I know that they have told you to be silent. I know they’ve explained away your gifts and your callings, your abilities and your wisdom, even your marriage, your stories, your testimony. They’ve clobbered you with paragraphs and words and proof-texts, made you feel like you are wrong somehow, either in your practice or your orthodoxy or your very created and called self. I know they have hurt you, stifled you, broken you, bound you, held you, cornered, badgered, limited, silenced you. I know, yes, I know.

And so here, I’m going to preach you on down. (You could say that this daughter is prophesing, if it makes you feel better about it.)

Stop waiting for permission.

Stop waiting for someone to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, that you have a place, that you are called. Stop waiting for someone else to validate the person that you already know you were made to be.  Stop holding your breath, sister, working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, and your quietness, your submission and your “correct” doctrine what God has already freely given to you.

Because, darling, you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your calling or your marital status or your labels or your underlined books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the job description of Proverbs 31.

In Christ, you have value beyond all of that. You abide in love, you can rest in your God-breathed worth.

Let me remind you: you are loved. And you are free.

I say, let them bicker. Let them make up the rules, we don’t abide by them. Let them add and add and add to the millstone around their own poor neck. You, you are called to freedom, you are called to wholeness, you are called to love and mercy and justice, you are called to the better way, and it will not be taken from you. Gently loosen that millstone from their neck, if you can, whisper the rumours of freedom to the north, but don’t get so roped up in the entanglements of limits and the weight of apologetics that you forget that you are already free.

I imagine them around a fabled table, in suits, no doubt, pulling the chairs in tight and tighter, until they are the only ones left there, crowded around a tiny table in an airless room that feels small and smaller. Me? I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.

What is the cry of your heart? Pay attention to that. Listen to what makes you angry, honour what makes your blood pump faster, what makes you come fully alive. Now go. And do. You know Jesus, you have experienced the power and the grace with your own life, you have felt it in your own heart, now go, heal, disciple, minister, love, and do likewise. Speak, breathe, prophesy, preach, get behind a pulpit, mark exam papers, run a company or a non-profit, clean your kitchen, put paint on a canvas, organize, rabble-rouse, work the Love out and in and around you, however God has made you to do it, just do it. Don’t let them fence you in or hold you back.

Love your husband, love your babies, love the poor, love the orphans, love the widows, love the powerful, love the broken and the hurting, love your friends, love yourself, love your enemies, come to love the whole world in the fullness of God, in the full expression of the woman that he has created you to be, just that, no more, but certainly no less.

Choose freedom. Choose the freedom of living loved, far from their tables and debates and fence lines and name-callings, their belittling, divisive stereotypes. Extend the gift of freedom and grace, second chances, and more grace, just as you have received them. As e.e. cummings wrote, it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. You really are created, you really are chosen, you really are cherished, so you really can be who you are. Live counterculture when the culture does not affirm truth, love, faith, mercy, and justice.

It matters because you matter, because your daughters matter, because your sisters matter, because the people of God, and the entirety of his created world matters, because redemption matters. So we’ll keep up the holy work, however that looks, we’ll keep worshipping, keep loving, keep making space for God in the world, and in each other for holy grace to fill. The kingdom of God would be better with your voice, your hands, your experiences, your stories, your truth. You can go where I cannot go, and someone needs to hear you sing your song, you are someone’s invitation.

You are loved.

Rest in your God-breathed worth. Stop holding your breath, hiding your gifts, ducking your head, dulling your roar, distracting your soul, stilling your hands, quieting your voice, dulling your mind, satiating your hunger with the lesser things of this world.

Stand up, shake the dust from your feet if you need to, and look outside, it’s beautiful, isn’t it? There are a lot of us here, waiting for you, in the open air. We’ve been here all along, don’t you know? We’ve been ministering, preaching, praying, teaching, loving, mothering, caring, singing, walking each other home. It’s glorious and messy, far away from the rules and the limitations, the barriers and restrictive religion. But look, here, we, the people of God, we are here with you, we are a family, we’re your family, we’ve been waiting for you. We have a big, gorgeous tent and every one is welcome.


