Are You There, God? It’s Me, Leah

are you there god

My parents got me a copy of Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret for my last birthday. I read it in a day and finished with mixed thoughts. I mulled over the fact that the main character talks to God despite belonging to no religion. She looks for him in a variety of churches and doesn’t find him, yet she doesn’t hesitate to tell him what’s going on and what she’s thinking.

I remember the first time in my life the idea of God’s presence was addressed. To prep us for prayer, my first grade teacher looked at the open door and said “I think I see Jesus coming in right now.” I looked, then said “I don’t see him.” One of the other kids said “That’s because Jesus is air!” Of course, my six-year-old mind believed him. As a result, believing in God isn’t an issue.

But talking to him and gleaning a response? That’s a whole other ballpark.

One of the issues getting in the way is how to see and/or address God. Everyone in my life suggests treating him like a revered leader, a parent, and a close friend. Absolutely none of that computes. There are things I’d say to my friends that I’d never say to my parents (favorite swear words, for example). Plus, I generally talk about leaders, revered or otherwise, with the expectation that I’ll never meet them in person. And just imagine the hubris that would come from treating God—the king of everything and everyone—like a parent.

Another issue is everything I’ve been told about what we’re allowed to say to God. Just this week, my prayer group at work studied the first chapter of a book by Francis Chan, who argues that God is just and fair, so his judgment is absolute. And if we disagree—or even dare to argue—then it means we’re arrogant. That doesn’t mesh well with what I’ve learned from my mentor, which is that God prefers we be honest with him even if we’re angry with him.

Once again, it doesn’t compute.

And then there’s the issue of closure. A few nights after reading Blume’s book, I decided to try telling God everything that was on my mind. All that was left was this feeling of “Now what?” But it’s not the only time I’ve been left confused or hanging. When I pray for guidance, it takes months to get an answer. It’s easier to get a clearer answer if I’m praying with a second party, but I can’t expect people in my life to drop everything every time I have a question only God can answer. Once or twice someone will feel moved to speak to me on God’s behalf, but in those cases I have no idea what to do with what they’ve given me.

When I was a kid, a woman visiting the school shared a story of how she lay her broken heart at Jesus’ feet and was showered with his love. In college, a friend told me about how she prayed for guidance and was answered on the spot. Me? Sometimes it feels like I’ve got nothing. Then I hear the last thing I want to hear. And in those few times I hear what I want to hear, it feels less like God talking and more like wishful thinking.

The truth is, when I started writing this I didn’t know how to finish. I couldn’t think of a realistic conclusion without sounding negative. So I closed my laptop, left the phone and 3DS alone, and lay in bed for a while. With nothing else to do I decided to focus less on when I heard God and more of when I felt him nearby. I thought of the Hunger Games song “Deep in the Meadow,” and the image of lying in the grass under a willow tree. I thought of the bishop from Les Misérables showing mercy to Jean Valjean when no one else would. I thought of my mentor, and the fun yet insightful conversations we can always have. I thought of the aftermath of the first Charlottesville march, and the people in my hometown coming together on Monday night and asking “What can we do about this?” I thought about my favorite comedians drawing attention to things going on in the world. And I thought about my alma mater, the place where my faith became real to me even though I dared to wrestle and ask questions.

I’ll never fully understand God. But maybe I don’t need to.

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12 Tips for Honoring Consent

Consent

Over the last few months, we’ve had a lot of women come forward and share stories of how (and in some cases, who) they were sexually harassed or assaulted. The response to the #MeToo movement…varied, to say the least. Some negative responders opted not to leave their vacation home in DeNile. Others vocalized Mike Pence’s rule of women, which is to not be alone in the room with a woman without his wife holding his hand. Neither of these responses are helpful. Denial and shaming are exactly why victims don’t come forward, and the “all women are sexual pieces of meat, so don’t catch yourself alone in a room with them” theory doesn’t help women in their careers.

People, if we want the assault accusations to stop, then we need to get better at teaching consent and respect. To get the conversation started, I would like to offer twelve tips for accepting the word “no.”

1. If they don’t want to have sex with you, don’t have sex with them.

If you ignore this rule, you are committing a crime. Plain and simple.

2. Don’t try to blackmail or persuade someone to have sex, especially if they’ve already said no.

Despite what bad chick flicks and horrible fan fiction will tell you, the cat and mouse chase isn’t romantic. When people say no to sex, they mean it.

3. Ask.

Even if you don’t think it’s romantic, ask for permission before plowing through. Even if you think it’s okay to move forward, just ask. Better to be safe than sorry.

4. Don’t make the other party feel guilty for saying no.

Sex might be fun, but it’s not the only way to pass the time. And if you are that upset, try the Scream into the Void app. It’s actually quite therapeutic.

5. Catcalling isn’t flattering.

Drooling over a stranger’s body parts doesn’t make you look like a cool dude, it makes you look like an entitled prick. So stop it.

6. Work is not an appropriate place for sexual activity.

Most workplaces see romantic relationships between coworkers as conflicts of interest anyway. So contrary to what Michael Scott will tell you, the workplace is neither a dating website nor a mating ground.

7. If they’re underage, DON’T EVEN GO THERE.

It’s illegal. It’s disgusting. It’s illegal. It’s emotionally scarring. Did I mention it’s illegal? Bottom line, just don’t.

8. If they’re drunk, unconscious, or otherwise incapacitated, they aren’t in a great position to give consent.

True, we haven’t quite worked out the “what if both parties are drunk?” problem yet. All the more reason to start the conversation now.

9. Regardless of what gender you are, you’re allowed to say no to sex.

Even if you’re halfway through, you can say no. And if you’re asked for sexual favors you’re uncomfortable with, you can refuse.

10. If you are guilty of assault or harassment, don’t lie or make excuses.

Despite what some might think, human beings aren’t allergic to humility. We all need to get better at making smart choices as well as taking responsibility for our actions. And sometimes, that means admitting we did something wrong, accepting the consequences for those choices, and taking steps to make sure we don’t do it again. The more we work on it, the better we can get at it.

11. Don’t support people who’ve been accused.

Not only does it make you look bad, but it enforces an environment where victims can’t come forward. If there’s no weight to the accusations, then there’s no harm in investigating them. Better to investigate a hundred potential lies than to ignore one undeniable truth. He might be the nicest person you know, but if he’s guilty of a crime then he’s guilty of a crime.

12. Bottom line, don’t be a jerk.

Enough said.