationship after you’re healthier.”

“I guess I could give it a try.”

“That’s my girl. What time do you want to meet for breakfast tomorrow?”

I finally remembered my promise to Zoey. Was there time to talk to her before morning?

“I already have plans for breakfast,” I lied. “How about lunch?”

Chapter 37, part 2: Moving Forward

I woke up at 4:30 Monday morning, mind racing and sleep elusive. Confessing to CSF and quitting leadership had seemed the obvious choice in the midst of the spiritual high of Sunday evening, but it started to feel like less of a good idea when I was back in my room alone, and a downright terrible one this morning.

God’s love needed to be shared, and I was willing to share it, but did I really have to humiliate myself in the process? Maybe the details of my sin would be better kept private. It was OK that Sylvie knew the whole truth, but did I want my sister Kirsten to know? Did I want Ian to know? For that matter, was it even proper to talk about such things in front of a mixed audience?

After dinner on Sunday, Sylvie had shown me a Bible study technique she used to better discern God’s will. I thought it was worth a try, so I got out my Bible and used the concordance to look up verses about testimony. 

I wrote out one that seemed most relevant in a notebook, then began writing my thoughts about it and how it might apply to my situation, and then wrote out a prayer asking for God’s help. By the end of the exercise, I felt certain that I should share my story with the whole group. 

I was less certain of what details to include, but decided to take the first step of obedience by faith. When it was a reasonable hour, I called Becky. “Do you think it would be all right if I led Soulfire tomorrow? I have a testimony that I’d like to share.”

“We already have a guest speaker lined up for tonight, but a testimony next week sounds great! Your story of healing last year is so powerful.”

“Thanks Becky. See you tonight.” I didn’t technically lie, but that still small voice told me I misled Becky all the same. I considered calling her back to give her a heads up that my testimony was on a totally different subject.

But what exactly was the subject? I still didn’t know for sure what I would be saying. I decided to put off calling Becky back until I had it settled.

Tuesday afternoon, I saw Zoey across the quad and ran to catch up with her. We stood chatting for a minute.

“How are you doing?” she asked.

“Not so good. Today’s been hard.” It was true, but maybe not for the reasons I expected. I missed Brad, but I was surprised at the amount of grief I felt for the baby that I thought had been there.

“I’m so sorry.” She gave me a hug. “You need to talk about it?”

I nodded, though I wasn’t sure I could put what I was feeling into words.

“I’m done for the day,” she said. “We could go back to the German House, or to Main Street to grab a coffee.”

“Coffee sounds great on a day like this,” I said, pulling my coat tighter against the brisk wind.

“So why did you and Brad break up anyway?” she asked when we settled into the booth of the coffee shop with our steaming drinks.

I looked down into the mug. “Just before winter break, we started having sex.” I said quietly.

Zoey looked surprised. “Really? You don’t seem the type.”

“Appearances can be deceiving I guess. Anyway, to make a long story short, I had a pregnancy scare.”

“And he dumped you over that? What a jerk.”

“Yes and no. What happened was I tried to talk to him about changing our ways. That’s when he started calling me names and punching the wall and told me to get lost.”

“Whoa. Punching the wall? I knew he played games, but that’s just plain scary. Now I know for sure we’re better off without him.”

“Maybe I exaggerated. He just lost his temper, that’s all.”

“If he came in here with a bouquet of roses and a sweet line, you’d take him back in a heartbeat, wouldn’t you?”

I looked down into my coffee mug again. “Well … ”
“Giselle, this is textbook. He didn’t just lose his temper. His reaction tells you something about him. It’s a big red sign that says RUN!”

“I don’t know if it was as bad as all that.”

“Listen, I know it’s hard on your pride to hear something like this. You want to think you’re smarter than that, right?”

I sighed. “It’s a moot point now, anyway. He’s not returning my calls and I haven’t seen him anywhere on campus the past few days.”

“Don’t worry, he’ll find you again soon and say whatever he thinks it will take to get you back.”

“You really think so?” The thought struck joy and dread in my heart all at once.

