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I’m not sure if I’m a feminist. To be fair, these days there are a lot of things I’m not sure about, but right now, this seems to be at the top of the list.
You see, “feminism” has never been something I’ve thought about or prayed about or engaged with. Its existence has always been in the back of my mind, I guess, somewhere in that part of my brain where all of the yes, that is a thing which exists, but that’s all I know about it things live – but that was as far as it went.
Until, all at once, it went a lot further.
I took a required course on the role of women in the church, and what had once been a non-issue suddenly moved to the forefront of my academic thinking.
Soon, it moved from my academic thinking to my heart’s questions.
I got mad.
I cried a lot.
I wrote an angry letter to my old pastor, then I burned it.
I read A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and I felt peace. A lot of peace.
After the peace, I had a lot more questions than answers.
But this time, the questions were tinged with a knowledge that everything would be okay.
I subscribed to some blogs.
I wasn’t looking for feminism. I wasn’t looking for anything with a name.
I read blogs from all across the board.
I got mad at Mark Driscoll, so I tried to figure out why.
I read the Bible. Especially New Testament instructions to the church
I emailed a feminist I had mutual friends with.
She wrote back.
I subscribed to more blogs.
We ate donuts together and I asked her a million and twelve questions.
She gave me a hug.
She was normal.
And now, here I am. I’m not sure if I’m a feminist or not. I’ve done some research, but I don’t have time to fully immerse myself in the study. There are still some things I can’t reconcile, some questions that haven’t been answered, and some implications that I’m not fully comfortable with. I am pro-life, and I am 100% convinced that homosexuality is a sin – those are two big ones. I want to get married and I am pretty sure I want my husband to lead me – but I also know that I want a voice, and that I will not be silenced based on my relationship status. I’m not sure how to deal with the hundreds of people who are smarter than I am, who have interpreted Scripture differently.
There are a lot of things I am sure of, though:
I am sure that Jesus does not think less of me, as a woman, than he does of men.
I am sure that I have been called to serve Him.
I am sure that call will not change whether I am married or single.
I am sure that justice will not come to millions of oppressed women around the world as long as the Church continues to believe that women are worth less than men in the eyes of their Savior.
I am sure that I trust the Holy Spirit to guide my life, and that He has brought this issue to the forefront of my life for a reason.
I am sure that I will have somewhat of a nervous breakdown after I hit “publish” on this post, because a lot of people I love very dearly will misunderstand it and be offended or assume I’m “struggling.”
I’m not sure if I’m a feminist, but I might be on the way.
I am a little terrified.
I am a lot unsure.
But I am asking Christ to guide me to freedom as He intended it; to His truth.
And I am sure that He will do that.
I want a cornfield, darn it.
I want to walk the lane back to the woods, just me, Jesus, and a border collie
I want to sit on the rock at the edge of the forest
Praying out loud into the air over the rolling fields
I want the train tracks, the gully filled with jagged rocks just behind Dawn’s house
I want to sit on the edge, throwing stones off the bank as hard as I can
Watching them crash and break and crack
The only time therapy will ever be free.
I want Piatt Lake. I want to sit on the lifeguard stand
Watching God paint the sky in hues my eyes can scarcely take in.
I want to dangle my legs off the footbridge
To listen to the frogs and crickets sing their nighttime songs
I want to wrap myself in a blanket and sit on the pontoon
I want to find stories in the millions of stars
To watch a meteor shower reflected in the glassy lake.
I want to drive, for hours and hours, miles and miles.
I want open road, without traffic, just me
Just me and the playlist that, if you listened closely enough
Would tell you my life story.
I want alone.
There’s no alone here.
There’s plenty of community, and community is wonderful, but there’s no alone
And sometimes, we all need a little bit of alone.
I want to cry, the kind of deep, raw, cleansing cry that only happens when one is alone.
I want to process without having someone knock on the door every 5 minutes,
Asking how I am, how I’m doing, what’s going on, am I okay?
