“What gives you hope?” It was the question that started it all. Last Thursday I spoke at a venue to women and men who had a passion for working with young adults. I talked about the retreats and workshops I lead, but mainly about creating safe spaces for women to heal from a culture of unrealistic expectations of perfection. By introducing different self-care and contemplative tools, women have awakened to the grace and hope inside of them. Fueled by the Holy Spirit a revolution is beginning in their souls.
The gentleman who asked the question sincerely continued, “I mean this problem is so epidemic. If you talk to any woman you meet — it’s everywhere.” As I weighed this question in my heart, I began to tear up. Very slowly I started to talk about how it would be so much easier for me to stop talking about the disease of perfection, have a kid, go on a diet and meet the culture’s and church’s expectations of me as a married woman of four and a half years. My hope is not in the fact that I could live a “nice” life. (Not saying that people who choose that life are bad, that is just not what I am called to). I wanted to explain my story so I was careful to choose my words about my husband’s and my choice to question whether or not we want kids. That’s our life. I don’t force or project this agenda on anyone. So it caught me off guard when a 50-something white male raised his hand in my pausing after I had just started explaining where my hope lies and said, “I have a thought.”
I sat there for a moment as I pictured the women in my life who have sat in my living room crying over shame and guilt, about broken relationships and promises, about their eating disorders and body issues. I remembered their faces in my mind as they realized that Jesus loves them just as they are when this same man raised his hand a second time. Since I was collecting my thoughts, I said, “Sure, share your thought.”
“Children heal a lot of brokenness.”
I didn’t have time to process the feeling in my stomach when he said it. I needed to talk about the hope I’ve found in Jesus — not this man’s projection of a solution for me. I understand that he had “good intentions,” but the road to hell is paved with them. I sat there later thinking what if I were trying to get pregnant and it wasn’t working? What about if I was struggling with postpartum depression and child bearing made me feel even more broken? What if I had cancer and my uterus was removed? What if I can’t have “normal” intercourse with my husband due to a pain disorder that makes sex feel like someone is branding me? That last one is true.
This past weekend Cissy Brady Rogers and I held our first Soul and Sexuality Retreat and the conversation continued. I can’t tell you what all happened there because it was a moving, healing, sacred experience. However, we did have a Wall of Shame where the women could write down their shame anonymously to voice to one another that we’re not alone. They needed to get it out. By the end of the weekend the wall was littered with post-its. Here’s a sample:
- You’re not pretty enough for braces
- Your miscarriage is a result of your sin
- That’s for skinny girls
- You need a boob job
My hands shake even now as I write those words. Oh the pain, shame and guilt women in our communities are carrying and why? Because someone opened their mouth and word vomited their issues all over them. These women carried years of vileness around with them because people didn’t stop to wonder how deep those words would cut into their souls. How deeply it would sever their ties to the God who created them as wise women.
So my word vomit tonight is please stop talking. Please start listening to the women around you and not because we are feminazis with agendas but because we are created in the image of God with gifts and abilities that you don’t have. We have minds, souls, and bodies that need safe places to share and be restored. Sadly the church has forced them into hiding.
We don’t need to be told we are princesses or be coddled. We need to be loved and listened to — that’s what Jesus did. He sat in the dirt while everyone else threw stones. He had no stone in hand. He told the woman to go and sin no more — not to condemn her but to let her know she had a choice.
If you live with a woman or if you have a daughter or sister or friend please just this one week make intentional space to sit down and listen to her story — hear her wisdom — get in touch with her soul. It’s been too long to live with the shame that was supposed to be taken away on a wooden cross over 2,000 years ago.