The Day I Became the Adulteress Woman
**TRIGGER WARNING: This post addresses issues with sex, sexual assault/rape, and abuse.**
“We need to talk about sex.” I squirmed on the couch in my therapist’s office, rocking my hands underneath my thighs like I always do when I’m uncomfortable or feeling vulnerable. Mike’s demeanor shifted in small ways, which for him is telegraphing massive interest. We’d never talked about sex in any level of detail before, even when working through the issue of a 20-year-old rape.
“We do? Why?”
“Because I’m realizing it’s a problem.”
I’d never considered sex to be a problem in my life but now it was coming up. As part of the therapeutic process, my therapist suggested books for me to read between sessions. Sometimes, I’d devour a book in a week or two. More commonly, I would read a chapter and then set the book aside for a few days while I processed the information I’d just read. This is what happened when he recommended a book on sexual abuse and assault when we addressed the rape. I read it, and it helped me work my way through the emotions around the situation.
I never thought it might apply to another story in my life.
All I knew in the moment was that some of my behaviors might not be considered “healthy” from an outsider’s perspective. A new thought to me, the longer this thought brewed in my head, the more I needed answers: Were these behaviors “normal,” or was there something I needed to address?
“Tell me what’s happening.” Slowly, haltingly, I described some of the scenarios I lived and the fantasies I had, and why they concerned me. Most of them involved someone else dictating what enjoyment would look like, and when to orgasm. “Have you ever been in a situation like that? Were those ever part of a regular sex life for you?”
“Hmmmm…not exactly. The closest that comes to it was when I lived in Monterey, and that’s not really close.” I took Mike back to a time right around my rape. I’d met a soldier and his wife, a “swinging” couple. Except that they weren’t “swingers” in the traditional sense. He was very much into BDSM, and she along with him. They also lived with a second man, who actively participated in many of their sexual activities. I was not their only conquest; they invited others into their orgies. Over time, he started to pay more attention to me, and we’d have individual moments together. Whatever he wanted, I submitted. Whatever he desired, I accommodated. Whether in group or solo scenarios, he was always present. He was always the one running the show. In retrospect, she was along for the ride regardless of her personal preferences or desires.
I’d since considered it a “weird” time in my life, one that confused me about my “real” sexual orientation and changed my understanding of what a healthy sex life looked like. If you’d asked me then, I’d have said that I learned and grew. All sex was good. BDSM was only bad if you thought of it that way, or if your partner wasn’t interested. Now, I wasn’t so sure.
Mike looked at me. “It sounds like your fantasies mirror some of your experiences in Monterey.” Wait — what? He walked his way through, tying one to the another, drawing connections. Open-jawed, I slumped. Mike was right.
“Oh my God, he groomed me.”
That book, that stupid book that was so incredible at helping me overcome so much. Primarily targeted at survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I’d read it only to get out of it what I could about sexual assaults, crossed boundaries, and tips on how to heal. I’d skimmed through the parts on childhood sexual abuse, the explanations of how children were groomed to accept sexual advances and behaviors that were not only not age-appropriate, but unhealthy in almost any context. I’d skimmed through them because I’d never been sexually abused. Right?
And in that moment, it all hit home to me. Not just the evil that was perpetrated on me, but the things I’d done. It didn’t matter that I did them at someone else’s urging and behest; I did them. I felt dirty and disgusted.
“Just imagine Jesus sitting next to you while it happened. What do you think he would say to you?” If I felt dirty before, it was nothing to the revulsion I felt now, as the gorge rose in my throat and a nearly-overwhelming urge to vomit struck me. Sorry, Jesus: I don’t want you here, not in this story.
Deep in the lost spiritual wandering I lived at that time, I now wanted nothing more than to draw a blackout curtain across that part of my life and shut Jesus out. “Nothing to see here! Move along, move along!” Yet here I was, confronting that very real possibility and unable to shake it.
How do I believe in an omniscient and omnipresent God and Savior, and also believe that they didn’t see me in my worst moments? How could I possibly believe that there was a part of my life I could shut Jesus out of? It was impossible, and I knew it.
Knowing and believing are two different experiences, however, and I spent the next few days trying to find a way to keep Jesus from knowing what happened. Once I finally acknowledged there was no doing so, I couldn’t figure out how to get around what I’d done. For the first time in my life I experienced what our head pastor calls “Godly sorrow,” a deep and heart-rending sorrow over hurting God, for acting against His will, for sinning, and for hurting his perfect creation: me.
I pray that I never live another week like that one.
On Sunday, still absolutely heart-broken and desperately searching for a way out, I confronted one of the church pastors. “There was a time in my life when I ran from Jesus; I mean, I really RAN from Jesus. I did some things that were not right, and I was discussing them with my therapist. He asked me to imagine Jesus sitting next to me while it all happened, and I don’t want that. I don’t want him to have seen. Was he really there? Even in that moment? Even though I didn’t want him there?”
That poor man. He was completely taken aback and put on the spot. He verbally ran through the same thoughts I’d had about Jesus’ divinity, and his resulting omnipresence and omniscience. “Yeah, I’d have to say he was there.” Confirmation further devastated me, and tears dripped behind my oversized sunglasses and down my cheeks. “I’m actually preaching on shame and condemnation today; I think the sermon may help you.” Mildly relieved and still heart-sick, I joined the congregation in worship.
The pastor was right — his sermon did help. It didn’t quite cover what I needed, however, and in my prayer time, I told God so. “I don’t know how to get past this. I can’t change it; I can’t make it right. I just know I hurt you.”
On the drive home, the story of Jesus and the adulteress woman came to mind. I could only remember one phrase, “Neither do I condemn you,” and I couldn’t remember how it was phrased or what it meant, but I was hopeful. I got home and did a quick internet search, coming up with John 8:11. Rapidly, I thumbed through my Bible until I found John 9–11.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Always in the past, I’d been struck by the picture created by the One without sin refusing to condemn the woman. I’d always put myself in the shoes of those ready to cast the stones, and felt shame at knowing how quick I can be to judge others. Now, I found myself in the shoes of the woman. Condemned to death under the law, but not by the One with the true power to condemn. I considered:
— Had I left that life of sin? Undoubtedly, the answer was yes. I’d left the situation and never repeated it again. Once I was beyond the influence of that man, there was no interest in repeating those experiences, even though my pleasure-circuits were wired to need them. If there were any questions left, the deep sorrow wracking my body was proof that I repented.
— At the end of the day, this was just another sin. A blacker sin, perhaps, but still sin. Did I really believe that Jesus died for all my sins, or just the ones I was OK with acknowledging? Questioning the deeper levels of my faith, I recognized that holding on to this shame, unaccepting of Christ’s forgiveness for these acts, was itself an act of pride. Who was I to say that Jesus did not have the power to forgive this? Who was I to tell Jesus what he did and did not die for?
— Was unmerited grace truly real? Or did that just apply to the “regular” sinners?
Working my way through these questions of faith, I finally understood: “Neither do I condemn you.” In that one message, Jesus freed me of guilt and shame. He died for all my sins, not just those I’m comfortable exposing.
With that release, I came to another understanding: I’d allowed that man to live with me for the past 20 years. I’d allowed him to dictate what I could and could not enjoy, even though he wasn’t present. His voice was there in my most intimate moments with my husband, and he had no place in our marriage. It was time to kick him out of our wedding bed, and now, freed of shame, I was able to do so.
“Go and sin no more.”