on faith and feminism

Hi, my name is Jessica, and I’m a Jesus Feminist.

I wasn’t always a feminist. I spent my formative years in the bosom of the Episcopal church, where I never experienced any form of sexism. I was an acolyte, I loved God, and nothing in my faith was denied me because of my gender. And here I check my privilege, because I am a white cis-gendered heterosexual. My place in the church has never been questioned because of any of this, but rather, because I am a woman.

In my high school years, I started attending a Baptist church, where I learned to love Scripture and worship with my hands held high. One night, I was lamenting about my complete lack of success with dating, of wooing and wining boys with my womanly wiles. I was informed that my lack of a male counterpart was because I was smart. Boys don’t like smart girls. I was apparently intimidating to them, because I could name all the Chinese dynasties in order, got straight A’s , and nearly wet myself with excitement whenever someone talked about pathology (nothing much has changed). Boy’s don’t like girls who refuse to keep silent. See, that’s what the Bible says. I’m to keep silent and mind my place. Maybe then some boy would want me.

This is where I began to question what my beloved faith had to say about what chromosomes I possessed. I felt shamed by those passages about women keeping silent, submitting to the man above us. I felt like I could never measure up to that “standard”. I tried to fit the ideal woman I created as a read those passages: silent, tiny, fragile. Porcelain girl. Any one who knows me can go ahead and laugh at this, because I have never been any of those things. The God I knew was the God who spoke in the desert to the “other woman”, and gave her a vernacular to experience Her: The God who Sees.

I went to college with a lot of bitterness and fire for the words that were used to oppress me. I marched up to my Bible professor after my first class and threw those words in his face: women are to keep silent; obey; submit. And he told me that he was sorry for how those words had been used against me, to silence me, to make me into something I am not. He told me that “Biblical womanhood” sounded a lot more like 1950’s white suburbia than Deborah the Judge.

And a weight was lifted.

I first started saying I was a feminist because I liked the shock value that word produced when I used it. Then Sarah Bessey told me about being a Jesus Feminist. And I learned about the legacy of saints before me, of women like Perpetua and Felicity who defied social status and died for their love of Christ and neighbor. Then I knew that my faith and feminism were not mutually exclusive; rather, they are mutually inclusive.

My faith in Christ Jesus had freed me to be a feminist. I’m learning and growing, reading and redefining. Learning how to walk in my own skin for the first time, praying for the courage to make my life a place where others are free to do the same.

My name is Jessica, and I’m a Jesus Feminist.

Later Days,

Jess

PS: I’m absolutely indebted to the work of Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans. Without their courageous voices, I would have never found mine.

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The Transition Phase

Here’s the thing nobody tells you about post-grad life: it sucks. Maybe someone did try to tell me, but I was too busy dreaming about my perfectly envisioned life as a pediatric nurse to pay them any attention. In summary: I got turned down from my dream job, I’m studying to take the NCLEX, and 90% of the time I feel like running away. Sometimes my inner Pocahontas spirit gets a little to strong – you know, “she goes wherever the wind takes her” and I start researching on what it would look like for me to move to Northern Ireland.

I’m calling this phase of life my “transition phase”. It’s been one of many.  One thing I learned in my Women’s Health rotation is that the “transition” phase of labor is the hardest phase of labor. The woman feels that she can’t go on, the pain is simply too unbearable. But here’s the thing about labor: it is a necessary work. You cannot experience the birth of a new human without immense pain (well, modern medicine has changed that a little, but it’s pretty impossible not to feel the famed “ring of fire”. And now every male reading this blog has thrown up in their mouths a little and sworn to never return to this page. Sorrynotsorry). Likewise, I think the transition phases in life are the hardest. And this phase? Where I’m blogging from my stuffy one bedroom apartment at midnight with no direction? It’s hard. Really hard.

I’ve been feeling adrift and achy and longing for the future that came so close to being mine. I feel stretched a million different ways at once, stretched thin and taunt and pained. I feel restless and fidgety, waiting on God (ot) to show up and say something. I go to Target at 10pm and buy a box of red hair dye, convinced that I’m going to wake up tomorrow looking like Amy Pond, just to feel different, to feel a change. And yet, on these sweltering summer nights of my life, with my faintly ammonia-scented hair sticking to my sweaty neck, I can feel that cool ocean breeze of the Spirit, stirring, moving, breathing. And I’m waiting. A little impatiently. A little restlessly. But I’m waiting. Because I know the pain won’t last, and this labor of the spirit that is hard work, messy work, will bring about something that will make me want to stack some stones in the wilderness and say “God met me there”.

I’ve made some hard choices. I’ve chosen to anchor myself where I am, with the strange people of my Church who have nestled their way into my skeptic soul. I’ve chosen to remain in the stuffy one bedroom. Because here’s the other thing about labor? A change happens in the transition when the woman leans into the pain, lets it engulf her. A determination arises, and soon enough, new life is born. So I’m leaning into my transition phase, sweating and ungracefully complaining the whole way, but I’m anchoring myself here, letting myself be restless a while more.

This morning, I cracked open the spine of Common Prayer after too long a hiatus. And it’s like I’ve been given permission to breathe again, like the rhythm of the liturgy is the oxygen my soul didn’t know it needed. I still feel indescribably restless, but it’s a restless anticipation that I’m learning to be okay with. Actually, Switchfoot’s song “Restless” has made it okay for me (I’ll link it below. Trust me, it’s some kind of beautiful).  I think I’m meeting the Spirit in this new way of wrestling transitions.

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Thanks for putting up with my rambling restlessness. I’m forever grateful for this little space of the internet.

Later Days,

Jess