It has been a hard year to be an American woman.
I think of President-elect Donald Trump, for whom “locker-room talk” involves boasting about sexual assault; who has threatened to sue the women accusing him of the same; who has made well-nigh incestuous comments about his own daughter.
I think of Anthony Weiner, ostensibly a liberal, pro-choice politician, married to a top Hillary Clinton adviser but choosing to sext a 15-year-old girl.
I think of James Dobson, ostensibly a conservative, family-values leader, who in the 1990s blasted Bill Clinton for his sexual scandals but who in 2016 had no qualms about endorsing Trump.
I think of Brock Turner, who walks a free man after raping an unconscious young woman.
I think of the stories that I, despite my sheltered, evangelical, upper-middle class existence, have heard over the years.
I think of the man who groped my friend when she was traveling in Spain.
I think of her male traveling companions, who blamed it on “Spanish temperament.”
I think of my friend who was sexually abused by a cleric.
I think of the stranger who jumped into a cab and groped my friend.
I think of the cabdriver who did nothing to stop it.
I think of her parents, who asked her what she was doing out so late.
I think of a college friend, whose religious parents were so obsessed with purity that she couldn’t confide in them when the boy she had been secretly dating raped her.
I think of my mentor, who was sexually abused by her own father for years on end, whose dramatic mood swings aren’t just a product of her hormones, and who nevertheless relentlessly reminds me, “Not all men. Not all men. Not all men.”
I think of the women I’ve held in my arms as they wept over mini-betrayals — the boyfriend who drove drunkenly away from a party — the fiance who broke the engagement but kept sending lovelorn messages — the long-distance boyfriend who couldn’t bring himself to commit — the man who kept flirtatiously texting while keeping his girlfriend a secret — the men whose rapid imaginations jumped from occasional swearing and social drinking to sluttiness.
I think of manipulation.
I think of shame.
I think of deception.
I think of abuse.
I think of death.
And then I think of the Mary, the mother of Jesus.
I think of how God saw her, loved her and called her by her beautiful, human name.
I remember how he sent her friends who could see her pure heart when the world could only see her “fallen” body.
I listen to her song of triumph, celebrating God’s vindication of the poor, the oppressed and the forgotten.
I revere her fortitude as she labors over the child and gives birth in a barn amid fecal stench, animal sounds and curious shepherds.
I watch her fly — brown-skinned, head covered, gaze lowered — from a religious, murderous nation that slaughtered innocents to a pagan, decadent nation that sheltered her and her child.
I rejoice that her intelligent mind and sensitive heart were honored, not scorned, by the gospel evangelist as he wrote of her pondering the mysteries that had befallen her.
I consider her bold demand that her son save their friends from social ruin and keep the party going strong at Cana.
I think of his laughing, joyful assent to her good, indomitable will.
I tremble before her blazing triumph when he broke the chains of hell and came back for her, for them, for us all.
I imagine her adventuring with the “beloved apostle,” telling the entire world that her son is the one who will save them.
I envision her jeering at death’s sting and mocking the victory of the grave at Ephesus.
I see her, crowned with 12 stars and standing atop the moon.
I listen to her shameless, shrieking pain as she gives birth to the one who will rule the nations with an iron scepter.
I stare as the dragon pursues her across the water and as God lays waste heaven and earth to save her from its clutches.
I rise up with her many, many children — those who stand with her and with her Son.
I pray one day I’ll get to meet her and throw my arms about her and make her tell me her story again and again and again, as she rubs my back and sings her Magnificat to me as a lullaby.
I think of Mary, and I am grateful.
I think of Mary, and I am comforted.
I think of Mary, and I am exultant.
I think of Mary, and I am enraged and grieved and ashamed that the sons of men should seek to steal, kill and destroy the daughters of God.
I think of Mary, and still I believe, that what God has spoken to her will someday be accomplished in us all.
Nancy Ritter, a D.C., native, is a recent graduate of Wheaton College.