At the of end of the hearing, the trial, I was too tired to speak. I would leave drained, silent. I would go home turn off my phone and for days I would not speak. You bought me a ticket to a planet where I lived by myself.
-from the statement of the woman Brock violated
While I usually write about life here at the farm, today I am speaking from my heart about something a little different. I know the title of this piece is rather provocative. What could a drunk rapist and an early pregnancy loss possibly have in common? Let me enlighten you: sex.
The night the "actions" that set in motion my baby’s life was one I remember clearly. For one, I wasn’t drunk. Not the slightest bit drunk because I had had no alcohol. So no similarities there. And even if, for the sake of argument, both my husband and I had been drunk, I don't believe that one of us would have raped the other because we love one another and want what is best for the other. And for two, I not only consented, but invited. Despite knowing full well that I was very likely to get pregnant and even fearing what might happen (you know that little consequence of sex, pregnancy--a condition that has been heart-breaking for me at times) I invited. So no similarities there either, since Brock Turner was the one who initiated, or rather, committed, every single action that happened on his night.
So the one thing that we have in common is sex. Brock’s actions demonstrate every possible thing that can go wrong when you don’t understand what sex is about. In his “defense” some point out that Brock was drunk. Okay, but lots of people get drunk and they don’t go out and violate other people. They don’t force themselves on people who are completely unconscious. So let’s set aside his lack of sobriety for a moment. Some might argue in his defense that he didn’t actually physically rape the woman (you know, with his penis). This argument has little merit, as he was forcibly stopped by passers-by from whatever would have happened next. There is but little hope that he would not have completed what he was obviously in the process of doing had others not intervened. The problem with Brock, the problem with so many people, is that they don’t understand what sex is about. Sex isn’t about relieving urges, about a moment of pleasure, about seeing something I want and taking it, or about the now infamous "twenty minutes of action". Sex is about uniting your body, in genuine love, with your beloved. What Brock and his dad don’t get, is that the body Brock violated, the body he took because he was simply following his baser passions, is the body of a unique, unrepeatable human person worthy of dignity, respect, and honor. Instead of getting on top of her and groping her, if he truly understood what a woman is, Brock would have been on his knees before her, reverencing her for the incredibly beautiful, unique person she is.
A woman is a masterpiece. A woman is a masterpiece in which exists, naturally, completely naturally, the potential for a completely new person to come into this world. A woman's womb is, in a very real sense, sacred ground, for it is the place where God continues the work of creation. Even if she never brings a person into this world, yet every woman is a miracle for every person is a unique, unrepeatable creation, crafted with intent and love by God. When a husband and wife share in the privileges that marriage affords, a beautiful love is created between them. Their hearts are bound together ever more deeply, hearts following the actions of physical union. Brock violated not only this woman’s body, he violated her entity. Yes; “consent” is needed for a lawful sexual encounter, but consent is just the barest beginning of what is needed for a true act of sexual embrace. Sex has so much power--the power to create, the power to destroy, the power to unite, the power to kill. With that much power, it must have bounds. And the bounds that are right, are proper, are beautiful, are the bonds of marriage. Because with that much incredible power at stake, only a vow to keep this powerful gift and give it only to one person, a person to whom I commit my very life, holding nothing back, no matter what, only this vow is strong enough to contain such a powerful gift.
Brock does not understand the smallest glimmer of this truth. By his actions on that night, as well as his actions since, Brock has demonstrated that he is a man who lives for himself. What he wants, he takes-- and takes whenever it pleases him. Alcohol doesn’t change one’s basic character, it merely strips away the inhibitions that keep one’s behaviors in check. So the man who stripped, who groped, who fondled, and who forced, was the same before the alcohol as after. Brock is a man of immaturity and pride; a man who does not even understand in the slightest how to take responsibility not only for his actions, but for himself. He is a man who relies on his father to defend the indefensible. He is not even a man, but a boy, and a poor excuse for a boy at that.
But he is not alone. He has a league of pitiful, stunted boys-in-men's-bodies surrounding him and justifying his actions. Every man who strips a woman with his eyes, every man who takes a woman and uses her whether on the page or on the screen, or in the flesh, is also a poor excuse for a man. A real man, if he sees a woman unconscious, will defend and protect her, as the men on those bicycles did. A real man understands his own self, and takes responsibility for himself, masters his passions, reigns them in and uses them, in the right way, at the right time, with the right person, with his beloved, with his wife, the only one of all the people in the world he has vowed to love and cherish for the rest of his life. A real man might face very real temptation, and probably will, but he has the power over himself to resist. He has humility to understand that he is weak and that temptations will come, and takes steps to remove himself from the sources of temptation. He knows that he cannot face temptation alone, on his own strength, but asks for divine help, many times, even every day, if needed. He does not give into every whim and passion, because he understands that his actions have profound consequences on others--on their lives, and on the lives of those who love them; and that those consequences can be devastating, or they can bring profound ecstasy and joy and give life, in the proper setting, with the only person whom he has been given the right to unite himself, his wife.