This is my messy contribution to Rachel Held Evans’ Week of Mutuality. The Church gives me hope, all of it. 


In which this is the sacred everyday
In which we are saved to each other (it's a y'all thing)
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  • I want to hang out in your big gorgeous tent and be loved, and love in return. (I kind of feel like a hippie saying that but it’s midnight and I stopped caring how I sound about two hours ago).

  • DHannah

    Thank you…simply, completely, thank you.

  • Love love love love love LOVE this post. 

  • Sing, sister, sing! 

  • Wooooooooo!!!!! This made me dance! Awesome post, Sarah!

  • Anja

    This post needs a soundtrack.

  • Stunning, Sarah.  Simply stunning.  Were you words written just for me?  How did you know I needed to hear them?  (smile)  Just recently discovered your blog and have greatly enjoyed diving in and savoring your words.  You write beautifully and profoundly.  Be blessed.

  • Lulastic

    This is beautiful!

  • Great post!  I feel encouraged, and I’m not even a woman! 🙂

  • Riakins

    Thank you! I’m a new Christian and your blog has been very influential in my life. This made me cry. Much love!

  • Lindsay

    I can’t cheer out loud because my kids are sleeping, but I am cheering. I love it when I see a new post from you in my Reader, but this one, oh this one is going on my wall. Such truth and freedom in your words. It is time to step into who we have been created to be indeed. Thank you, Sarah. 

  • Alexandra Kuykendall

    “The kingdom of God would be better with your voice, your hands, your
    experiences, your stories, your truth. You can go where I cannot go, and
    someone needs to hear you sing your song, you are someone’s invitation”. Thank you.

  • I love the freedom we have in Christ!  And Ruth Haley Barton’s words gave me the permission I needed, for some reason, to embrace my calling …

    ‘I rest in the fact that people – even those who try to limit the ways in which women serve God – cannot ultimately prevent God from accomplishing His will in and through my life.  If He has given me spiritual gifts to use in service to others, He will give me opportunities to use them.  Too often I have looked to people to recognize my gifts and give me the opportunity to use them, as if they had ultimate control.  But God does not waste His gifts or HIs calling.  As I am engaged in the process of becoming the kind of person God can use, He will place me where I can be of greatest use to Him.’

    • Love that quote, Linda! Thanks for sharing it.

  • “Stop waiting for someone to say that you count, that you matter, that
    you have worth, that you have a voice, that you have a place, that you
    are called.”

    The more women who do this, the sooner they’ll figure it out.

    Beautiful writing and a fantastic post.


  • I think it is so amazing when women affirm other women. Reading this was healing in so many ways. I grew up knowing men wouldn’t want to hear what God had put in my heart, but I was crushed when women put it down, adding fuel by saying my thoughts were “dangerous” and I was acting “Jezebl-ee” (as if that is an adverb that is used often….) Thanks for reminding all of us that it matters and we matter.

    • That’s one of those phrases I hope I never hear again: Jezebel Spirit.

  • “You are someone’s invitation.”


    Beautiful and inspirational as always, sweet friend.

  • YES. Yes yes yes. There is room for all of us. Beautiful, Sarah.

  • Mkrabill

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

  • Paul

    What amazing words of affirmation and calling!  I need my sisters to hear and believe words like these.  So inspiring!

  • Perfect grace, Sarah. Thank you. 

  • JennaDeWitt

    Sarah. I read your posts everyday and like them so much that I feel like I @ mention them on Twitter far too often, but never have I been so moved by one until today. This was exactly the healing and Truth I needed to hear. I have been looking forward to your contribution to Rachel’s “celebration” all week, expecting a rally cry, expecting an indignant theological defense, expecting an attack on the narrow-minded “opposition.” But once again, I am floored by your encouragement, gentleness, courage and the beauty of your words. I would probably be cry-laughing if I weren’t at work right now, in the very job that others told me for so long that I would never have, that was an impossible dream because I was just a little girl in a very big world.