“I could almost bet on it. Just please promise me that if he does, you’ll at least come talk to me about it.”

“You make it sound like he’s dangerous,” I said. “Don’t you think you’re blowing it out of proportion?”

“No. Promise me. Pinky swear!” she demanded.

I locked pinkies with her with a sigh of resignation. “Fine, I promise will run it by you before getting back together with him. Thanks for looking out for me, Zoey.” 

Chapter 37, part 1: Pay it Forward

“Oh Jesus, we’d love to spend more time in your presence like this,” Sylvie finally said, “but I’m hungry and the dining hall is going to close in 15 minutes. Thanks for understanding! And all God’s children said…”
“Amen!” I finished.
When we entered the dining hall, I saw Zoey sitting alone at a table in the corner. Not really who I wanted to see.
“Giselle, can I make a suggestion?” Sylvie said as we made our way through the cafeteria line.
“Sure. What is it?”
“You know how you can really make sure you never forget you’re forgiven?”
“Forgive someone else.”
“You mean Brad?”
“Well, sure, eventually. But that’s not who I was thinking of.” She glanced pointedly over to Zoey.
Did I need to forgive Zoey? I guess I hadn’t ever officially let her off the hook for the situation in Europe.
“OK, I’ll do it. Pray for me!”
Sylvie joined a table of CSF regulars, and I made my way to where Zoey sat.
“Mind if I join you?” I asked her.
“I guess not,” Zoey said warily.
“I feel like we have a lot to talk about,” I began. “About Brad, and this past summer. I really don’t understand everything that happened, but I wanted to say I’m sorry for my part again, and also to tell you that I forgive you. I hope we can be friends.”
“I’d like that,” she said.
We ate in silence for a while.
“Are you still with Brad?” Zoey asked.
“Actually, we just broke up. No, it’s OK. In fact, a wonderful thing came out of it.”
“I’m relieved to hear that. You can do better. That guy messes with people’s heads. He was playing such a mind game with both of us in Europe, trying to pit us against each other. We’re both better off without him, believe me.”
More silence.
“So what’s the wonderful thing?” Zoey asked.
I searched for the right words. “God used the situation to teach me about his wonderful grace and love. I know for sure He’s real, and I’m not scared of his judgment anymore.”
“That is so awesome! I’ve been praying for you.”
“You, praying?”
“Surprised? It’s weird, but in a way, it’s because of you. Your humility on the train in Germany and what you said about God caring for us really got to me. I started going back to church with my mom on visits home, and it’s been a totally new experience. My Delta sisters were a little shocked at first, but some of them are coming to church with me now. We even started a sorority Bible study.”
God’s love really was overwhelming. It was so exciting and humbling to be part of His plan.
Zoey smiled. “Hey, why don’t you rush Delta? I’d love to call you sister.”
Me in a sorority? Why not? There was no reason to be scared of them; they were just people in need of God’s love, just like me. “I’ll think about it.”

Now I just had to confess to CSF. Or did I?

