Grain Of Salt: Naeem

Grain Of Salt: Naeem

A story on captivity, torture, and internal trauma.
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NAEEM

An infinity of love,

An infinity of grace,

An infinity of pain,

An infinity shaped like 2 chains.

Mother used to always mutter this.

Like a verse that helped her keep her sanity, a verse of hope, a verse of reason; I never really understood what that meant until...

To be born a girl is the worst thing that could happen to you.

I overheard them say this to Nadia the person standing two feet away from me.

The only difference between a girl and a boy, I remember mummy say, was that a girl had two private, always closed parts--up and down, and the boys had two too--down physically and one metaphysically--their ego. Both of which are never hidden sadly. They dangle it to continuously prove that difference.

But why mummy? Why them and not us? Why do they do it?.......

At the tender age of 15 not only was this physically proved over and over again but I was made a participant as well. Mummy didn't prepare me for this. I might as well save you the grace of them not ripping the identity I give you as you will invariably take on the identity they give you of being nothing more than a girl. What you don't have in the 1st place they can't take. I can protect you to that extent.

But physically I'm helpless. She said all this with a straight face, showing nothing more than resilience.

Nothing more than a girl? But mummy you already told me that we are better than boys as we have greater control and power over ourselves and don't seek it externally to be proven to us on a continuous basis like those, what was the word she used? ah yes! Nycompoops.

Ever since daddy left us to join a cause of the greater good and getting a better seat at the hand of "God", mummy got even stronger. He was basically protecting himself, coward! These tiny snippets of wisdom keep coming back to me as "they" hose us down, yet again to prepare us as they keep shouting. None of the girls around me know what that entails and resort to crying to keep them company and give them a kind of shelter, but my mind doesn't stop whirring around the what of it all. Mummy had definitely included it in one of her talks.

A new/fresh batch was brought in today. There were 40 this time. The batch keeps getting bigger and bigger and the room more jammed making no room for the physical. The men in black trash-can clothes give us the command to strip, hose us down, scream long live God, throw morsels of food at us and leave us in the dark as we fight for whatever tiny bits of life we can grab, like ravenous ravens. Yet again!

Day 5. Either my time hadn't come or I was a log for the common pyre to burn harder and brighter to send a strong message to the “non-believers”. The stubborn. But not until your purpose is fulfilled they kept reassuring us with the smug grin of a trained assassin.

We were SPECIAL they told us, every aspect our physicality having meaning. Hair to be used as a handle, our faces beautiful to remind the perpetrators that what they were doing in the form of rape/child bearing was a beautiful thing for the larger purpose of breeding a new generation of militants. And our bodies devoid of souls that we gave unto them for the greater good of purifying their land. We were the catalysts they kept reminding us, as they threw us out to either bleed to death or cry to death or even starve to death as we were crumpled like tissue papers after they wiped themselves on us.

Coming from a small town in Iraq-Silcus, I was named Naeem by my parents as an anti-symbol of turmoil, struggle and war surrounding us always, even as the greatest struggle stared them in the face over and over again—I was a girl. And girls more or less had the same path laid out for them even before they were born, to be Khums—tax money, if the family ever wanted to live with the peace of knowing that they would be kept alive and they should be glad as there is no greater purpose in this world than to be a vessel of pleasure unto God and His loyal “sons”. And my mother took a combat to this line of thought by raising me in strict Yazidi traditions and cultures, using the fire against fire approach as she refused to give me any other identity other than this one that I’ll need when the time comes. And so I was Yazidi, a Yazidi with an uncertain future but a definite end.

Lumm Sayaaf reminded me of my mother at times as she tried her best to be a strong protective mother-hen of the coop, protecting us whenever she could from abuse and sometimes even offering herself up as sacrifice--but the “they” made sure that the division between married and unmarried was as demarcated as the distinction between men and women--rescinding to the rooster of her husband as he pecked at us from the orders of the “them”.

Sayaafa abba entered that day with three girls who looked like they came from another part of the world, white as milk, dressed in the garb of men of trousers and a jacket, they had their hair pulled up into a bun on top of their heads as opposed to veil covered heads that I was used to and spoke in a tongue that I couldn’t make head or tail of. Abba spoke to one of them in our language who seemed to get the gist of it as she translated the same to her friends in the foreign tongue and accent. Even though they clearly were the crème of our existing group and exotic as Nadia whispered to me, the one thing we all had in common was fear. Not fear of the unknown but fear of the devil in what was about to come. And the only thing that stuck as I strained my ears to listen was the word Nina.

Cover Image Credit: pexels

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If you have not had sex yet, wait.

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Premarital sex is not a new concept, no matter how much people like to pretend it is. You can trace scripture and historical texts back thousands of year to see that lust and fornication have been a problem since… well, since we humans have been problems.

They tell you in sex ed that sex causes you to form a bond with someone. They throw some big chemical names at you that are apparently in your body and cause that emotional attachment to happen, then you move on (or back to) how important condoms are and why STDs are so scary.

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If you haven't even had your first kiss, you really can't imagine what it's like to develop such a complex and intimate connection with someone because you have yet to feel the butterflies in your stomach from a kiss. So you really don't know what it's like to have a whole different type of feeling in your stomach.

