Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:50 NIV
I watch one of my favorite movies just about every night as I go to sleep, but tonight I actually paid attention to its message. Tonight, the words struck me as I sat up at 4 in the morning watching the subtitles dance across the screen. The words, “I have wasted too much of my life being quiet,” jumped out at me and I thought about all of the “possibilities” that I’d let slip by me over the course of my life. Though I have said in the past that I have no regrets, I guess I have been lying to myself. I do have some regrets. I regret not always going where I wanted to go. I regret not talking to all of the people I wanted to talk to. I regret not believing the ones who said they loved me. Moreover, I regret believing the ones who said they did, but didn’t really mean it. I regret not speaking up when something was on my mind. I regret often having a more dynamic inner monologue than my outer one. I regret ever saying that I probably couldn’t do something. But most of all, I regret not always trusting God with all of my concerns.
The movie I was watching was Last Holiday with Queen Latifah and LL Cool J. I love this movie and have probably watched it over a hundred times. It’s comforting to me. The message is good, “Don’t wait until your last days to live truly your life.” I’ve been feeling a lot lately that instead of “living like I was dying,” that I’ve been living as though I were already dead. The things I once enjoyed, I no longer do. I things I do, I no longer enjoy. Mostly. With the exception of raising my daughter and writing, there is little that brings me joy. Of course, my God makes me happy, but He and I have been at odds for a while and I’ve been trying to make sense of that. The last few years have been emotionally straining and somewhere in the midst of all of the chaos, the intensity of my relationship with Him began to seriously decline.
I was going to say more here about why my relationship with God seems to have declined, but this is not the right venue to go into great detail on the matter. Instead, I will say that the heart of the matter is that my expectations of others have caused me to be greatly disappointed. Even though I know that we simply cannot hold others up to a standard of perfection that none of us will ever achieve, it still hurts when someone you once loved and trusted goes out of their way to hurt you. One day, I’ll write a book on the subject, but for now, I’ll just say that the whole experience left me feeling a little salty and it has definitely had a negative impact on my overall sense of peace. Although much of what has happened has been over with for nearly a year now, I’m still feeling the residual effects of being branded with something just short of scarlet letter by our local good ole’ boy’s network. And every time I read about women being mistreated by powerful individuals in our society, it brings all of my anger back to the surface.
It is no big secret that women aren’t properly valued or respected. And for “those women” who act or have acted in such a way that labels them as unworthy or of little value by society’s standards (whatever those standards may be), I believe that they are or have at some point been the victims of abuse and/or neglect. There will always be a few people out there who have made their own hell and suffer the consequences of their behavior as a result. But moreover, I’ve seen women who were raised to believe that they were nothing and could never be anything. I have talked to women who placed so little value on themselves that they allowed others like those in the family court system to tell them that they were unfit to raise their own children all because a man accused them of being unfit. These women were so beaten down by the system that they had begun to believe this lie. I once knew a woman whose husband had cheated on her and then invited the mistress to their house with the daughter they had created as a result of their affair. He actually expected his wife to take care of the child for his mistress….WHAT!
The point is that there are many women out there who would sit back and take this without trying to fight back because they don’t value themselves. They may have been conditioned to feel this way by parents or by abusive husbands or boyfriends. They may have grown up feeling as though they could never speak up for themselves because even their church had been incorrectly teaching them to be “submissive” to the men in their lives. Anyone who has wisdom of the Scriptures understands that the “submissiveness” that is talked about in the Bible was never meant to be a permission slip for anyone to abuse or belittle women. It is more about understanding what men are supposed to be able to do in our relationships as protectors and providers and knowing what we are expected to do as the ones entrusted with child-rearing and nurturing and respecting everyone involved. These “incorrect” influences come from all over and the damage is far-reaching. My own testimony on how these attitudes have impacted my life goes so far back that I couldn’t begin to cover all of the details in a mere blog post, but then, maybe more than a blog post is needed to carry out the mission that God has placed on my heart. I have wasted too much of my life being quiet and I don’t plan to stay quiet any longer.
