April 27, 2006

Dear Wendy,

I had never heard of your book until yesterday, and I stayed up until 1 a.m. this morning just to read it. Unlike The Rules, it answered many of those deep-down questions. Unlike a lot of books I have read, it addressed an honorable, Godly womanhood that has been a desire of mine to attain. This morning I am gripped by a kind of despair, because although I believe in God and His redemptive power, I feel like it is too late. Way too late.

I am a 30-something unmarried mom. Like many of you ladies, I cherished my virginity and although I had absolutely no guidance (I grew up hearing about my mom's exploits) it was the desire of my heart to find real love, pure love. Growing up I was "too much," "too intense," "too dramatic," phrases you have no doubt heard before. I wanted to find my true love, marry, and be a happy housewife with a lapful of babies. But life has not turned out that way.

I was date-raped at 21 and got pregnant. As is true with many victims of this crime, my behavior after the incident went from mild, modest, untouchable to a typical girl on the dating scene. At this point, in my early thirties, unmarried, alone, I feel like all that I wanted out of life, out of being a girl, has been mocked and corrupted. The kind of man I dreamed of marrying could not possibly want the kind of woman my life says I have been. Or could he? The girlish dreams I was told were stupid, how much more stupid to believe that there is any hope left at all??

My question is two-fold. To what extent have you seen God restore a broken life, and where do I go to learn about Orthodox Judaism?

Thank you so much for responding.

Is it Too Late?

Wendy replies:

You are obviously a very special--and courageous individual--and I am so impressed that you managed to stay true to your hopes, despite all the pain and discouragement you've been through.

Now all you have to do is keep it up! Easier said than done, I know.

But think about it: you know what is true, and you're living according to your ideals now. That's what matters, and that's what your future husband will see. It's not your fault, after all, that you were date-raped. You took your difficult circumstances and made the best of them. You made unselfish choices and you continue to make them.

You've also realized that what society wants from you and what you want in your own heart are two different things, and that takes integrity and a lot of intellectual honesty--two qualities which are very rare nowadays.

Yes, I believe that there are men out there who will appreciate that. Now, if you told me now that you are a bar-hopping pole dancer, yet still hoping to meet a traditional gentleman, then I might say it's tricky looking for qualities you haven't developed in yourself. But as long as you are projecting your true values and ideals, I don't see any reason why the right man wouldn't appreciate you.

Getting back to your questions, I always love going to www.aish.com--have you heard of that website? It's a Jewish site, but not just about Judaism.

One of my favorite books is Our Bodies, Our Souls by Rebbetzin Heller, but if you tell me more about your background maybe I can recommend something more appropriate for you.

In the meantime, yes, I do believe that God can completely restore a broken life.

There actually a Jewish parable about a servant who breaks the king's most precious vessel and to his horror, no one can fix it. One expert craftsman simply says, "I wouldn't want to be you!"; another recommends that the man skip town. Eventually, the servant has no recourse but to go to the king himself and tell him what happened. To his surprise, he finds out that the king actually has a use for broken vessels. There are many aspects to this story, but one point, I suppose, is that it matters less how broken we are than who we turn to.

And of course, never forget that you are precious, even if you currently feel rather broken--


"StitchNBitch" adds:

I believe if you don't have hope you dont' have anything. I haven't commented here before but I believe there is someone out there for EVERYONE. I hope she sees this.

Erin P recommends:

For the mother whose letter I read, you will be in my prayers. I am not a mother nor can I imagine the experience of date-rape, but I do know what it's like to feel like you're "too much" for anyone to pledge to love for a lifetime. Maybe it's the artist and perfectionist in me.

I have been learning a lot about self-acceptance though in the past couple years. As a Catholic I have prayed for God's grace and mercy to see me through my moments of near despair and God shows me again and again that he loves me no matter what. And know that you have a special dignity in God's eyes as a mother.

Praying the Psalms can be very powerful prayer too - they express such a full range of human emotion.

"A friend" emails the following:

Dear Is It To Late?,

I just wanted to relay my own experience of redemption and virginity. As a young woman I had always desired to wait till I was married to but when I had my first real relationship in college, I like many of the girls I knew, succumbed to his pressure to . I knew it was wrong but I also was swept away by our "love.&" Needless to say I didn't marry the guy – who would want to marry a guy who pressured a girl like that?! When, after college (and one more sexual relationship), I got my act together and started investigating my faith a little I realized more clearly that what I had done was an injustice to God but, more seriously, to me. As they say, you don't break commandments, you only break yourself against them. I was broken and in need of repair. I found repair through the Catholic Church and its beautiful teachings on sex and love. Once I had committed myself to the Church and upholding Her teachings, I had oceans of grace flow over me. It wasn't always easy and there were many many many times I doubted that I would ever really find happiness in marriage (who would want me?). But eventually I did meet and marry a wonderful man who had saved himself for marriage. It was a testimony to his love that he "forgave" me instantly when I confessed to him my past. I knew then that this was truly a good and holy man. His attitude was, if God can forgive me so could he. Good luck, friend, in seeking forgiveness and finding your true mate. He is out there waiting for you.

