We’re never alone in our stories, we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. I always feel like I love Jesus better when I hear from other women how and why they love Him, too. I feel braver when I see other women be brave. One seed of freedom, one woman who walks in freedom, sets others free, too.
Our stories are never just our own.
I needed Idelette. I needed to see her out ahead of me. I needed to see a woman who was passionate and alive, a woman who had awakened to her purpose. I needed to see a woman who didn’t see women as competition or as threats, not as insecure or jealous or weak, but instead as a sisterhood, a powerful force for good. I needed to see her create SheLoves with my own eyes to know how sacred it is for women to tell their stories, to own their anointing, to come alongside of each other with power and laughter and vulnerability. I needed to see her do this before I knew that I could the same thing in my own way.
I needed Pastor Helen. I needed to see her preaching on Sunday mornings, her husband in the very front row, taking notes seriously as he learned from his wife. I needed to be comfortable with the title of “Pastor” in front of a feminine name. I needed to see her be lead by the Spirit, I needed to see her put her hand up and say “yes.” And then I needed to see her lead an entire community into creating Mercy Ministries of Canada, tirelessly, against the odds. I needed to be part of that dream.
I needed my Granny. I needed to witness her opinions strong and unedited on everything from hockey to politics. I needed to see her devour novels instead of lady-magazines, to prefer the outdoors to the safe living rooms, to see her get angry and then mourn when her anger cost her dearly. I needed to hear how she longed to learn and how much she still missed school, I needed to know her stories, her roots, her regrets and her victories, in order to understand the fire in my own bones.
I needed my mother. I needed her to teach me about breastfeeding and bonding with my babies, I needed her as the wind at my back moving me further into my wholeness. I needed her to confirm the metaphors I was discovering about the way that God parents us, I needed her to tell me I was enough. I needed to witness the way she moved in my father’s life with winsome freedom, how they moved together effortlessly in unity without the hint of hierarchy. I needed to see how she respected and honoured him, I needed to see how she challenged him, how he trusted her.
I needed Kelley. I needed a friend who could preach by an old piano in the living room better than most big preachers in megachurches. I needed her to talk to me about justice and jubilee, about Isaiah and Exodus, about midwives and women on the edge. I needed her to give me the theological foundation for the awakening God was breathing into my own spirit, I needed her laughter and her anger, her prophetic imagination and her voracious yearning for shalom. I needed the theologians she gave to me, as one gives a gift. I needed a friend who understood this side of me, celebrated it, and pushed me even further out.
I needed Maya Angelou. I needed to read her stories and her poems when I was too young and too white and too Canadian to ever begin to understand, I needed her to crack open my narrow world and show me beauty in truth-telling. I needed to hear from her about the power of words, I needed her to warn me that “someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get iny our rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.” I needed her to write Phenomenal Woman in all its unapologetic sexy confidence.
I need to see women who are aging well ahead of me. Women who let their hair go grey, who grow lovelier with eye crinkles and laugh lines, women who are soft and women who are strong, who dress wild and wear red lipstick and pile their hair on their heads, women who wear bikinis.
I needed women who will never know my name and never know their impact on my life. I needed Eleanor Roosevelt and Joan Didion, I needed L.M. Montgomery and Mary Oliver. I needed Tina Fey and Brené Brown. I needed Carolyn Custis James and Nellie McClung, Charlotte Brontë and Mary Wollstonecraft, Malala and Aung San Suu Kyi, Anne Lamott and Gloria Steinem, Deborah and Junia.
I need Nish and Tara, Jen and Jamie, Kristen and Megan, Christine and Laura, Shauna and Ann, Tracy and Nicola, I need all the women in my life who are dangerous and hilarious, who don’t choose between their womanhood and their callings, women who push back the powers of darkness, women who lead uniquely and differently, women who love.
Maybe someone needed to see me last night.
Seven months pregnant, I stood up with my Bible in my hands and I preached about the incarnation.
I am a mother and I am a wife, I am a writer and I love theology way more than I love crafts and cooking. I’m more passionate about peace-making and justice than I am about potty training. I laugh too loud and I am sometimes absent on Sundays as I travel or recover from travel. And I’m part of this house and this community, I love my local church and I love these women.
Never once have they made me feel weird or out-of-place because I don’t fit the Good Christian Lady box. Instead, they have loved me and supported me, cheered me on and challenged me. I have needed these women to heal some part of that still believed there wasn’t room for all of me at church. I want to do the same for them.
I wonder if perhaps someone needed to see how this, too, is what it looks like to proclaim the Gospel: quite pregnant, female, Bible open, voice filled with tears and laughter and passion, not from-away but rooted right here, imperfect.
Because the Spirit met us there and crashed through the barriers we’ve created between sacred and secular, God is with us and among us and in us.
We needed each other and we need each other and we will need each other.
I think, I believe, I know this – someone needs to see you.
thanks to my friend, Tracy, for the photo