I want ALONE.
I want to ask my questions without it being assumed that I’m struggling or not doing well.
I want to scream at the sky and shake my fists
Because the God I serve can handle my doubts
But I can’t have them if I don’t have alone.
And He can’t answer them if I can’t voice them.
I want alone.
As I walked to work after the memorial chapel for the freshman who passed away at Moody this past weekend, my brain chanted its reaction over and over
“It’s not fair. It’s not fair. This shouldn’t be. This isn’t right. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. It’s just not fair.”
I react this way to a lot of things. Not just to the fact that a family from Minnesota had to say goodbye to their youngest son this weekend, but also to the fact that hundreds of thousands of women and children are sold for sex every single day and Saturday Night Live had the nerve to produce a sketch trivializing that fact into humor. To the friend who had her heart broken after being SO SURE he was the one. To pastors who spiritually abuse their congregants. To the fact that women are asked if they brought rape upon themselves by dressing too provocatively.
These things aren’t fair. They’re not right. They shouldn’t be. Not one of those people deserves the circumstances they have found themselves in. The sheer unfair-ness of them weighs heavy on my heart and keeps me awake at night. I do not seek to trivialize them with this blog post, nor am I beginning to suggest that we should stop fighting against these injustices.
But as I thought about this, I realized something else that is not fair, not right, that shouldn’t be: The fact that I am here, redeemed, and alive. The fact that I deserve only death, but if I died today, I would instantly become more alive than I have ever been.
It’s not fair. It’s not right.
I can’t go one tiny minute without sinning. Sin is in my very being. It courses through my veins, alongside my blood. Every sin pushes me further and further from the God who created me solely to glorify Him; separates me from Him more and more.
Fair would be death. Right would be an eternity in hell.
It wouldn’t be God sending His only Child to die on my behalf. It certainly wouldn’t be “fair” for me to able to live in freedom, under grace, every single day, with the absolute assurance that I will spend eternity with my Savior.
I am redeemed. I am forgiven. Though my sins cover me in a deep crimson, my Savior’s blood has washed me whiter than snow (real snow; the kind we have in Michigan. None of this greyish-brown downtown Chicago sludge nonsense).
It’s not fair. It’s not right. It shouldn’t be. I have done nothing to deserve the freedom I find myself living in. The sheer unfairness of it all makes my heart sing and my spirit soar. It allows me to sleep at night.
The world is not fair.
But praise God, He is not always “fair” either.
It’s been a while since I’ve written. The problem isn’t that I have nothing to say. The problem, actually, is that I have far too many things to say and no idea how to say them. I have cooked with my 90-year old grandfather, visited the youth ministry where I interned the summer after high school, laughed (way too loudly for the setting we were in) with my closest friends, had 3 friendship-defining conversations, and cried six times… and that was just this past weekend.
I intended to blog a lot over Christmas break, but I didn’t actually do anything I intended to do over Christmas break. I did not blog, or think, or journal, or work through anything. I didn’t go to Urbana. I didn’t Skype anyone. I didn’t do any Pinterest projects. I didn’t cry. Instead I made soup, watched Parenthood and Parks and Rec and The Office, rode to and from Saginaw more times than any sane human ever should, and became best friends with Angél the waiter at the local Mexican restaurant.
I didn’t do anything over break… and that was exactly what I needed. The fall semester left me exhausted in every way. The highs and lows were plentiful and extreme, and there didn’t seem to be any middle ground. There were days I walked with confidence, laughed from my gut, and smiled until I thought my face would break… and there were days I had to force myself to get out of bed, put my hair in a ponytail, and pretend to pay attention in class. I wrestled with friendships, faith, and the things I was learning. Break was a welcome calm in the midst of the existential storm that I’m fairly sure every 20-year-old Bible College student faces to some degree or another.
Then break ended. The tears came almost as soon as my tires hit the gravel at the end of the driveway. I had been back almost a day when I crawled under my blankets and stared at the wall in surrender.
