Shrinking Woman

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A friend shared a poem awhile ago. This was the poem, by a young woman named Lily.

After I listened to it, I just sat amazed. I didn’t grow up in a home as the one she describes. In fact, I was blessed with an openly, at times strongly opinionated mom who has been loved, mutually fierce, by my dad, and a grandfather that asked me to stop saying I was sorry at every little thing. I wasn’t bound in the sense that I was a female either openly or subtly, being God’s created being – equal to men, or asked to stay silent about truth.

I shared it on my Facebook wall, at the time I’d first listened to it, and it met with an extremely intense response. I am not sure why, but I was taken aback by the response, as the person who responded has never met the girl who wrote the poem, but then… the response made things so much more obvious to me that… a lot of the world does think that women should be silent about their lives, their emotions, the pain in their hearts that makes them want to rise up and liberate themselves and others… because it simply must be made up or skewed to view the world as she states… not that most would come right out and say that, of course, but that really is the message we hear from others and even ourselves.

Something about that poem moved me deeply, but it wasn’t in an obvious way at first. I just thought about it.

Then, just a week or so later, Daryl and I were watching an episode of Parenthood on Netflix. The things that had been processing through my heart and mind – the poem, being with a strong momma (not mine) who was seriously mistreated, family connections that have been bothering me, and several other (much) smaller things… all came to a crystal-clear focus with a micro-second comment in this one show. It was a “nothing” moment in the show. What I took from it was not the show’s intent – but it left me broken and hurting for every single woman I know.

I’ve looked for a video of it, but can’t find it – so you’re going to have to imagine the scene with me.

Kristina, one of the moms on the show, has had her first round of chemo. She thinks she’s going to be superwoman – that it won’t effect her body as it has everyone else – and plans to live life as normally as before, even offering to watch a wheel-chair bound kiddo, a friend of her son with Aspergers, for the weekend. Her husband asks her to take it easy, but she resists.

After her son’s friend had been there for a little while, you can start to see her body shifting gears. She looks sickly and exhausted. She makes a go towards her bedroom upstairs, but halfway up the stairwell, she retches. Her husband is right by her side, doing his best to care for her. In the midst of puking, she shifts her body ever so slightly towards her husband and eeks out an, “I’m so sorry,” while he tells her it’s okay, rubs her, etc.

I paused the show almost immediately and turned to Daryl, horrified. “I have a question for you,” I said.

“What is it?” he replied.

“You would never apologize if you vomited, would you?”

“No, that’s kind of weird. I can’t control it or anything,” he responded with kind of a perplexed look, like it may have been an insane question.

“Yeah, but did you just notice that? That’s what Kristina just did. She apologized for her body being assaulted by chemo. Like she needs to ask forgiveness for taking up someone’s time or space… or something.”

“Huh. Yeah, that’s kind of messed up.”

“But babe… you know what? Every single woman I can think of right now… we’d all apologize, if in that exact same situation.”

It’s been a little bit since we saw that, but it’s still been churning in my mind. What is it in women – even strong, bold women… that make them shrink back and feel the need to apologize for… being sick? Or being a big part of someone’s day – as though taking up a loved one’s time or energy is somehow always (or ever) a bad thing?

When I read Scripture, I see God protecting and valuing women – I see men and even women in Scripture, debasing women. The stories of women being debased, devalued, degraded… I haven’t seen God’s commands advocating these things, but people doing it against His will. Twisting His Words and violating the very people He says to protect, cherish, and honor as more delicate… and frankly, while I know a LOT of strong women… I don’t ignore the Scripture that says we are the weaker vessels. That scene, and realizing almost every woman I know would apologize… it made me realize that there are many ways our hearts truly are more fragile. I don’t think that degrades me as a person to say my heart is more tender than the average man, but that it means I should be honest about it and work with it – not against it.

Even now, I see this in Melody. It is not something I cultivated in her, not intentionally, just as my mother did not with me. I see her feeling like she should be less, not more.

Sometimes, I know this is a ramification of her sexual abuse… but the reality is, the abuse intensified the feelings that most women have naturally, of needing to be silent, apologizing for… being. Of shrinking back from truth, boldness, a voice.

And now, I am processing through how I can be the kind of woman that honors God with a “gentle and quiet spirit,” yet still let my heart roar out loud at the violation I see towards women and girls, all around me.

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