Some of you may have seen this photo on my Facebook and Instagram feed yesterday, and I can almost hear the collective nods across the interwebs that affirm, “Yes, I know exactly what and who you’re talking about!” but I’m betting there are still more going, “Huh?”
I’ll start from the beginning.
Last June, my best and longest friend Laurie was here for a visit. When we’re apart, we’re constantly sharing things on each other’s walls, things that we just know the other person will love because we love it and it’s awesome. (Our adventures on Bitstrips are our newest obsession.) And when we’re together, like we were for a week this summer, we spend mornings drinking our warm cuppa’s while browsing the sites that we love so much, sharing them together.
One morning, she started mentioning a name. Sarah Bessey.
“Who’s that?” I said.
“You don’t know who Sarah Bessey is?! She lives practically down the street from you! OMG I have so many blogs to show you!”
Thus began my journey that would lead me here, to this newly found Jesus Feminism. Since that fateful June day, I have been reading all of Sarah’s updates faithfully and laughing or crying or pumping my fist with each one of them. She’s like a literary soul mate. The fact that we do live literally only an hour away from each other is both amazing and heartbreaking. So close and yet still so far!
Anyhow, through my reading of her, I’ve learned that for the past while, she’s been writing a book called Jesus Feminist. And it just released yesterday. As you might imagine, in certain circles, the title would be a little hair-raising. But to a mischievous person such as myself, it intrigues me.
Now before I can fully relate why I KNOW I’m a Jesus Feminist, I must share a sad little story.
In the excitement of this book release, I made that above photo, knowing and believing that TODAY I was going to possibly meet Sarah Bessey. Her first stop in her book release tour is at Relate Church in Surrey, a mere 20 minutes from my house. I looked it up and dropped a pin on it. The only thing I couldn’t find was what time it started. I looked all over Sarah’s page, the Relate Church website, and found nothing. As soon as I could, which was only this morning because I HAVE BEEN SO CONSUMED WITH LUSH TRAINING LATELY AND NOTHING ELSE, I phoned the church office to see if they knew anything.
They did. And when I called, it was just starting, ending at 11:30am, which at the time I wrote this, was one minute ago.
I don’t know why I assumed it would be an evening event, but I did. So I didn’t insure my car or try to find a bus route or call a friend. I was totally unprepared and now my dream is derailed. Sometimes, being an adult is hard.
So, to ease the pain and self-pity, I’ve put Ed Sheeran’s “+” album on in the background, and now I’m excited to share my heart on this touchy issue.
Why am I a Jesus Feminist?
Because I believe that Jesus loves women. And girls and ladies and LGs and chicks and broads and crones and dames and housewives and powersuits and singles and everything in between.
Because I don’t believe that I have to choose between being a Christian or being a feminist.
Because I am a woman and I love Jesus and I think women are one of the most beautiful creations I’ve ever laid my eyes on and God created them and how can that not be connected?
It’s really that simple.
However, I also believe that the words feminism and feminist have been slightly corrupted.
When I call myself a feminist, I am not calling men inferior. I am not hating men.
I am merely saying that, in my way of thinking, men and women are equal, in beauty and strength and skills and wonder and words and power. And I think Jesus and Sarah Bessey would say the same thing.
How dare do I presume to speak for Jesus, right?
Allow me to introduce 3 women to you that I just adore, possibly because they so mirror image my own life and I’m biased that way — and I think you’ll find that my presumption is actually proof.
1. Jael, housewife, Old Testament.
If you read the Bible enough times, you’ll start to discover a pattern – at least, in the Old Testament. It goes like this: people are enslaved or warred upon, they cry out, God saves them, they serve him for awhile, they forget what he did, they start breaking his laws and serving other gods, slavery and war and crying out and saving starts all over again.
So Israel’s got a lot of armies and strong men going off to fight these wars on a pretty regular basis. But two particular villains named King Jabin and his Captain Sisera had everyone shaking in their boots, including the Israelite’s army leader guy named Barak. (Judges 4)
A woman named Deborah (who is also pretty awesome in my opinion) was a prophetess in the land. She was revered and listened to the world over. When I picture her in my head, I kinda think Galadriel from Lord of the Rings. Beautiful, majestic, all-knowing, and you don’t really wanna mess with her.
Deborah goes to Barak and says, “Hey, I know King Jabin and Captain Sisera are a royal pain in the ass, but God has told me that if you go into battle against them, you will win. It’s a guarantee, so don’t be afraid. See ya.”
But Barak was like, “No way dude. I’ll go into battle but not without you by my side, kay? Thanks.”
Deborah, gracious and mighty woman that she is, says, “Okay. I’ll go with you. But because you refused to take God’s promise, your victory will be given to the hands of a woman.”
So the battle happens, and somehow Captain Sisera escapes the battlefield! He goes into hiding, choosing a certain tent for refuge. It was the tent of Jael, whose husband was away fighting the war WITH King Jabin and Captain Sisera. Sisera thought he would be welcomed there, right?
Jael, secretly sympathetic to the oppression of Israel, is going about her daily housework, but turns on the charm and welcomes the Captain into her tent. He asks for water to refresh himself. She gives him milk. Why? Because he’s an honoured guest! He deserves milk! And also…
It will make him sleepy.
Sure enough, when he’s crashed out on the ground, Jael very calmly picks up a tent peg and a mallet and pounds it into his fricken head, killing him instantly. Can you imagine? Talk about a not-clean death. In this day, something like that would make the news and would portray Jael as a psychopath of Dexter-like proportions. Lock that woman away so we can all sleep better, please. But Barak and Deborah and all of Israel wrote songs about her.