    Keep shining. We need you – and by that I mean, the Spirit working through you – more than you will ever know.

    love love love

  • Amen and Amen! Preach it.

  • Preach it, sister! I think I might re-read this ALL THE TIME. 

  • This is fearless.

    I so love your heart. You wear grace like a gown.

  • kmom

    This is so excellent, and exactly the encouragement I needed today. You spoke to my heart!

  • hopejem

    Oh Sarah, you did it again. You are gifted my friend. Coming from a church where only men came to the leadership meetings to where we are now where women are expected to be there and participate, I am living this life you speak of and singing at the top of my lungs! Thank you for speaking this into women who had no idea that this is not only possible but vital!

  • hopejem

    Oh Sarah, you did it again. You are gifted my friend. Coming from a church where only men came to the leadership meetings to where we are now where women are expected to be there and participate, I am living this life you speak of and singing at the top of my lungs! Thank you for speaking this into women who had no idea that this is not only possible but vital!

  • Isn’t it amazing that we KNOW of this freedom and yet still have to be reminded to claim it every once in awhile???

  • alwaysalleluia

    Yes yes yes , amazing. God bless these words, may the root deep in the hearts of those waiting for permission!

  • This is such a piece of strong beautiful writing. Wow – I want to say yes and yay and it is so beautiful out here!! It’s hard to believe some people don’t know it yet. I am so thankful this is the way I was raised (by my parents, daddy who is a Lutheran Pastor) egalitarian all the way that I have a bit of a hard time understanding why #mutuality2012 even needs to happen because in my happy corner in Alberta here, I don’t know any complimentarians in the church. Yet I know in the world at large women are oppressed all over the place and this way you expressed it so magnificently here is a big key to that ending.

    • Eleanorjane

       Yup, it’s not so much of an issue in New Zealand (where I was born) and England (where I now live) but there are still bits and pieces and echoes that need to be challenged and worked through. I have often felt that older men don’t take me seriously ‘cos I’m a younger woman even though I may be more qualified and experienced than them in some areas… Still, I’m not silent, I don’t put up with it and we keep going. This post is a lovely encouragement.

  • pastordt

    Yes, yes, YES. Just do it, live it, join in the wild and wonderful God-space that says ‘welcome’ to each and every one of us. Thanks so much for this powerful piece, Sarah.

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  • Thank you for sharing what so many of us know but forget so easily.  We need to keep hearing the message and sharing it until our spirits truly believe!

  • facinghome

    Thanks for this. It made me cry and feel whole.

  • This post makes my blood pump faster and make me feel fully alive. You prophesy away sister, because it is real and it is messy, but it sets people free! Free to love and free to be. 

  • Trait

    Marvelously written. Well done.

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  • Bravo Sarah!  You are so at home on that puplit/soapbox.  I am loving this mutuality week.  Learning & being blessed!

  • Adrienne M Butler

    This is freakin awesome. Love it. You touched the core of so many of our desires and celebrated them instead of bashing and suppressing them. Thanks so much for letting your voice rise.

  • Heather

    Can’t tell you how much I needed this.

  • Chrissy

    Thank you so much for this today Sarah….thank you so so much:)

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  • Amy

    As I read this I let a deep deep sigh of YES, this so resonated with my spirit and at the same time is uncomfortable and such a challenge, a fresh reminder to not wait but to live out all that is in me today, not tomorrow, not next year, not when I’m wiser, not when I’m married but right now to live that life that is an invitation to those around me, that calls the destiny in the women around me and inspires them to live it out. YES and AMEN. And thank you Sarah!

  • I can’t believe no one has said it yet so I will: THAT’LL PREACH.

    I love when you get going like a slam poetry wild one, like this. It’s beat my chest time, now.

  • I love it when you preach!

  • This is so, so beautiful and truthful and profound. I want to tuck it inside every Bible at the bookstore, for a reminder of what this thing is really about. There are so many drowning by their millstones. Freedom is wonderful and beautiful, and though I’m often tempted to fall into perfection and guilt, He reaches down and reminds me, this is all and ever only about love. 

