Getting back into the same social circles Dean and I were in was harder than I thought. I had expected a change of sorts. Becoming single I quickly learned that you lose most of your married friends. They still might keep in touch. Exchange pleasantries. Give you the odd call every now and then. But for the most part married people don’t want to hang out with single people.
I started having issues with some of the women. Women who felt threatened I suppose by me. I always have been puzzled by that. When I was married to Dean I didn’t have many issues with women. I was married and downtrodden, I guess that made most happily content that I wasn’t after their husband. Now that I was single though, and coming alive again, jealousies stirred. Insecurities surfaced. It didn’t help that I was a massage therapist, it added fuel to the gossip. My outgoing, friendly “American” personality, didn’t bode well for me at this point.
The wife of Dean’s best friend’s asked me not to call. Or visit. Ever. That was blow I struggled to recover from. I was giving Dean’s brother a massage when halfway through I was accosted by his girlfriend. I was forced to oblige her barrage of unwelcome monologue and questions. Treating me like a deviant being paid for sexual favors. There were women at church too. With their “concerns.”
I went to one of my favorite older ladies to help me navigate the choppy seas of drama and gossip. She was someone I had leaned on over the years. She offered a shoulder, wisdom, and cuppas. I relayed to her the issues I was having with various women.
“Well, you are a flirt, Cassi. You are inappropriate with men. And it’s not just one person that says that. There are numerous people that say that. It was so sad to hear about what happened to you having that miscarriage when you were in America. Did you have sex with the other boyfriends you had?”
Her words shocked me. I expected to be met with empathy and understanding. Instead I got judgement. As though Esperance had made up its mind about me. “Lock up your husbands, Cassi is on the prowl.” The ridiculousness of the notion made it hard for me to process or even think through. I had known that coming back to the little town would have its challenges. The way talk spreads. The Gossip Tree offered mouth-watering and irresistible confections. I knew that everyone would have heard about my rebound relationship and subsequent pregnancy. I expected gossip. But some of my closest friends? People from church? This I did not expect. And it grieved me deeply.
I went to an event one night. A mother’s social night. Food, drinks, pampering, and what-have-you. The evening was pleasant enough. One of the women struck up a conversation with me. I didn’t know her well. She went to one of the other churches in town and was quite close with Karen. We had crossed paths at the odd meal and such. She asked me about Dean. About coming home and the weeks before he died.
I candidly responded, “The days and weeks before Dean died were brutal. It was too much for me. I pushed him away toward the end. It was more than I could bear.”
“I remember. I was there.” As she raised one eyebrow. Her gaze was cold and almost amused at the sting of her remark.
I stood agape. Not knowing what to say. Her expression showed that she had made up her mind about me too.
And things were similar in many of the people I saw and places I went. The hard hearted. People who wouldn’t look me in the eyes because of the talk they’d indulged. Some avoided the subject altogether. Others insisted on reminding me of my past. In case I had forgotten. And although I hadn’t forgotten, I had dealt with it. I had suffered the grave consequences. I had repented. I received the grace, love, and mercy of my Father in Heaven. Who gives without measure. I had left my past where it belongs. In the past. But these supposed Christians carried my past around with them. Insisting on keeping its memory alive. Did we read the same bible? Mine says,
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
I went home that weekend. Still living at Dave and Sue’s. My shoulders and heart heavy. You’re a flirt. You’re inappropriate with men. I remember, I was there. Their words echoed in my mind. I’m a widow with two kids and I’ve just moved countries. You’d think people would want to help me? Is that what you think of me, God? Is that who I am? Am I a flirt? Out to get my hands on married men? Am I just a slut and I don’t realize it? Who am I? Who do you say I am, God? What do you say? The loss of more dear friends. Friends that I’d hoped would continue to share in our lives. Make memories. Especially now that we had moved all the way back from the other side of the world. We were minutes away, yet living separate lives. I swallowed sobs in my sheets. Wishing I had my own house so that I could release them in loud heaves.
You are my princess.
You are loved. You are mine. You are my daughter.
His whisper came.
I delight in you.
I made you.
You are righteous.
You are pure.
You are Holy.
You are beautiful.
You are precious.
You are loved.
I love who you are.
I love the way you talk.
I love the way you sing.
You are my daughter.
You are my princess.
I smiled widely. Relishing Daddy’s words. His affection. His wonderful affection for me. Tears still streaked my cheeks but now I laughed loudly. That’s who you say I am? Yes. I laughed. Yes. That is who I am.
But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
His *gift of righteousness.* Righteousness is mine. Given to me by God. No one could take that away. Doesn’t matter what they say, think. What I have or haven’t done. I am righteous. God says so. I am not going to dim my light so others can feel better about their darkness.
And I walked freely from then on. Unhindered by the handcuffs of judgement. Unfazed by the gossip’s nectar of venom. Unaffected by the rejection of those I loved.
The joy of the Lord became my strength.