The difference between this semester and last semester, though, is that I will not allow myself to wallow anymore. I am researching, questioning, and conversing. I am forcing myself to be both physically active and cheerful. Those hard conversations I used to ignore? I’ve had 3 in the last 3 days. Earlier today I sent an email to a former Moody student, asking her advice. The beginning of her response said,
“First let me tell you: EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY.”
And you know what?
I write it in my journal at least once a week, and more these last few months. I scribble it down like habit. Lord, please make me content in You. After all, we all know that no one falls in love, makes friends, or discovers what they should be doing with their lives until they are content in God.
A couple of nights ago, I started to scribble it again. Lord, please make me con- I scrawled. Something stopped my pen and I crossed out the sentence. God has been moving in pretty obvious ways recently, and I remembered something. “Content” is defined as “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else,” or “mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are,” and that is not what I want.
At that point, I realized that while “contentment” is certainly not a bad thing, and while God is certainly enough in every aspect of my life, I do not ever want to be content in God.
I never want my relationship with Him to come to a place where I have stopped wanting more. I never want to be satisfied with things as they are, because I forever want to long for more and more of Him.
Lord, please help me to ever long for even more of You.
No matter my circumstances. I don’t just want to be content. If I’m single forever. If He is my only friend. If He keeps deciding to reveal only the next 30 or so seconds of His plan for me…
All I want is to want more of Him.
It is hard for those who have lived a life of saying “yes” to learn how to say “no.” For those of us who have been consistently referred to as leaders, who have consistently overcommitted ourselves and always, always been there for others, it can be nearly impossible to learn how to be there for ourselves. It can be strange, even terrifying, to ask someone else to be there for us.
Removing a mask is a scary process. It leaves us raw and vulnerable, at a point where there’s nothing else with which to hide. This is me. Here I am. I can change nothing else. We attend seminars, take notes, read our Bibles. We teach ourselves, piece by scary piece, how to be vulnerable. Maybe the guard comes down late one night with a roommate or friend. Maybe someone taught us, without us even realizing it, through walks in cornfields and late night hugs.
Slowly, we find our identities beginning to change a little. No longer are we “a leader in my home church,” or “mentoring several middle school girls.” Instead, we’re searching for a church as different as possible from the one where we grew up. We’re the mentored instead of the mentor, crying into coffee and eventually signing up for counseling. We’re trying to figure out who we are, apart from those things that defined us.
We learn how to be weak. We get lots of practice telling people we aren’t okay. We buy new clothes and learn how to blowdry our hair. Journals, once gathering dust on the bookshelves, are filled with scribbles of this new thing called feelings. Some of our stubborn corners begin to wear off, and black and white start to fade to grey.
Questions that were once deemed controversial or scary now fill our conversations. We push back on the theological boundaries of our upbringing. We lie awake at night, begging God to prove Himself and crumpling into tears of awe and gratitude because He always does. Every time.
It’s such a process, that we don’t wake up one day completely different. Little by little things change, until we realize that we would no longer define ourselves with words like “leader,” or “strong,” or “role model,” but rather with words like “learning,” and “trusting,” and “receiving grace.”
Always grace. So much grace.
We’re still there for others. But now, others are here for us. We still like to lead – after all, it’s a spiritual gift. But now, we are learning how to be led. The process hasn’t ended. We are still being transformed. Grace is still being defined in every moment of our lives. We’re learning when to say yes and who we should be vulnerable with. The process isn’t perfect.
Yet we can feel Him. He is working in us, transforming us to be more like Him. Breaking our hearts, piece by piece, for the things that break His. He is molding us into something we have been all along: His precious children.
“Maybe you’ve been away from your family for a long time, and you get to fly home tonight. They’ll pick you up at the airport, and it’s hard to find anything that compares to that joy of running into their arms.” The chapel speaker was talking about home and heaven this morning, and my mind started reeling, thinking of the glimpses of heaven God has granted me on this earth – the places in this life where I have found pockets of Home.