  • Libby

    Wow. I followed a link and…wow. Thank you! I needed to read this today…this year. 🙂 Keep on speaking Truth this way. We all need it. 

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  • the Sooz

    Good Gracious, my friend.  Really…just…good gracious.  My fave is, ‘You are someone’s invitation’.  Beautiful. 

  • Thank you so much for this.  Love, Traci Michele @ Ordinary Inspirations http://www.ordinaryinspirations.blogspot.com

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  • Anna Gravier

    Thank you for breathing hope and encouragement into what for me has been an intellectually stimulating and spiritually challenging issue as I’ve followed Rachel’s Week of Mutuality.  While the theology and intellectual arguments have their place, this reminds me why it is so important to live in freedom as a woman and to encourage my sisters in Christ to do the same.

  • WOW!  I am so often not in a space to read something someone tells me too – don’t know why?  It seems even more prominent when it is my amazing wife who asks me to read something … I am so thankful that she sent this to me … thank-you Sarah for expressing such life-giving words; words of truth that set people free.  There are so many bound people, held down but a little word sometimes.  Your words are crushing blows to the ambush words that paralyze half of the church; half of the world for that matter.  You speak with an authority that the Holy Spirit will use to gently and certainly end the stranglehold of patriarchal oppression that is rooted in graceless fear.  My prayer is that the leadership of the evangelical church will read these words and settle into a life-giving repentance … 

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  • Dorgitman

    Thank you for the permission.  I’ve been known to ask a friend permission to throw away things that are cluttering up my house.  Thank you.

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  • Mels379

    Whoever you are Sarah Bessey this writing is a gift.  Thank you.  

  • This makes me so joyful, happy and proud that I was born a DAUGHTER of GOD Most High.  I’m feeling the sisterhood right now, and it’s warm and fuzzy.  God bless you, Sarah!

  • Jeanette

    Compelled to post.  

    I claim no religion –  in fact, I am deeply distrustful and suspicious of organized religion.  As a woman it has made me feel marginalized and disrespected (not just Christianity but organized religion as a whole, here and worldwide), as a woman in a same sex relationship I have seen it used to diminish my humanity, my family and the very worth of my soul. For me, it has been the basis of evils and wars and discrimination and generations of hurt and abuse.   If I believe in anything it is energy, that which flows between us all – the collective consciousness.  I find my religion (even though I do not call it that) in poetry, in nature, in the very act of living and loving and breathing, in ‘the god beyond god’.  All of that being said – this was so beautiful it moved me to tears.  If this were indicative of what could be found within religion, perhaps these truths would find room in my heart – certainly not as the only truth – but as one of the many, many brilliant truths we have to dive into as humans.

    This was beautiful, so very moving.  And I thank you.  Even if the words you use, or the doctrine you follow do not resonate in my heart, even if I am unlikely to ever call myself a Christian again, I found peace and love, deeply needed and very healing,  in this writing – and for that I thank you.

  • Finnlynn

    Well, you pretty much summed it up for me – and beautifully too!  Don’t get me wrong – I love Rachel Held Evans, read her blog (and responses) daily and comment there myself from time to time.  In fact, I found you because of Rachel and I love what you both write.  But I’m about done worn out from this week’s series on mutuality over there….  Sometimes I just raise my hands to the sky and scream, what more can we do?  They (and I say that knowing full well there’s no “us” and “them”) will never understand and I’m tired of the arguments, the debates, and the endless discussions about “complementarianism” vs. “egalitariansim” and the role and place of women in Christianity.  I’m tired of asking for permission.  I’m tired of politely listening when what I really want to do is talk back and talk back with conviction but that would be, you know, disobedient – there’s no winning if I play by their rules.  So, I’m with you.  I’m going outside so I can breathe again.  I just want to follow Jesus – I can’t carry all this other baggage (sigh)….

  • Emily Wierenga

    well, girl, there is NOTHING messy about this. it is perfect in every way. and i know i’ve asked you this before, about another post, but can i include this somewhere in Mom in the Mirror? love you.

