on vulnerability & injustice

The other night, my car broke down.

I was driving home from John’s house. It’s a trip that takes somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes, though I’ve never timed it. I was two minutes in when my car just—stalled. No sputtering, no flashing lights, no smoke. The RPMs dropped to zero, and suddenly I was sitting still along the side of the road. 

It was 11:45pm. The road was lit and the traffic almost nonexistent. I locked my doors, reaching behind me to manually press down the lock that always stuck, then turned my hazards on and called John’s dad. He had me explain where I was, then assured me that he and John were on their way. I thanked him, feeling very much like a child, and hung up. 

It was eery, sitting alongside the road in my silent, locked car. Out of habit, I opened my email app—a way to pass the time—but realized that my battery was at 9%. What if I needed it? I set my phone down. My hazard lights suddenly seemed like a dangerous decision; they telegraphed my vulnerability. They told anyone who drove by that I was stuck. What if someone stopped? I turned them off. 

It felt like ages before John and Brian showed up. Strangely enough, my car started back up again without much fuss and I was able to drive it home without issue. Brian and John followed me home to assure that I made it, and John kissed me goodnight at the door. 

“And look,” he said as I turned the key in the lock, “no creepers!”

He was referring to an incident earlier in the day, when a pest control worker had come to the door to see if my family wanted the services of his company. He was young and had a kind smile, but still I clutched the doorknob and did my best to evade his questions. 

After he finished his pitch, I hedged, “Well… I’ll have to talk to a few people.”

“Your parents?” He asked. I nodded. 

“I could stop by later to talk to them,” he said. 

“No—” I stuttered over my words. “I can talk to them tonight.”

My parents were both out of town. I didn’t want him to know. 

After he left, I kept replaying the conversation in my head. Had I seemed too young? Too vulnerable? Was it obvious I was home alone? What if he did return? He’d seemed nice—but so many men did. Later, I shared this story with John, half-laughing at my own paranoia yet still bothered by the whole exchange. 

So when my car broke down that night, my mind began spinning into strange places. What if he’d sabotaged my car? But that wouldn’t make sense. What if he was waiting for me at home and my car breaking down was actually some sort of divine rescue? But that was silly—he wasn’t waiting at my home. Being alone just made me feel more on guard than usual. 

But fear isn’t rational. When John left me on the doorstep that night with his cheeky “no creepers!” comment, my overactive imagination conjured up a scene: that same young man sidling out of the shadows of my kitchen, smirking, and saying, “he spoke too soon.”

Of course, there was no man in my house. I was safe. But I also felt very shaken by the whole thing. In the shower that night, I prayed my thankfulness for a roof over my head, a safe hometown, and people I could count on when my parents were gone. And I also prayed for the women, my sisters around the world, who didn’t have the luxuries of locked doors, reliable law enforcement, and secure communities—who lived with fear ten times what I had only briefly tasted that evening.

We all have habits of paranoia. Double checking our doors are locked before going to bed. Clutching our keys in dimly lit parking lots. Accompanying friends to public restrooms. Some people sleep with weapons under their beds. Some keep survival kits in the trunks of their cars. 

Women are taught small acts of self-protection from a young age. We are taught that we are vulnerable and that, someday, someone might wish to harm us. But there are other fears I do not know—that I will likely never know. 

I do not know what it’s like to fear for my life while out on a midday run.

I do not know what it’s like to go to sleep in my own bed and awaken to eight bullets.

I do not know what it’s like to plead for breath while those who’ve sworn to protect and serve look on impassively.

My brief moments of fear pale next to these stories and so many others like them. The night my car broke down, my fears were founded on very little—a kind man doing his job, the absence of my parents, and an unfortunate car malfunction. At no point was I actually in danger. My mind wove a narrative that had very little grounding in reality.

I am trying to imagine what it would feel like to fear for my life based on the color of my skin, and I confess that I cannot fathom it. I confess that I am far too privileged to truly understand. And I confess, perhaps most importantly, that I’m far too uninformed to speak very authoritatively about racism.

But I have these words. God has given me these words. And God shows Himself, again and again, to be highly outraged and heartbroken by injustice. And there comes a point at which silence feels like sin.

I cannot say anything new with these words. I can’t write anything that others haven’t already been saying for many years. But I’m adding my voice to the mix.

I am outraged and heartbroken. I am disappointed. And I believe that we can be better than this.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:7-9

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