There is a shift taking place with women today. You can see it in the media, entertainment and inside the church. Where the idea of a “good” woman seen as being pure, quiet, submissive, agreeable and at peace no matter how people treat her, has taken a sharp turn.
These once quiet women are now speaking up – stories of abuse, neglect, mistreatment and oppression are filling newspapers, schools and church classrooms.
I am one of these stories.
According to a recent study, 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence by a non-partner. Some studies show that up to 70 % of women have experienced abuse from an intimate partner. (This isn’t even including mental/emotional abuse, which can be far worse).
After years of having others write my reactions, emotions, anger and pain for me – I decided it’s time to take the pen back and raise my voice.
Let me start by telling you how I got here….
I started as a little girl, loving Jesus, loving church and loving all things second graders are obsessed with (Hello Kitty and Lisa Frank to name a few). The story began when a male babysitter took me into a closet… a closet that is forever burned in my memory.
My story continued into teenage years. Loving youth group and being crazy about my new boyfriend who claimed he loved Jesus too….until I said no and he threw me out of a moving car.
Not long after, I was invited to travel with The Continentals as their youngest principal dancer. We traveled the US, performing with an amazing cast. It was an incredible experience. Until the 40-year-old director took me into a bus alone and kept trying to kiss me – I was 15.
Moving onto adulthood, I was a proud virgin on my wedding day. But, I soon learned that marriage doesn’t always include sacrificial love. Or faithfulness. Even when your husband is in leadership at your church. I learned that confrontation could get you punched in the stomach – hard. I learned that tears could mean being choked and having your head slammed against the floor.
I learned all of this under the name of being “a godly woman”.
I was told to be quiet.
I was told to speak less.
Be less emotional.
I was told to honor men in authority. Honor my family. Honor my children. Honor my pastor. Honor my church. Honor my community. Honor everyone.
My story continued as a single mother who found the Divine in a wilderness of pain. I found that I could write. That my voice had power when I spoke. I found that I had hands to heal, a heart to pastor and a desire to walk with people out of hell holes like the ones I had climbed out of.
But, I learned that not all churches appreciate women with a voice.
I learned that most women are not respected unless they are under male authority.
I learned that no matter how submissive and quiet and obedient you become, you will still be asked to take a back seat.
I continued to accept men who did not honor me. Men who took advantage of me. Men who were filled with anger. Men who expected me to be…
At the expense of my children. My home. My family.
And, this is where my story shifts.
This is where I learned what a woman of the Divine looks like.
She looks like this….
She is the last one standing after the storm.
She is the first one to defend the oppressed.
She is the first to lay down her life.
She leaves the abusive home.
She protects her children no matter the cost.
When she is told to be quiet, she knows it’s time to speak louder.
When she is tired, she gets up and fights harder.
She isn’t afraid of institutions.
She tears down what is destructive and oppressive.
She rebuilds, with her own hands, what brings peace and safety.
She isn’t afraid of her anger.
She doesn’t hide her pain.
She looks like Rahab. Deborah. Hagar. Mary.
If we learn nothing from the gritty women who rose throughout history, we learn nothing of God’s wild respect for women of the wilderness. Of women who rise out of oppression, racism, hate, abuse, patriarchy and mistreatment.
This is what women are made of.
This is who I have been all along, and yet whenever this part of me showed, it was named things like, “rebellious”, “lack of submitting”, “Jezebel”, “out of order”, “not of God”.
Let me tell you this:
I know the Spirit. I know it well. I’ve walked through valleys, shadows, pits and faced most of it alone. I have stood on ground others called “rebellious” and named it sacred. I planted my feet where people called it “heresy” and named it blessed. I have been labeled “lost” but was marked, chosen.
Why do the oppressed continue to rise?
Why do those in the margins continue to cry out?
Why do they seem to just keep getting stronger?
Meet the Spirit of the wilderness. Meet the God of the oppressed. Meet my Divine lover.
I can rise because where others pushed down, the Divine rose up.
I can fight because where abuse left it’s mark, the Spirit crafted a warrior.
I can continue to speak because where others tried to silence, the Spirit filled my lungs with fire.
I can stand because where others said you don’t belong, the Divine said, let me prepare a house for you. Right here.
The presence found in the wilderness is one every silenced, oppressed person knows.
In the words of Hailee Steinfeld,
Most girls are smart and strong and beautiful
Most girls, work hard, go far, we are unstoppable
Consider this your invitation to the Spirit of the wilderness. One where we rise. One where we have a voice. One where we can take back the script and write our own ending.
You are smart, strong and beautiful. You can work hard, go far. You are unstoppable.
PS: for more conversation about how I am learning to connect with my body, after years of being disconnected, check out my recent podcast here.