Apr 16, 2018 | Jess Versteeg
A few years ago I was sitting across from a girl whom I just asked the question, “Who is Jesus to you?”
“Jesus hates women!” she blurted out.
I was stunned. This was the single most ignorant thing I had heard about Christianity in a University setting. I had heard something like this before about the Apostle Paul, but Jesus?
I was heartbroken to hear that this girl had labelled Woman’s only true ally as a misogynist. Until my conversation with her, she believed she had no reason to question what she had assumed to be true about Jesus. I was so glad I was able to talk to her about my experience as a woman who felt uplifted, accepted, and treated with dignity by Jesus. Though, I have had my challenges.
Impossible and “boring”
Being a Christian woman has always been a challenge for me. I have never felt like the type of woman people often described a “good christian girl.” Words that have always described me are: stubborn, willful, opinionated, assertive, and argumentative, and passionate (You can imagine I was a joy to parent.) I always desired to please God, ever since I can remember. I wanted to be a “good girl.” And so, I’ve always been at odds with myself, especially when I read verses like 1 Peter 3:4:
your beauty should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great worth
“The Lord has a lot of work to do in this heart to make me a gentle and quiet spirit,” I joke. Despite my joking, my lack of gentleness grates on me. Those verses in 1 Peter used to make me angry because it feels like something completely impossible for me to obtain on my own. Later, I understood that was where Jesus came in.
I remember having a 2AM messenger chat with a friend sharing my fears about sanctification. “I’m afraid Jesus is going to make me lame and boring!” I complained. She pointed out that was a pretty cynical view of God’s plan for humanity. Fair enough. I had imagined an army of drones lined up in military fashion to describe God’s ultimate goal of sanctification: making us one big group of boring, identical, conservative, unfunny people.
I promise, my theology has grown considerably since then.
In my struggle with who I was, I had forgotten that God made me who I am with a two-fold purpose. I serve an important part of the body of Christ and I am meant to become more like Christ. In becoming more like Christ, I will become a better me, not a more boring me. I can still be sassy, as long as it’s not rude, demeaning, disrespectful, or immature. I can still speak my mind, given that it is done with grace, discernment, and done at the right time. I can still be powerful, assuming I know when to step back, when to let others take the lead, and when to (gasp!) submit. God calls me to have a gentle and quiet spirit, but that doesn’t have to negate God designing me to be a strong and feisty woman.
What I’m not
In a conservative church setting that is still coming into an understanding of ways it can grow in relationship to women and their inclusion, I can stick out like a sore thumb. I seem to make men uncomfortable as soon as I share my thoughts with confidence and strength. Some women might argue that this is evidence that women are oppressed by a sexist church culture. They might be right to some degree, but I do believe that my Christian brothers are wonderful, caring, men who desire to follow Christ. If oppression is happening, it’s as a result of blindness and not some nefarious plot to silence us.
So does that make me a feminist?
If I’m being honest, I’m uncomfortable with the term “feminist” because of all of the progressive politics associated with the term. I don’t fall squarely into any current label because I am way too conservative for the average progressive feminist, but I don’t self-describe as “egalitarian” either, nor am I OK with some of what I’m seeing in the conservative evangelical church setting.
What I am
What I am is a young woman who knows what she thinks and knows enough to know she’s not always right. I am a warrior who loves God and his Word enough to use my affection for resistance to rebel against my own desire to rebel (yes, you read that right!) and figure out how to submit myself to God’s Word.
I can be a bit of a bully and I can be loud and aggressive. I now know this about myself and desire to position myself at the feet of Jesus in order to soften the rougher edges, asking him to give me wisdom in the way I assert myself and to know when to hold my tongue (which I probably should do more of). I sincerely care deeply about reflecting the values of my Saviour and about dying to self, but I also care deeply about justice and I know God has given me a voice as a part of his body here on earth.
And to keep things interesting, I am persuaded by a conservative reading of Scripture which makes my personality that much more irritating to people who enjoy the status quo. Sorry, not sorry.
I am woman, hear me roar.