Chapter 36, part 2: Restoration

After a long silence, Sylvie interrupted my reverie. “Giselle, what are you thinking?”
“I don’t know,” I muttered. I hugged knees to chest. The chill of the winter day had long since seeped through all my layers of clothes. After another long silence, I flung my limbs back down in frustration. “Can we get out of here?”
“Am I glad you asked! It’s a lot colder out here than I thought it would be.”
Before we set off, Sylvie drew me into a hug. “Thanks, I needed this.”
“I don’t get it. You needed me?”
“I needed the reminder that I’m not alone in my sin, that God still loves me. God put the words in my mouth, but they were for me too.”
I pondered all Sylvie had said as we trudged back through the crackling leaves in the Hollow and back to the Volleyball House.
“Well, here we are,” she said. “Do you want to come in and talk some more? I think everyone else is at dinner.”
"I guess so.”
We removed our outerwear and settled in to the living room.
"What you said out there. It sounds too good to be true,” I said.
“Maybe it does, but remember, it’s not something I’m making up. Jesus called God ‘Abba’ – the equivalent of Daddy in his language. And so did Paul.”
I bit my lip and looked away. It was hard to shake the memory of my Daddy's reaction to wrecking his Miata.
“Giselle, do you truly regret having sex with Brad?”
“You know I do.”
“Well, then beating yourself up about it a waste of energy. You may think it’s what you deserve, but that’s a lie. Talking to me about it is good, but there’s someone who it would be even better to talk to.”
I furrowed my brow. “Who? Ian? The campus chaplain?” Suddenly I wasn’t as keen on the idea of humiliating myself in front of anyone else.
“No, silly – I meant prayer. I know that God’s already forgiven you, but something tells me that you don’t know it, not really. The only thing to do is to talk to Him about it right away. He’ll remind you of the truth of his love and protect you from Satan’s fiery darts. Does that sound okay?”
I nodded. “I guess it’s worth a try, but I wouldn’t know where to begin. Will you pray for me?”
“I’ll start, but jump in when you’re ready, okay?”
As Sylvie knelt down, I had second thoughts. Why did I ask for this? Was there a way to back out?
She grabbed my hands and bowed her head. She said some words, but my panic drowned them out. Finally she squeezed my hand. “Giselle, sweetie, your turn.”
"Our Father,” I began, not knowing what else to say. Silence hung thick in the air for several minutes. Then all at once, I was given the words to say. “Jesus called you Abba. Is it all right if I call you Daddy too?”
A tingle ran through me and I felt more than heard God answer. My daughter, my beloved daughter, welcome home.
This time, I didn’t brush it off as imagination. I knew it was true, and I knew just what to say in response.
"Daddy, I made a big mistake, and I’m really hurting. Sylvie says I can run right to you with it. I’ve been running away from you, not toward you. I wanted to hide until I was good enough. I wanted to earn your love, but I finally realize that I had it all along.” As I talked, a warmth settled around my heart. “Thank you, Jesus. I love you!” I cried out.

I squeezed Sylvie’s hands, and she took up the thread of conversation once more. We continued praying, each taking turns offering thanks and praise to our God who forgives and forgets, a God who in His almighty loving-kindness answers even the smallest prayers of His children.  

