Today, Sarah Bessey releases her book Jesus Feminist. There may not have ever been a popular event in such appropriate timing with the swelling song of my own heart. Rachel Held Evans applauds the work: “[Sarah Bessey] gives us permission—permission to laugh, permission to question, permission to slow down a bit, permission to listen, permission to confront our fears, permission to share our own stories with more bravery and love…. One word at a time, Sarah liberates us from the agony of bearing our stories alone, so we can follow Jesus (my favorite feminist) with more freedom and joy.”
Here’s to Sarah, a brave feminist:
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If there is a cry to rasp — or shout! — out to women until I die, it may be to summon them to accept their own skin. It’s a skin women didn’t sin to be dressed in.
In her recent article, my sister Rachel calls us to stand up to our full height — we women who have believed ourselves to be hopelessly bent due to our broken pasts, our insecurities, our fears. As I, too, speak out in vulnerability, the fear of remaining bent withers, and only courage remains.
So, like Rachel, I am being pressed with the conviction to carry on a call that I’m going to (finally) name feminism. It’s a call that’s been hard in coming, and every day lately has been a struggle against shame at the call, shame at myself for not having it all figured out. It makes me wonder what’s at stake; I suspect it’s that it’s a fight worth fighting — one that Satan is plumb threatened against. I know that in spite of the lies he keeps telling me — those lies he’s been hissing to Eves from the dawn of time — I cannot be ashamed anymore.
Shame leading to dutiful obedience, or shame leading to prideful contempt against others — are these the alternatives to pacing ourselves with joy through life? I have walked the halls of both dark tunnels, but dutiful obedience knows me well, clinging to my flesh like pollen to a worker bee. It is no small thing to let that pollen fall, my volition captured like the involuntary breath of a newborn.
When I am okay in my own skin, it is easier to see how Abba adores every one of his human creatures. And he cannot tolerate shame being hissed over any of them — even for true wrongs. Only He, owner of all vengeance, can speak to the heart and bring a shame that is legitimate, a bringing back to beauty through repentance.
But to lay down all illegitimate shame means I must also lay down the shame I carry for other people through my contempt. Like when I judge other women for not choosing my style of birth or motherhood. Like when I scowl at my husband for not embracing my version of obedience to God. That has been where the movement of some strains of feminism have perhaps gone so wrong. They have declared the worth of women, but at the price of the chains of bitterness and hatred.
Perhaps to be a feminist is to believe in women to be the glory we were intended to be, not to lash ourselves with the cords of shame because we feel, because we sin (of course we do!), because we do not know all or cannot be all.
If I abide by a rule (God gave Adam and Eve only one, if you recall), let it be out of love and not of duty or guilt. Being a woman, I have become particularly familiar with the burden of our sex. The knowledge of good and evil has made women slaves to obedience or to the worship of our own failure: that is where our affections have become passionately set.
Writing out this cry for the first time is enough to send minions to my very ears, chanting out messages of doubt about the social spheres being unable handle what message I’m trying to articulate. So what if I haven’t got it perfectly right? Have any of us? I could… I just could have the love to say to myself: I have done my best. I have written the words God gave me today, and they are enough. I am enough. I will neither shrink nor gloat. I am enough.
So, yes, I think I may just be a Jesus feminist. (I haven’t read Sarah Bessey’s book, but from what I’ve read of it, the cry deserves to resound through the whole earth.) On her blog post today, she has a compilation of photos of women and men describing themselves in a single sentence, along with a declaration of their feminism.
What would my sign say? I used to hate others for making me feel small, but now I can stand — confident and free — in love. I am a Jesus feminist.