The Half-Open Door

I kept staring at the door—the half-open door. I didn’t want it to be closed. I already felt violated enough and wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being shut in a room, alone with this man. I didn’t want it to be open. I didn’t want anyone to hear my answers to his pointed questions. The ambivalence was pervasive.

Why was a man, whom I barely knew, asking me these questions about my sexuality? Where was my mom? I certainly didn’t want her listening but I also wanted the safety of a female presence. Surely a female secretary or children’s pastor or someone would walk in at any moment. No one came to save me. I had been taught since childhood not to be alone in a room with a man. Apparently pastors didn’t count.

“Do you masturbate?” I can’t imagine my facial expression when he asked this question, but I remember the feeling of my cheeks burning bright red. This was the most innocuous of the questions. He proceeded to interrogate me for what felt like an eternity about the types of sexual behavior I had and hadn’t engaged in. I wasn’t sure why the details were necessary. Wasn’t a sin a sin? Apparently there was a grading system that I was unaware of and I was being tested and scored. He took me, verse by verse, through every scripture that describes the eternal ramifications of sexual sin.  He spoke of my eternal damnation and suffering. He was a broad, squat man with a booming voice. It was just the two of us, but it felt like he was trying to incite a revival or a reckoning in that small office room.

I do not remember any mention of grace.

The shame filled every corner of the room like smoke, suffocating me. I was the woman at the well, but Jesus wasn’t there—only this man who kept waterboarding me between questions, demanding my immediate repentance. Or perhaps I was the woman caught in the act of adultery and instead of Jesus saving me from my accusers, He had left a would-be disciple who led the stone-throwing massacre. This was not a true biblical confession. This was coercion and intimidation masked as pastoral concern and chastening.

I cried. I shook. I was afraid. I was ashamed. Any fragment of my self-worth was gone.

Looking back, I guess I could have stood up and walked out of the door at any moment, but it didn’t feel like an option. Invisible chains held me to the office chair I sat in, facing a giant wooden desk. Thank God for the desk. The physical separation. It was the only saving grace in that room.

Eventually, he was satisfied. I had dissolved into a puddle of tears and shame and compliance.  He released me to leave. He had done his pastoral duty for the day, saved another wayward soul from eternal destruction. And he had destroyed my soul in the process.

I walked out the half-open door. I did not look back.

Jesus was not in that room, but He found me later. I think He hates half-open doors too.

This Red Tent woman has requested to remain anonymous. We applaud her courage to risk sharing this part of her story with our community, it is our privilege to honor and protect her identity.