A few days ago in a emotional discussion with someone I deeply care about, I felt myself losing control of the situation – seeing someone of extreme importance slip away and I whispered.
“It’s okay, I’m collateral damage I get it, women like me don’t belong in church.”
For me to even type these words is an act of pure vulnerability. Even more than the wounds I hide deep within, I hide the pain, the flawed belief system those wounds have created. Have I created such beliefs out of a victimized desire to stay miserable, thinking that if someone were to correct me I’d lose my identity as a sad person? I’m sure in part, as I was still human the last time I checked, but then again, that was eight or so hours ago… so things could have changed.
No, I am coming to realize that the root of the reason that I hide the belief that “women like me don’t belong in church” is because that belief has a pile of dirty, rotting, miserable reasons that will need to be explained… and upon explanation I am entirely, completely, and totally sure that any God fearing Christian worth their salt will come to the same realization that I have.
That I, am broken beyond repair, helpless, and should never even try to taint that which is holy.
So I hide, I learn to smile, to laugh, to speak the verses with passion… and my passion, my beauty, my joy is not fake – for I am so very much more than my wounds. Yet, that joy in me, that beauty is stunted because its only use is to hide pain, not to grow, to explode on the scene as something that can change the world, change me, change others that are in need just as desperately as I am.
Perhaps it is my arrogance that makes me believe that others would immediately assume that my sins of all the sins in the world are unforgivable. And, in part, this is true. I tend towards pride quite easily – in fact, I can feel it whispering as I write this, telling me that my dear image of an intellectual strong woman will be smeared if I am honest. Well, **** that pride. I am not the only heart needing a voice, I speak for the thousands that cannot whisper for themselves.
No, in many ways my belief that others would share my belief comes from the fact that nine times out of ten when I have made the mistake of trusting (I realize that trust is not always a mistake, but I am waiting for the day I learn it isn’t) people either gain a look of absolute mortification, or what is worse tell me how precious and loved I am, how they think no less of me – and then run, so far and so fast that my heart knows. I must be a monster.
Now before you break in with your buckets of rain for my parade, let me state, I am not writing any of this out of a depressed state of mind or a need for affirmation. Yes, there are wounds deep within me that need the breath of my creator, and I am learning as I learn to let Him in, let Him love me… that there are still those who will not hurt me, just not many.
And see, that, is why I am writing. Because for the first time in twenty-two years I see clearly and I realize something so intrinsic, something so… integral to my faith, in fact to society, to an hope of a future that does not involve rampant violence or anger.
Of anyone, on this earth, women like me belong in church the most.
I know the phrase “women like me” is loaded, it is in fact why I have chosen it. What could it mean? What horrible, terrible, vile things have I done? I’m twenty-two so that’s more than enough time to fit in every immoral obscene act there is in North America right?
Ha, I caught you, doing the very thing I have been hurt by. The assumptions – the faint disgust, the pity covering more disgust.
I do not feel the need to air dirty laundry, or brag for that matter…but as an object lesson in how deeply our assumptions go I will list a few things I have not done, and let you ask yourself…. how is it that I can feel like a woman who does not belong in church?
1. I have never been drunk in my life, in fact I have never even been close to being drunk (and I adore red wine, I just never finish the glass because I forget about it)
2. I am a virgin
3. I have never partied, stood in the doorway of a party, or even been invited to a party
I could probably go on, as there are a million things I have not done but I feel like I have sufficiently gotten my point across. See many women “like me” have willfully done terrible things, but more often than not, as in my case many of those things were done to us, to me – done against us, against our will, and sometimes by Christians, sometimes by those men who the world sees as holy.
I am going to sit here awhile and convince myself not to erase that last line, I have already three times, trying to rewrite it each time in a way that is less… obvious, offensive.. okay, less real. Even now I feel my stomach clench a little. The fear is still here, in me. The fear of speaking out about the reality of my pain, about the reality that my faith has been used against me as a weapon to hurt me physically, and emotionally to the place where I can whisper “God does not love me.” For is that not the real meaning of “women like me do not belong in church.”
A few days ago while writing this I began rereading some of my favourite moments of Jesus on earth. I started crying. I was feeling the full weight of my smallness and inadequacy as I wrote, and as I watched Jesus love, accept, defend a woman that all the Pharisees despised, while she washed His feet with her tears… it occurred to me, tears pouring down my face. I had more than enough tears to wash the feet of my God, and then I felt my stomach clench. Because, I was not good enough… I had given too much and become refuse in the process. Yet, as I sat there, in front of the words on the page they became living, sharper than a two edged sword and they began to cut through all the lies and implications that I have been told in my life and I began to see the gentle face of a Jesus who didn’t really give a (expletive) about what others thought about Him, He really, really cared that I was sitting there broken, terrified, and unwilling to voice my pain – and “He asked her [me], “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
How is it I wonder, that we, who are called to love each other with great love? We who are called to care for the widows and the orphans? We who began as a large incoherent group in Jerusalem who sold everything we owned for the greater good and then lived together, packed together, and loved each other… how is it that we are now so intently focused on “number of salvations,” bringing “unbelieving friends” to church, and “widening” our ministries when so many in our own midst are broken and afraid to speak out? How dare we even try for a second to act as if our ranks are ones worth joining if we cannot love the broken among us, take them in, without answers… and just love them.
Yes, I have been wounded. Yes, I have been wounded by those in the ministry. In fact I have been taken advantage of, used, broken.
But… they, those who have hurt me… they are not Jesus.
My place is in the midst of those who follow this great Way, for it is only there in tears, laughter, and many arms that my heart will learn not only that I am beloved of my God, but also of this uppercase Church.
What good is this faith, what good is my faith if it can be used to silence me from healing?
So here I, a quiet, timid woman speak for all women who have been broken by unholy touch, or words, or deeds, or whispers of those who carried supposed Christian authority or respect and I say.
We, not them, need this thing, this body, this living organism… and we, who have been broken – once healed – will contain more compassion, more hope, more power of expression than any dead service brought to life by technology or hip music. We who have died to live, we who have see the bottom over, and over, and over will overflow with so much undeniable grace and power that those who do not understand will begin to understand.
By our love.