To the young women reading “Jesus Feminist“:
I see you, little sister. I see you tagging #JesusFeminist on Instagram with that little yellow book wide open beside your coffee cup. I see your blog posts and your Facebook updates, I see you typing favourite quotes from the book on top of the beautiful photos you take on holidays, I see you in my mentions on Twitter, I see your names in my email inbox with your precious stories shared, I see you in the crowd when I preach.
I see you and I love you.
There are so many different people and age groups who read that book but I hear from you all most: the late-teens and twenty-something women, the ones in high school, university or college, sometimes you’re newly married, rarely do you have children yet. You write to me and ask me questions often or introduce yourselves or share your thoughts. I never do that with authors. I wonder if that is a generational thing? I read a book and that is the end of it. But for you, it is just the beginning of the conversation, just the start of a relationship, and I love that. What an unforeseen gift! I love that you hunt up my website and send me emails, friend me on Facebook, that you share your thoughts with your world through social media, you become part of my life somehow from all around the world. You see the book the way that I dreamed it: a gathering.
It makes my heart glad to think of someone starting their life with the message of freedom in their minds, hearts, and spirits already. You’re ahead of so many because you’re embarking on life as free. It gives me hope to think of the generation rising up in the wake of my generation because I am still rising, too, in the wake of the generation of women who came before me and so it goes. We are all running behind the ones who came before us and it’s my privilege to cut through the resistance for you just a little bit.
I want you to go further than we have gone, to be bolder than we have been, to be braver, to preach the Gospel of freedom and goodness and welcome to every corner of your influence. You will go where I cannot go and praise God for that.
You often ask me for advice – on relationships, on future plans, on how to talk to people who believe differently than you, on church, on calling, on leadership. I try to respond well to each of you. Being in this season of my life, I don’t always have the time to talk one-on-one as I’d like. But this weekend, I have been carrying you in my heart and so here is what I would say to you, my girls.
Remember the truth of who you are. You are loved and you are worthy. You are valuable. Not because of what you do or what you say or what you accomplish but simply because you were made in the image of God and you are here. You will have times in your life when you feel very effective and important. Then you will have times when you feel small and forgotten and inconsequential. How you feel does not change the truth of this: you are loved, loved, loved. You are free: “So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.” Paul said it this way: “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Romans 8:39)
Remember the truth of who God is. Almost all of our theology and so, therefore, the way we live our lives tracks back to what we believe about the nature and character of God. So settle in your bones this truth: Jesus is the exact representation of God. He came to reveal the Father to us, to show us all the ways that we have misrepresented and misunderstood God. And what did we learn from our Jesus? We are loved and we are redeemed. Study Jesus, yes, but open up to the way he is still alive, moving, speaking, and redeeming in the world.
Draw near to God, sisters. Draw near to God and watch God draw near to you. I have clung to John 15 in my lifetime, may it become a ballast for you, too: “when you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant….make yourselves at home in my love…I’ve named you friends…love one another.” You see?
Jesus is your Teacher and your Shepherd, don’t out-source the Holy Spirit’s work in your life. If you are thirsty, praise God – it means you will be satisfied. “Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me,” said our Jesus. The Spirit is real, let her infuse your waking up and walking around life.
There isn’t a false line between God-work and secular-work. Everything you do is spirit-filled if you intend it to be. There isn’t a hero in the kingdom, we are all beginners. Remember the ones who lead you are also on the ground, not on a pedestal. We will fail you in some way. I wish that weren’t true but it is: give us grace, please.
It is just as holy to serve God quietly in obscurity as it is to be on a stage. God may call you to a bit of both – a bit of big sexy attention-getting work and quiet thankless character-building life-transforming work. I’ll let you in on a secret: don’t try to live your life on the mountaintop all the time. It’s exhausting and narrow. There’s a lot of life to be found in the wilderness and in the valleys, in the kitchens and backroads, God speaks to us in those places and it will be the birthplace of intimacy with the Spirit and with yourself.
Love your Bibles. I know it’s hard sometimes – hard to understand, perhaps, or maybe it’s because your Bibles have been used against you. I get it. But when the time is right, remember that your soul can be aflame with the Spirit and your body can be furious for justice but your mind needs the words and teachings and richness of Scripture to be shaped. Start with the Gospels, perhaps, get to know our Jesus. I pray your mouth is filled with the promises of God, with the teachings of Jesus, and then your life will simply be an overflow of the Story – it will haunt you forever. Scripture will change your life, change your tongue, change your mind, and so it will change the world. Be ready to be wrong about a few things first.
The world will try to name you all sorts of things because you’re a woman. They’ll try to tell you that because you’re a woman that you’re insecure or jealous, that you’re emotional and illogical and a gossip, that you’re too fat or too quiet or too loud or too skinny or dangerous and untrustworthy. Don’t believe it. Don’t take the lies in. Remember that you were created right from the beginning to be a warrior – that’s the whole ezer kenegdo thing right there, remember that part of the book? – you were created to be a warrior and you are beloved. That is your identity. Don’t be afraid.
Find your people. This is so vital, so important – you need a home team. Be loyal. Show up. Love and support other women well. Learn how to champion and celebrate each other. Put others first. This is not time for pettiness and who-is-in-and-who-is-out. We’re all in. Make time for fun and for joy, be silly and go on adventures.
Go ahead and get angry at injustice; I think your calling is often hiding somewhere in your anger. Pay attention to what makes you angry. And then follow that anger all the way down to good hard and holy work. As our brother Paul wrote, “throw off the sin that so easily entangles you. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. (Hebrews 12:1) Challenge who you think you are. Listen well to the marginalized and oppressed, theirs is the Kingdom of God, align yourself there.
Travel – I never did that as a young woman and I wish now that I had done so. It seems to me that travel, seeing the world and learning different cultures, brings a richness and perspective to your life that you have to read a lot of books to replace. If you can do it, please try.
Seek and create beauty – that is Kingdom work, too. Speak life. Take risks and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
Fall in love with someone who will make you better at being yourself. Slow dance with that someone on the side of the road at night and kiss until you’re dizzy, it will do you good. Love someone well and yes, it will take equal parts grit and romance to make a lifelong love.
Whatever you do, bring your whole self to us. Read good books, books that challenge you. Sow your life into a place and into a people, remain there and watch how it slowly turns into the greatest harvest you could never have imagined. Don’t seek fame, seek to be faithful.
Patience and faith belong together. Remember that you have so much to learn and treat the people in your life as your teachers. Everything you do in your life can be a testimony to the goodness and freedom and openness of our God.
And here is my final piece of advice: stop waiting for permission. There are a lot of us out here waiting for you. We need you. We need your gifts and your words, we need your passion and your insight, your skill and your brain, your perspective and your history. It all matters, nothing in your life will be wasted in the economy of God. So get on with it. Don’t be held back. You’re free already, remember? Be brave. There is real evil in this world, you are a prophetic outpost for the Kingdom of God. Live into the abundance of God in your life and watch the resistance come but stand. Hold fast.
Jesus said it best, my little sisters: “You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?… Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine. Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 MSG)
Thank you. Thank you for reading “Jesus Feminist” and getting it. Thank you for allowing the fire of the Spirit within you to be stirred.
If I could leave you with one final passage of Scripture, my little sisters, here is it: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out….Love from the centre of who you are: don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” (Romans 12:1-2, 9-10)
If I could, I’d stand in front of you and place my hands on your hair and pray The Commissioning from the last chapter of the book over each and every single one of you. I would.
Dear girls, I love you. I do. You are so precious to me. I am eager to be lead by you, I am cheering you on, I have so much to learn. I pray for you and over you often.