Recently, my sweet daughter threw herself onto my bed. My usually calm, easy-going girl was red faced, and gritting her teeth when she declared, “I AM SO PISSED!” Excited that my teen was going to share a bit of life with me and shocked at her level of anger I sat straight up. She took some of her rage out on my bed with tight fisted punching while telling me about a close friend’s betrayal. When I asked her what she was going to do, she said she already scheduled a time for them to get together and “talk”. Seeing how angry she was made me panic, so before I knew it I found myself saying, “Make sure you are polite. You don’t know anything for sure and you don’t want to hurt anyone.” She looked at me and said, “NO. This was wrong. I was hurt and I need to stand up for myself.” I wanted to crawl into my terrible mom hole. Did I just tell my strong, amazing, kind child to be polite and not hurt the feelings of someone who had clearly betrayed her? I have never really been a strong feminist, but lately have taken notice of the impact that the #METOO movement is making in helping end sexual harassment and gender roles. Dang… I’m never going to get my real woman badge by speaking such words into a young woman who just turned to me for support.
I took a deep breath, apologized, and told her to ignore what I said and remember what Brene Brown says, “Don’t puff up, don’t back down, just stand your ground.”
I spent the next few days praying and asking God why my daughter maturely speaking up for herself brought up such fear in me. He reminded me of all the times as a child, teen, young parent and, well, even last week I was told, “You are too much. You need to be more thoughtful in the way you approach someone. Don’t speak so directly. People don’t know what to do with you. She can’t handle the truth so just tell a little white lie. Only speak “life” (code for only say good things about a person, event or program). People are scared of you.” Being a plain/direct spoken woman in the Christian world is painful at times and so the advice I gave her was to protect her from all I have experienced over the years. But the truth is my words just made me her jailer rather than her fierce guide into womanhood.
The reality is we don’t like talking about the hard truths of Christian life and sometimes shun those who do. Many pastors I know and love are self-proclaimed pain avoiders. They believe that speaking out what they hope to be true about a person or situation will help make it true. This is a large part of what makes them such loving and attractive leaders, but leaves the rest up to us straight-shooters. As a result we feel trapped in a box, unable to speak loving truth into the dying.
Speaking of hard truths, I just started reading a book called "Jamie the Very Worst Missionary” by Jamie Wright. She is a feisty, strong, Jesus-loving, Christian woman (with a rather foul mouth) who is frustrated with the current state of the American church and western missions philosophies. In this book she is funny, raw, vulnerable and lovingly honest about these things and the part she played in maintaining “The Club”. Though I don’t agree with her every word, I believe God has given her something valuable and helpful to say and she is using her real as F#$! voice to share it. Do we have room for Christian women (or men) to speak truth about our beloved, but maybe overly adorned, plastered smile and inward “Club”-focused Bride and her bridesmaids (missionaries)?
I highly recommend this book for anyone considering Christian ministry and missions. She gives you a not-so-polite, but generally kind, behind the scenes look at the hard truths of Western Christian culture and missions — what Ken and I call the “underbelly” of the church. If we are to address the issue of the dying church we have to open handedly address the difficult topics she beautifully weaves into her life story.
This year the word God has given me is Truth. I’ve already stumbled over it a few times but I’m picking myself up, dusting off my bruised knees and trying again. Next time my daughter comes to me for advice I will stick with the Brene Brown quote. And when I’m asked to lie or omit the truth or just be polite (unless it’s an underground railroad situation) I will, like my daughter, say no and speak the truth in love. Hopefully I can do it as well as she did. Thank you Jamie for the encouragement to be brave and use my own voice. Maybe we can redefine the way a Jesus-loving woman is expected to express their thoughts. (Or man…. I totally believe in gender equality.)