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First Kiss

I was 12 years old. It was the Fourth of July and we were out on an expansive, gentle hill covered with grass. The city of Springfield, Missouri was about to put on a fireworks display preceded by the magical performance of fireflies at twilight that happens on summer nights in the Midwest. My sister and I were excited! We had met two new friends: were they young men? Teenagers? Hard to tell. I’m sure it was hard for them to guess my age as well. We didn’t ask: we didn’t want to spoil the moment. One of them was clearly interested in me, so we settled on a blanket to watch the fireworks together.

 

I had never spent time alone with a boy, but I could feel the tension mounting: something was going to happen! I pictured watching the fireworks, cheek to cheek, holding hands, maybe even a little kiss . . .

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A thick cover of darkness fell around us, all eyes were glued on the fireworks above. That’s when it happened: my first kiss. Let’s just say it was not what I expected. No hand holding, no eyelashes batting . . . his tongue shot into my mouth, down my throat, and his hand went up my shirt and under my bra. I don’t remember what happened next. All I remember is the shame: I grew up in an ultra-conservative home. Anything past first base was pretty much sex, and anyone who had sex before marriage was damaged goods. Dirty. Worthless. How long ago had I bought my first bra? Probably less than a year. In true “go to extremes” pubescent style, I thought this one moment in time would ruin me for life. Back at home I curled up in my bed and cried.

I don’t remember a single person of color in my elementary school. There was one African American in Junior High, and my sister worked at a Chinese restaurant, but that was all we had for diversity. The boy who had kissed me was Chinese. I think. I really don’t know, but that is why I gravitated towards him. He looked different, interesting, exotic. Now, overnight, I developed an aversion to Asian boys and men. Every time I saw one, I recoiled in shame and fear. Added to my self-loathing for feeling dirty, I now felt like a racist. More guilt! I avoided Asians; refused to look them in the eye; every muscle in my body tensed up when they walked by, I held my breath until they were out of sight.

 

How can you heal from something you are too ashamed to talk about? I didn’t talk about it back then. In fact, as I write these words, this is the first time I have told the whole story. The Bible tells us that the devil is the “accuser” (Revelation 12:10) and both Christ and the Holy Spirit are our “advocates” (John 14, 15, 16, and 1 John 2). The accuser reminds us over and over of our mistakes, our short comings, and tells us we are worthless. The Advocate reminds us that He will go to the ends of the earth and conquer death itself to heal us and bring us home with Him.

The repulsion I felt for Asians came to an abrupt halt four years later. It was summer once again, but this time I was attending a string quartet camp in Columbia, Missouri. I was there on full scholarship and living in the dorms with other high school aged students. We were unsupervised, which made me feel very grown up. We spent several hours a day in rehearsals, practicing, and watching performances, but we also had free time for hanging out, playing sports, swimming and going out on the town.

 

This time it was a white boy who made unwelcome advances, but in a much more aggressive way. My quartet members and I had just taken a quick afternoon swim, and I popped up to my room before dinner to put on some lotion. My door was open, but not for long. The white boy, a violinist, walked into my room, closed the door behind him, and locked it. Apparently, I was still alarmingly naïve because I thought nothing of it. He walked over to me and offered to help put lotion on my legs. “No thanks,” I said. But before I could get the words out, his hands were running up my thighs. I pushed his hands away, but in a flash, he took both of my wrists in one hand, pinned them to the windowsill, and kept touching me with his other hand. I was shocked at how easy it was for him to physically overpower me. I was not drunk, not even tired. I thought I was a strong young lady, but this 16-year-old, of average height and build, held me down with almost no effort. Just then, someone knocked on the door. “Janet, are you there?” The violinist whispered in my ear, “Be quiet, don’t answer,” but I was already yelling. “Yes!!! I’m here!” His grip loosened and I struggled past him. I yanked the door open to find the cellist from my quartet and a violinist from another: the violinist just happened to be Chinese. I grabbed my shoes and my bag and headed out to walk across campus to the cafeteria.

I had avoided the Chinese violinist earlier, but now I was walking to dinner with him. The blinding, raging panic that had overcome me started to melt away. He and my other friend did little summersaults in the grass. They joked and laughed. I didn’t tell them what had happened, but somehow, I knew it was over: I could let go of the past. I was no longer afraid of this young, Asian man, on the contrary, I was grateful for his presence, his smile, his silly antics. Racist no more! But another change had taken place, too: In a split second I found out that I am physically weak. Easy prey. However, I am also worth fighting for: My narrow escape helped me stop listening to the accuser and start listening to the Advocate. I am not trash, but treasure.

 

In the cafeteria, we got our food and sat down at a table with the other Asian boy at the camp. He played violin, too. My hands were shaking, and my eyes teared up just a little, but no one noticed. As we ate and talked and laughed, my breathing slowed down. Deep sigh, heart full of gratitude, I gave thanks to God. He had used my imagined enemy to rescue me. In doing so, He healed me of not only my fear, but my shame.

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:  If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20

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