Chapter 36, part 1: Back to the Woods

The bell on the door jingled for the hundredth time that afternoon, but instead of Brad, it was Sylvie.
“Hi, Giselle, long time no see,” Sylvie chirped as she approached the table. “Oh, my … you look awful. What’s wrong?” She pulled a chair around the table and put an arm around me.
The kind touch let loose a flood of tears. “Brad. It’s all over,” I choked out.
“Oh, honey. What happened?”
You can tell her. I sent her for you.
Tears slowed to a trickle as I regained composure. Still, I hesitated to obey the voice.
Talk to her. Tell her everything. Not just Brad, but everything you’ve been hiding for so long. She’s safe.
There was that prompting again, more urgent than I’d ever felt it before. I had ignored it so many times, and where had it gotten me? I worked up my courage and spoke. “Sylvie, I really need someone to talk to about this, but maybe here isn’t the best place – can we go for a walk or something?”
“Fine by me. I was here looking for a reason to procrastinate, and you just gave me one. There’s actually a great place in the woods I know of where we can stop and chat. I love hiking in winter, don’t you?”
“Sounds fun but a little chilly – do you mind if we go back to my room first so I can get a heavier coat?” I squeezed Sylvie’s hand. “Thanks. I really need a friend right now.”
The storm from the night before had covered the muddy melting snows on Elk River’s hills with a fresh blanket of clean white. Even through my worries and fears, I couldn’t help but marvel at the change in landscape. Though this was my second year experiencing the change of seasons, the wonder of it all was still fresh, and the beautiful surroundings immediately lifted my spirits. After the brief stop to add extra layers and grab a blanket, Sylvie led the way down to the Hollow and up through the thicket of stark black trees, stopping in a familiar clearing.
“Is this the spot?” I asked. “I think Ian brought me out here once.”
“I wouldn’t doubt it – I think it’s his favorite place on the whole campus. He and I have been coming out here a lot lately. It’s like a little chapel, isn’t it? Let’s sit on that log over there.”
So they’d been coming out here a lot had they? I had been so wrapped up with Brad that I hadn’t even noticed Ian and Sylvie’s developing relationship. We worked together to lay the blanket over the icy log and settled in to talk.
“So what happened with Brad?” Sylvie asked. “I don’t know either of you very well, but you seemed pretty happy together.”
“Did we? I guess we were, at least sometimes. But looking back on it, I wonder if it was all fake.”
“How so?”
“Everything about it was fast. We didn’t even meet until late last year. We fooled around in his room. But then there was this whole weird thing with him and Zoey when we were in Europe this summer…. Never mind, I’m supposed to have forgotten about it. When he wanted to get back together, I jumped at the chance and who wouldn’t, coming from a guy like him?”
“Okay, so then what happened? Why did Brad dump you?”
Tell her, the voice said. Somehow, I made the words come out. “We’ve been having sex. I thought my period was late.”
Sylvie’s eyes widened.
"But yesterday it finally started, I think. But it hit me, how wrong I was. I wasn’t ready to be a parent, for one thing, and worse it was plain defiance against God. So I told Brad I thought we should repent and he basically kicked me to the curb.”
“I can hardly believe it either. I always thought I would wait until marriage. Why did I just waste myself like that?” I twisted the end of the borrowed scarf in my hands, waiting for Sylvie to contradict me. When no response came, a wave of bitterness welled up.
I thought you said she’s safe? Or was that my wishful thinking again?
Safe or not, now that I had started talking about it I couldn’t stop. I went on. “You should have seen me, it was so pathetic. I couldn’t stop crying and started babbling about the Holy Spirit of all things. Brad got angry, and suddenly he’s telling me he never wants to see me again. And I’m pretty sure God hates me and I’m going to hell.” I ground my toe against the frozen leaves, feeling a sort of twisted satisfaction as they disintegrated.
Finally Sylvie spoke. “Oh, Giselle. I’m so sorry. It sounds like you really regret what happened, and I can tell you’re very angry with yourself. But why are you so sure God is angry with you too?”
“I don’t know. Actually, it’s kind of funny, but I thought I heard God talking to me last night. Dumb, I know.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, Brad said it was all in my head, just my neurotic mind inventing new ways to torture me.”
