The new year is drawing steadily closer and in preparation, I am making new promises to myself, to my God, and to the world. This is what I commit to live our this year and I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to hold me accountable. I also invite you, if you feel called, to join me as I work to fulfill this covenant in the coming year.
1. Hope Shamelessly
This is a tough mission, gender equality. Often, just when we think we’re making real progress, that’s when a church backslides into gender hierarchy or a sibling in Christ dismisses us before we even open our mouths.
It hurts. Not paper-cut hurts either. This work involves gut-wrenching lost-a-limb agony. That’s the consequence of doing work in a community that can, at times, hurt you more than it heals you. This is the immeasurable pain of feeling dismissed, peripheral, last, and invisible.
Especially as women, we have more than just our status in the church invested in this fight. We have planted everything on the conviction that we are human, that we can lead and we will, that we are called and honored, chosen and ready.
We spend a lot of our time with men and women who empower us, who pump up our sails with generous praise and authentic community. And then we head out into the world, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, only to return exhausted, broken, and scarred.
I know. As a woman, it breaks me a little more every time I try to convince someone that I belong at the table, that it is wrong to exclude me. It’s enough to steal your hope, if you let it.
But I won’t let it. I will bask in the hope of the cross, in the glory of redeemed humanity, in the light of justice and truth that creeps across the shadow of this world. There is movement, and hope, and change, and light. This year, I will bask in it. I will let Jesus fill me back up. I will take joy in the restoration work the Spirit is doing in men and women. I will hope shamelessly. Above all things, I will hope.
2. Stop Apologizing
I say “sorry” a lot. Often, for events that are neither my fault nor within my control, I apologize, constantly and without meaning to.
I noticed this tendency recently and it’s begun to bother me, so I asked myself, “What do you keep apologizing for?”
To my surprise, the answer flowed easily, as if my weary soul had been waiting a lifetime for me to ask that question.
I apologize for everything.
My presence. My desires. My opinions. My boldness. My noise. The space I take up. For not knowing the future. For forgetting the past. For speaking up. For being “womanly.” For not being “womanly” enough. For saying no to a drink. For saying yes to a conversation that turned out badly. For my body. For my mind. For my soul.
For everything. It is what I have been conditioned to do.
No more. I’m not sorry. I will no longer give in to the gender-conditioned self-doubt that demands I carry weights Jesus already eviscerated. I’m not sorry for speaking truth. I’m not sorry for saying no. I’m not sorry for speaking up. I’m not sorry for taking up space. I am not sorry.
3. Love Those I Disagree With
I have been told, by both friends and family, that I have a temper when it comes to justice issues. I know, it’s incredibly “feminine” of me.
Call me passionate if you’re being generous. Call me a hothead if you’re not. Fact is, I feel things fiercely. I always have. Joy is all encompassing for me, as is my outrage.
My fury at injustice sometimes gets the better of me and I become Jesus turning over tables in the temple—except I don’t always leave room for reconciliation and love. I am often too quick to unleash my sharp tongue and critical mind on those I disagree with.
But that’s not the Jesus way. Or at least, that’s not how Jesus lived every minute of his life. There’s a place for holy, change-this-world fury, and there’s a place for cool-headed, generous love, even in conflict.
I’m still learning that balance. I’m still learning how to tap into my deep-feeling nature, while allowing the love and shalom of the Gospel to check my full-court press. I repent of the ways in which I have failed to do so.
This year, I will learn how to love better. I’ll make shalom even as I pull on my armor. I’ll love those that oppose my beliefs with my big heart. Because at the end of the day, they’re still my family.
4. Celebrate My Incompleteness
I’m a work and progress. I’m not finished, praise Jesus. He begins a new work in me each day. I am building, growing, and learning. This year, I will take joy in that process.
I don’t have all the answers. And I don’t have to. I am called to live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.
I admit it. I stumble a lot. I catch my foot on bad theology, on straw men, on personal mistakes, on anger and assumption. I tumble headfirst into the dust. Maybe I rip open my knee. Maybe I shed a few tears. Maybe I’m bruised and sore, skin raw, bones shaky, and muscles tender. Maybe I’m a mess.
But, Jesus loves this mess. He picks me up every single time, dirty and squalling like a toddler, consoling me until the pain passes and I’m ready to learn from my mistake. And then the Sprit comes and a period of healing beings.
I am incomplete. My knowledge is limited. My theology is not bullet-proof. My motivations are not always honorable. But I love Jesus. And he loves this mess. So, I will too.
5. Honor My Sisters of Color
For too long, this fight has been dominated by the powerful. Even within our own camp, hierarchy has crept, unwelcome, into our ranks. As a result, women of color are often pushed to the margins of our mission.
Sometimes the well-intentioned, including myself, do so without meaning to, because they are convinced that what benefits white women benefits all women, or what benefits Western women benefits all women.
But we must not forget. Liberation does not look the same for all women. To imagine that it does misses the nuances and complexity of global womanhood. We are not all the same. We share so much. But we are not all the same. And we do not all experience injustice in the same way.
So this year, I commit to listen and be changed, to submit to you, my sisters of color, and to acknowledge where I have failed to love you well.
I pray that this year will be filled with joy, movement, change, light, truth, and justice.