Lucie Winborne writes:

Dear "Late":

You said your question is two-fold, but I think it's rather three-fold, and that's how I'll answer it. First, with God there is no such thing as "too late"
unless a person has died and their soul is facing judgment (I am speaking now in the Christian tradition in which I was raised), or unless a person has reached a state of hard-heartedness from which there is no return, a state that I don't imagine is all that common but which I believe the Bible addresses.

You had also asked where a person could go to learn about Orthodox Judaism. I'm no expert on this, so will let others such as Wendy handle it, but I believe an Internet search isn't a bad place to start, even if it is only to find Orthodox synagogues in your area.

Finally, and most importantly, you asked "To what extent have you seen God restore a broken life?" I can give you at least two examples, one Judaic and one Christian. The first example is Elie Wiesel, who emerged from a concentration camp where he lost his immediate family to become a world-renowned humanitarian (see http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/ for a more thorough history).

The second was a friend of mine from years back who lived what Christians commonly call a "worldly" lifestyle, including, by his own admission, drugs, easy sex, and who knows what else. After a conversion experience he swung about as far to the other side of the pendulum as is possible and became a true friend and example to many others. Sadly, the lifestyle he lived prior to that time left him with AIDS, of which he died only a few years later, but it is his faith and works that people still remember more than anything else about him.

You apparently believe to some extent that no worthy man such as you wish to find would be interested in you, given your past history. Nonsense!

The friend I mentioned in my last paragraph married a godly woman who was fully aware of his past, but what was important to her was how much he had changed (he was, in fact, instrumental in her own conversion). What matters to most people is the person you are today. There are some instances in which a person simply can’t get past another’s history, but I believe these are fairly rare, especially in today’s society in which so many people have “a past.”

Some of the best advice I can give you is to work on becoming the kind of person you would like to marry if you were of the opposite sex. Once you’ve experienced healing, you will have a better chance of attracting the kind of person you want.

You say you are in your thirties. Assuming you live an average woman’s lifespan, you still have more than half your life before you. Too late? Hardly. What is required is willingness on your part to change, and you have already demonstrated that. If you continue to reach out to God, I guarantee that he will meet you where you are. In addition, if you ask Him, he will send you human “helpers.”

While you are either Jewish or considering conversion, the following extract from a letter of the Apostle Paul is, I believe, a fitting word for anyone in a situation such as yours:

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal....”

Jeannine Kellogg concludes:

I can simply answer, it is never too late.

The message of Faith is that no matter what awful things have happened to us and in spite of the fact that we are never fully perfect in facing life’s struggles, God presence is available to renew our hearts, heal a wound, strengthen our spirit and set our love on track.

In fact, those who have had rough blows in life and who have faced the difficulty of healing are often able to express and feel love on a far deeper level than those whose lives have been sugar-coated by comparison. I wrote about that in my post, “Purity Survives a Punch.” I wrote, “Remember that pure, modest love doesn't necessarily come from perfectly white, untroubled lives. In fact, it never really does.” No one has a perfect life during which nothing goes wrong and no one on the planet makes perfect choices.

Yet I have run across a few individuals here and there who have what I call the “arrogance of the lucky.” I mention it because I don’t want you to be discouraged by them. Some women have had things go well for them in dating and love and found a gentle man as a young innocent woman. And sometimes they assume from this that they did things better than those who’s dating life has had a few crash and burns. Sadly, some of these lucky ones hold the opinion that a girl who has bumped against some difficulty is too scarred to be pure of heart and can no longer experience the richness of life and love. That is simply not true and is, in fact, terribly, horribly wrong.

It would take chapters for me to give you examples of what I mean -- but I only have space here to say that some girls are very lucky to have not been seriously hurt before marriage, to have never bumped into a bad guy. Some of them may have been smarter in their choices. But in most cases, they are just very dearly fortunate and they should count their blessings. Because far too often choice is irrelevant, rape or assault is such a situation.

In the context of the horrible evil of rape, the concept of innocence is too often placed on the physical side of intimacy. I believe innocence reaches far deeper in Faith. I do know very happily married couples that have had difficult pasts but what makes them happy is that a sincere Faith has become part of their life. Not a quick fix Faith, but a Faith that arises from the process of healing and accepting personal change in all its stages. Please never assume that your future for love is doomed. It is definitely not.

