In this regard, a leader isn’t limited
to someone with a specific position or title that outrightly denotes leadership.
It’s any woman with a level of power, authority and influence in our lives.
This means our mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, female friends, etc all have a
stake in the kind of women we are. Equally, so do we, in those whose lives we
play similar roles.
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“You can’t turn out a light, shining on the inside.”
Steffany Gretzinger (Blackout)
In this video, Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenburg
talks about how she hates the phrase “women are their own worst enemies” and
she puts to task anyone who uses it. Why?
Narrative creates expectation.
What we say, do, experience and believe
today determines what we expect tomorrow.
Those three words have stayed
with me for many, many months long after I first watched the video. I’ve been
thinking about all the ways it applies to life but specifically to womanhood
and our expectations of woman as women.
Who is the woman I want to be?
Who is the woman I want other
women to be?
If you think about it, half the
time we don’t even know we have specific expectations of our womanhood (or that
of others) and the other half we find out what they are when they’re not met.
Who is the woman I expect to be?
My expectation of myself as a
woman is intrinsically defined by what I’ve encountered as a woman – what I’ve
seen, heard and experienced in my world about who a woman is/should be.
For instance, if I come from a
family of female engineers, the idea of women in science will be a norm for me.
A non-issue I don’t even think much about. Until I interact with people from a
different background, I may not even know that there are people who hold
contrary views to mine on women in science.
As we grow and get older, our
circle of female friends and peers also shapes and forms our identity as women.
So do the men in our lives and on its fringes. The way we are treated as women
in our schools, workplaces and public spaces and even how we see other women
handled in the same arenas. Not to mention the world around us is very vocal of
its idea of women. Particularly through subtle and overt nuances found in how
women are portrayed in the media.
Depending on what kind of
experiences we have, we find ourselves either running towards becoming a particular
kind of woman, running from her, or even both at the same time.
Yet before we or the world around
us defined who we are as women, God already had our blueprint in place. Woman is
not a concept that originates from us as women, from men, or from the world around
us. Woman was and continues to be God’s idea and so the ideal we’re looking to
attain to as women is that of God.
Perhaps one of the most
frustrating things I’ve encountered being a woman in the world and in the
church is how we get clustered into one specific mould that we’re all supposed
to align ourselves into. There is no one single woman who we can all be.
Because God didn’t wire us that way.
It pains me to see how many of us
as women are completely blind to the incredible beauty within us just waiting
to be unveiled because we’re so convinced that we’re supposed to be woman X
instead. So much so that we actively deny ourselves opportunities to flourish
in who we are.
God didn’t make any mistakes with
you as a woman. Everything He made you to be and everything He didn’t make you
to be is an intentional, conscious, loving choice on His part.
Your diversity as a woman
matters. All your strengths, all your supposed flaws, all your quirks. Take the
crown He’s holding out in His hand for you and place it on your head where it
Who is the woman I expect other women to be?
The reality is that all of us
enter our church families with preconceived notions about who a Christian woman
is – what the Christian women around us will be and should be to us.
Unfortunately, those notions are
typically not filtered through God’s lens of truth because we don’t even know
we have them. But they very much influence how we relate with one another as
Christian women – both positively and negatively.
The inadvertent assumption made
is that we continue to be the same women we were before salvation, only now we
have the Christian tag on everything we are. I’m not just talking about obvious
things like our dressing and language. More importantly, there’s what we think
and feel about womanhood…Christian womanhood…and how that affects our
relationships with one another.
This assumption couldn’t be
farther from the truth because as Christian women, salvation is a beginning not
an end. We are to be continually renewed in our revelation of woman. Wherever God
finds us in our expectations and understanding of what it means to be a woman,
we have to journey with Him to the next level of truth.
As women, when God plants us in
church families, one of the things He does is expand our understanding of who a
woman is from His perspective through our relationships with women in our
Yes, the most obvious way God will deal with you is as an individual. There are the lies He will tear down and truths He will reveal directly to you. But we belong in a Body for a reason. There is an understanding of who a woman is in the eyes of God that you will never get outside of relationship with other Godly women. Because each one of us is carrying a piece to the puzzle and it’s when we come together that we get to see the whole picture.
I know that the church experience
for many women is less than ideal for various reasons. Believe me, I know. When
you bring a bunch of broken people together and try to figure out how to do
life together, it’s messy and hard and sometimes just feels downright
impossible. But God wasn’t out of His mind creating the Body either. We can’t afford
to just throw our hands in the air and give up.
We have to fight for the ideal
God wants for us as His daughters.
We have to partner with Him to do
the hard work within to overcome our negative biases about other women; to pursue
healing for the places broken by women. To reach out for forgiveness for the
breaking in others we’ve been responsible for.
We have to want our peace and
wholeness more than we want our anger, bitterness, hurt and disappointment.
We have to partner with Him to do
the hard work without to build healthy relationships with the women around us. Women
who are on journeys that are very similar to ours. Women who’ve experienced
pain and heartache just like we have. Women, to whom we need to extend grace
because they need it just as badly as we do.
We need to learn how to forgive. Ourselves.
Each other. For as we each grapple to find and embrace the woman we are, we
will make mistakes. We will say the wrong thing. We will do something hurtful.
We need to say no to the fear and self-preservation that builds prison walls around us the moment something goes wrong. Because it will. There’s no such thing as a perfect human relationship. No one comes pre-packaged with the ability to perfectly relate with everyone. We live and learn. And the thing about prison walls is that they don’t just keep people out, they keep you in too.
We need to trust God with our womanhood.
As individuals. As sisters. To go where we can’t. To do what we can’t. To reach
what is beyond us and unveil the treasures hidden deep within us. For even our best
ideal of what woman can be pales in comparison with His vision for woman.
Our diversity as women matters. As
He pours out His healing oil to seal back together our broken pieces as
individuals, it will overflow and bridge the divides that have kept us apart
for far too long.
The women we are, collectively, matters. The woman I am matters. The woman you are matters. She is worth fighting for with all we’ve got.
Fight for her.
P.S.: There’s the fundamental role that men play in this whole conversation. But that’s a post for another day.