(credit: Robyn Vining)
She was the greatest little surprise I could never have even begun to imagine.
My nose. Her father’s eyes. A personality all her own.
I had been told all my life that motherhood was the ultimate fulfillment in a woman’s life.
For me, it has been more like the ultimate drive.
Like Indiana Jones running away from a giant bolder, the urgency of Kingdom come has never been more real.
A fire at my back and in my bones and cradled in my arms.
I became a feminist shortly after I gave birth to my daughter.
My liberation came not in renouncing marriage and motherhood, not in the pursuit of a career, or the burning of my bra. What lit the fire of demanding equality for my gender was the thought of my child growing up in a world where she would be told she could not or should not do something because she happens to be female.
Maternity leave was tough for me.
I am not a homebody. I am not a baby-snuggler. I do not relax well. I do not sit still well.
(Especially when I cannot sit criss-cross applesauce).
So I read. A lot.
One of the most influential books I delved through and mulled over during that season was The Powers That Be by Walter Wink. He writes:
“…in every single encounter with women in the four Gospels, Jesus violated the customs of his time. Indeed, his approach to women had no parallel in ‘civilized’ societies since the rise of patriarchy over three thousand years before his birth.
Respectable Jewish men were not to speak to women in public; Jesus freely conversed with women. A woman was to touch no man but her spouse; Jesus was touched by women and touched them. Once, a prostitute burst into an all-male banquet, knelt at Jesus’ outstretched feet, and began to kiss them, washing them with tears of remorse and relief, wiping them with her hair and anointing them with oil. Despite the shocked disapproval of the other men, Jesus accepted her gift and its meaning and took her side, even though she had technically rendered him unclean and had scandalized the guests.”
I had never dared to see God in this light before.
For one, I knew little to nothing about the hardships of women in first century culture. The absolute disdain and oppression they endured.
I never considered how scandalous it would have been for the Gospel writers to include stories of women – let alone prostitutes wrecked in worship at their Savior’s feet.
I started to see that God’s grace was perhaps bigger than I had ever imagined. That, perhaps, I as a woman had been freed from more than just the grip of sin and death, and perhaps the confines of patriarchy and male dominance were undone as well.
It was painful to even attempt dream so big.
My heart ached as I remembered painful years of trying to cram myself into the “Biblical” ideal for a woman (gentle, quiet, happy in the home, submissive) all the while never hearing of my bold, audacious sisters who pioneered the church and were anything but the current definition of gentle and quiet.
Wink goes on to write about women and their place in the early church:
“Women received the Holy Spirit at the founding event of the church (Acts 1:14, 21) and were coequal with men in receiving prophetic gifts. They headed house churches, opened new fields for evangelism (Phil. 4:2-3), and were Paul’s coworkers. They were persecuted and jailed just like the men (Acts 8:3, Rom. 16:7), were named apostles (Rom. 16:7), disciples (Acts 9:36-42) and deacons (Luke 8:3, Mark 15:41), led churches (Philem. 1-2), and even, in one case, acted as Paul’s patron (Rom. 16:2).”
It became quite clear to me, cradling my little girl in my arms, reading the accounts of my sisters in Christ of days long past that I had to cast a bigger vision for my daughter than what was cast for me.
I wanted to cast for her the truth, that “Jesus treated women as he did, not because he was ‘gallant’ or ‘nice’, but because the restoration of women to their full humanity in partnership with men is integral to the coming of God’s domination-free order.” (Wink, emphasis mine)
I discovered Rachel Held Evan’s blog during this time, began to uncover more facts about human trafficking, sex-slavery and the ways that this aspect of Kingdom development – the restoration of women – has has been neglected to the point of death for so many.
My appetite for truth was voracious.
Redemption, it seemed, was bigger than I had ever dreamed.
As my daughters first year wore on, I read Rachel’s book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, meditated through Jan Richardson’s thoughts on Eve in In the Sanctuary of Women, chatted with JoAnn Lyon, watched and then read Half the Sky, and by the time Cadence turned 1 (really, by the time she was 6 months old) I was a walking soapbox for women’s rights – sometimes to an obnoxious degree.
You see, to claim that “women are people too” and fight for their equality and dignity is not to force them into the workplace or the home.
The claim does not demean the stay-at-home mom.
Nor does it elevate the corporate giantess.
It affirms a woman’s personhood.
When seen in the light of Christ, it affirms the giftings of the Spirit within her and frees her to live (as she should) in reckless abandonment to her Savior.
It removes the man-made constructs and rules that keep women in certain roles and positions and dares to call “unnatural” what God has in fact ordained.
My daughter was born holding her head high (which is good seeing as I’ve never been great with that whole support-the-neck thing that newborns require). She was wide-eyed from the start. Charismatic to the core. It’s crazy to me how much personality can be crammed into such a tiny human.
I’ve watched my Cadence grow and develop this year.
I’ve watched her explore and interact. She can barely walk and yet she can work a room of 50 people. Not kidding.
I can’t imagine looking my little girl in the eye one day and telling her to hold back the gifts so evident in her life even now because she possesses the wrong anatomy to hold certain roles or function in certain jobs.
I refuse to be okay with my daughter growing up in a world where, had she been born in any number of other countries, she may be sold to a brothel, raped, trafficked or married off by the time she is seven.
I will speak out tirelessly against the atrocity that is 1 in 3 women raped or otherwise violated or abused in her lifetime.
My little girl deserves a better world.
Every little girl deserves a better world.
Motherhood may have turned me into a feminist, but it is Jesus Christ’s example and the Holy Spirit’s conviction that will keep me one.
And should I ever forget, I have that little girl with my nose and her father’s eyes to remind me
we are people too.
This post is part of the Feminism and the Stay-at-Home Mom Linkup hosted by Kelly over at Renewing Your Mind.
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