Ten years ago, I had a really bad night.
It was a warm Friday evening in June as I was preparing to happy-hour my face off at my favorite bar. I sat on the couch of my best friend’s home, where I was renting a room, eating a PB&J sandwich to coat a highly anticipated rum and coke after a tough week at work.
A masked man broke in through my bedroom window, crept down the hall, alerted my dog, and thus begins the tale I’ve told police officers, therapists, family, friends, and a judge who put the asshole away for more than 50 years in prison, with no parole.
This story is not about that rape. This story is about something very formative and life-changing that happened during the hour that I was ordered around, shoved down, gun to my head. This story is about why I believe there is a God, and how I met . . . It . . . that night.
Despite being raised by self-identifying Catholic parents — my mother was taught by nuns — I was not raised in a religious household. My parents were wonderfully open to the idea of the universe, science, magic, and wonder. They allowed my sister and me to explore any religion we wanted; and we did, here and there attending a Mormon service, a Baptist retreat, a rock concert. We were free to believe in something “out there” and encouraged to find it for ourselves.
Because of this, by the time I began college, I was firmly certain that spirituality was just as Oprah said it was: in you, around you, part of that tree and part of me. I believed in evolution, in the big bang theory before Leonard and Sheldon. I believed in Pangea, dinosaurs, that Jesus had it right conceptually, but I didn’t buy the Easter story even though I bought into concepts of luck and magic.
Most of all, I believed in “a God,” and that prayer was a really nice way to say thank you for life, a way to focus positive vibes onto something you needed guidance in. But it wasn’t real. And it wasn’t something you tell people you had a discussion with. It was a cute wall hanging of footprints on a beach. We’ll all figure it out when we die.
Contemplating my rape and death was also something that wasn’t real. That happened to someone else, on Law & Order: SVU. But this time, there was no “dun dun.”
I did as I was told, with a gun to my head. After various demands, the rapist shoved my body across the top of our couch, smashed my face into a crease, and jabbed the gun into my kidney. I can tell you every single minute, painful detail of that evening, including the other physical acts he forced me to do — except the part where he raped me on top of that couch.
I remember trying to position my body so that if he shot me, maybe I would just lose a kidney. You can live with only one kidney! Right? I remember my very loud scream as he initially slammed into me.
And then black.
I hadn’t passed out. I checked my body; I was breathing, I wasn’t dead. And I wasn’t alone. There was no pain — just me and an enormous, buzzing presence in the blackest room. I imagine this is how it feels to be a guest on Charlie Rose.
I think I was sitting on a stool of sorts, and I spoke.
“Are you going to let me die this way? I don’t want to die.” I knew who I was speaking to.
A voice returned. “No. You are not going to die today.”
I contemplated it. I felt a very calm, immense peace, and this unbelievable confidence that I could live, that I could get out of this moment.
“What do I do now? Why?” I remember saying “Why?” several times. But It was gone. Turns out God is not very chatty.
I left that place, returning to my body with complete raging power. I had just been told by what I call God — a voice in the dark, an essence and being all-knowing — that I was meant to clobber this asshole.
Then I was standing, and he was pointing the gun at me, standing in front of me. I grabbed my robe and covered myself. He demanded I find him duct tape and to sit on the floor so I could be tied up. I told him no. What idiot doesn’t bring their own duct tape on their crime spree? Get it together, rapist. And get out. I told him to get out.
I shook my keys in a go-start-the-bus move and told him to take my truck and leave. We were done here. Get the eff out.
I couldn’t believe the power I felt, and he knew he no longer had the upper hand, even with the gun. He ripped the phone out of the wall, grabbed my keys and cell phone, and left. I wasn’t going to die today. Turns out God isn’t a liar.
I have read about the power of the human mind. It is amazing, really. People who are severely abused can split their mind into several different personalities to cope with the anguish; people who are dying and brought back to life fire neuron after neuron as the mind fights “the light,” and they see and talk to relatives long passed; health can be directly influenced by brain chemicals. And perception — the whole of everything — really just resides in your head.
I am well aware that my leaving my body and talking to God can be explained by scientific types as well as it can be explained by a priest. I took from it that this idea we have as humans, from the time of painting in caves and trying to understand what makes us different, this idea of a God, is real. There is something really big out there. And It is really not into lengthy conversation, but that’s cool, because it gets to the point and lets you know if this is “it” or not.
I was okay with that. I left knowing that I could finally put up that print of the footprints in the sand. And I know where God carried me.