Yesterday was the official release date of my blogger friend’s new book , Jesus Feminist. I’ve been reading Sarah Bessey’s blog for over 2 years and from the very first word I was drawn in by her tender spirit, her poetic bent and and her love of Jesus. But I will admit, when she announced that the word “feminist” was going to be in her book title I cringed a little. But that lasted about half a minute and then I wholeheartedly embraced the term. Not because I relate to it, but because I don’t.
The word *feminist* used to scare me and not because I’m scared of much of anything but because as are all things we fear- I didn’t understand it. When I was a young girl I remember conversations overheard about “those feminists” and “how the feminists have ruined us all”. I didn’t really understand why or how ; all I knew was that feminism was as dirty a word as slavery or adultery. It was bad and I should stay away. Far, far away.
But here’s the thing- I grew up in a family full and rich with love and grace. From my Grandma Thiessen who wore her heart on her sleeve, widowed while I was only a baby to my Grandpa Parke who never shied away from telling you how to get to Jesus- his words strong and mighty at the dinner table. I come from diversity of trades and skills to diversity of life and love. And never did I feel that because I was a girl, I had less than the most important seat at the table.
I never felt worthless or less than equal to my male counterparts but my entire life was always surrounded with a silent, almost invisible line that I dared not cross: that of being heard in church. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know who said it or how it was said. It was just there. Women were never to be in authority in a church.
Fast forward to my 18th year. A new church was being planted across town and they needed volunteers ready to do the work and show up and be counted. I raised my hand. Single, young, a woman. Oh, did I mention this was a Mennonite church? I didn’t know if I would “count” as a family unit- they needed five. They had families and couples..and then they had me.
Biggest surprise to everyone including me was when a *meeting* of the *men* in charge decided that yes, indeed, little Juanita Dueck who was just finishing high school would actually be considered one of the five. So there it was. I beat the system. That’s really what I thought. I had done something revolutionary.
And not only that, but my mom- divorced(actually separated for 10 years) was invited and elected to be the first woman on the church board. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there was a place for women to be heard.
I’m all grown up now. I’ve moved more times than I can count on 2 hands. I’ve had babies and been the token housewife. I’ve been shushed and silenced. I’ve been introduced into a family where women are lesser and lower and treated as such. I’ve seen things and I’ve learned a lot.
The other day I told a friend that 30 year old me would pray down rivers of mercy and Jesus’ return on 42 year old me. I’m not afraid to say the things that I was always told “women should never say in public” . I am a rule-breaker and a peace-maker. And yet, I’ve prayed for meekness.
Actually, Sarah, you have only enforced my desire for meekness. You wear it well. It’s okay, throw back your head and laugh out loud- Jesus hasn’t answered that prayer for me and I’m beginning to doubt He ever will. I don’t think I was cut from the cloth of meekness. But thanks to you, Jesus is making a feminist out of me.
I’ve often thought there has to be more to women’s ministry than cute crafts and Wednesday morning Bible studies. I haven’t always felt comfortable with the intercessors or the kitchen clean up. I’d rather be listening to stories of love, loss, tragedy, triumph and share mine too. Maybe that’s why I love blogging- it is in the stories of women that I am finding Jesus. I’m finding realness and wholeness in the broken bits that once were shushed into apron strings and women-only parties.
From your book- your words….these ring so true for me: ” Women are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, real community- not churchified life tips and tricks from lady magazines.” AMEN!
Thank you Sarah for your words. Thank you for standing in the wide gap that has been uncrossable for so many of us. Thank you for your stories and your wonderings- for asking the hard questions and pointing us straight to the Source of all the answers: Jesus. Thank you for graciously opening the door and inviting us all to the table.
Your friend ,
Little Juan on the Prairie
(I count it only joy that I get to drive down the streets daily where your little family found Jesus).
If you haven’t already done so , please , PLEASE order Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist. It’s not what you think it is- really. And it’s not scary or judgmental. It is a love story of a prairie girl who found Jesus and Feminism.