Raising Girls In A World Where They Are Less Than Human
I have two daughters.
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They are little spark plugs of utter joy and complete chaos. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They remind me to view the world through childlike wonder. They remind me that I am not what I do, but who I am. They teach me what selfless love actually looks like … every day … day after day … early morning after early morning … nasty crap diaper after nasty crap diaper. They make me realize how much I have to learn about parenting and our place in the world.
Most every night from the moment they were born, I have quietly held them in my arms or rested my hand on their backs while they sleep and prayed for them.
I pray for their continued breath. I pray for their development as little, unique human beings. I pray the Spirit of God to fill them and empower them. I pray the Lord’s Prayer over them. I pray for them to be protected from evil. I pray for them to love those who aren’t often loved. I pray for them to live confidently into who they have been created to be, free from the pressure of imposed reputation and expectation.
I pray for their past, present and future.
In learning to love these little girls, I began to ask more and more questions about the place of women in the world, in the church, and in everyday life. So many realities that I could have ignored in the past (not that I should have!) are now front and center as I think of my babies becoming little girls who become women in a diverse global village.
As in most things (parenting, theology, the church, hospitality, etc.), my wife, Janny, is about two years ahead me in asking these hard questions about the place of women in the world. Watching her study, teach, and advocate on issues pertaining to the flourishing of women, I have been convicted, challenged, and inspired.
Evaluating my own complicity and ignorance led me to realize that for a guy who advocates so strongly for the value of a global kingdom worldview, I am radically narrow in who I consider authorities in my life. In other words, most scholars, thinkers, and practitioners I have studied are white males. No offense to my white male friends (thankfully, I dodged that label with my Scandinavian heritage … I’m technically a “pale male”), but I needed to spend a lot more time learning from the life, teachings, and perspectives of women around the world. As a father of two girls, a husband, and global citizen seeking the shalom of God in and among all of humanity, I have no choice.
So, this year I have committed to intentionally learning from women (authors, teachers, neighbors, etc.) any chance I get. In fact, The Global Immersion Project Learning Lab I’ll be leading to Israel/Palestine this Fall will solely focus on the role of women peacemakers in the Holy Land.
As I began to crack the surface and open my eyes to the plight of women worldwide, I quickly discovered that many scholars, faith leaders, and advocates would consider the treatment of women as the leading injustice in the world. From rural villages in the majority world to urban centers of the West, when there is dysfunction, brokenness, and abuse, it most often falls on women.
The dysfunction, brokenness, and abuse isn’t reserved to far-off villages or traditions, it extends to our doorstep. From systemic poverty to sex trafficking to employment prejudice to disempowerment and shame within the church.
Paralleling my learnings, my little girls continue to grow, develop, and form their views of the world, God, and humanity each and every day. Our youngest, Rosie, recently turned one, and we invited our close friends, neighbors, and family to celebrate and bless her young life.
Our community surrounding us, I rested my hands on her sweet little head and prayed this blessing over her life:
Rosie you are so full of life, wonder and innocence. I bless you to live fully into the unique woman God has created you to be. I bless you to be one who is not only empowered, but one who empowers. I bless you with the gift of walking with a community that daily stumbles toward Jesus and participates with him in healing a broken world.
In a world where women are often demeaned, discredited, abused, oppressed, and treated as less that human, I bless you with the courage to be one who reassigns dignity to those who have lost it. I bless you to be a voice for the voiceless. I bless you to have an eye for injustice and move boldly toward it with the practices that make for peace.
Rosie, my sweet daughter, I pray that you will lead the way in teaching me, us and the whole world what it means to live into who you were created to be while giving yourself to the flourishing of others.
Here are a few resources that I have read/watched recently that have been especially impactful.
Jesus Feminist — Rather than offering cynical critique, Sarah Bessey simply invites us to full life in Jesus. The most hopeful, constructive and compelling book I’ve read in years.
Half the Church — Helpful theological reflection on the role of women in the church past and present. Further, a good introduction into the plight of women world wide and the opportunity for the church to be mobilized as an instrument of peace.
Half the Sky — This documentary offers first hand exposure to the global inequality of women. It is so jarring, it makes the film hard to watch. Which is why it’s so important we are exposed to it.