The Most Joyous Day of the Year – no, not Christmas. The wheels touching down on the tarmac, walking down the airplane stairs into the oppressive humidity and into the airport as quickly as possible, gulping in the familiar smoky air. Waiting, waiting, waiting for the bags, impatiently shifting from one foot to another. Finally crossing through the doors from baggage claim, seeing my Peruvian family after a year. Sprinting into their arms in a chaotic storm of Spanish, English, tears, and laughter. Sound kisses on cheeks, strong arms finally tangibly wrapped around me after a year of aching. Smiling so big my face could crack open, accepting the water bottle Zaida instantly has ready, and walking outside to board a motokar for the first time in so long. Home.
A left turn onto North Rd. after four and a half hours in the car. Rolling down the windows to inhale the Pure Michigan air. God’s country. Finally pulling into the cabin. That first step into Piatt Lake, the first view of the sunset. Black stillness on the footbridge, stars reflected in the water below. Worship in the Miracle Building sanctuary, the trek from the cabins to the sweet shop, sitting on the pontoon with my dad, Tuesday night bonfires, pizza at midnight with Kendra. Home.
Ian and Avery clamoring for space on my lap. Taking hundreds of goofy pictures on my phone and laptop, telling yet another story “when me and Avery and Ah-Ah and Bo Bo and Papa went to a farm.” Will smiling up at me from my arms. Avery growing sleepy and snuggling. Home.
Moody. Chicago. Sitting in my room talking to Molly. Walking the tunnels to CPO or the SDR. Answering phones at work. Sprawling on the floor with the girls on my floor. Taking the Brown Line. Lake Michigan. Walmart Express. Classes, finally knowing my way around Sweeting. Home.
Sitting on the couch in the living room, watching Julian Smith videos with Bo. Mom doing the dishes while we try to watch TV. Laying on my parents’ bed at night, just talking. Waking up in my basement room. Farrand-to-Irish-to-Vienna-to the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. Fields, whistling wind, getting the mail, walking to the church. The librarian knows me by name. Home.
Turning into the driveway on Cole Rd, knocking extra-loud so Nana and Papa hear it. The pink room. #inthecornfields. Lady sitting on my lap in the big chair. Country magazine, morning devotions, and making dinner. Seven minutes flat from the back door to Jocie’s front door. Advice from Papa. Walks around the Arboretum. Crossroads Farm. Home.
Coffee with a friend. Weekend visits. Laughing until it hurts. The kind of hugs that you melt into and feel instantly safe and sheltered by. Long car rides. Fall walks. Home.
I’ve been so blessed to catch glimpses of heaven, of Home, here on earth. The problem with all of these things, though, is that they end.
The Most Joyous Day of the Year is followed in a few short days by The Saddest Day of the Year. Back at the airport, the tears flow again, the arms cling again. Sobs wrack my body as a soundproof glass wall separates me from the people who have worked their way even more deeply into my heart.
Summer ends and I have to cross the Mackinaw Bridge again, this time in the southbound lane. I leave the small cousins to go back to school. I leave school and everything changes before I come back. My parents sell the house I grew up in and soon I will have no legal right to sleep in my childhood home. Lady dies unexpectedly, Nana doesn’t remember me, and the barn is being sold. There are no more walks around the Arb because I’m no longer friends with the person I walked with.
The last drop of coffee is gone and it’s time to leave the cafe. The weekend is over. Sheltering hugs end within two minutes at the most. Fall turns to winter.
And then the speaker says some of the most powerful words I’ve heard in a long time.
All the glimpses of Home I’ve been given are but temporary. They’re like watching but a few seconds of a preview for the most epic movie to ever be released. They’re not meant to be my home, but to make my heart long for my true Home – with Christ.
We’re sitting on the floor, talking, when Kelci bursts through the door screaming about snow. Not three minutes later, we’re in the plaza with what seems like the rest of Moody.