You never forget your first love. It's one of the most cliche things you consistently hear, but it's true. Ask anyone. I guarantee your parents can still spurt out their first love's name in a few seconds. And most people never forget their first time. I know all my friends can recount that often awkward and slightly terrifying moment as if it happened an hour ago. When you mix those two, especially if you are in your teens, oh boy.

You never forget that. No matter how hard you try.

Everything you hear about sex is true: it's amazing, fantastic, life-changing, etc. There's a reason people have done it as frequently as they do, for as long as they have. But every time you sleep with someone, you leave a piece of yourself with them. Every time you choose to take that final physical step with someone, you cannot go back and collect that piece of your dignity and soul that you left with someone.

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So, save those pieces for your future spouse.

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It May Be Winter Break But That Doesn't Mean It's A Break From Following Jesus

How do we keep ourselves "focused on God" and following Him in our time of break?

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It happens far too often for me: I begin my school year by investing time in my weekly small group and larger campus Christian community (for me, that's Campus Christian Fellowship at WWU). Throughout the quarter I'm building spiritual friendships, cultivating a consistent devotional life, attending larger gatherings of worship during the week...I'm really rocking the whole following Jesus thing through and through.

And then winter break comes. It seems to be the same story that I write for myself. Classes end, so I do away with a daily routine. My campus Christian community doesn't typically meet weekly for small groups or weekly worship gatherings, so I do away with seeking community and just manage with who I can find to hang out with.

From my experience in disciplining college students, just like myself, they have experienced (or could potentially experience) this type of winter break too: the type of winter break that is ultimately a break from following Jesus.

So how do we avoid this? How do we keep ourselves "focused on God" and following Him in our time of break?

Hebrews is one of the last "books" in your Bible, way back into the New Testament. It's actually not really a book, but more so a letter, written by an unknown author. The audience of the letter is unknown, but we can assume that the community of Jesus followers being written to were Jewish, as the author assumes that they possess vast knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Throughout the letter, the author is challenging his audience in their faith, drawing on previous scenes and characters from the Old Testament (specifically The Law, aka the first five books of the Bible) to help readers understand how powerful and important Jesus truly is, as well as what it looks like to follow Him.

But the more I have focused and reflected on a specific passage from Hebrews this past week, the more God has spoken to me about how to navigate winter break...and how you can navigate winter break, too!

The passage I am referring to is Hebrews 3:7-14, NIV:

So, as the Holy Spirit says:
"Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.'
So I declared on oath in my anger,
'They shall never enter my rest.' "
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

Notice how the author is framing the reader's perception of their current situation: they are being equated to God's people who, in a very early Old Testament story, were led by God through a land of wilderness. While traveling this dangerous, treacherous terrain, they faced temptation and testing, fighting to not turn away from following God.

That is exactly what our winter break is: it is us walking through the wilderness, a period of testing that can tempt us to turn away from following God. And because of that, I believe this passage speaks clear truths about how to be on guard against turning away and continuing to grow in Faith this winter break.

First off, the author goes out of their way to say that the Holy Spirit is speaking the following stanza of poetry over God's people. But when you look closer, this selection of poetry is simply a quotation from the book of Psalms. It's abundantly clear: God's Spirit, His personal presence, speaks to us through His word. We need to have a cultivated, routine habit over the break of being in God's word, having time to read Scripture for the purpose of hearing His voice over us.

Secondly, we need to pay attention to what the Spirit is saying in this poem: that God's people are not to "harden their hearts." Practically, what I have found most helpful in keeping my heart soft, keeping myself open towards God's will and plans for me, is an active time of prayer. I keep a prayer journal and make it a routine to write in it, not just asking for requests for myself, but primarily I pray for God is open my eyes to "know [His] ways" (Hebrews 3:10, NIV). Even combining this with a time of reflecting on Scripture will help you build a daily (or bi-daily, but hopefully daily) time to hear God's voice in two unique ways.

But there is a final component that the author really hones in on a community. The contrast the author makes is between those who turn away from God and those who have a community, encouraging one another. While we are leaving behind our current community of college friends and community of Jesus followers, there is nothing wrong with daily praying for and sending encouragement via text or even phone call to them, too! Setting up and asking for accountability over break is an excellent way to continue following Jesus together.

Ultimately, why these practical steps work is because it is what God prescribes for those in the wilderness. He watched His own people hike into and through the wilderness, to terrible results of disobedience and sin. God knows that if His people meditate on Scripture and pray daily, that they will recognize His voice, hear His instructions, and posture their hearts every day towards following His path through winter break (aka our own wilderness). Community is also at the focus of this: keeping each other encouraged and accountable means we allow God to use us, to speak to each other we strive to be and live obediently through the wilderness as His people.

This winter break does not have to be a relapse into your past, high school self. You have made progress towards following and living more like Jesus, the progress that God is proud of and wants to protect. We need to allow Him to protect us, through the instructions He provides for us in the Scripture above, so that we may also continue to "share in Christ," to continue to be citizens of the Eternal Kingdom.

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