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.

sarah preaching

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

 

 

 

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  • Denise Hood

    I needed this, thank you 🙂

  • lisa

    Beautiful! Thank you ….

  • Lanette Haskins

    LOVE this!!! Our stories — our lives — are so important to share with others to give them hope, encouragement and sometimes purpose, thanks for sharing yours Sarah!

  • Adrienne

    I needed to remember that my work and words have worth…I needed Junia, Sarah, Shauna, Jennifer, Elise, Hannah,Tiffany, Windy, Dorie, Liz and Bree…I needed to remember to be the woman Jesus made me to be and not wonder or worry about being judged because I show up in a skirt.

  • I once needed a woman writer who desperately loved Jesus and had a voice on her to write and speak and just walk in a space of faith I’d never seen a woman inhabit. And then this Sarah Bessey wrote one Jesus Feminist and I realized that need had been filled and that there was a place in the church for God-loving women who are strong in spirit and word. 🙂 You surely are needed.

    • Amber, this just brought tears to my eyes – thank you for this. xoxo

  • Oh my goodness…. so incredibly powerful, your words are to me. Yes!! A resounding Yes. A hall full of standing ovation and applause!

    I need the women before, ahead, and alongside me. I need them always, not just as a woman, or a wife, or a mom. I need them to help me see me, to help me honor those around me, to show me the way through the struggle, to show me the unknown is OK and being OK with the unknown is OK.

    I get strength and courage and peace and joy and love and patience and so much knowledge and wisdom from other women. It’s so important to have women around. Thank you for recognizing that, for speaking on it, and for owning it as truth. 🙂

  • Melissa Vanden Bout

    This, this right here, is what I’m doing with my life. It’s the acceptable sacrifice I’m offering. The living dedication. I’m a little [i]ncarnation. And it’s all so somebody like me–and somebody unlike me–can see God, can see one more outpost of the Kingdom way out here where I am.

  • Susan

    Yes. Thank you for this.

  • Amanda

    i needed this as i searched various churches and organizations and saw
    so many under male leadership and wondered if i could find a
    place…anywhere…God used you to remind me he sees me and that he has
    made me to bear his likeness to the world uniquely. Thank you Sarah!

    • So glad to hear this, Amanda – we’re out here, I promise. 🙂

  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    I loved the first time I preached with my daughter (an infant) in the congregation and I still love when they see me speak. I never heard a woman preach growing up and I know that won’t be true for my own children.

    • Such a beautiful image!

    • Trish

      Mothers preach daily to their children with their entire lives; their actions, their words, their glances and glares.

      Speaking in a church where women are not called to be in authority over men… what kind of good example is that setting?

    • pastordt

      Love this comment, Kelly. Thank you.

  • Briana Meade

    Beautiful, Sarah. I needed to see you. 🙂

  • I needed to see you. I needed tonight and on so many other times that your words have spoken truth over my life. I needed the miracle of your belly and the gift of your quiet, drawing in these days. I need you and I am so grateful you step into that.

    • Thanks, Colleen – and we both know how many women have needed you too. Carry on. xo

  • Joannah Saxton

    Sarah – wonderful article as usual, but may I also say, you look breathtakingly gorgeous!

  • Emily L.

    Amen!!

  • Oh Sarah, I am so thankful for you. At first your words scared me. You used the “F” word. Feminism. But as you’ve led me in your journey through the words you share, I’ve learned from you. One of your articles talked about how you were done with the conversation about “if” women should lead. You were just going to get on with leading. Give God our great big YES! Have thine own way, Lord.

  • HBurns

    I’m a weepy mess as I read this in Nashville this morning Sarah… I also needed magnificent YOU to awaken my heart in new ways and open my eyes to see things I have never seen before. You are a champion and I honour and love you more than words could ever say. xoxoxo

    • You could never know how many women like me are able to walk in freedom because really we’re just walking the path you cleared for us.

  • Joy

    I was moving more and more to the fringe of my church, which had begun well, but had become more hierarchical, more fundamentalist, less spirit-filled. The Spirit was reminding me of my calling, something I had forgotten in the midst of marrying and having babies in a complementarian church-culture. But it was the only church I had known, and I wondered if there was a place for me in church at all. Then, I ran across this blog somehow, and read about a book being written, a book about how Jesus viewed women. There are so many women I needed to see in my life, but at this particular moment, I needed to see you, Sarah. I needed to read your book, which was like a balm on my wounded soul. I needed you to show me how to be hopeful and not angry. I needed you to show me that I still have ministry to do. I needed you to help me see Jesus again. Thank you.