“Could be, but it depends. What did the voice say?”
“To come back. That it wasn’t too late to come back.”
Sylvie smiled. “Now that sounds like the sort of thing God would say.”
I relaxed a bit, enjoying the companionable silence that fell between us. Maybe Sylvie was safe after all.
Tell her about the rest of it. What you’re most scared to talk about.
Did I dare? I wasn’t even sure I should have told her the first part.
“So, is there anything else you need to talk to me about?” Sylvie prompted. “I’m so glad you felt safe enough to talk to me about you and Brad. I’ve been asking God for a girl friend I can really walk through life with. And, well, Ian’s been telling me I should get to know you better. While you were talking, I wondered if this could be God answering my prayer, so I asked Him.”
It was now or never. What did I really have to lose? “Yes, I do have something else I want to talk to you about. Well, I don’t want to exactly, but I have to.”
“I can relate,” Sylvie said with a smile.
“I’ve always been so confused about sex and everything around it. What’s wrong, what’s okay? Am I evil just for thinking about what it would be like to kiss a cute guy? Is it a sin to get turned on watching a movie or reading a book?”
Sylvie shocked me by saying, “I struggle with that too … I mean, who doesn’t? We’re all human. I think God understands that. He’s the one who created our bodies and minds to work that way. The important thing is to not let it turn to lust. Isn’t there a saying like that? Something like, it’s impossible to stop birds from flying by, but you don’t have to let them build a nest in your attic.”
“That’s Martin Luther. So does that mean it’s a problem if you go beyond just getting turned on, if you catch my drift? What does God think about that?”
“I’ve wondered about that too. I do know it’s not specifically addressed in the Bible, so this is just my opinion. Don’t take my word for it or anything, but I tend to think there are some times when that is innocent and natural, but there’s also a point where it turns to lust.”
“If that’s true, then what’s the difference? How can a person know if they’ve crossed the line?”
“I’m not sure. I think it’s something you have to talk to God about, and listen to the leading of the Spirit. Sometimes it just seems like it would be safest to decide to not do it at all, but…” She cleared her throat but didn’t continue.
I could hardly believe it. Did someone who seemed as holy as Sylvie really struggle with the same feelings and secrets I did?
“What I learned from Ian is that Satan wants nothing more than to keep us from truly receiving and experiencing God’s love. You know that one of his names is Accuser, right?”
I folded my arms. “I’ve heard people say that,” I said skeptically.
“Well, that’s just what he does. He tries and tries to convince us that if we break one rule or another, that God stops loving us.”
“What do you mean?”
“Satan knows you belong to God and he can’t change that. The most he can do is get you to focus on following rules instead of following Jesus. That way, he can keep you and me so bogged down with guilt that we never make a difference in the world.”
“I thought it was good to feel guilty when you do something wrong. Isn’t that called a conscience?”
“There’s a difference between your conscience or the Holy Spirit convicting you and the type of shame and guilt you’ve been telling me about, Giselle. You belong to Jesus, so you can rejoice in knowing that He already dealt with each mistake for you on the cross. You don’t have to cower in fear or wallow in guilt each time you sin. We’re God’s beloved children. Think about it. What does a toddler do when he falls down and scrapes his knee?”
“Look for his Mom or Daddy to comfort him.”
“But what if his Daddy just finished telling him not to run because the ground was slippery?”
“Kids don’t care about things like that.”
“Exactly, and in my child development classes they teach us that good parents don’t punish in moments like that either. They just sweep them into their arms and kiss the hurt away.”
The vision of the child getting a bear hug flickered anew on my mind’s eye, triggering a smile. Maybe that could be God and me one day, after I worked hard to make things right again.
Sylvie continued. “I think that’s part of what Jesus meant when he said we have to enter the Kingdom like little children. When we scrape our knees, we should immediately run right back to the Father’s arms.”

