I think it’s important to pay attention to what makes you angry. In my experience, our calling is hiding somewhere in what makes us angry.
As Christian women, we sometimes feel afraid of our anger. We’ve been told for so long that nice girls don’t get angry until we swallow our passion whole. (I’m not talking about sinful and self-indulgent anger here, not at all. I think most of us know the difference, even if we will only admit it to the darkest corners of our most honest hearts.)
No, I’m talking about the real soul-centred anger, the one that rises up at injustice, at any violation against the humanity that our God loves and values. I’m talking about the way your heart races when you hear about sex trafficking at the Superbowl, when you hear about gang rape in India, or you see high fashion’s sexualization of violence against women. Maybe it was the moment you learned that impoverished young women in Kenya were enduring back-alley abortions because they didn’t have support to carry their baby to term. Maybe it was for the young woman in your church who is starving herself to meet an unattainable standard of thinness because she was bullied and abused. I’m talking about the small injustices and the big ones, the ones that make your anger rise up, and your pulse quicken, that makes you say, “this isn’t right!”
When we are people who walk with Jesus, when our lives are oriented around the Kingdom of God, I believe that the Holy Spirit often moves in that space of righteous anger, using that emotion to wake us up from the sleeping numbness of our culture, shocking us out of our nice little lives centered on avoiding conflict or inconvenience.
And instead of distracting ourselves, instead of satiating that anger with numbing techniques like more reality television or food or a crammed schedule, what if we actually saw our anger as an invitation from the Holy Spirit to do something about it? to pray? to advocate? to learn? to become educated? to support? to push back the powers of darkness?
Anger is only the starting point, of course, the invitation: Christ sustains the passion and directs it into life-giving transformation. For me, when I began to pay attention to my anger, I found a great passion for women being born in me. I cared about our voices and experiences, I cared about our global story, I cared about the lies we believe about ourselves and each other, about our friendships, our sense of sisterhood. I began to see that almost all of the seminal social issues of our time – poverty, clean water, economic injustice, orphan crisis, education – tracked their way back to our theology of women and even what we believed about the nature and character of God. It changed my life, inside out.
Yet I’m not bitter or hopeless or despairing. No, I’ve got a lot of joy and hope, particularly about the story of women in the world right now. But the starting point for me was allowing myself to be angry, allowing myself to feel the discomfort of injustice, and wonder if God had something there for me. When I wrote my little yellow book, “Jesus Feminist” it wasn’t a book for Christian feminist theory, no, it was a book about us. It was a book for and about the regular women, an invitation to the Kingdom of God waiting on the other side of our missing-the-point debates, a celebration of the voices, experiences, leadership, and sisterhood of women in the Church worldwide. It was a common thread to almost every conversation I had with women who were pushing back the darkness in the world: they often told me that it started with anger, it started with a great passion, it started with noticing something was not right and deciding to actually do something about it, and then they rolled up their sleeves.
But don’t be fooled: it’s a scary thing, a life-changing, paradigm-shifting thing, to honestly look our anger in the face, hold it up to the light of the Word and the Holy Spirit and our community and say, “I need to keep caring about this. I need to stay with this. I need to do something about this.”
Pay attention to what makes you angry. You just might find your calling hiding in there.
Sarah Bessey is the author of Jesus Feminist, a disarming and beautiful invitation to the Kingdom of God waiting on the other side of the Church’s gender debates. She is an award-winning blogger, an editor at A Deeper Story, a contributor for SheLoves Magazine, and a passionate advocate for global women’s justice issues. One of those happy-clappy Jesus-followers, Sarah is a joyful subversive, a recovering know-it-all, a bookworm, and a Whovian. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their three tinies.
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