The actions that led to Brock’s pitiful six month county jail sentence were false, ugly, and evil. The actions that led to the life of my baby were in every way true, beautiful, and good. Though her life in this world was exceedingly brief, my baby's life mattered. My baby was love incarnate. While Brock left tears, pain, and sorrow in his wake--and while I have tears, pain, and sorrow as well--the tears, pain and sorrow I feel are because the actions that began her life were not able to complete what they naturally should have brought into this world--a new life. Brock’s actions were sterile, and simply brought destruction and pain, and a kind of death in the heart of the woman he violated. May Brock read this, and be mindful that he has the choice today and tomorrow and every day, to choose the true, beautiful, and good, to become a gentleman, in the truest sense of the word. As the courageous survivor herself counseled, "Figure out a way to take responsibility for your own conduct." It is never too late to change. While Brock's father lamented that his son's conviction as a sex offender will influence his future ("where he can live, visit, work, and how he will interact with people and organizations"), it is a blessing in disguise. Always keeping in the front of his mind what he did, and what he is capable of doing, given the occasion--this knowledge has the potential to motivate Brock to become a better man. No one needs to be controlled by his inclinations, nor by his past. Instead, he can freely choose a different path, a better path. Yes; Brock's life WILL be affected by his impulsive, thoughtless decisions that night, just as my life will always be impacted by my freely chosen, freely embraced actions the night my baby was conceived. But both of us can become better people, stronger people. Brock, by letting the knowledge of what he is capable of doing humble him and motivating him to change; me, by letting the joy of having cooperated in bringing a new life into existence overshadow and heal the pain of being separated from her. We humans are neither fixed, nor determined by the past. Today is a new day. Choose wisely.
No longer able to minister as a priest, Bartholomew had to take up residence with the other lepers outside the village. The change would have been devastating for most, but for this holy man, he continued to minister to those he could. Rather than waste the rest of his life in bitterness and anger, he spent his remaining twenty years serving and caring for the other lepers of Peccioli. St. Bartholomew Buonpedoni is a beautiful example of humble submission to the will of God and trust in God’s plan even when things seem hopeless.
Spring at Claret Farm. So much has happened since last spring, which was our first spring on the farm. The most significant event, in every sense of the word, was the death and birth of our son. In that order. While most of our friends and family heard the story, I still encounter acquaintances who have not heard his story, so I will share it again. Since I have written his complete birth story elsewhere, I will simply write a summary.
On Easter Sunday of last year, God blessed Christopher and me with another pregnancy. Since my previous pregnancy was high risk, and we had not intended to have another baby due to the likelihood of a repeat of the original condition, I was shocked and honestly very afraid not only for myself but for our new child. Yet I resolved to be as healthy as possible, and took very good care of myself.
Unknowingly, due to circumstances entirely out of my control, my son's placenta developed with a rare defect that resulted in some of the blood vessels being exposed rather than protected by the umbilical cord or the placenta. Unfortunately, this type of defect is only detectable with a type of ultrasound that is not commonly used during prenatal care, so the defect went undiagnosed. Although this placental abnormality put him in constant danger, especially during birth; miraculously, he was safeguarded throughout the pregnancy and up until the very last moments. Sometime during the last few minutes before birth, his life-giving oxygen supply was cut off, and his heart stopped. After his body was born, he did not attempt to breathe. Through the rapid response of our midwives, and the grace of God, he was revived after fifteen minutes of resuscitation. He spent fifteen days recovering in the NICU. He is doing marvelously and is a happy and healthy baby boy!
Today we begin Holy Week. I am reminded of Jesus' words: "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:24) Of course Jesus was speaking of His own death and resurrection. Yet He was also speaking to us, His followers. We want a cheap harvest. We want the best of everything without paying anything. We want wealth without work, pleasure without pain, joy without suffering, eternal life without death.
But Jesus taught us that when we are unwilling to sow, to sacrifice our best, we will not harvest. In order to yield something worthy of harvesting, something has to die. To grow in love, sacrifice is required--sacrifices of my time, my schedule, my priorities, my strength, my heart, my hopes and dreams, perhaps even my very life.
For reasons only God knows, to become his mother, my son had to die. On that sunny December day, on the winter solstice, at noon, God took his spirit. And then He gave it back. My head is baffled, and my heart is grateful to the point of tears. My son's body was the seed that fell lifeless into the fertile ground. The harvest is still to come.
Chris & Stelle
Blogged by Christopher and Christelle of Claret Farm
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