Curiosity got the better of me. I watched her speech and found moments within the monologue that hit home. Still, I’m doubtful as to whether good speeches really impact greater change, or if they leave us with something we just share on social media. Clever by lines and phrases, speeches that go down in history that do move something within us, but is it enough to wake us up and move us from the sofa in to action?
By the end of the ten-minute speech, I was awake, my eyes were feeling wider, and somehow I was holding a tea cup in my hand. I took a seat on the floor, back leaning in to the bed base, my usual place for praying. I started to think about what it means to be a woman in this generation and about my own life as a Christian feminist or egalitarian. In that moment I remembered an experience and a conversation I had on a USA ministry trip just the month before. I was due to speak at a particular women’s group, but was told by the hostess who had invited me to speak that a certain woman would not attend because she was offended by the fact that I was part of a movement.
“What movement?’ I questioned, amused.
“Not sure, something about women.”
“I’d like to know more because then we can understand her feelings and I’d love to know what movement I’m involved with.”
I didn’t even know I was part of a movement. The hostess went on to tell me how she had tried to persuade the woman to join us, and then she recounted a long list of excuses she had made for me.
I politely stopped her.
“You invited me knowing my beliefs and what I teach, yet you yourself are uncomfortable with what I believe.”
Suddenly, it dawned on me. What I saw in her eyes and on her face, I was not permitted to be myself. My ideas on equality were beneficial when it was helping someone, but not beneficial all the time.
“Well,” she coughed, “I know your heart and that’s fine.”
I peered up and took a stand, not just against what I encountered that day, but within myself as a person.
“Make no excuses for me, because there are none to be made. I’m very comfortable with who God has made me to be.”
As sad or frustrating as the conversation seemed to be, it was incredibly freeing, and I marveled at the incredible grace and power of God and His burden within me to continue fighting for gender equality. I had never thought much about womanhood or the global oppression of women until I reached my 20’s. Growing up, I had a certain degree of passion for abused women, but it died with life. It was only once I met God that small embers of that passion began to burn again, along with seeds sown in the right time. I never faced rejection by men, and never attended churches where women weren’t allowed to preach. But, what I did see was not just abuse statistics, but women who were broken. The more I’ve walked the earth, there hasn’t been an inch of it that has not held some story of female oppression.
The seeds God sowed in to my heart of wanting to work for equality began when I caught the tears of an abused woman holding a baby on her lap in a hot shed at the back of a police station. It started when I held the hands of a 19-year-old girl whose boyfriend had beaten her but she had nowhere to go, so she slept in a police cell. It started when I spent years immersed in the stories of abused Christian women, women whose eyes I looked in to as they spoke of rape and pain. It started when I read the Bible and saw Deborah, Jael, Chuldah, Junia, Nympha, and so many other powerful women leading in perilous times. It started when I faced secondary trauma after being exposed to gendercide in China. And it increased when I started reading and teaching the Bible to women. Most of all, my heart’s passion and life work to tell the forgotten stories of women and to seek equality for us all has been birthed, molded, formed and shaped in my walk and times of prayer with Father God.
I looked back down at the phone in my hand with the paused screen of Oprah and her award and prayed for sacred spaces where God’s women can do the same. Speak out loudly and clearly for equality with the passion and true, lasting power of Christ. The world has yet to be changed and the pulpit yet to be part of that changing.
I am part of that change and I will never make an excuse for that.