I feel like there are a few things I need to clarify about myself and about why, of all the subjects a Christian could write about, I have chosen the topic of God and women.
Most of the writing I’ve done up to this point has been autobiographical. My old blog was a combination of anecdotes from my life and good-natured kvetching. I wanted this blog to be less of me talking about me and more of me talking about God, but I’ve noticed that sometimes the best way to make a difference is to let your audience know you’re a human being with a history and a journey and a specific reason for being passionate about the things you talk about incessantly.
So here you go:
I was raised in a Christian home. I asked Christ to save me when I was seven. The Bible has been a huge part of my life since I was very, very small. Our family consisted of my, my parents, and God.
My mother is a professor at the college I attended. She got her doctorate after she married my dad, and at my father’s prompting. He told her she could do it, that she should do it, that she was brilliant enough and hard working enough to earn a doctoral degree in education. So she did. And Dad did everything within his power–including babysitting me so she could sleep after long nights of working on her dissertation–to help her complete her goal.
My father loves the Bible. He’s studied it cover to cover several times over the course of the last thirty+ years. Scripture pours out of his mouth in everyday conversation. He has a masters degree in English and loves language and the power of words. He wanted to be in an occupational ministry of some kind, but the Lord directed him through a series of corporate jobs. He teaches Sunday school at our church and he’s brilliant at it.
My father raised me with the expectation that one day I would enter the professional world. One day I would have a boss and a full-time job. One day I would pay my own bills and live my own life. My parents always stressed to me the importance of a college education. They always equipped me–within their means–with all the tools I needed to develop my interest in whatever my childish brain latched onto: science, history, language, acting, art, writing. Whether or not I would eventually marry was rarely discussed in our home. My parents always told me I could get married if I found the right person, but that I should focus on getting a good education and having a solid relationship with God over finding a husband. Of course, they always quietly wished I would find someone to make me as happy as they made each other, but marriage was not stressed as something that should be a priority in my life. They certainly didn’t want me to get married for the sake of getting married.
What they wanted more than anything else was for me to A) love God and B) follow His calling for my life, whether that was being a stay-at-home mom with ten kids or being president of the United States.
Imagine my surprise when I got to college and discovered that not all girls from Christian, Bible-believing, God-fearing homes had been raised the way my parents raised me. Imagine my surprise when I learned there were Christian families that used scripture to justify keeping their daughters out of college. I met girls who came to college just to meet a nice boy and marry him and weren’t too serious about what they studied because they took for granted that they’d walk out of college married and financially supported. I met guys who said disparaging things about women and girls who said disparaging things about men. There was an attitude among my peers that oozed of “well, if only the guys/girls would act like they’re supposed to act, then everything would be great.” All of this behind a sometimes thin veil of spirituality. How could other believers read the same Bible I did and come to such different conclusions about the importance of women and men?
The turning point in my life walked in with a boy. A boy who seemed to be everything I was supposed to want: supposedly godly, supposedly kind, supposedly strong, supposedly humble, supposedly a leader. I bought the veneer–to this day, I’m not sure why. I wanted to trust him. I wanted to believe him when he said he loved me, that he wanted the best for me.
But his actions were not loving. His words were rarely loving either. His hold on me lasted for two years, not because our relationship was fun and easy and loving but because he had me convinced, by words, coercion, and mind games, that I was worthless, that I was wretched, that I didn’t deserve someone like him, that I was lucky to have someone as kind and good and sacrificial as he was to love me. He chipped away at the things about me–my love for acting, music, singing–by convincing me I was awful at all of those things, that people only cast me in plays or asked me to sing in church because they felt sorry for me. He claimed he was the only one who really knew me, really understood me. Yet he used the things he knew hurt me the most to control me, to get me to lower my voice, lower my head, to smile when he wanted me to smile and frown when he wanted me to frown.
He was studying to be a pastor. He would often use–or misuse–scripture to get me to bend my will to his. Anything about me that he thought wouldn’t be useful to his future ministry had to be eliminated. My identity and my mind were coming unwound. There were days I was so tormented by my dissolving world that I could not sleep or eat or, some days, manage to walk up stairs. He said he loved me, yet he hated who I was, and I wanted desperately to know if there was something wrong with me that indeed couldn’t be fixed.
Ours was, in short, an emotionally abusive relationship.
After I broke off all ties with him (thanks to my parent’s intervention), I looked everywhere for people with stories like mine. There were shattered hearts and minds everywhere, both inside and outside the church. I found solace among friends, with kind counselors at church and school, and of course with my parents. I had survived what I hope will be the darkest days of my life.
Was I ever angry at God for letting me walk through that dark place in my life? No. While I was miserable, I was never alone. I never, ever felt completely alone. I knew God hurt with me. But still I asked Him, why?
Why do men use God’s words to hurt women? How can this kind of abuse fly so easily under people’s spiritual radar? Why, dear God, did that happen to me? Why did I believe that boy when he said he loved me? Why did I have to go through all that pain?
When you ask questions of God, answers come. It wasn’t long before I realized there were other girls of my acquaintance who had been through similar situations, but worse–mercifully, I was never called names or threatened with violence, but these girls had. Suddenly, I was no longer alone in my struggle, and neither were they. My scars and my pain have enabled me to help other girls in or immediately freed from abusive relationships. I would not have known what to do for them otherwise.
Second, ending my relationship with this young man made me question everything I had previously assumed about the roles of men and women–in the church and out of it. My ex operated under a certain set of assumptions about women that he must have picked up somewhere, but now I wanted to know where. My father had studied the Bible far longer than my ex had, yet his treatment and thinking about women was vastly different. I learned that there were too many different schools of thinking within the church (and without) about the roles of men and women in the world than I could count. I dug into the Bible with a new hunger, wanting answers. I asked questions I never had before. I prayed prayers I never had prayed. I dug and I dug, and my hands never came up empty.
Had I never met this boy, I would never known the meaning of what it means to be enslaved by something–and then set free.
I believe, with gratitude in my heart, that I went through an abusive relationship so that I could help others out of theirs, and so that for the first time, I would start asking questions. I haven’t stopped.
I know so many Christians who have solid, loving marriages. I know so many Christians who respect the opposite gender and treat them with Christlike love. I know so many Christian parents who raise their daughters to be warriors. My parents are only two such people. There are hundreds more.
We all read the same Bible. We all love the same God. We are all sinners who make mistakes. But we all know that we’re supposed to love each other more than we love ourselves.
Why am I writing this book?
Because I believe God wants me to. I believe I was raised the way I was and hurt the way I was so that I could reach out to my fellow believing women. I want to reach out to girls who love God like I do and let them know just how much God loves them back and about the fantastic, earth-shattering, awe-inspiring things He designed them to accomplish. I want them to know the God I have always known hasn’t made them for mediocrity. That they weren’t designed to be used my men, but to walk with the God in Whose image they were handmade.
I am writing this book because Christ has set me free.