For all of the media buzz about our political candidates and their respective disrespect of women, I have this to say. If we truly believe that the problems we face as a society are the direct result of either Donald Trump’s or Hillary Clinton’s husband’s behavior; we are sorely mistaken. Their behavior is a direct result of what has been broken for years and years. Women have been undervalued, discounted and abused for centuries. Sometimes by men, sometimes by other women. But make no mistake, women have never truly been lifted up in a way that shows them their great value and worth. They may have been lifted up for their outer beauty; thus putting pressure on them to stay forever young and beautiful. They may have been lifted up for their physical fitness; thus putting pressure on them to stay thin and active even if ravaged by disease or injury. They may even have been lifted up for their sexuality; thus keeping the thought firmly in focus that the only way a woman can have value is if she is revving up some man’s engine. But they have never been lifted up as carriers of life, hope, and purpose. They have instead been slapped in the face by laws that seek to take away their rights and choices by shaming them into doing what puts money into the pockets of the already-wealthy or what makes a man feel big and powerful. And any woman who threatens a man’s success is seen as a bitch, whore, or a nut-case even if that man had no potential for success to begin with.
So, here I am. A 44 year-old woman with an advanced education and a decent job. I suffer from arthritis and fibromyalgia. I’m overweight because I don’t take enough time for myself to work out and eat right; also a result of being in pain from the arthritis and fibro. I’m not anyone’s first choice as far as being “sexy” or desirable…at least not that I know of or care to know. I am a mother, I’m a writer, I’m a rape survivor, I’ve lost five babies due to miscarriage. I’ve been a victim of unfair treatment at the hands of the local family court system. I was molested as a young child. I was abused by a few of the men I dated. I was not loved by the man I married. Yet, here I am. I refuse to let anyone’s labels define me. If you don’t know me or you do know me, but haven’t bothered to get to know me well, then you’re missing out on a great friend and ally. If you choose not to know me because I stick closely to my convictions about God and His plan for our lives, I still pray for your health, safety, and happiness. I do this because God made me to be an encourager and a nurturer and a supporter. He made me to love others and to love Him. But He did not make me to be a doormat. He also wants me to love myself enough to be able to do carry out those roles correctly. If I don’t first see my own worth and value, I cannot see the worth and value in anyone or anything else. I’d be too hung up on what I’m not or who I’m not to be able to give anyone an honest accounting of what I’ve learned over the years.
I have spent too much time being quiet. And I have way too much to tell you to allow that to continue. I’m wondering if there are things you would say if you weren’t so afraid to speak up. What would you do if you had no fear or concern that you weren’t worthy or valued? How would your life look if instead of waiting to be accepted, you went ahead and accepted yourself for who God made you to be? I pray that you will find your voice and begin to tell your story. Understand that talking to hear your head rattle is not what I mean. I mean that your story is meant to show you things about yourself and how you were made to relate to others. I mean that your story is unique to you and that how you grow and overcome the challenges that are set before you is meant to be fuel to someone else’s fire. We are meant to light one another up and help each other move past our brokenness. But we often selfishly hold onto it as though the broken pieces were the gift instead of the repaired soul.
Accept the healing. Tell your story. Share the experience and the love that has or will put you back together. No life is meaningless unless we refuse to accept our meaning. Never let anyone place a value on your life but God. No one else has any clue what He has put into you or what He plans to get out of you.
Start here. Tell me your story. I’ll be sharing a little bit more of mine with you in the posts that follow.
*Please Note-I am a woman, so naturally I’m going to speak from my experiences as a woman and sometimes that means saying that I haven’t been treated very fairly by men. Please do not take offense. I know that not all men are bad and I don’t intend for all men to be painted with a negative brush. Try to read with heart toward understanding where I’m coming from. I will not approve any hateful comments, though you are more than welcome to share your opinion. My goal here is to give courage to those who have none. Not to beat up on those who are in no way responsible for the way I feel about this particular topic. Thank you!