"who does she think she is?"

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
luke 7:36-50

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,
her thanks.
the sweet smell of perfume mixed with
her tears
filled the courtyard.

and the bystanders gaped.
you can’t do that. we’re talking
theology here
and you want to weep,
to fall all over yourself?

yes, He affirms. she gets it.
this is the theology He’s talking about.
she understands.
believes.
accepts.
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.

she receives.

may i be like her,
unhindered by
human-created norms,
breaking the rules.
causing heads to turn.
risking my pride.
seeking Truth,
willing to find Him at all costs.

– spring 2007

* * * *

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.”

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life and online. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

17 Comments

  • Beautiful Kathy! I love your poem! One thing I used to think I needed to learn, was that it “isn’t about me”. We’d sit around in our small group from a church I used to attend and all say “I just have to remind myself…it isn’t about me”. Now…that phrase makes me cringe. Not because of what it’s saying…but because of what it’s not saying—that our individual beauty and talents don’t somehow matter. At least that’s how I’ve started to interpret it. I also think that very few of us are so egotistical that it puts us in the proper place to experience intimacy with God. It is about “me” to God, and how we connect.

    I remember one time a very dear friend of mine said that nobody deserved Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, but he did it anyway. I said “I guess my problem is that I think I was worth it.” And I do believe that. If I wasn’t worth it, then that act was very stupid. Maybe because I struggle with self-esteem issues…I’ve swung back to far the other way. But I am tired of some churches implying that I don’t count. It’s confusing too…because the same people that spout this off, then talk about how God created each of us so specially in the womb. Well…which is it? (Rhetorical question).

    Love you Kathy. Thanks for such a well said post and for sharing your creativity with me. By the way…I have a pretty rebelious nature. And I’m starting to kind of like it…

    Reply
  • Kathy,
    Great blog. Sigh…I agree that women in our culture experience much pressure, expectations and oppression. In reality, it’s an abuse cycle. I agree completely with your belief that organized Religion only enhances and enables these deceitful messages by tenfold. Women learn quite quickly what is “expected” of them to be “good little Christian females” and if they for one minute fail in any aspect, quickly feel the pain of not being “enough.” This is all steeped in a Law/Performance/Shame-based mentality.

    I loved what you said here: “how many of us have let those words rob us of pursuing some of the things we love to do? ”
    Um..me! After I left the org religion, and began healing, I discovered my passions…and slowly have been taking the little baby-steps of walking in the Spirit in carrying some out. Quite honestly, I think that doing my Blog-Page is one of them. I don’t consider myself a professional writer (by far…), but I simply LOVE putting my thoughts about Father, Son and Spirit to words and sharing in the journey it creates with others reading and commenting.

    I still have many more dreams in my heart, that had been shoved deep down during my “churched” years. I’d bought into the idea that they were all selfish or simply didn’t matter. However, since having my life opened and beginning my free God Journey in Christ, many have surface and continue to come to mind. I do hope, with Father, Son and Spirit, I will carry out many of them in my lifetime.

    Ahh….I love what you said here:
    “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.”

    “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.”

    “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.”

    “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.”

    “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. ”

    Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen and Amen!

    Thank you for including the awesome poem “the sinful woman at simon the pharisees house.” Touched my heart…and it was perfect for this blog.

    Kathy…I just SO love your writings. You truly have a gift…did you know that? You articulate in such a way that “tells it how it is.”

    Blessings,
    ~Amy 🙂
    http://amyiswalkinginthespirit.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • Love the re-frame on what a sacrificial life might mean…I’ve started thinking of it as self-giving rather than self-sacrificing…I think God gives us hugely beautiful, powerful, good, holy selves that we are called to grow into, to love out of, and to rejoice in. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
  • your poem made me cry! (in a good way)

    it helped me connect, in a very real way, with the story of the woman and the perfume w/ Christ. it is heartbreaking that this kind of thing has been happening in the church for in 2000+ years…

    I have been told this, for different reasons:
    “…her type’s not welcome here.
    this gathering, it’s for the together…”

    I think I actually literally lived this:
    “…and the bystanders gaped.
    you can’t do that. we’re talking
    theology here
    and you want to weep,
    to fall all over yourself?”

    Christ, grace, truth…
    “…she knows He forgives.
    He loves. He believes in her when
    nobody else does”

    it is good to be reminded that maybe I am not entirely alone.

    – thank you for what you wrote
    (I think I have to go find some kleenex now 🙂

    Reply
  • lisa – yeah, lots of weird undoing of a lot of past messages…

    amy – so much healing going on in so many beautiful ways. i think what you are touching on is freedom & once we’ve had a taste of it, there’s no turning back.

    muser – welcome. thanks for stopping by. your blog link didn’t seem to work so i am not sure if it was mistyped or ? how did you hear about this blog? yeah, i have been thinking about that re-frame a lot, it is a different way of thinking & very contrary to how i have thought for many years, still pondering it that’s for sure. thanks for your comments

    eb – i am glad it stirred up something deep. i have been thinking about it a lot this week, too. and yeah, it makes writing these crazy thoughts worth it if even just one person feels a little less alone.

    Reply
  • Kathy, Hello again, I always see the first few lines of your posts and then think “that’s gonna be a good one” then go about my day (cause I want to take the time to absorb and not be doing to many things at one time i.e. working, driving home, having dinner w/my family, getting some one on one time w/one of our 3 kids, or sneaking in a quick squeeze from my husband and trying to put my own thoughts together…wow that was a ramble)…I started reading this and it really hit home to me, so many things I’ve said inside my own head and struggled with for so long (not to mention I’m mixed my mom is swedish, german & italian and my dad is 100% american samoan – its kind of another whammy) it’s difficult to articulate and/or let alone to explain to so many women who are stay-at-home mom’s and that’s their life. Not to say there’s something wrong with that, but I was very independent and self-sufficient as a way of life prior to coming to know Jesus, but when i did learn the truth I was softened in so many ways, my heart towards God and what He’d done for me…little wretched me.. Anyway, now that my husband and I have little one’s it’s like (especially in the church, there’s this pressure that woman know their place and it’s not necessarily verbalized, I’m not sure that I like that any less or more it’s more difficult to explain) every woman I know has children, enjoys doing everything for them, their lives are their children…and often stop and wonder how we can let ourselves do that. God is our life, our children are gifts shared and given to us from God, we’re not to worship them, we’re to nurture them just as we would any brother or sister or even friend or acquintance. We are all His children, my main point is “thank you for this post!” I agree with everything you’ve said here and I’m really glad that you did expound more and/or re-iterate because I missed several other posts and well I needed to know that I’m not alone in my thoughts…I could write more, but should read the post prior to this first, cause I attempted to 3 different times already. Have a nice evening – IN CHRIST ~ Heather

    Reply
  • Kathy. Damn I love you!! Awesome post. I feel renewed. I had to link to you on my page. Re-post that poem there. I can only pray that I can fan the visual and the feelings propted by this post daily. As a single mom it is so hard to step out and risk when so much is riding on my back. 24-7. I don’t just have baggage…I got CARGO. But I applied to nursing school last week and the fear of the unknown and the fear of the ‘can i handle it’ and tons of other thoughts keep me pretty terrifired for the most part. Thanks for the hug and the shot of reality that I am PERFECT just the way I was created to be. I love it when you write stuff like this…keep it up!! HUGS!

    Reply
  • Cool stuff, Kathy! It’s essential that we get these issues right – speak up and be advocates for each other. Without the incredible amount of gender based injustices in the world we absolutely cannot have the church reinforcing the message that somehow woman is less than, or her voice doesn’t matter quite as much or worse. For too many, it’s a matter of life and death. Blessings to you! 🙂

    Reply
  • stephanie – thanks for stopping by. your site cracks me up, by the way!

    heather – always great to hear from you here and i am glad you got a little encouragement. it does get confusing when so many are really happy with the way things are & it really works for them. i don’t want to dismiss that at all, i do just think we have to be careful that we don’t use others as our measure, that we listen to God and be willing to risk being looked at as stupid, irresponsible, or ?.

    tara – oh that makes me happy that you got a little reminder shot today. that is so cool that you are going for it on nursing school, beautiful! keep me posted & will be thinking of you from afar 🙂

    ellen – yeah, the less-than thing in the church of Jesus Christ–the place that should be the safest & most valuing & most equal & most free place on earth, in my opinion–does make a statement to the world that we don’t want to make. freedom here influences freedom there. we must not give up really pressing out how all injustices are tied together & seek God’s healing & restoration for the broken Bride. hope i get to see you soon!

    Reply
  • I get the – who do you think you are, thing. Anyway, the Bible says we are to be a peculiar people – I got that part down pat!!! I know who I am, I am me, and I am quite comfortable with that (most of the time).

    I reckon the woman of the Emergent/Missional movement are amazing and have so much to add to the conversation, love what are they posting. Sorry, not only ‘adding’ to the conversation but intiating much of the conversation. Sarah, Heather, Grace, Kathy, Et Al – I love to sit at your feet and learn.

    Reply
  • Kath – thanks for the link to the new film.

    Tiffany Shlain is one of the experts and I had the privilege of meeting her last year at the Idea Festival. http://www.ideafestival.com

    Her films are amazing. I even bought the Barbie doll one. I wish I had bought more.

    I’m hoping to attend the IF this September and see what Tiffany is doing this year. Maybe she’ll share a preview of the film. 🙂

    Reply
  • mark – yeah, i agree, there are so many great women’s voices out there…thanks for being such a great supporter & encourager. it means more than you know

    elaine – hey, that’s so fun. i will have to check out idea festival. i remember you talking about this before. i am really hoping we can do an evening here in denver to show the film. see you next month!

    Reply
  • Yeah, who does ‘she think she is’. Just a woman with self-esteem trying to make my way in the world. I try to walk a fine line being lady-like and friendly, but sometimes I have to be assertive and it may be perceived as bitchy. This is unfortunate. But, the alternative is unacceptable. People would take advantage of me left and right. I might even be dead if I did not assert myself or look out for myself. If I DID NOT look out for myself, who would look out for ME??? …..(I am listening and don’t hear anybody volunteering)…

    Janet

    Reply
  • janet – thanks so much for taking time to comment on this older post. it is an interesting journey, isn’t it? so much to learn, so much life to take back, so many dreams to step into. how did you find this post, by the way? peace, kathy

    Reply
  • Kathy,

    Actually I did a google. It all came about one day when some guy passed me and said under his breath ‘who do you think you are’ (there was nobody else around). I wondered to myself “gee, what did I do to deserve that”. Is it my looks? Is it because I wasn’t smiling at him? You can’t win either way it seems. Both men and women have so many issues in our world. It is sad, really.

    Janet

    Reply

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