My face fell. Immediately? Surely God wasn’t so ready to sweep me up in His arms right this second. My violation was a lot more serious than running instead of walking or a scrape on the knee – it was more like when I took Daddy’s Miata. How long had it been before Daddy started speaking to me again? Heck, he still reminded me about it every once in a while, half-joking that he should make me pay him back for it. No, it was too soon. I’d let God cool off a little before I dared go near Him. 

Chapter 35, part 2: Take it Back?

The next morning I groaned with the awful realization. I’d lost Brad. Somehow in the few short months I’d known him, he had become my whole world.
Where had all that crazy talk about him seducing me and God punishing us come from? He’d only taken what I’d offered. The verses that seemed to condemn sex didn’t, couldn’t, apply to us. Sure, I still sometimes felt a little guilty after we messed around, but Brad had always been patient, saying years of Puritan conditioning took a long time to break. I loved him, he loved me, and that was what was supposed to matter. Sex with Brad had been beautiful and perfect, a way to seal our commitment to each other. But if that were true, how could he discard me so easily?
I gave him my whole self, and he rejected me utterly. Now I was left with nothing. If someone who knew me that intimately said I was impossible to love, who ever would? The hateful words rang in my ears, and I believed them. I was crazy, neurotic. Impossible to love. I pictured him laughing at me with his next girlfriend. “I’ve dated some real psychos, but let me tell you, Giselle was the worst.”
I shook my head to clear the painful fantasy, but the accusing voices persisted.
You wasted what little purity you had left on a guy you just met mere months ago, and now he wants nothing to do with you. Not that you didn’t deserve it. Forget ever getting married. You’re doomed to live your life alone. You tried to ignore God’s law, and this is your punishment. Who’s going to love you now? You’re trash, damaged goods. Even if you try to repent, you’ll never recover from this. You’ll always be a second-class citizen.
Maybe Brad was right—the voices in my head did sound insane. Looking back at my “relationships,” if you could call them that, with Quan and Ian, I could make an argument that I did push men away. Brad always said the problem was in me. Could it be that he really did love me, and all he wanted was to keep me from hurting myself?
I dialed his number and left a message when he didn’t pick up. “About last night. I don’t know what got into me, but I was way overreacting. I love you, and no matter what I said last night, I don’t believe that anything we did was a mistake. I don’t want to lose you. Can we meet to talk about it? I’ll be in the Student Center this afternoon, studying. It would mean a lot to me if you would stop by.”
There, now it was in his court. If it was meant to be, if he really loved me, he would show.
That afternoon, I sat at a table blanketed with books and papers, nursing a cup of hot cocoa. Unable to concentrate on my studies, I began to fantasize about what Brad and I would say to each other when he got there.
The bell on the door jingles. I heave a sigh of relief. He walks toward me. I stand, and all at once he’s by my side, wrapping his long arms around me tighter than ever…
In reality, I’d been in the student center for three hours, and still no sign of Brad. I couldn’t quell the rising panic at the thought of life without him.
At the same time, the thought that I had sinned and needed to repent wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried hard to push it away, telling myself “God’s law” and “repentance” were just meaningless words held over my head by a repressive church.
It was no use though. Deep down I knew that that line of argument was ridiculous. No matter how I tried to twist the definitions and call my fornication with Brad innocent fun, it was still wrong.
Brad was right about one thing – I should quit CSF once and for all. Of course, they would want to know why, and I’d tell them … what? The truth?
To my surprise, a weight lifted off my shoulders at the thought. The loss of reputation and position seemed inevitable, a just judgment for my many failings. I deserved to be stripped of my title and good girl image.

Chapter 35, part 1: True Colors

I didn’t even try to resist Brad’s advances when he came back to town that night. If it were too late for me to repent, might as well enjoy my sin as much as I could, right?

“I’ll be right back,” I told Brad afterward as I slid out from the sheets.

In the bathroom, I checked the tissue out of habit. Blood soaked the toilet paper.

My period? Relief and disappointment hit me all at once. I started to cry. Once I started I couldn’t stop. There wasn’t a baby, probably had never been one. This was crazy. I was only 19, supposedly a Christian, and definitely not married. I shouldn’t even be worrying if there might be a baby.

“Giselle? What’s going on in there? Are you all right?”

I was crying too hard to answer.

“You’re scaring me, babe.” He tried the handle, but I had locked it. “C’mon. Tell me what’s wrong. Or at least come out of there.”

Finally I didn’t have energy to cry anymore. I splashed water on my face and opened the door. I had one thought: I needed to get out of there.

“I have to go home.” I repeated the phrase twice more as I went to the living room and started pulling on my clothes. “Where are my glasses?”

“It’s past midnight, babe,” he said, handing them to me. “Why don’t you sit down. Just calm down. You’re not thinking straight.” He grabbed my arm and whirled me around to face him. “C’mon, stay? We could fall asleep in each other’s arms … In the morning, we could have a little bit of wake-up action, and I’ll drive you over to breakfast—”

I wrenched myself from his grasp and started fumbling with my shoes.

“You need to leave. I get it. Just tell me before you go. Why were you crying?”

How could I tell him? How could he ever understand the feelings brought up by the idea of a baby that never was?

"I was trying to find the right time to tell you. My period, I thought it might have been late.” My voice broke. “Now … I’m bleeding.”

“Oh, now I get it.” Disdain tinged his voice. “This flood of tears is just because you’re PMS-ing.”

“It’s not just that. You don’t understand. When I thought I might be — that there might be — a baby, it opened my eyes.”

“So what’s your big revelation, Giselle?” he sneered. “Wait, don’t tell me, another one of your guilt trips. You know how irrational you’re being, Giselle? You probably weren’t even late. You’re not the greatest at keeping track of stuff like that you know.”

