“You learn how to love by being loved.”
― Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women
I never thought that at 26, I'd be single, working in ministry, and a feminist. I never thought my relationship with God would be one of doubt, hard questions, and uncomfortable peace. I never thought I'd develop a heart for women to know the deep worth, and incredible strength that we've been given. I never thought that I would be growing into I'm called to be without a man by my side.
This journey of "never thoughts" becoming reality has brought me to feminism. Feminism isn't a glass box for a specific type of women, or a certain life style. In fact, feminism, in it's truest form, shatters that flimsy box. It is defined by a women who has the courage to simply be herself. A passionate force who knows their worth, who refuses to hold back based on "gender norms" and old, tired traditions. Who choses to empower the women around her, instead of tear them down based on differences. To be the best you in the space you're given: at home, in your marriage, with your kids, being single, at work, the gym, in your relationships, in ministry, in any season of life. To bridge and fight for the gap that exists in gender equality. To raise awareness and lead the charge in rescuing and restoring women from the the brutal rape and torture they encounter just for being a born female. To bring value to girls and boys in education in third world. To lead both genders without holding back, fully aware of the differences between us, but embracing them and letting them unify instead of seperate.
I thought long and hard about adding the label "feminist" to my heart. Because if I call myself that, I want to embody it, heart and soul. With my words, my actions, my faith.
It was interesting to have this encounter with feminism and work in ministry. I put a lot of pressure on myself and others around me in my beginning stages of this journey. I began digesting and breaking down the guidelines that I work in and around. Guidelines that are healthy and necessary for men and women working together in the church. I became frustrated with those guidelines, and personalized them. "Why don't they trust me?", I thought. "Why do I have to suffer for other's mistakes?" I quickly found that, though I was/am able to roll with the punches and joke around, jokes about women were not funny anymore. I became insecure in my relationships, and picked apart every comment that could potentially be sexist from my male co-workers, teammates, friends and family. I forgot how to assume the best in people, men and women, that disagreed with me.
I'm so so thankful I encountered Jesus while reading scripture, and two different books that helped me sort out my hurt, and move it into healthy passion.
"Jesus Feminist"- Sarah Bessey (http://sarahbessey.com/jesus-feminist/)
"Gifted To Lead" -Nancy Beach (http://www.nancylbeach.com/books/)
These authors invited me into a tough space: being able to express hurt in a healthy way, and put new guidelines in place that respect both parties. Many tears were shed as I tried to understand how to love others well, and embrace a God-given passion for women(aka, being a feminist). I quickly discovered having a passion for something means encountering injustice, big or small. I needed to be able to surrender it, process through it, and address it with others.
I think the heart of my hurt and insecrity came from this: female leadership in the church has not always been welcomed with open arms, and sadly, it is still that way in some churches today. That's frustrating to me. I fully believe men and women were created and intended to work together, in a beautiful cycle of submission, and appreciation to and for one another.
As I find my footing, I've discovered this: it is necessary for me to be a feminist as a female leader in the church. Notice I said "for me", not "EVERY FEMALE IN THE CHURCH NEEDS TO BE A FEMINIST TO LEAD WELL". I did not say that, so quit thinking it. I am the most effective as a human being when I live out my true identity in Jesus. That identity is knowing I'm fully loved, short-comings and all. My whole life is devoted to loving Jesus, and as a result, loving and empowering others. To not live or lead out of a place of fear or second-guessing, but to be boldly myself, embracing the unique parts of me that are different from everyone else. To step confidently into my gifting without pride or insecurity getting in the way. I believe that is when Jesus uses me, and I get to actually SEE the ways He's working.
Yes, we will now discuss "the verse" in scripture that says women should be silent int the church. I'll tell you honestly that's a hard one for me to digest, and wrestle with. It's off-putting, and defeating in a lot of ways. Let's not forget all the "well-meaing" believers that have shoved it down mine and other's throats(that is, and probably will be a whole different blog post). I know what the verse says. My struggle is that is so contradictory to the God I know and love. The one that affirms and uses me in my leadership position in the church and in my daily walk.
So what if this was the case: what if we sifted through scripture with Jesus and invited Him into the spaces of confusion and tension? What if we looked deeper into the interactions with women and Jesus? I don't believe scripture was written to just be learned and memorized. I believe it comes alive when we wrestle with it, and invite Jesus into the spaces that don't make sense. It's meant to draw us closer to God, not push us further from it. It's meant to help, not hurt.
My challenge to myself, and to you is to lean in to what makes you uncomfortable. That "thing" that makes your heart hurt, that keeps you up at night, that makes you angry...it may just be the "thing" God wants to develop in you, and use for His Kingdom. For me, that was, and still is women and their role in God's church and the world. And that lead me to feminism. It is a beautiful space of being uncomfortable, angry, empowered, and driven. I pray you'll lean into your "thing" and discover meaning and purpose that you can throw every part of your being into.
“I saw how Jesus didn’t treat women any differently than men, and I liked that. We weren’t too precious for words, dainty like fine china. We received no free pass or delicate worries about our ability to understand or contribute or work. Women were not too sweet or weak for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or too manipulative and prone to jealousy, insecurity, and deception to push back the kingdom of darkness.”
― Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist