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In which you are a beloved warrior

beloved warrior

Who do you think you are?

It’s the lie that whispers like smoke, breathes down our necks, and dismantles our vision and hope.

How odd that a simple question can sound more like an accusation.

Who do you think you are?

And as women, we often hear this as the answer: insecure. manipulative. can’t be trusted. gossips. bossy. only valuable if beautiful or married or the mother of children. controlling. catty. easily deceived. victim. used. damaged goods. too emotional. not logical. terrible friends. high maintenance. untrustworthy. dangerous. afraid. too fat. too thin. too smart. too ignorant. too strong. too weak. too pretty. too ugly. too feminine. too assertive. just too much and not enough. on and on and on and on….

Who do you think you are?

I think it’s a question that might change our lives, if answered honestly.

My life today looks very different than I expected or intended. And if I’m honest – with you and with myself – it has required and is requiring more courage than I often think I have.

It seems like every time I have entered into a new season or a new calling or a new opportunity, the voice in my head has always been, “Who do you think you are?”

Who do you think you are? to preach? to write a book? to raise these beautiful children? to pray for someone? to love? to lead a home group at church? to speak up? to challenge authority? to teach Scripture? to talk about marriage? to even try to move with God towards justice? to talk about peace making? to try to work with a developing nation towards justice? to push back on the powerful? to tell your story without sanitizing? to advocate for others?

Who do you think you are?

My insecurities – and answers – are likely different than yours but for me, learning to answer that question with the truth has changed everything.

Our lives often preach a very different Gospel than the one we think we believe. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded us that we must begin with our own life-giving lives. Our true being brims over into our true words and deeds.

It’s an important question because to truly be able to love God and love others, to move with God to rescue, restore, and redeem humanity, we have got to know who we are.

Who do you think you are?

I’ve started to answer that question with one imperfect phrase: I am a beloved warrior.

Here’s why:

Right at the beginning, God separated day from night, land from sea, created animals and fish and fowl, and then on this sixth day, he creates humanity. And here, after creating man from the dust of the earth, God says in Genesis 2:18, “it is not good for him to be alone. I’ll make him a helper.”

That word, helper, is a Hebrew word, EZER. The word that accompanies ezer is “kengdo” which is often translated as “suitable”  so that is why translators often list this reference for women as “suitable helpmeet.” Many of us have heard a teaching or two on the word helpmeet, which solely focuses on woman as a man’s wife, mother, or homemaker for this defintion. But that narrow view excludes more than 60 percent of women. How many millions of girls and women are we leaving out? Focus on women as “helper” has led to the belief that God gave primary roles and responsibilities to men and second or supporting roles to women in the Kingdom of God. It has even led to practices that communicate that women are second class citizens at home and sadly sometimes in the church. The fallout from patriarchy chokes us still.

Ezer Kenegdo actually means “man’s perfect match.” It is the help that opposes, two parts of equal weight leaning against each other to stay stable and strong. It means that women were created to be man’s strongest ally in pursuing God’s purposes.

In the Old Testament, the word EZER appears 21 times in 3 different contexts: the creation of women, when Israel applied for military aid, and in reference to God as Israel’s helper for military purposes. God isn’t a “helpmeet” in the watered down way we’ve been taught or understood that word in our churches though, right? No, our God is more than that: he’s a strong helper, a warrior, an ever present help in times of trouble, bringing more than simple might or power.

God created the first woman out of Adam’s side, and he named his daughter after an aspect of his own character and nature. By naming his daughters – us! – ezer kenegdo, God did not name women as secondary helpmeet “assistants.” No, women were created and called out right at creation as warriors.

You are a warrior, right alongside our brothers, on God’s mission in the world, an image-bearer. (The other reason why this makes such sense is that it isn’t exclusive to men and women in a marriage relationship: holistically, men and women together in the Kingdom of God are meant to be allies.)

Throughout Scripture, we can see women of valour, women operating in their anointing and created purpose as ezer kenegdos. Warrior is an ethos or attitude, not necessarily a vocation, gathered against the forces of evil and darkness. We are deployed into creation as the perfect ally. And then we have a lineage and legacy of Church mothers, women of God, who were warriors in the situations where God placed them, in ways unique to their temperament and character, callings, gifting, and even choices. Women from Ruth to Rahab, Deborah to Mary Magdalena, Corrie Ten Boom to Evangeline Booth.

As we live in a world desperate for a glimpse of God, desperate for a rescue, crushed by evil and poverty and war and the grind of lonely existence in quiet desperation, we, the Church are part of God’s plan to push back that darkness and make space for his Kingdom. We are commissioned to multiply his image bearers, care for the poor, and minister life and hope and healing in the name of Jesus to the glory of God. We are warriors.

I’m a pacifist so my definition of warrior is a bit more spiritual, perhaps. I see it as an advocate or a peace maker or a shalom prophet, a warrior living into the Kingdom of God, a worshipper, a disciple – courageous and unafraid.

Who do you think you are?

Warrior.

Sometimes the truth of who you really are is a wake-up call, and other times it’s a challenge. Because we’re not after behaviour modification. We don’t want to “try harder” to be warriors. It’s not another addition to the to-do list or an addendum to some weird Proverbs 31 job description: “be a warrior.” No, we’re after transformation.

And so, we are here, where I begin and end always: Jesus. (You know me.)

In 2nd Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes that therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

That old identity from your past or from your culture aren’t actually your identity. Not anymore.

Through the life and ministry of our Jesus, we know what our God is really like. He pulled back the curtain on all the ways we have misunderstood and mischaracterized his very nature. And what did we learn from Jesus: we are loved.

Who do you think you are?

Beloved.

We are worthy of a rescue, worth saving, worth loving. We are the one sheep in the ninety-nine worth leaving everything behind to rescue. We are redeemed. We are whole.

Loved. You are loved. You are loved. You can engage in your life from a place of love because you are.

We believe that we’re only worthy of love if… if we do this or if we do that. That’s what our culture or our broken world tells us, right?

But Jesus does not love us conditionally. In fact, if you look in 1 John 4

This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God….God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

Are you weary? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Get away with me, you’ll recover your real life. Those are the words of our Jesus in Matthew 11:28. Walk with me, see how I do it, learn to live freely and lightly. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Abba invites us to the banquet tables, to communion, to community, and to life in the Vine, not to a religious treadmill or a life of conformity to someone else’s best-case scenario for your life until you finally measure up, until you are no longer too much or not enough.

We’ve not been called to the people-pleasing life, to the approval seeking life, to the bow-down-and-give-up life or the sit-down-and-shut-up life. We’ve been called to the peace-making life, the truth-telling life, the she-who-the-Son-sets-free-is-free-indeed life.

We’ve been called to the spirit-filled and God-breathed life, living out the ways of the Kingdom and the life in Christ to every corner of our humanity. We are, what N.T. Wright calls, parables of hope.

We’ve been called to the life of the beloved. We’ve been called to the life of the disciple.

Who do you think you are?

I am a Beloved Warrior.

Your true identity is this: you are a Beloved Warrior. Start there. And then we live out our lives and our callings, the seasons and roles, the challenges and the victories, the healing and the mourning, from a deep well of love and freedom and wholeness – because we are. Creation tells you that you are created, called, chosen, made in the image of God as a warrior. Jesus tells you that you are loved, you are free, you are redeemed, you are beloved. Even – maybe especially – our imperfect, contradictory lives are singing a beautiful prophetic song of invitation: you are so loved.

Who do you think you are? 

And I know now to say and to live out the truth: I am a beloved warrior. 

And in the midst of my life, as it stands, I’m walking out that truth, sometimes moment by moment, choice by choice, sometimes faltering and stumbling but still walking in faith. Old things are passed away. New things have come.

Wherever life may take us, regardless of our choices or our roles or our story, regardless of the seasons of our lives, of our failures and imperfections, let us make living like we are beloved warriors the radical discipline of our lives, filling our minds and our hearts with the truth of Jesus Christ, and the goodness of the freedom he offers to us as his own.

Who do you think you are? I am beloved. And I am a warrior. 

 this post is based on a sermon that I recently preached at our church

(There is such richness in our identity in Christ – too many to name – but I’ve had my life changed by this one in particular.)

Continue Reading · faith, jesus, Jesus Feminist, journey, love, women · 33

In which it snows in the morning

Every day do something that won't compute :: Sarah Bessey

Wake up to a brighter bedroom, the snow has been falling outside all night. Take a lazy look around the room, look at the life it is reflecting back to you: a sturdy homemade bed; tangled and worn white sheets; a man with a beard is sleeping, his hand still resting on your spine; bright yellow baby rainboots tossed in a corner; piles of books. Stretch the length of your life.

The tinies will come clumping down the hall soon, their voices filled with wonder: “Mum! It snowed!” That man you kissed last night will roll out of the bed because Sundays are your day to sleep in, a deal’s a deal, you do Saturdays. But you both know you won’t go back to sleep – you never do. Watch him head upstairs to the ministry of coffee and Bubble Guppies on Netflix.

Get out of the bed and go to the window, look out into the forest. The snow is still falling, thick and lazy, almost predictably. Open the window for a few moments, just to smell it. Crawl back into your bed, pull up the covers, and grab a book. Once a week, you get to read first thing when you wake up and so here is a stack of Wendell Berry and Flannery O’Connor and Luci Shaw, practice the resistance of reading of good books.

When you go upstairs in an hour, make a pot of tea. No solitary mugs will do for a snowy Sunday, get out the big sturdy brown pot and your mother’s discarded delicate white teacups, the ones with blue and silver flowers on the rim. Hug your babies, good morning, good morning, yes, I see you. Listen to the dishwasher chug, everything is brighter and slower when it snows.

Church is cancelled, you’re pretty sure everyone is relieved for a day off anyway, an excuse to stay in their jammies, watch movies, work puzzles, roll in the snow, read novels. The more judicious might catch up on housework, pay the bills online, answer emails: the kindred spirits will make a bit of room for delicious indolence.

Decide to do something real today, then bake a loaf of bread. Yeast, flour, water, salt – simple is good for the soul and the belly. Guide small hands into kneading properly, let everything rise in its time.

Scratch a few lines into a journal. Write a bit but try not get frustrated because you are interrupted seven times in fifteen minutes. Read a psalm. Pray in the shower. Listen as you go through your day. Clean the kitchen. Bath a baby. Make the beds. Use the good dishes for a lunch of plain soup. Scatter children’s books around the house like bait. Put on lipstick. Flirt in the kitchen in quiet saucy voices. Comfort tired children, prescribe naps and quilts with seriousness. Promise a movie later on. Later when the snow settles, you’ll go for a walk in the dim, into the in-between for a conversation with yourself, you’ll be so relieved to be away from them all for a few moments but yearning to return to them all by the end of the block.

Watch the snow fall in the ordinary beauty of a Sabbath spent practicing what makes you feel most fully human.

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, enough, family, gratitude, love, marriage · 15

In which we plant gardens in South Africa

Blogging has made the world seem small to me, like we’re all a big family, but it’s made my world expand, too. Now it feels so normal to know and love people – not causes, not projects, not pictures, not stereotypes, not just stories, no, people! – all around the world. I’ve discovered men and women around the world who love, people who throw open doors, who work for justice, who plant gardens in exile.

Those kinds of people will change your life.

Today is Valentines Day. Usually as a SheLoves Community, we participate in a Valentines Day fundraiser for women – do you remember when we purchased identity cards for the women of Bubanza a couple of years ago? We all told our husbands or boyfriends or friends that instead of roses, that year all we wanted were blue identity cards (we even called them “blue roses”). It was amazing.

But this year, we’re taking a year off so instead, I’m throwing my heart in with my friend Lisa-Jo Baker and her family in South Africa.

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Check out her post today:

Love runs faster than fear. Love runs toward hopelessness. Love runs past doubt. Love runs the race wild and true and on shaking, determined knees.

Love runs to its friends and invites them in.

Love sees everyone as family and every day a start of something beautiful.  Love runs through doors even where there aren’t supposed to be any.

This is my family.

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You are my friends.

Here is the door.

I’m holding it open, run through and fall in love.

This plan has been a year in the making and the goal is to raise $150,000 to fund the entire project between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – because love is more than a date on the calendar, and it never leaves anyone out. And Mother’s Day is a 365 days a year adventure, always worth celebrating.

Phase 1: Community Vegetable Garden {watered by the water point you all built last fall}

Phase 2: Community Kitchen and Welcome Center

Phase 3: Community Outreach Hall

Phase 4: 12 Classrooms

Phase 5: Playground

Click here to donate.

Because there’s a whole community of women who are raising more kids than just their own and still have all the same hopes, dreams and fears that we do.

And there’s a whole community of kids who would tell you that there is nothing ordinary 

 

You see what I mean? This is Lisa-Jo’s family, her community, her heart. And because she’s my friend, I love her friends, too. And I want to be part of this community of women, to say “we love you and we stand with you” to them.

Click here for the full Pure Charity page for details and donating.

The first phase of the project is a community vegetable garden.

This is good ground – literally and figuratively.

Let’s plant a garden in South Africa today.

Continue Reading · love, social justice, women · 2

In which I am learning to live with the ache

Evelynn newborn

Evelynn at two months old, photo by Rachel Barkman Photography

Our old baby crib is now sitting in pieces in the garage. We will take it to the dump soon (it has one of those now-outlawed dropsides so we can’t resell it or donate it). Whole sections of the bars are gnawed to bare wood by little teething babies, there are bits of sticker glue and swipes of Sharpie marker here and there, the screws are a bit loose. It’s in rough shape after nearly eight years and three big babies-to-toddlers in quick succession. There are a lot of sacred memories hidden in that dismantled old crib. The day we took it apart, I cried over that junky old crib. Goodbye, old friend.

It is likely that there are no more babies for us.

I was never one of those girls who wanted to have a houseful of babies, who just wanted to get married and have babies and stay home with them. I mean, I was okay with kids but it wasn’t my thing. I quit babysitting at 14 because I figured there had to be a better way to make money than that. And even after our miscarriages and challenges with fertility, I was unprepared for how completely transformative I found motherhood, how I loved even the mundane dailyness, how I found joy here.

I know that everyone’s experience is different, and I’m not saying that mine is normative but it’s real and I can’t deny it: I came into myself when I became a mother. I was reborn, all over again. The experience of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding my babies profoundly changed me AND it changed my view of God entirely.

So, of course, it’s hard to know that stage of my life is done now.

But it is.

It’s likely that I won’t ever be pregnant again, that I won’t carry a baby within me again, that I won’t ever give birth again. (Yes, I’m one of those awful women who loves pregnancy and giving birth.) When I think about not breastfeeding – one of the most real things I’ve ever done with this body – ever again, I catch my breath with longing.

And yet, I love this new stage of life with the tinies. Just when I think we’re at my favourite stage with them, something new comes along and I think, “oh, wow! no, this part is my favourite!”

People tell you a lot about how much parenting will change your life and they’re right. But usually they mean that you won’t ever sleep in again (you won’t) and a few other things about how much we “give up” to become parents. No one tells you how much you’re going to laugh. No one tells you how much wisdom resides in these small humans, how much they will teach you about love and life and friendship and forgiveness and worship. No one tells you how good and freeing it is to leave your selfishness behind. No one tells you about recapturing your own wonder and innocence, about re-reading the Ramona books, about playing football in the basement, about birthday parties and snow days and every day beauty. All the best things I know about the big nouns and verbs of a life came back into my life because of them.

But there likely won’t be anymore Bessey babies for us. Our family is complete, it seems, we’ll always be a Five-Family, as the tinies call us. There are many personal reasons why we’ve come to this decision as a family.

In my head, I know that this is the right decision. In my heart, I know this is the right decision. Brian and I are in complete agreement.

And yet there is The Ache.

Always The Ache, right underneath my lungs, in the pit of my gut, the ache of what that means and the grief of moving on, of love, of knowing: No more babies. No more nursing quietly in the night. No more flour sack of milk-drunk baby bliss. No more gummy smiles. No more tiny diapers. No more baby clothes. No more crib. No more baby wearing. No more new baby smell. No more of the millions of moments that knit your heart so completely to another small soul.

The season of having babies – the one that so radically changed me – is over. I’m okay with that. Most days, I’m even very happy about it, relieved perhaps. It’s an intense season of life, make no mistake. We’re ready for this new season, looking forward with anticipation to new things. Other days, it’s hard.

I know we like to pretend like we can have everything all at once. It’s a nice illusion. But there are transitions in our lives: times for certain seasons and times when those seasons end. Are we happier for pretending that we can have everything anytime we like? Or are we better when we acknowledge the end of one chapter of our lives, grieve and sing and give weight to the passing of it, and move forward? To everything, there is a season.

I am starting to think that, no matter how many children we have, no matter the reasons why, no matter how old we are, when you’re done having babies, we always carry The Ache.

I have a friend who had six children, and she said that she had The Ache when they were done. I have other friends who had two, who had The Ache. Other friends who had four or five or six. I have friends who are in their thirties with toddlers, in their forties with teenagers, other women in their fifties and menopausal, and they still talk about The Ache: I miss that still, they say wistfully. That was a nice time in my life.

I don’t know that we ever lose that ache. I don’t know if we ever get rid of it. I don’t know if we should. Maybe it’s meant to be there with us. So I’m learning to live with The Ache now.

I’m learning to let it be there, part of me, probably always a part of me, without justification or change of circumstance. When you have been given the tremendous gift of being able to have a baby, to give birth to that baby, to love that baby, it marks you. It should, perhaps, and so this season has marked more than just my stretched-out body, it has marked my soul.

The Ache reminds me of the great and terrible beauty I have seen, of what love I have experienced, of the sorrow and brokenness of loss, of all the love that is still here, of the wonder and miracle of life, of the sweetness of co-creation, of the labour and release, of transcendence.

Praise God, my babies are growing up and that is its own joy and beauty. I’ll miss toddlers in the same way, I’ll miss preschoolers, I’ll miss their kindergarten self, their Grade Two self, as well, and so on through their lives.

Right now, the Ache is for no more babies in my life. This was a beautiful time in my life, please notice that it’s changing. But the Ache changes and grows as we move through our years, I imagine, perhaps in proportion to the life we live, the love we gather and give. Someday, I’ll miss these very days, talk about them with the same language, perhaps.

And in another few years, the blink of an eye, I’ll be sitting in a house, alone: the laundry will be done at last, the house will be clean – and it will stay clean, and the floors will be quiet, no one will be asking me for anything at all, my time will be my own, and I will feel the full weight of The Ache for which I’ve been holding vigil at last. 

It’s simply the Ache of time passing, because this is what time does, and our souls are noticing the passing of a season, and it’s okay. It’s okay to let it Ache. It means we’re living and it means we’re loving our life as it stands, loving it enough to notice a transition away.

I am making my peace with The Ache, holding a bit of space for its presence in my life today. Someday it will be my old friend.

Continue Reading · baby, babywearing, family, giving birth, gratitude, journey, love, parenting, women · 306