Yet also, when a man attempts to take what isn’t his to receive it hurts deeply and it is a horrible evil that leaves the girl feeling unworthy, no longer innocent, even sometimes makes her feel dirty and ugly. That crushing impact can create in her a sense of futility in intimacy. The evil of rape is that a man’s invasive actions make a girl feel her future is foreshortened, unworthy, broken. A rapist is none other than the devil's servant, a man who vomits destruction on a girl's doorstep and slices open pain with the knife of despair. Our culture doesn't state the impact of that invasion bluntly enough and doesn't punish its perpetrators harshly enough. Often they expect us, even women, to gloss over our sensitivity as a “hang up.” Those that voice that particular opinion are damagingly wrong.

Yet the reality is that the pain of rape is often just glossed over (especially in our over-sexed culture that believe to be sexually liberated we should “put out” for any guy as easily as we put out the garbage.) It can take years to understand the impact of the resulting broken dream. The dream of lasting love can be a fragile one—once the dream is believed to be broken, a girl can feel she isn’t worthy and she thus sometimes gives up and takes painful turns.

But even years later, as you start renew and rebuild, you are still worthy of all that a real man’s love has to offer, and it is definitely not too late. Yet I also stressed in one of my blogs that marriage isn’t the only thing that gives meaning to our life, a loving spirit is what God asks of us.

Regardless of all the searching and turns that your life took, I hope I can convince you that the wrong man can never take your beauty away. He can never take your innocence. He can never steal your sweetness. He cannot drain your hope. Nothing like that. When he tries, he just ensures his soul’s self-destruction, not yours. In my world view, he is not a man.

Remember, your innocence is only given when you choose to give it. Innocence, once understood, is something that can only be given to your one true love, from “death do us part.” Those beautiful lines of loyalty and love are not intended only for the perfect “white” weddings. They are intended for those whose sweetness, passion, adoration, in all its depth, has finally found its home.

I share the following story because I think it is relevant to the early morning despair you wrote about in your letter. If I knew you personally, I would do as I have, share friendship, chats over for coffee, and convince you of your great future. Being single and struggling stinks and I wish more people would reach out. I hope that my writing to you, at the very least, ensures that you know that there are those of us out there that have a great vision for your future and love you for all you have to offer.

So here is a particular story that I hope you embrace for what it means for your wonderful future:

I recently have gotten to know a woman who is simply gorgeous and I can assure you she is a head snapper, men adore her beauty, and always have. As a young girl she was raped, once by her mother’s boyfriend. The story only gets worse from there—more abusive men, abortions, divorce. Yet, by reaching towards Faith, digging deep into personal reflections, not shirking from the pain of healing, she is one of the most bubbly sweet wonderful women you can know. She has a great marriage now with a man who is kind to her and loves her through and through and they have some simply adorably cute children. She carries with her a memento given to her by her husband that allows her to love and care for the lives torn from her past. With all this, she has what so many women want -- a life with depth, sincerity, beauty, comfort and the offer of friendship that runs deep into her heart. The life she has now is envied by some who have had easier lives. That is not to say she doesn’t still feel pain – but her life, her smile, her love is an incredible contribution to the world and her family. I have a strong sense that you will be like her, and you too will offer hope to those who cross your path.

Lastly you may not want to go it alone – having someone to talk to as you reach forward may be very helpful. I only know you via your letter, so I don’t know if you might find an extra hand beneficial. But if so, be careful in who you choose—take care that it is someone hopeful, determined, gentle, optimistic and who understands that healing and forgiveness runs deep into Faith. Sometimes friends and family cannot run the course of healing with you, there are times when outside guidance can be very helpful – and don’t be shy to walk away if that person is confused, bitter, manipulative, man-hating or not listening (some of the very confused types get drawn to therapy. Therapists are intended to be guides not Gods. Some of them are messed up and mixed up on that.) I can recommend some good books too, if you are interested.

Some of us are always cutting it close or running late for appointments, but on God’s watch, we are never ever late. When we finally arrive to cry out in pain, “What am I supposed to do?!” God says, “You’re right on time!” But if we never show up, well then that’s kind of a sad story that is written by the lonely, angry and bitter who refuse goodness. Yours is not the latter. You are already destined for a beautiful future, loving moments, friendships, and Hope. And your story will be inspiring, especially for other girls whose sweetness encountered someone trying to steal a dream. You can tell them as you will well come to know, “That man’s evil is not yours to accept. And your innocence and dreams were never his to take.”

Go for it beautiful, you have a great life ahead!

p.s. You stated in your letter that people said you were “too much, too intense, too dramatic.” Ah yes – it sounds like folks trying to crush a young girl packed with great talent and loads of love and ideas to offer the world. You are not too much, not too intense, not too dramatic. I heard all that too. Do take note -- much of the world is too little, too apathetic, too mild…the world always, desperately needs someone with loads of passion and energy!!

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