Dear, Daughter...: Morning Meditations on Being a Woman in the Church
A note about this piece:
I do not write without regard for the ramifications of my words. It is because I am aware of their power that I write them. This is not on a whim or taken lightly but because I am aware, now, of what the silence has done. This post is about taking back something I lost a long time ago: my self-respect. It's about standing up to those that seek to make me feel shame over my body and my beauty. It's about speaking out so that my daughter does not have to endure the decades of shame and condemnation that I and many others have had - even in the Church. It's about standing boldly - in the Spirit - and declaring: #metoo and ENOUGH.
Today, I write for you. I write the words I wish I could have heard, but never did. Words I was desperate for. Words that I know you too will need to hear. Because, I know that if I don't speak, the silence will be deafening. It is true, what they say, about silence speaking loudly. So, I promise to be louder. Because the lies you hear will have a devastating impact. I know, because I too heard them. And, I too mistook them for truth. So today, I speak first. And I speak loudest.
First and foremost, I want you to know that you belong here. Not as an aside. Or counterpart. Or often unmentioned "other". You matter every bit as much as a man. You are not merely tolerated but beloved. God does not despise my femaleness and, daughter, He does not despise yours.
You are not bad for being female. Your beauty does not make you a seductress and if a man finds you attractive it is not your fault. The shame is on him, alone. I say this to you because...
I have been harassed.
I have been touched and therefore assaulted.
I have had my innocence violated by those in power and told to think only of the perpetrator.
I have been told I must have flirted too much or wore too revealing clothing.
I have been made to feel responsible for the things of which I have been the victim.
So today, I say: ENOUGH.
NO ONE has the "right" to touch you without your permission - no matter the situation.
Your body is a gift from God and is something to be grateful for - not something to be exploited or loathed.
I also need you to know that you have the right to be educated in all fields - even and especially - the Bible. And that your "highest and holiest calling" is that vocation to which our Lord has called you to. This "calling" is always between you and God. Hear me when I say this: Don't listen to any other voice on this but His.
I know that being a woman in the conservative, evangelical church can be full of dichotomies. We are at once praised and scorned for our femininity. We are told to:
Be beautiful but not too attractive.
Be brave but not too bold.
Be strong but ever submissive.
Be willing to stand-up for the weak but always ready to stand-down when told.
Be as beautiful as God made you.
Be brave and bold.
Be strong but humbly willing to submit for the benefit of the body of Christ.
Be willing to stand-up to injustice, wherever you see it.
Do not feel shame over being a woman: beautiful, strong, brave.
Be who God made you to be.
Spend time with Him. Lean into Him and He will ultimately show you your value. Study hard the way Jesus treated women. Recognize that, when you look on Jesus, you are staring into the face of your Creator. You have infinite value. You were created on purpose - with a purpose.
Many may feel these words do not need to be said - that they are already implied: I say them anyway. Because what has been said and what has been implied has had a detrimental impact - far and wide. So I will say it every day, if that's what it takes to drown out the lies.
You are loved.
Child of God.