I just received the below from the young woman who wrote the letter I answered in this morning’s “Why would God degrade Mary as he did?” I asked her if I could share it, and she said okay.
John, this is [X]. I wrote the letter to you about the Virgin Birth, and I just read your response to it. I’m sitting in front of my computer at work fighting back tears, because your response cut to the heart of the matter.
I never thought about how pathetic I sound in the letter, and I’m ashamed that I’ve been exposed. My words convey that I’m repressed, frigid, and unloving, which may be more true than I wish to admit. My use of the word “degrading” was flippant and callous, and I sincerely regret having used it. I didn’t mean to imply that a woman who is pregnant is being degraded. If she is happy, then I see no reason not to be happy for her.
I’ve tried to analyze my anxieties about pregnancy, and I believe their nature is twofold. First of all, I can’t stand the idea of anything unfamiliar and uncontrollable happening to my body. When I was seven years old, I was hospitalized with a potentially fatal illness. I endured a barrage of medical procedures, including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. My hair fell out. I gained 20 pounds (about a third of my body weight.) And while I’m healthy now, I’ve remained very self-conscious about the photos and testimonies of family and friends that remind me of what happened to me. I know this is nothing akin to pregnancy, but the thought that’s been embedded in my mind is, “This is what happens when I don’t have control of my body. It’s disgusting and embarrassing. I can’t let this happen again.”
The other aspect of my feelings concerns relationships. It’s probably no surprise that I’m a virgin. I’ve never had a boyfriend, and have never really dated. I long to be in a loving relationship with a man, and I grow more and more discouraged that I have not found one. I’ve felt the sting of unrequited love several times. And I’ve attracted attention only from men who don’t respect me. Almost a year ago when I was with a man I was just getting to know, I received unwanted physical contact from him. Not sexual assault – he just put his arm around me. Still, the shock of it caused me to have a panic attack. This triggered a relapse of my anxiety disorder, which temporarily threw my life into chaos.
It’s only been recently that I’ve come around again to the idea of pursuing a relationship. I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with a man that I’ve known for about two months now, and I’ve seized every opportunity to get to know him better. He seems to like spending time with me, but it’s difficult to gauge his feelings. I find myself already grieving over the possibility that he may not love me. Even though it’s ridiculously premature to think that my past experiences mean that I won’t find true love, I’m dreading how much heartbreak I’ll have to go through in the meantime.
It’s difficult to find the connection between this romantic yearning and pregnancy. I think I see in the situation of most pregnant women the model of love and stability that I would like to obtain, but that I am afraid will be denied to me.
This is about as much as I think I can right at this time. I never intended to disclose so much about myself, but I suppose these feelings were bound to surface eventually.
God bless you, John. You are a true friend and a true listener. People like you are rare.
She and I exchanged a few emails after this. I assured her that she had written absolutely nothing about which she should feel even the slightest embarrassment or shame (“If I ever meet someone whose traumatic past hasn’t left them pretty significantly tweaked-up around sex,” I wrote her, “I’ll let you know”), and told her that by sharing with us her story she had helped us all grow a little. (“You’re out there. You’re facing those things about your past which have in some way compromised your present. And you’re looking toward a better future for yourself, and figuring out now how to get it. It’s beautiful.”)