Indeed, white fluffy flakes are twirling gently from the sky, collecting on the ground and plaza ledges, covering my black gloves and jacket in a fine, dusty, blink-and-it’s-melted layer. I’m admiring the shape of each snowflake on my glove when I decide to look up.
My friends are in a huddle, they’re talking and yelling across the plaza at other friends, throwing meager snowballs at each other… but I’m in my own world. I’m looking up, blinking against the onslaught of snowflakes; blinking for another reason too. As I look up at the suddenly-wintry sky, tears prick the back of my eyelids. Happy tears.
Happy tears because I live in Chicago and I go to Moody. Happy tears because we ALL came down to see the snow – all five of us – like it used to be. Happy tears because we’re walking down the road to Sweeting just to see the two light poles wrapped in Christmas lights. Happy tears because Christmas is coming and I’ll be with my family for nearly a month.
Happy tears because even though it hasn’t seemed like it, time has kept moving. Happy tears because life goes on. Happy tears because God is faithful. Happy tears because everything is going to freeze soon, the weeds and the flowers both, but the cold kills the weeds. Happy tears because when it thaws, the weeds will be gone. Happy tears because if winter is here, spring must be coming soon. Happy tears because that’s obviously a metaphor.
I’m blinking and flicking the back of my hand across my eyes and clearing my throat. Jesse is there and he’s saying, “you look so happy,” and I’m giggling like a giddy schoolgirl because he has no idea. I’m clapping my hands and grabbing Molly’s arm and yelling, “snoowwww,” over and over and over.
I rejoin the huddle of friends, smiling and laughing and reveling in the novelty and purity of what will soon become a nuisance. Everyone is so caught up in the celebrating that they don’t notice I’m still blinking rapidly, but that’s okay. I know, and it’s only the first snow.
In a world of fake, forced community, where “hihowyoudoing” has become one single word, spit out by a person who hasn’t even stopped walking; where any admittance of failure, hurt, or vulnerability is met with befuddled stares and uncomfortable, awkward exits…
In this world,
I am so thankful for the community God has allowed me to be a part of.
This season of life is stressful, and sometimes “hihowyoudoing” is most honestly be met with
You know what, today sucks.
I’m actually not okay, and I’m not sure when I will be.
I’m rejoicing from the deepest part of my soul.
I’m carrying so many burdens for other people and I’m so grateful I can do that but I’m about to crumble from the pressure.
Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” and that is truly what I have been taught to do here at Moody. Never before have I realized the depth of this verse, the feeling of rejoicing with and being rejoiced with, mourning with and being mourned with.
Never before have I felt so acutely that I am not alone.
My friends get excited with me over things that would ordinarily not excite them in the least. We stop in late at night, after work or meetings, to see how the interview was, if she got the job, if she passed the test, how teaching went. Bare feet pad down the halls at 11:30 pm to jump up and down and muffle screams with pillows. Six or seven girls sat through Handel’s Messiah because our dear friend had a solo… at the very end. We eat way too late at night, go for walks in the pouring rain, and close our computers to turn around and be present.
There are girls on the floor who invite me in to talk and let me ramble for an hour and a half. One girl came and read in my room on Saturday… nearly two hours in total silence, working on our respective homework, just being together. Sharing life.
It goes both ways. We don’t just share each other’s joys, we share each other’s sorrows. “She’s hurting” becomes “we are hurting,” So many times we’ve sat on the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, physically and tangibly surrounding the one who has been hurt. In my room, the mantra is “never apologize for your tears.” We stroke hair, scratch backs, give hugs, and hold our tongues in favor of comforting. We share. We share meals, we share emotions, we share life.
This season I’m in is uniquely blessed. Right now, I have a support net of people who help carry each other when life gets hard, and that same support group will walk a mile or two in the rain to celebrate a victory with Chinese food. I can’t do this “life” thing alone, and for these four years – I don’t have to. I just have to walk down the hall, or go to work, or look across my room.