Apr. 9, 2012
The lecture hall in Swain West wasn’t the holiest of spaces, but it did just fine.
At the worship service a girl with a blonde braided ponytail and a blue plaid shirt sat in the third row. Unlike most of the others in the room, she had no shoes on her feet.
“It’s comfortable. I like standing out in a crowd,” she says later in the evening. “I just have two rules: if there’s snow on the ground or cold rain. Or if it’s below 30 degrees.”
She carries a pair of brown Sperrys in her backpack, which she uses outside when it is cold or wet. But as soon as she gets inside, the shoes come off.
She hasn’t worn shoes for two years. She’s committed herself to God for about the same amount of time.
When pressed, she says she goes barefoot just because it is more comfortable. Even in the deep snows of an Indiana winter, she shrugs it off and insists there’s no deeper meaning.
“I think I feel like I could spiritualize it in a number of different ways, but there’s no real correlation,” she says. “I find it more comfortable.”
Kristen Haubold, an IU junior, is a member of the Campus Crusade for Christ, also known as Campus Cru or sometimes even just Cru. The group meets on campus every week.
She worships with them and prays with them, and it is through them that she has found acceptance.
Each service includes a “real life story” of one of the members of Cru giving testimony to God’s role in his or her life. This time, she would take center stage.
For about a week, she’d been preparing, praying, and going through drafts of her speech with friends and Cru leaders. Soon, it was her turn to address the group.
“Hi, I’m Kristen, and I don’t wear shoes,” she says with a smile, pointing to her bare feet.
She pulled out a piece of paper, bowed her head, and began to read.
“My whole life I’ve been searching for safety. I was taught at a young age by sexual abuse, at the hands of my brother, that the world is not a safe place.”
The room was already quiet, but now every eye was on Haubold.
“I’ve tried to find safety in as many places as you could imagine,” she says. “I’ve tried to find safety in success, in taking care of myself, in masculinity, in the arms of another woman, in isolation and seclusion.”
“I came to college a lonely, broken mess of a 17-year-old in a serious relationship with another woman, trying desperately to find safety in anywhere but God. Because, of course, God wasn’t safe.
“You see, life had also taught me that God could not be trusted,” she says, never looking up from the paper. “I saw God as this cosmic sadist who wanted to make my life miserable.”
She talks about walling off relationships with others and living in isolation in an effort to find some semblance of safety.
Then, during the winter of her freshman year, she turned to God.
“When I was at my worst, thinking I was beyond hope, beyond the power of God’s redemption, He proved me quite wrong,” Haubold says. “I’m still lonely sometimes ... I struggle with sin ... Trusting the Lord for safety and trusting people is terrifying. Standing up here is terrifying.”
She ended on a quote from 2 Corinthians 4.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed,” she read. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
When she took her seat again, Haubold says she felt relieved. A weight that had been pressing down on her was finally lifted from her shoulders.
“It’s almost like I don’t have to hide what I think about,” she says. “I feel like I don’t have to come out to every single person any more.”
“It’s been a good thing.”
After the testimony and a sermon, a worship band provided music and prayer.
Singer and guitarist Joel Barker closed his eyes and approached the microphone to pray with the group.
“Lord, we love you so, but sin has left a disgusting stain on our hearts. We don’t even deserve to sing songs to you,” Barker says. “We come here after a Christmas break full of garbage. We don’t live like we should.”
During the prayer, Haubold sat down and held her hands together with her head hanging low. Those around her stood and took in the message. The mood was one of shame: shame of sin, shame of an imperfect life.
But there was still a promise of hope: hope that by accepting the teachings of Jesus Christ, any of these college students might find freedom and forgiveness.
“I think you realize how sick we really are. You’ll see how badly we need a doctor,” a worship leader says. “There’s a sincere freedom in that.”
The next song started slowly, with a piano melody accompanied by harmonious, emotion-filled vocals.
Haubold kept her head low and remained sitting. As the song began to pick up speed, she slowly stood up but kept her eyes closed and her head hung low.
The music got louder; the rhythm of the drums got stronger; Barker strummed his guitar with more purpose and strength. Haubold lifted one hand with her palm out, the other hand in a fist at her chest.
She pounded the tempo into her chest, beating along with the song, gaining power with each successive phrase. The blue light of a projector, which shared lyrics with the whole room, illuminated her face.
“The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning. It’s time to sing Your song again,” Haubold sang along. Her eyes were still closed, and she raised her other hand into the air.
The music was loud, waves of sound crashing down around Haubold, wrapping and cleansing her.
She turned her head skyward, singing to the heavens. She spread her arms wide, ready to accept whatever God had in store.
Because it was the first meeting of the new semester, Cru leaders decided to rent out the Mike’s Music and Dance Barn in Nashville, Ind., after the service in Swain West.
After some organized line dancing lessons early in the evening, the DJ strayed from country-western toward the kind of Top 40 music a college crowd would be more accustomed to.
Hips shook, arms waved, and the whole evening became something a little more relaxed. Red stage lights illuminated the faces of long-haired women in tight jeans and plaid western shirts with their arms in the air.
It was a garden of earthly delights as the group paired up and danced close. Although most pairs were men and women, some men partnered with other men and some women danced with other women.
“It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes,” Nelly sang through the speakers as the Cru members danced.
Haubold sat at a row of tables around the edge of the dance floor, watching her friends dance under the spinning lights of a disco ball in the darkened hall. She had taken a break between organized line dances to sit at a row of tables on the side of the barn.
She had taken off her plaid button-up shirt to reveal a gray Little 500 T-shirt — she was on the women’s Cru Cycling team last year — and a necklace on a black band, a gift from her sister-in-law.
“This heart is a reminder of God’s love. This feather represents freedom, the freedom I have through Christ. And this pearl represents beauty,” she says, pointing out the charms on the necklace.
Haubold was in a long-term relationship with another woman when she came to IU but broke it off when she made Christ a priority.
She no longer is with women but said the temptation is still very real. In her speech at the service earlier in the evening, she admitted “there have been some hellish times in my life this past year.”
“I’m still attracted to women, but I don’t think that’s the path God has for me,” she says.
“There’s a line in Corinthians 1 that talks about making every thought captive to Christ. When it comes to temptation, you’ve just got to shut it down.”
Whenever she does begin to give in to temptation, she says, she turns to prayer and the Bible for guidance.
It’s always a battle, but she insists it’s a battle she can win.
When the DJ took to the floor to teach the group a circle dance to “Cotton Eyed Joe”, Haubold went back out to join her friends.
“Step, turn, stomp, stomp. Step, slide, together, clap,” the DJ shouted, showing the steps to the group.
Among the sea of brown and black boots, tennis shoes and leather loafers slid a lone pair of bare feet.