I was talking with a friend a few weeks back and—much to her amusement—I came out with, “the problem is, I have a lot of very strong opinions about everything”.
It was funny, but it was also true.
I’m an idealist—and a fairly stubborn one at that. Just try telling me that something can’t be done and I’ll take the challenge on. As Nelson Mandela said, “It’s only impossible until it’s done”. I live with a profound sense of discomfort in life, my mind and heart are captivated by the vision of what could or should be and I’m desperate to make it reality. So sometimes I find it frustrating when we’re not quite there yet—when oftentimes we’re a long way off. The big gap between the now and the not yet feels painful to me and I’m impatient, both to my credit and detriment.
Much of my life feels like it’s been about stirring things up, not leaving things alone when they aught to be challenged. I’d walk on by if I could, but I usually can’t. In my immaturity I’ve let it fracture relationships, but my heart has always been to keep us moving towards what’s good and right and best for us. I can’t think of many chapters where life has just sort of happened around me. I stopped knowing how to stand still a long while back. It’s a source of both incredible energy and utter exhaustion.
I started writing a slightly different post about fighting with love the other day. I was wrestling with the place that “fighting” has in our lives and how to do it honourably and well—if at all. And then came the news of Nelson Mandela’s death. He reminded me at just the right moment in time that fighting has great purpose, but must be accompanied by great love.
And so I felt a little more at ease. A little more challenged at some of the nature of my “fighting”, but a sense of relief that perhaps it’s ok that my life is constantly wrestling, constantly fighting against or towards something.
But the thing is, I keep coming up against this other problem.
Sometimes I find it really hard to know how to fight as a woman.
At times I overcompensate. Charged with the determination to prove that I can match any man in his battle of intellect and reason I puff up, I fight hard to win—sometimes with little regard for the cost. I make it about me rather than the point.
Or the opposite happens, I cower back and mistake the call to fight with humility and love for a voice that tells me to fight softly and gently because I am a woman. I replace a healthy guilt when I’ve spoken too harshly or been to overbearing for a critique of my own femininity. I sometimes wonder if I should sit down and shut up not because I am wrong, but because I’ll come across too masculine.
I sometimes watch people’s reactions to my refusal to stand back and that sinking feeling comes over me… they think I’m one of those angry women, they think I’m an angry feminist. Who wants a woman who will stand her ground, get angry at the world and lead the way into a battle? Who wants a woman intent on rallying the troops and creating an army when society says that’s a job for a man?
These lies cripple me. Because I was born to fight. I was born to raise my voice. And so were you.
And God equips me for it. He stirred me with passions and vision that keep me marching on, he made me to lead. He made my mind work in such a way that I would think for myself, form arguments and share them with others. I love to read, write and reason. I love to talk things over. I am charged by debate and difference.
But I get caught between the hushing voices and the cheering crowds.
I live with my feet in two worlds and it hurts. My silence offends one half and my voice offends the other.
And I don’t know how to move forward.
So many of my friends are my heroes. I am lucky to be surrounded by courageous women who are fighting incredible feats with their lives. They are astonishing I tell you. I get to walk alongside world changers. I stand taller when I am around them because their lives charge me to be more, not less, they cause me to rise up, not shrink down. They tell me that the world can’t afford to not hear what I have to say. They remind me that God has put a song in my heart and it needs to be sung.
My challenge will always be to fight with love, to learn to disagree well and ensure that my words aren’t spoken from a place of bitterness. Lord knows I have SO much to learn and I will keep struggling to find my place and my voice as I grow. I need to learn to pick my battles, let some things go and be quicker to admit when I am wrong. For certain, I need to learn how to listen before I speak and when I do, to do so with grace and understanding. But none of this has to do with my gender. It has to do with Jesus, and how he taught us to be with one another.
I’m tired of thinking that for a guy to like me I need to become less, not more.
I’m tired of being branded as an “angry feminist” when I get cross about something, but when a guy does so he’s just being a strong leader.
It disappoints me when I read that there are less women on stages, running seminars, doing podcasts, writing books…as if we women have less to say, less to teach, less to bring to the world.
I need these women in front of me, role models speaking into my life, calling me into the arena. No—we need these women in front of us, as role models speaking into our lives, our culture, our future…showing us that the arena is full of strong men and strong women, working together on the battlefield, showing us the full image of God in our togetherness.
I desperately need to see us strengthening—not demeaning—one another.
At a time when there is so much the world needs us to press in to, so much that we need to challenge and overcome, it seems crazy to me that part of the army is held back.
Train us, teach us, raise our voices, bring us with you.
I’m so utterly thankful for the women who inspire me and remind me of what’s possible, and for the guys in my life who give me full permission to be myself, who call me out when I shrink back and repeatedly demand more, not less from me. I’m grateful too for the men who speak up, who champion not only the women in their lives, but all of us. We need you, we desperately need you. Your voice is louder than ours right now, and when you speak, more people are listening.
Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting against the world and the messages I see and hear, but oftentimes I’m fighting against myself, my insecurities and the lies I’ve owned. It’s time to put them down.
A wise friend once said, “be about defending others, not yourself, and we will look out for you”.
Of course this is personal for me. I am, after all, female. But it’s about so much more than just me. It is about every women and every man I know. My heart breaks for the millions of voices the world is missing right now, for those who are hiding their gifts and for those who are missing out on receiving them. It’s about the countless women who are lip-syncing rather than singing their songs proudly, and the little girls standing beside them, watching and learning and wondering if perhaps they shouldn’t be singing so loudly and freely too. It’s about those who are waiting patiently for permission to speak up, waiting to be invited to the table, when Jesus has already done so. It’s about those flickers of light that keep getting hidden and the hesitant footsteps longing to run. It’s about world-wide oppression and the soaring rates of sexual abuse and violence against women, which hold the same root.
It’s about all of us joining in God’s story.
It’s about the church being a source of restoration and not brokenness.
It’s about establishing heaven on earth.
And it’s always, always about love.