    • This brought tears to my eyes, Joy – thank you!

    • Ashley

      There is so much ministry to do. Taking leadership over men when God’s word clearly says “no” is not one of them.

      Jesus left many many things undone because they were not a part of His mission.

      May we be like Him in both comission and omission!

      • pastordt

        I seldom reply to comments like this, believing that there is room in the body of Christ for differing interpretations of scripture. God’s word does not clearly say ‘no.’ And, in truth, the example of Jesus and the strong words at the beginning of Acts, and the list of names in Romans 16, etc., etc., etc. carry heavier weight for many, many of us on this topic. Please read a little bit more widely and make some space in your spirit for Jesus-loving people (both women and men) who read the scripture on this topic in a very different, but still careful and faithful way.

        • Ashley

          You say this… most Christians all over the world for the past 2000 years agreed Scripture’s teaching was clear, beginning in Genesis with Eve, all the way to Revelation with the Bride of the Lamb. When you look at all of Scripture (and the very clear commands also laid out in it)– there is little room for a forced hermaneutic of a church led by women in spiritual authority. Am I saying you are a non-believer if you believe differently? No. But I do believe that your understanding is eisegesis, not exegesis. I believe in Heaven you will repent of it– as I am sure you also believe of me.

  • Christine

    Amen, sister. Amen.

  • Bev Murrill

    Sarah, I love your writing always, but this may be the very best thing you’ve ever written. Thank you.

  • Bronwen

    This is so precious. Thank you for being willing to be seen and inviting others to do the same.

  • I need you, Sarah!

  • Laura

    This is beautiful. It’s made me picture all the women in my life who I have needed and continue to need. There have also been times I’ve needed your words that you wrote here. Thank you!

  • Amen, sister. Word!

  • Beautiful tribute, Sarah.

  • Esther

    I never had a woman to mentor me or mold me or set the example of who I felt God calling me to be (for various reasons mentioned above – lack of women leaders, jealousy of another woman, would rather spend time with their male students, etc)…I felt is as a great void in my life. but there were, and are many men who encouraged me and helped me be the christian, leader, pastor, woman I am today. And I am truly grateful to them for encouraging me to follow God’s call, regardless. The women who influenced me were the women of history, of scripture, and my peers. I was always “the first” woman to ________ in my churches and community. I continually in the numerous role models today, and pray I can be one for other women to examine and pursue the fullest of God’s call and sacrifice in their lives and the world.

    • I am so thankful for the women who go first, Esther – thank you for your obedience!

  • Weeping and leaking (in all the various ways that women do), and so grateful for you. Every time I see that picture, the tree near your Bible looks like a veil, or a mantle, to me. One that you are about to fling over every woman who wants to take it up. Every woman ready to receive it. Thank you. So much, thank you. You *are* needed.

    • Such a beautiful vision, Tara – thank you! xo

  • Missy K

    I love this, so much.

  • Beth Reavis

    I love this so much. I know that there are many women who I have needed to see. They are all puzzle pieces that fit into God’s plan for my life. I also know that there are still women I need to see in order to continue in His purposes for me. Thank you for sharing!

  • andrea frazer

    I used to feel very powerful and strong. I could do anything. And then I took a back seat to everyone else’s lives in my family. Not their fault – I agreed to it. I had somehow given up power to have peace. I had called it serving when it was really giving up my soul. When you are spiritless, it’s not great for anyone in the home. What I love about Jesus – why I must cling to Him – is that having Him does not mean I am being submissive. Jesus calls me to freedom. I get to live in glorious communion with a hippy who spoke his mind, got angry and didn’t go back to his buddies and be all, ‘oooooh, do you think I was too harsh to the Pharisees today?” No, he spoke his truth. So I get to, also. I have a feeling my road back to “me” is not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it. God wants me to lead, too, and my whole family will be so much better off.

    • Ashley

      You get to live in communion with a hippy who bore a cross. Who was obedient unto death. He calls us to find our lives by losing it. Yes, serving.

      Read Deitrich Bonhoffer on Discipleship. He founs glorious freedom to obey… in a Nazi death camp. Because he was submitting– to Christ & His Word. He died in total freedom, in chains. Because he knew he was not his own– he was a slave, a slave to Christ, the best master there is!! Read His Word– you absolutely are benefitting your family by serving and submitting in accordance with His Word!!

