This post needs a preface, because it was written several months ago and because it is simply my story of how I found feminism. This isn’t the post where I defend Jesus Feminist or use scripture to support my theology or talk about Junia or any of the other women who make brief, but impactful, appearances in the Bible. This is just my story.
And though a few days late (I’m really not exaggerating about the spotty internet mentioned later in the post), it also coincides with this synchroblog series on the intersection of faith & feminism. It seemed a perfect time to post my imperfect thoughts.
The pastor today spoke about having a life verse. One piece of scripture that continually reappears in your life, guiding you and weaving together all the bits of stories that make your life into your own journey. His was from Habakkuk.
I don’t have a life verse, at least not yet. But I have always loved James because I see myself in him. He’s bold, unforgiving in his words and unafraid of backlash. He says it like it is. I feel like he’s the kind of person that would have answered any questions, from anyone, with complete and total honesty.
During the closing song an abbreviated verse of James was shown on the screen “You do not have because you do not ask. Ask and it will be given to you.”
That’s a bold statement. And one that I have always believed comes with a “but only” that clarifies you must be asking for something God has intended you to have. But then I started thinking about the times that I have truly asked God for something – not just a generic “bless this, keep us safe, etc” but a heartfelt expression of desire for something or someone. And really, I’ve only asked a few times for something like that. One was for a best friend that was like me. He brought her to me, late in high school. We went through some rough times together but at the end of the day, she’s the friend I have always known I could count on, for anything, at any time. Even today, as we’ve grown up and somewhat apart, her presence in my life has rarely, if ever, wavered and I still believe she is a blessing from God.
The other time was when I asked God for peace and strength to overcome the impending and eventual dissolution of a five year relationship. Even in the moment it was happening, I fought it. I wanted to save it. I apologized, I acknowledged, I did everything I could besides begging. He did nothing. I was devastated. I moved out and on, slowly. I found my own place for just me and my dog – my beloved dog who has never left my side. We moved into a comfortable place in the woods, on five acres, with spotty internet and no TV.
As the new year began, my sadness was turning to bitterness and anger and I was searching for that peace and strength. I dated a little. I kissed a new boy or two. I wrote and wrote and read. I rediscovered my voice. I tried out new churches.
And then, when I wasn’t even expecting it, He handed me a gift. One that stemmed from a snarky remark on a twitter post to a month’s long study of complementarianism and finally to it’s antithesis, feminism.
Down a rabbit hole of blogs and books I fell and though I’ve come up for air, I’m still digging. It was what finally brought me the strength I had been praying for, and strangely, He was encouraging me to find it in myself.
So I dove into the words of Sarah Bessey, of Emily Maynard, of Rachel Held Evans and I found blogs about purity culture and feminism from secular and christian women (and a few men) and I read and read and read.
I don’t think many of my friends or family consider feminism part of the Christian story, but I do. The women in the Bible are unbelievably strong – in spirit and in will. God could have brought His son into the world in any way He chose, but His perfect story involved a young woman who wasn’t even married yet. To bring perfection from imperfection. To show a woman as capable of being chosen, blessed and devoted.
Feminism began to give me the confidence to explore my faith in open dialogue with people, both online and off. It helped me relabel myself from “stubborn and angsty” to what I have always been at my center, a feminist. Not that feminism is filled with angst, but rather that was how my disdain for “the way things are” has always appeared.
It gave me something to seek in a faith community. I have a short list of theological principles I desire in a church, beyond the usual. One is a strong belief in free will. The other is now a feminist ideology, or at the very least, a non complementarian view of women. In other words, a belief that women were created as equal to men and not simply as a cure for man’s loneliness.
Just as it showed me how to move forward, it gave me a way to reach back over the last decade of my life and analyze my choices, my behavior, and the friends I had made and lost. I began a journey of self discovery rooted in the notion that purity culture had taught me that women are “less than” men and only beautiful when we are “pure.” It showed me the flawed way in which I was taught to “protect” myself, without empowering me.
Simply put, feminism helped me love myself the way He does.
I am perfectly aware that many people, particularly evangelicals, do not view feminism as a tool of the Lord, but if there is anything we can all agree that Jesus teaches, it is that He is willing to use anything, to do anything, to meet His people where they are.
I needed strength and peace. First he gave me a safe place in the woods where I could rediscover my voice and find peace. Then he gave me feminism, so that I could make my own strength and realize I, by myself, was enough. For Him, for me, for my life.
I am a feminist, a Jesus lover, a dog lover and animal rights enthusiast, a believer in natural products, a writer, a sometimes poet, and a woman.
And Sarah Bessey is so right – Jesus never forgets you. No matter how far you wander, no matter what you say when you’re angry, no matter what you do. Always, always, he will meet you. In the dark, in the quiet, in a crowd, in a book – wherever you are searching, for whatever you are searching for, He will find you and give it to you, if only we are brave enough to ask.