I think Jael was just tired. She’d been seeing an innocent Israel be oppressed and enslaved for 20 odd years by her own evil people, and I believe God moved her heart and she decided to get shit done. That battle went down in history with not Barak or even Deborah as the victor, but Jael.
When I think of my picture that says I am an immigrant; I am a survivor, I think of Jael. In my very own special way, I got tired. Tired of living in fear, being oppressed, having no future. And one day, I decided to take a stand and make my case against the powers-that-be and I won. I am an immigrant, I am a survivor and I am a Jesus Feminist.
2. Mary, the mother of Jesus, New Testament.
This one’s kind of obvious. Mary has had a pretty prominent pedestal for the past 2000 years, but sometimes I think we forget that realistically, she was probably only about 13 or 14 years old. Having a baby. In a cold, shitty barn with a man she’d barely met — get this, with a man that she was expected to spend the rest of her life with, who had not impregnated her. She skipped all of that! Considered a woman, yet still very much a girl. (Luke 2)
I know plenty of 14 year old girls, and the thought of them experiencing what Mary did gives me shivers. The doula-heart in me breaks for the agony and ecstasy of birth that she lived through with Joseph the stranger, who was probably very helpful in his own way, I imagine. But this life was not inflicted upon her. She chose it. She said yes when God asked her permission, and her life was never the same.
A number of years ago, I wrote a song called Hail Mary, relating how her life and my life are so different and yet they are the same in so many ways. Here are some of the words.
In this world, it’s so hard to be faithful. In this world, it’s so hard to be strong. In this world, I can’t compete with what’s required of me, how much simpler would it be…In your world, the future was so fragile. In your world, deliverance seemed so far. In your world, all you had was strength and faith unseen in a lost society. Did you pray for the Saviour to come to a world that was undone? Did you know you were the one? And did you cry when you realized the truth that the Lord had chosen you to bear the one we all needed? I tell you, girl, if that was me, I would have run away. I guess he knew what you were made of when he came to you that day…So here I sit in my content little world, and I have my doubts and my complaints. I don’t really know what my future holds and I struggle with that every day. And there you were at such a tender age with your entire life before you, and when it fell apart, you said, “Let it be. Let it be. Let it be.”
So when I say I am a doula, I think of Mary. I think of the power and nourishment that women possess to not only grow a child within themselves, but also to get it out. And my heart breaks and prays for those who have struggled their whole lives to know what any of that miracle feels like. I hope you know that whether you are a mother of earthside babies or heavenside babies or no babies at all, that God holds you close to his heart. Your worth to him is not held in what you can or can’t create, but in what you already are. I am a doula, one day I hope to be a mother, and I am a Jesus Feminist.
Now for my favourite woman of all.
3. Unknown, “unclean sinner”, New Testament.
I’m not a scholar in all of the Jewish culture, but from what I understand, every family that could afford it gave their daughters a box made of alabaster stone, filled with precious oils and perfumes. It was to be kept unopened until the girl was married, and then she would give it to her new husband, as a dowry of sorts.
So one night, Jesus and his followers were eating a meal together at someone’s house, as they often did. Now these followers were all outcasts of society to some degree or other. Jesus was famous for spending time with people who didn’t fit the status quo of the perfectly-righteous-on-the-outside. In this setting, I’m pretty sure it was Jesus who first said, “Haters gonna hate.”
So they’re hanging out eating, and suddenly this woman comes in, approaching Jesus and everyone else starts freaking out. “What is she doing? She’s touching Jesus? JESUS IS LETTING HER TOUCH HIM. She’s crying and pouring perfume all over his head, wasting such a costly thing, she’s so unclean and is trying to drag him down with her, we’ve got to stop this.”
But they barely get a word out against her before Jesus rebukes them, telling them to leave her alone, and that she’s committing a beautiful act of sacrifice and worship.
We have a few blanks to fill in about who this woman was and why she did what she did. I would imagine that judging by the crowd’s reaction that she had probably been a prostitute in the past. Perhaps she knew that she would never find anyone to marry her, so she took that precious alabaster box and gave it to Jesus instead as thanks and worship to him for forgiving her past and making her new again. Never mind the bravery it took to even enter that room to begin with. To hear the scolding of all these other men and maybe women, casting judgment on her even though they weren’t exactly saints themselves. (Luke 7:36-50)
So when I say I am a wife, I think of this unknown woman. She had no hope of becoming a wife, but she gave all that she valued to Jesus anyway. And Jesus did not turn her away or look down on her or see her as a woman and therefore inferior – he blessed her, he forgave her, he thanked her, he loved her.
And even though he has given me a husband who loves me and forgives me and blesses me and thanks me every day, I still need to give my heart, my valuables, my precious possessions to him, even if it’s painful or embarrassing or hard. He created me to be in a relationship with me, and I will do everything I can to say yes every day.
It’s funny…all of these accounts I shared have varying degrees of sexism in them, did you notice?
Jael, Mary and Little Miss Unknown and others like Esther, Ruth, Rahab, Miriam and even more were bound by a culture that considered them to be not much more than property. I think that’s where some people misread God’s heart towards women. What they don’t realize is that God didn’t create that culture, other people and laws from generation upon generation did. And he used each one of those women to go ABOVE and BEYOND the culture they were in, to be scandalously noticed, to be holy troublemakers, to be brave and soft and able to do hard things with his heart inside of them. I see myself in each one of them, and I want to see myself in each one of them.
So for all of my 26 years, I have believed this about women and the Bible and Jesus. But yesterday, I became something a little more. I joined a community of women AND men who are brave enough to say “I am a Jesus Feminist, ask me why!” And so I thank Sarah Bessey for giving us a voice, a place, a cause and a name. The nations will rise up and call you blessed.