It’s only three chapters. Three chapters shouldn’t make me fall in love with a story. There haven’t even been any arguments about pro or con feminism. But what I am reading reminds me. It reminds me of my own history, of my days as a charismatic kid, of the women that spoke into my life and my faith in ways that I am ever changed for. It reminds me of my roots, my heritage, my foundations. Three chapters in and Jesus Feminist has taken me by the hand, and led me back to my Eunice and my Lois.
Eunice and Lois are Timothy’s grandma and mother respectively. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he urged him to remember the spiritual gifts that were confirmed in Timothy by the laying on of hands and (first and foremost) by the sincere faith that first dwelt in Eunice, then in Lois, and now in Timothy. Timothy was part of a legacy of faith, handed down from mother, to daughter, and now to him (2 Tim 1.5-7). This legacy, this heritage, this historic faith was birthed in him by women. In this, I have always connected with Timothy.
Sarah Bessey reminded me of this connection.
I remember the rattan chairs: two of them on either side of the rattan couch. The table in the center of the room completed the set. On the right side of that table, facing all that rattan furniture was a floral patterned couch. As weird as it sounds, it all went together. Or maybe I was just used to seeing it in this down stairs living room. Down here is where I would watch TV, play with my GI Joes and Legos, and where I would see my grandma hosting bible studies. I remember bringing drinks down for the women, hearing their laughter, feeling the pressure of the room as they prayed with believing hearts that overflowed faith. I remember the mess of bibles in laps and on that rattan table, split open , colored with highlighters and marked with pen. I remember the notebooks nearby, filled with takeaways, quotes, insights, and visions. I remember the circle of women that I knew was a circle of spiritual might. This is what happened in that down stairs living room with the rattan furniture set.
I remember growing up, planted by streams of living water. I may have been the valley of the desert of Utah, but there was thick moisture watering my heart. I remember Jean with her halo of red hair. She and my grandma would sit around the dining room table praying and talking. I remember Dee, who had a coffee addiction. She lived in Salt Lake, and my grandma was always so happy when she came up to visit. I remember Vicki and her smile that warms my heart even now. A beautiful woman of color who knew how to co-pastor, how to hug, and how to speak with spiritual authority. My Grandma had a special relationship with Vicki. Their road trip adventures always made me laugh. I remember Mary and Paul, husband and wife that would come for coffee and talk to grandma about deep, right things. The three of them cared for our church in ways that only elders could.
These women were streams of living water in the desert, and my Grandma was the delta. All rivers flowed into her, and she connected these women. Whether it was talking about the meetings of Aglow women’s fellowship, morning the diagnosis of cancer, laughing over a memory, or praying like an apostle, in my world my grandma was at the center of this circle of women. She was the glue, the advisor, the teacher, the hostess, the friend. She may have been submissive to my Papa in some unhealthy ways, but grandma was a spiritual leader. She had sincere faith that I believe could have uprooted the very Wasatch Mountain range.
Through grandma, I learned about the Spirit and how this god of ours is wild and full of love. Grandma used to take me to her prayer meetings with the Aglow fellowship. There I was slain in the spirit, I prophesied, I spoke in tongues, and I had visions of the trinity that still rock my world. Through grandma, I learned of a faith that was supernatural, non-cynical, yet so tied with theology you wouldn’t dare call it emotionalism. I learned to study scripture, to talk to Jesus, to hear the Spirit, and to know God.
Through my grandma I first believed the gospel as the power for salvation. Not some cheap “go to heaven when I die” message; the gospel I believed was one of God working in his people to see people healed, set free, empowered, and loved. It’s the gospel I believe today.
I never really thought about why my grandma wasn’t a pastor. To me she was. She was my first pastor, my first shepherd. My grandma is the mother of my faith. She is why I believe that women are gifted and equipped by God in ways that are mighty, powerful, and in no way second class to men. My grandma is why I believe women should be pastors. My grandma and the gospel she lived into my life are why I am a feminist.
The History I Don’t Know
Sarah Bessey also recalled for me the part of my story that I can’t remember, yet still living in the shadow of.
My mother died when I was two; I never really got the chance to know her, her life, or her faith. All I have are the stories and photos that have been given to me over the past 31 years. From those stories, I have pieced together that my mom was a straight up feminist. When she found out she was pregnant with me, she didn’t want to tell my dad. They weren’t married at the time, and she didn’t want him to feel obligated to marry her; she didn’t need him to marry her. She was making plans to move away and start life as a single mom. My dad had to convince her that he wanted to marry her, not because of me but still he was so glad I was on the way. That is the kind of feminist my mom was. She was a woman of faith and conviction, of strength and beauty. She was a flower child, hippy feminist who loved Jesus. I may not remember her, but I live out her legacy in so many ways.
In a very real way, I am a Jesus Feminist because of her influence, her impact on my dad, her impact on me through second-hand stories, and her entrusting of my care to my grandma. She wanted me to be cared for if something happened to her, and she gave that care to my dad, my papa, and my grandma. My grandma did an amazing job of raising me without taking the place of my mom. Grandma left room for my mom’s identity to fulfill its place in my own history. One day, on the other side of the grave, mom and I will sit and talk about feminism and faith.
Sarah Bessey wrote Jesus Feminist, but in so many ways I embrace it as my own. It explains what I mean when I say that the gospel made me a feminist. The history I have inherited from my grandma and my mom is a wild, hungry faith story. I was birthed from strong women with stronger, gentle, living faith. The communities they were a part of are my own: young churches stumbling forward in grace and women’s fellowships filled powerfully with the Spirit.
I’m three chapters in, and Jesus Feminist made me remember my story.
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I received an advanced edition of Jesus Feminist for the purpose of review. There was no agreement for a favorable review or interaction. My thoughts are my own; there’s no check in the mail. That’s not how I roll.