Women As Warriors of Love
Any holistic, truly transformative work of healing will eventually turn us outward, toward the movement of healing unfolding around us. Sometimes this looks like small, everyday moments, like being an attuned, empathetic presence for a friend in pain. Other times, letting our own healing overflow toward others requires something bigger, louder, and riskier. That’s what Becky Allender is doing here, as she speaks vital truths about the systems of power that have sought to silence and minimize women for far too long. This post originally appeared on Red Tent Living.
I could not believe what I was hearing! The women I was talking with were telling me about what many pastors in Eastern Europe teach from their pulpits. They said, “It is not uncommon for Christian women to be subjected to domestic violence because of church teachings.”
What?! These were trusted friends who had traveled throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union, employed by senators, U.S. Representatives, and our State Department to find out if governments were involved in sex trafficking. These women were lovers of Christ—and what they were saying made me sick.
Pastors were telling their men to discipline their wives through corporal punishment in order to help them mature. And this is not a new problem: Men have used all sorts of power plays to order women to keep their opinions and emotions to themselves. Women often serve as scapegoats for the unresolved struggles men suffer.
I have become more aware of harm to women since hearing the above conversation at my first Global Conference with the International Christian Alliance on Prostitution (ICAP) in 2004. It was at that conference when I heard a woman pray out loud from across the room of 300 people. In my heart I knew right away that I had to find that woman. But there were people from 40 different countries, I could only find her after searching desperately. It turned out that she lived in Seattle (of all places!) and had a street ministry to prostituted teenagers. I asked if I could join her in her work.
It was a new beginning of seeing harm against our gender more than I ever had before.
On the streets of Seattle I witnessed violence toward girls and women from their pimps and the “Johns.” Late night conversations opened my eyes and heart in new ways. The varied stories of these women wrecked me, and I learned that harm, of course, began years before being prostituted. Why has this been pervasive since the beginning of time? Why does our gender suffer such physical, sexual, and emotional harm?
I grew up in a world where women were teachers, nurses, and secretaries. There was this obvious order to professions and expectations. Power over women often seemed to be a man’s right. Why did women have to wait so long in our country’s history to be given the right to education, or the right to vote, or the right to pursue so many professions once believed only men could do?
If you think this reflects a world from a long time ago, then why has our government been made up of men for so long? Why is it still unequal in its representation of our country? Why are there thousands of unprocessed rape kits that cities don’t have the funds to investigate? If men were the predominant victims of rape, I suspect the money and justice would have been forthcoming decades ago.
It’s been easy for me to never want to speak. Simply, why would I? I have seen too many women criticized viciously. If a man speaks with intensity he is called passionate, but if a woman offers the same gift, she is labeled as angry. Why would I want that?
It has been too easy, for decades, to work behind the scenes and hope others would carry the flag. But I am realizing that being quiet is not the way God has written us to be. In Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper (ezer) suitable for him.” Ezer (pronounced like “razor” but without the “r”) is used 16 of 21 times in the Old Testament to refer to God as Israel’s helper in times of trouble. Ezer is a powerful Hebrew military word, meaning women are ezers (warriors) in every walk of life—not just in marriage (Carolyn Curtis James, Lost Women of the Bible, pp. 35-36).
As a girl I played with dolls and was told to be quiet and keep my legs together. My identity was tied to being a “good girl.” We know only too well that the core, often assumed messages of our youth are woven deeply into the fabric of our being. Why was I never told that I was a warrior of love with a voice that is meant to disturb, convict, and invite change?
One of my dear friends has Ezer tattooed on her wrist. It is meant to adorn our bodies and to be shouted from the rooftops: Women rock the world.