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  • Anna Armstrong

    Oh my goodness Sarah, this is inspired. I am going to print it out and read it often. Because no matter how many times I hear this, I still need to be reminded of how extremely okay it is for me to be who I am where I am, and of how incredibly possible it is that Jesus wants to love through me, in me, around me, (not just through/in/around other more perfect people) right here. 

  • Fabulous post.  There is room.  Yes, there is room for each of us.

  • “You are someone’s invitation.” Oh, Sarah. Thank you. xo

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  • This is SOOO good. By the time I reached the last paragraph, I was jumping and cheering (OK, maybe only inside … but close). Break free, my (female) friends. The men who try to bind you up are clueless.

  • Marla

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I need to print this and frame it to see every day.

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  • We are loved, and we have the opportunity to love too–the bravest thing we can do.

  • meredith snider

    absolutely gorgeous

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  • stacy

    Some days I can not wait for a free moment in my day to read your posts. I walk away from my computer feeling loved, empowered, and simply put, in a better mood. Thank you.

  • Stacie Tippett

    You have no idea how badly I needed to read this. Every word of it. Mesi. Mesi anpil.

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  • jan

    thank you!

  • Casey

    Oh my gosh. I found this via Chatting At The Sky– needed to hear it so much. Thank you for a great beginning to 2013. Thank you.

  • Clicked over through a link from Emily of Chatting at the Sky. So glad I did. I really needed to read this. Today. Thank you for writing it months ago.

  • Holly B

    thank you for this Truth

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  • Aprille

    Thank you Sarah. I needed this. I have been doing a series on my blog that my parents have taken personal offense to. They have told me that if I keep blogging about personal things in my life (which feels like the twisting of a knife into their hearts) that I will pretty much lose all hope of ever having a good relationship with them. I am so conflicted right now and your prayers would be appreciated. Thanks for encouraging me to be brave.

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  • dixie livingston

    I have read this post many many times and it always touches me.

  • writerwannabe763

    A very powerful and insightful post.!! Diane

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  • lori healey

    . Live counterculture when the culture does not affirm truth, love, faith, mercy, and justice;;;love this. So happy a friend introduced me to Sarah Bessey:)

  • Ashley Wright

    I’ve let the dust settling on these feet for so long that I’m afraid that I don’t even know what the cry of my heart is anymore. I think that there’s a system and culture of patriarchy in the church and society that tells me as a single woman in the church that my ministry, voice and talents are not as valuable as a married woman’s. I think it’s also society at large that tells me as a single woman coming into my 30s that I should be farther in my career, because why else would I choose to be single and not Type-A driven and a stereotype of being obnoxiously focused and sexually promiscuous. I just don’t know where my gifts, talents, thoughts, dreams, brokeness fit in anymore in the church. I have been disappointed for far too long. I am afraid to dream, to breath and function and work in the church. I wish I had the things that I’ve long for for so long—to be a wife and mother—and I’ve let that ache and hurt consume me for far too long. But, I’ve found there isn’t really a place for us in the church very often. We’re delegated to the margins. I don’t know if it’s intentionally. But, I’ve been sitting here, wallowing in my own self-pity in the shadows of the church and culture wondering where I belong. Where do I belong? Is my hurt, are my dreams valuable? Is there a lesson in all this? I would love to be able to come out of this season with strength and purpose and to bring light and hope to women that are experiencing the same hurts and longings. I’m not sure what it looks like, but I think that we may need on occasion a little extra reminder that we are loved, that we are FREE, that we are worthy and valued. Thank you for putting it so articulately and beautifully.

  • Monica

    I just cried through this! Thank you.

  • Bethany Olsen

    I’m a little late to the commenting game, here… what’s a couple of years, right? But your words came back to me tonight after reading them when you initially wrote them, and I want to thank you so much for them. This, right here. This is what I needed tonight:

    “Because, darling, you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your calling or your marital status or your labels or your underlined books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the job description of Proverbs 31.

    In Christ, you have value beyond all of that. You abide in love, you can rest in your God-breathed worth.”

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