      • andrea frazer

        Thanks, Ashley. I do agree with serving. I believe in submission also. That’s what the Bible asks of us and with God’s help we can do it. It’s when I do it out of myself only that I get totally drained. I also believe, though, that it doesn’t mean taking a backseat to the gifts God gave me to take care of everyone else. In taking care of my gifts, I can better serve everyone else. I hope this makes sense.

  • Christina

    I need women before me who are fearless in their feminity, embracing that God made them female– that that is different from male.

    I need women who are strong and brave enough to submit; who are confident and loving enough to entrust themselves to Him who judges justly as they refuse to usurp authority that He hasn’t given. I need women to model the kind of respecting of headship that Jesus showed: utterly equal with His Father, totally One with Him in mission, powerful and courageous, beloved and beautiful, and yet somehow still submissive– obedient unto death.

    I need to see marriages that reflect Christ and His Church: totally loving, united & growing indistinguishable, yet clearly distinct in role, with one leading and another helping, filling in & following. Both sacrificing.

    I need that because it doesn’t come easy for me. The world screams “take up your cause, not your cross!!” “speak! let your voice be heard!” instead of “listen and learn.” It yells “you can be whomever you want, no matter who you are or what needs to be done– it’s all about you!”. While Christ & His word beckon: “take up your cross and follow– you are not your own, you are bought with a price. take the place I have written for you, the role I have crafted just for you, my poema. It will be different than a man’s role because I have perfectly made you to reflect me in ways no man can do– to nurture and grow life, to nourish and heal, to the very core of your anatomy.”

    I need women who do these counter-cultural things because they are also counter my flesh. Gospel submission doesn’t come easy to me. Yet the reward is so sweet

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  • I love the thought of a seven-months-pregnant woman preaching about the incarnation. How beautiful!!

  • Katie Blackburn

    This is SO beautiful! Thank you for writing this!

  • pastordt

    AMEN, AMEN. We need each other. We really do. Thank you, Sarah.

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  • Kathryn Adele

    I’ve needed you so many times, Sarah, your boldness and bravery and passion. I’ve needed your inner twining of femininity and strength and the way you’ve shown these are not opposites. I have only ever heard your words via books held in my hand and computer screens, but I have needed them.

  • Jocelyn Rebecca Fornwald

    Love you!

  • Ugh. That made tears roll right down my face. Women! We stand on so many shoulders. We have so many sisters. I needed to see you when I saw you, Sarah. I needed exactly you in your exact space, with your poetry and prophecy and knitting. I love you so much. I am so lucky and grateful to be your friend.

  • Oh geez. Changed the course of my whole day just reading this! I haven’t found that church where there’s “room for all of me” yet. I’m still stuck in that “we worked for one and know too much” distracted phase. But your words are a comfort and encouragement in the meantime. Isn’t it wonderful that a church is and isn’t a building? Because I surely just met with God and had church right here on your blog. On a Tuesday. In my frumpy robe. Glory.

  • O, my goodness, Sarah! THANK YOU! How much I have needed you too …

    I celebrate how you are walking out the strength, determination and wisdom that’s so beautiful in you. I celebrate how you have been catapulted to stand in exactly the right place at this time. Your voice rings so wide and yet you stay so true to yourself. I honor that. And I need to see that.

    I treasure you. So. Much.

  • Heather Pocock

    I must have read and re read this post daily in the last week. This is exactly what God’s been saying to me and awakening in my soul, thank you Sarah 🙂

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  • As quiet as I am, ( at times) i make sure i am seen… smile. thanks for the reminder of how necessary that is… Selah. i love this…

  • I met Maya Angelou in early 2006, at the Oregon Diversity Conference in Bend. I was privileged to hear her speak, and afterwards a friend of mine dragged us to the front of the room, and the next thing I knew I was face to face with her, and she hugged me, and asked my name. A moment in time, before I had any idea who she even was, beyond a phenomenal speaker. Growing up isolated and fundamentalist, I had never heard of her, or anyone like her, but her speech (which, sadly, I don’t even remember anymore) moved me, and sparked something in me that has never died. I was very sorry to hear of her passing this spring.

  • Laurie

    I’m not exactly sure why, but as I read this, I started weeping. Maybe it’s because I feel very alone in my walk with God right now. Thanks to you, dear Sarah,I know that I am not.

  • This makes my heart swell with gratitude. So thankful for you, and other kindred spirits.

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