Hating Men — An Essay on Sanctification
I couldn’t remember his name. His name actually didn’t matter at this point. I wasn’t here to remember his name, I was here to forget mine. I was here to forget the fortitude of beauty I had curated in the deepest parts of my soul. I was here to sabotage the work I had done toward healing. That’s what immature broken women do.
This is what women get to do when their ex-husband’s sleep around. We get to do whatever the hell we want because we deserve it. This narrative makes sense when mercy is nonexistant. It makes sense when hope is lost. It makes sense when the heart is heavy with true and profound grief.
He opened the wooden doors to the balcony of his penthouse in a downtown apartment. The air was brisk and hit my chapped lips. I closed my eyes, my head was spinning with an elixir of vodka and red wine and after that I wasn’t quite sure. My calves were weak carrying the choices of the night and I knew it was anything from over. I rubbed the sides of my arms and looked over the vast city lights. I wondered what it would feel like to jump. Now. Into the vastness of desperation and open air. Into the vastness of longing. Would anyone know I was gone? Would anyone catch me?
I read once that in Japan, it was said that sacrificing a woman at a rushing river would placate the spirit who lived there, allowing for the construction of bridges and the safe passage of boats. In Greek myth, the warrior king Agamemnon decides to kill his own daughter in exchange for a favorable wind on the way to Troy. In much of the pre-modern world, ritual sacrifice was framed as necessary for the good of the society at large — the only way to guarantee, say, a plentiful harvest or success in war. I felt like a fatted calf, offering my body to something that promised to numb the pain. The rushing river would take me.
I don’t remember the details of that deep night. Life moves in slow motion when you work outside of your body. When my soul died and my flesh screamed and heaved in desperation. When I peeled the clothes off my body and laid myself down at an alter that demanded a damned harvest. I was there to forget my name. I grabbed the deep, dark night and danced until my body gave way. This is what broken humans do. Forget their name.
My eyes flickered open to the sound of a phone alarm. Half of his essence was on top of me. I tried to move my body to look at the world in front of me.
I could hear my heart pound and my eyes ached to see the world clearly. I turned to him and before I could say anything he muttered…
It’s time for you to leave.
Me. My broken body. Broken heart.
Because I had been bothersome. Because I had wreaked and wrecked someone’s world. Girls like me, in this moment, don’t get breakfast. They get shame. Enter, stage left.
I didn’t know what to call what just happened… my soul was too deep, vast and tender for something so flippant. I just remember his arm across his forehead and his breathy voice —
It’s time for you to leave.
I said nothing. I sat up quietly, pushed myself off the bed, grabbed my clothes off of the floor, put on my shoes neatly tucked next to the couch, opened the front door and let it slam behind me. I paused.
Ten years earlier, I left a seedy dorm room into a winter snow storm because someone asked me to leave. Could it be that I let myself be hurt over and over on purpose? That I assumed the position but perhaps, just perhaps, I wasn’t to assume this position…ever.
This is what I do though. I have to leave because they always leave me first. I clutched my purse to my chest as I held my shoes to the side of my body. I pushed the button on the elevator pointing downwards. The steel doors opened for me, I smiled at the man who got out of the eleveator.
“Good Morning,” I said.
But it wasn’t a good morning. It was a painful morning. But I smiled anyway.
I pushed the lobby button as I muttered quietly to myself — “That’s what men do. They leave.”
Mackenzie, that’s not truth.
Months later, my therapist leaned in and saw the fresh hot pain for the first time.
All I heard sitting in that elevator going dozens of flights downward was my estranged alcoholic dad tell me, “You’re not worthy.” I heard my ex husband scream, “Men will leave you when they find out who you really are.” I thought of a man I hoped to fall in love with flippantly say, “You’re not worthy of pursuing. I’m done with you.” I thought of the guy in college who I begged to stop and he whispered in my ear, “You’re like a line of cocaine, don’t tell me I can’t have what I want.”
This is what men do. They take and then they leave.
My therapist moved closer to me. I had backed myself into the corner of the room unconsciously. I had moved my body away from vulnerability. Me. The most vulnerable of humans couldn’t handle this moment.
Mackenzie, have you ever let yourself be fully wounded by this? Your precious soul should acknowledge these wrongs and should be protected.
I knew in this moment I had to make a choice. Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience. It requires us to be fully present.
I was a truth teller. And I hated men. I actually believed that. But saying it out loud actually felt like doing work. Doing the hard thing. The hard thing that demanded more of me in the best way.
There. In raw vulnerability. I wasn’t at the bloody alter any longer. I was laying my sticky hurt and throbbing pain down for the life of the world. Like the woman sacrificing herself in the river for the good of what was to come, I let that Mackenzie fall into the rushing water of the soul. For goodness I had to believe in, even when I couldn’t see it. I closed my eyes and thought of my God who had always loved every inch of my soul, even in this moment. Who had walked the narrow road with me every time. Who had delighted in my essence every step of the way. Who never took… only gave but more than that, loved me.
Get back up Mackenzie, I heard him whisper, I’m here.
I sat in the corner of that therapist office with my knees to my chest. Hot tears fell and baptized me as they fell on my cheeks.
There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else.
Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.
I was searching for honey being stung over and over by bees. I didn’t understand. But perhaps honey wasn’t what my soul needed. Perhaps my heart needed the wilderness for awhile. Perhaps manna instead of honey is enough for now. My heart was willing and pure. But sometimes, being willing and pure isn’t enough. Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.
You will learn to love yourself Mackenzie and in turn, you will learn to love men again. Quiet your soul.
That is the sort of bravery I must have now.
I closed my eyes and thought of the young men I was raising. That, yes, that I could love. Their hearts drove me to healing.
Sometimes, you have to do the quiet thing, the silent thing, the wise thing. Healing comes when you acknowledge the pain but you can not live there. That’s when bitterness and resentment creates chasms that are easily filled with damning devices.
No, I desired healing into a gracious new life.
If you’re serious about sanctification, you can expect to experience heart-wrenching moments that try your faith, your endurance, and your patience. Stillness. You will be lead in peace and go out with joy.
Hope is never lost. Hold on, don’t let go.
Lamentations 3: 55–58
But I called on your name, Lord,
from deep within the pit.
You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading!
Hear my cry for help!”
Yes, you came when I called;
you told me, “Do not fear.”
Lord, you have come to my defense;
you have redeemed my life.
Note: These are thoughts compiled after the last two years of intense grief work. I am grateful I don’t live in this place anymore yet I know it is apart of my story. I am grateful for the wisdom of teachers, mentors, friends and therapy to move me into a quiet realm of hope. I know a lot of humans have walked this road. Life is hard. I see you. I am so proud of you. Cling to peace and quiet habits of the soul.