I could not believe what I was hearing! The women I was talking with were telling me 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, congressmen 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 corporeal punishment in order to help them mature. 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 International ICAP Conference in 2004. It was at that conference when I heard a woman pray out loud from across the room of three hundred people. In my heart I knew that I had to find that woman! There were people from forty different countries, how could I find her? With desperate searching I found her! She lived in Seattle (of all places!) and had a street ministry to the prostituted teenagers. I asked if I could join her in her work. It was a new beginning of seeing harm against our gender.
On the streets of Seattle I witnessed violence towards girls and women from their pimps and the “Johns.” Late night conversations with them opened my eyes and heart in new ways. Their varied stories wrecked me. 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, 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 predominate 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. 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 sixteen of twenty-one 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 and not just in marriage. (Carolyn Custis James, Lost Women of the Bible, pages 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, is 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 be shouted from the rooftops: Women rock the world.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 42 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living!