“That’s not the point.” I covered my face with my hands and sank to the floor, fresh tears spilling from my eyes. My shoulders shook as I hugged knees to chest and buried my face in my arms. Sex was like a drug, an irresistible poisonous drug. More than a drug. It was sin. We’d been sinning. We needed to stop, but how?

Who was I kidding? I had no self-control left. It was probably too late anyway. The verses from Hebrews said it was impossible for me to come to repentance.

No. I love you. It’s not too late to come back.

Before I could register that still small voice, Brad knelt beside me and brushed hair back from my forehead. “Babe, I get it. You were scared about there maybe being a baby. We’re not ready for that, I agree. We’ll just be more careful from now on.”

“You don’t get it at all. It’s not just fear or a guilt trip. It’s conviction of sin.”

“You didn’t seem to think it was sin earlier tonight. C’mon, how many times are we going to go back over this.” Contempt dripped from his voice.

Suddenly I saw him in a new light, cold and calculating. “You seduced me.”

“Seduced you? If I remember correctly, you begged me for it.” He smirked. “I always knew you’d be a tiger in the sack—“

I glared at him. “That’s right. You always did know didn’t you? You whittled at my boundaries from day one.”

He jumped to his feet and swore. “Listen to yourself. Just listen to how ridiculous you sound. I’ve never met anyone as paranoid and neurotic as you.”

I stood too. "Stop talking to me like that.”

“I won’t. You opened this can of worms, so you’re going to hear every last word I have to say. You’re lucky that I didn’t dump your butt as soon as I got you in the sack and you freaked out. Do you think other guys would have been so patient? For some reason I was deluded enough to think that I could rescue you, that if I could just help you get over your massive guilt complex, maybe we could be happy. But I see now that you’re totally beyond help.”

He stood fuming for a moment, then hit the wall above my head with his fist. I cowered away, then sank to the floor again.

“What really gets me riled is that you’re acting like I tricked you into this. We both know that I didn’t force you to do anything. This was your decision Giselle, plain and simple. Don’t pin responsibility of this on me. You weren’t so pure and innocent as you wanted everyone to believe.”

I looked up. “Maybe not. You’re right. You didn’t trick me into this. I don’t know where that came from. It was a willful act, a conscious decision.”

“Okay, that’s more like it. If you’re going to be calm like that, maybe we can talk this through like reasonable people.” He helped me to my feet and led me to the sofa.

“Ian talks about the conviction of the Holy Spirit – maybe this is it. It’s not too late, don’t you see? We can admit to God we made a mistake. We can start fresh, get back on course and wait until marriage as if this never happened.” I reached toward him.

He shrunk from my touch. “Where is this coming from? I thought you agreed with me that God could care less about sex. Why are you going back on your guilt trip?”

“Brad, don’t you see? These feelings, this guilt, it means something. God’s trying to call us back.”

“Yeah right. You know what I think? I think you just enjoy punishing yourself. You want to be miserable. All this self-flagellation gives you some kind of perverse pleasure. But don’t think you can drag me down with you. No freakin’ way.” He slammed his fist against the wall again. “Why did I waste so much time on you? You’re so screwed up Giselle, do you know that? At first your neuroses were kind of cute, but I’m sick and tired of this. Frankly, I don’t see why I should have to put up with you another second.”

“Don’t say that,” I said, trying in vain pull his hand so he would sit down again with me.

“I’m saying it. I said it.” He shook off my hands. “I’m through with you and your insufferable neediness. I give and give and give, and all you do is waffle and whine and make me out to be the bad guy. No wonder that high school guy made up some lame story about his parents to get away from you. You make it impossible for anyone to love you.”

“Brad, just listen—”

“No you listen.” He let out a string of profanity. “Get my point? I want you out of here. Go home and cry to your mommy or your little do-gooder friends about what a big bad man I am if you want. Just don’t bother waiting for me in the dining hall or after class. I can’t believe you turned out to be just another psycho after all. I’m so done with you.”