heard that one before? we start to step out, to put our toe in the water, to pursue a bit of our dreams, use our voice, our leadership, lean into a passion, and the voice comes rushing in: “just who do you think you are?” sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s blaring, but i think for so many it’s so real & it paralyzes us, robs us, ruins us from trusting what’s deep inside us, a draw to create, to move, to go somewhere God is asking us to go.
i wish this feeling wasn’t so familiar, but the reality of my experience is that over and over and over in my mind sometimes i hear these words: “just who do you think you are? you are such a loudmouth…you keep rambling on about the same things over and over and honestly, no one cares…your rebellious spirit will get you in the end…this is your way, not God’s way…what makes you think you’re qualified?…just who do you think you are, anyway?” i try & shake them off but they always come back around. and it makes me so sad, so mad, the ravages of oppression that steal peace & freedom. i know men have some of these thoughts, too, no doubt, but i think when it comes to women leading, creating, using their voice, risking themselves, it ramps up a notch. some of us hear:
“a woman’s place is to take care of her family…a woman’s place is to put her needs aside to make sure that others’ needs are met…a woman’s place is to support her husband…a woman’s place is to sacrifice…a woman needs to find a man & keep a man…a woman’s place is to take care of the practical, to keep the world spinning ’round…there’s no time for creative pursuits, those are frivolous..maybe someday when everyone else is all squared away…we need to be responsible.”
this is not just a church-ly notion. women outside of “church” hear the same voice, but i do believe wholeheartedly that those of us in the church get an extra measure because the God card gets tossed in & we hear things like: “God’s design for marriage, godly women do this or that, biblical roles for women, meek & mild is the goal here, we should be thankful and content for what we have, this life isn’t about us…” so when we are living free & creatively & using our voice, pursuing our passions somehow there’s a little additional “this isn’t quite right” that sneaks its way in & we doubt that God’s really in the mix.
“who does she think she is?”
how many of us have let those words rob us of pursuing some of the things we love to do? of never picking up the pen to write, the paintbrush to paint, the guitar to pick, the telephone to make a call to sign up for a class or pursue a new career. of stepping in to leading something we know we are called to? of never actually going overseas even though you’ve always longed to go? of never allowing yourself the time & space to invest in something you’ve always wanted to nurture & develop?
the negative ugly voice of the enemy combined with our messed up versions of ourselves & the discouraging voices of people we have known or know who are jealous or afraid or just don’t get us create a terrible concoction of self-doubt & paralysis. if God is our good parent, our mother & father, then i am guessing that he wants us to live free & whole & connected to the truth of who we really are & that means getting really in touch with our heart, our passions (isn’t that what we who have kids really want for our babies?)
what if our response to this question “who does she think she is?” wasn’t a myriad of negative thoughts but a rushing in of these kinds of responses:
“a daughter of God, called to create…a strong woman with beautiful passions…a powerful voice that needs to be heard…a woman who is willing to risk rejection to lean into the deep calling of her heart..a brave & courageous woman…a wild & crazy lover of life, of people…a woman willing to listen to God, not man.”
one of the reasons i am so passionate about this issue is because around the globe women are oppressed. churches, systems, organizations, cultures have de-valued the dignity and beauty of women, and it pisses me off. i am tired of the abuse, the degradation, the oppression, the lack of value & i believe we have a responsibility to do something about it. one of the ways we can begin to make a difference not just in our own little lives–but in our neighborhoods, our communities, our nation, the world–is to refuse to listen to the voice that mocks us & step into who God made us to be in whatever way we know we need to. small things make a big difference. i am not talking about changing the world by being the loudest and the strongest. i am talking about changing the world in our own small ways by refusing to listen to the voices both outside and inside of us that tell us we’re not worth it, we have nothing to say, that who we are isn’t enough, that it’s selfish to want to create, express, grow, and change. women are creators. we bring life out of nothing. we intuitively know things. Jesus called out the dignity & value of women over and over again. he came to set the captives free and yet his people, called to change the world, have created a system of captivity. it’s our individual & corporate responsibility to refuse to wear the chains any longer. it’s not good for us, it’s not for our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, our friends. it’s not good for women around the globe who need us to be their voice & fight for freedom for them as much as us.
i know i’ve said all these things before, but i guess i just need to keep saying them because i see and hear and know of so many women who have passion to step into but they are so afraid. what i’m trying to remind us, remind myself, is that whatever small steps we can take, they are worth it. (guys, i realize as i am writing this that there are so many of you out there stuck in the same place, with desires & dreams in your heart but in systems that say that you should be responsible, bring home the bacon, and be stable good providers).
maybe a piece of the sacrificial life for some of us is to sacrifice our fears, our ego, our pride to honor God’s image in us. maybe our creative pursuits or spiritual passions aren’t actually prideful like we think but humble because we are risking our hearts to pursue them & trusting that something greater than us is at work in the midst.
i wrote this poem a while back, it is from one of my favorite jesus encounters from luke 7, the sinful woman who busts into simon the pharisee’s house to wipe jesus’ feet with her tears. to me, it represents humility & risk. everyone looked at her and said “who does she think she is?” but she was so deeply devoted to pursuing what compelled her, she didn’t give a rip. this poem appeared in the online journal of the porpoised diving life that my friends erin word & pam hodgeweide edited called faith in a dress & for some reason came to mind today while i was thinking about this. i think i’ll end with it:
the sinful woman at simon the pharisees house
she busted through the door
fell at this feet
desperate, searching, certain that He’d
give her something she craved.
peace. understanding. hope.
they scoffed. how could she?
how could He?
her type’s not welcome here.
this gathering, it’s for the together,
the smart, the boys, the elite.
welcome or not, she knew she
had to get there.
to His feet.
to lay before Him
and offer her tears, her heart,
the sweet smell of perfume mixed with
filled the courtyard.
and the bystanders gaped.
you can’t do that. we’re talking
and you want to weep,
to fall all over yourself?
yes, He affirms. she gets it.
this is the theology He’s talking about.
doesn’t care if she’s misunderstood.
she knows He forgives.
He loves. He believes in her when
nobody else does.
and because of her past, all the mistakes,
raw and real.
because of her desperation,
her unwillingness to hide or pretend
because of her humility,
her openness to healing.
may i be like her,
breaking the rules.
causing heads to turn.
risking my pride.
willing to find Him at all costs.
– spring 2007
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ps: the democratic national convention is happening in denver this week & i will be going to a few different events this week related to women. in one of the emails i received, they highlighted this project “who does she think she is?” about women stepping into their creativity. watch the trailer. it came at a perfect time, because the voices in my head have been roaring full steam this week. we are getting a group together here in denver for a screening sometime this fall, we hope! if you are interested, let me know. also, i coincidentally watched the new rob bell nooma video “she” this week. worth seeing. my favorite part: “if you don’t have her leadership, if you don’t have her wisdom, her voice, her perspective, you’re not just missing her, you’re missing something central to the very core of who God is.”