Not So Pinterest Perfect

Originally published on the Emerging Voices blog, 3/11/2015. 

I am a mess.

I’ll take “This is not news” for 500, Alex.

But for real, though, my life is absolute chaos.

I run between being a full-time seminary student, a part-time web designer, a writer, a wife, a mom-to-be, and what feels like eight million other things during every moment of my life. And I have a feeling this isn’t exceptional–most of you probably feel the same way.

And yet, for some inconceivable notion, I have a Pinterest account.

Why? WHY?!? Why do SO MANY of us think this is a good idea? Raise your hand if you have a Pinterest account, but you haven’t touched it in months because instead of being all crafty and creative like you thought you’d be, you’re just left feeling like you do absolutely nothing with your time.

*Raises hand*

I even have a theology board on Pinterest. I intended to fill it with meaningful quotes from brilliant theologians and find a way to bridge the gap between my highly abstract theological mind games and my much more concrete compulsive social media habit. Instead, this board contains a handful of halfheartedly pinned Rumi quotes pasted over perfectly toned white women doing yoga and some stupid theology jokes.

Not exactly the intended result.

It’s strangely fitting, though. My theology isn’t pretty. It’s not even logical, most of the time. I’m making it up as I go, trying to work out a new hermeneutic every time I’m confronted with a new spiritual reality. Any paper I write that’s more than eight or so pages probably doesn’t have a consistent theological arc from beginning to end. I am the paragon of inconsistency.

In spite of this, my messy theology seems to work. It doesn’t fit any tradition’s doctrinal statements, and it’s almost certainly heretical. As I haven’t been hit by lightning yet, I have to assume that the Divine has seen worse.

As Womanist theologian par excellence (who I have the incredible benefit of having as a professor), Alika Galloway, says, “It doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to work.”

And that much, it at least appears to do.

Maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world if we don’t know what we believe. If it draws us closer to the Divine, to ourselves, and to the rest of Creation, if it causes us to keep asking difficult questions, if it causes for love to grow, then perhaps it’s good enough.

Portrait of a Real-Life Feminist.

For some reason, I’ve been meeting a lot of new people lately (cue panic). As I’ve been meeting what feels like the entire world population, I’ve had to answer the following series of questions several times.

 

So, you’re a student? What are you studying?

Feminist theology? Really? At a seminary? I didn’t even know that existed!

You’re a feminist then? Oh. You don’t look like a feminist.

*facepalm*

 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, though. I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that, despite my strong commitment to and activism for women’s rights, people are so surprised that I, of all people, am so persuaded.

And then I had a “well, duh” moment.

People are so surprised because feminists, like any other socio-political group, are better known as a caricature than as real people.

A cursory Google images or iStockPhoto search will return a shocking amount of photos of female dominance over men, overly hairy (we’re talking wookie status) women lighting bras on fire, and other similar, unrealistic photos.

And, while many of the people in my life are committed feminists, I had to wonder if this is what those who do not identify this way imagine when they think of us.

So I decided to prove them wrong.

 

This is a portrait of a real-life feminist, namely, me.

I am a feminist, and I am married. To a man. I even took his name.

I am a feminist, and I enjoy quilting.

I am a feminist, and I wear skirts. And dresses. And makeup.

I am a feminist, and I have a Pinterest account.

I am a feminist, and I struggle with accepting my body.

I am a feminist, and I shave.

I am a feminist, and I wear bras.

I am a feminist, and I feel safer when I’m with my husband.

I am a feminist, and I want kids.

I am a feminist, and I earn less than my husband.

I am a feminist, and I think men are pretty great. Usually.

I am a feminist, and I am religious.

I am a feminist, and I am in seminary.

I am a feminist, and I love it when my husband brings me flowers.

I am a feminist, and I have a hard time being confident.

I am a feminist, and I have far more male friends than female friends.

I am a feminist, and I was given away at my wedding.

I am a feminist, and I really, really love being female.

I am a feminist, and I am not a caricature.

 

I am a feminist, and I believe that, whoever you are, you deserve the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else.

This kid.

Four years.

 

Holy shit, you guys, I’ve been with this kid for four years.

I stole his last name three years ago.

 

THIS KID:

#StillCrazyAfterAllTheseYears

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The kid who makes my food. And only usually sometimes complains about it.

Having a personal chef is nice. But sometimes they disagree.

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The kid who falls asleep on me more frequently than most sloths.

Few things are as precious as adorable husband sleeping on my lap. #Sleepytime #MarriedLife #HeLooksBigButHesStillLittle

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The kid who goes with me to the doctor and then carts (literally) my sorry, high ass around Target.

Post-op Target run.

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The kid who may be AN ACTUAL GODDAMNED MODEL.

I married a supermodel.

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The kid who apparently (?) likes to make meals out of my ear and/or hair.

A couple of goofballs decided to go outside.

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This kid, you guys. He’s the biggest dork around. And I love him to pieces.

My husband is adorable. He disagrees.

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Happy anniversary, goofball. I love you. Don’t ever stop being your ridiculous self.

Three years. THREE. YEARS. How is this possible? I feel like we've only just begun.

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Choosing to be Mrs. Anderson

When my husband and I got married (two years ago, now), I took his last name.

I’ve taken a lot of flak for this decision, mostly from fellow feminists. Because taking your husband’s name is a relic of patriarchy (agreed), and because it denotes his ownership of me (disagreed), and because it claims that my life up to that point is worth disregarding (disagreed), I ought not to have done it.

But here’s the thing: I did not take his name because I had to.

I did it because I wanted to.

I chose to be Mrs. Anderson for a lot of reasons. First, my maiden name was an eastern European jumble of consonants that made no sense at all and no one (myself included) could ever seem to pronounce it right. Combined with my seemingly unpronouncable first name…let’s just say introducing myself to anyone was a nightmare. In college (and currently), I would frequently just go by my first initial, which is a lot easier, but it didn’t solve the problem. Anderson is a much easier name (especially in Minnesota), so I decided to change to that.

Second, and more importantly, when we got married I was going through the process of leaving a family in which nothing good could come of my continued presence, on either side. Significant damage had been done and it was time to move on. This change of my name was a marker for me, that I was moving on to something new, that I now had the chance to redefine family and create one that was going to function like a family should. Not normal, not sane, but loving, real, and other-oriented.

I am still a feminist, and I was then too. Having the same last name as my husband does not prevent me from this belief and practice. I am not his property, I am his companion, his co-leader, his faithful supporter, and his best friend.

If you meet a woman who bears the last name of the man she loves, think, just for a second, before you judge her, that she might have a better reason than cultural expectation for doing so. Ask for the story first.

On Misconceptions.

Hello, dear friends.

I’m in the midst of summer intensives. Which means my brain, body, and all my free time are consumed by compacted classes that are, well…intense. So this isn’t a real post. And I’m also sorry I’ve been gone for, oh, a month now? Sheesh.

But anyway. I’ve decided to address some of the common misconceptions or misunderstandings about certain aspects of my theology, or my life in general. I get asked these questions a lot, and it would be a lot easier to just point people to a post than to have to explain them over and over again.

So, when I say that I am a pluralist, what I mean is that I think no one religion has a monopoly on truth. Furthermore, I also mean that I don’t think religion or faith in a supreme being is necessary for “salvation.” (I don’t like this word, but it’s the best one for this explanation). I still do my faith and spirituality in a generally Christ-oriented environment–I go to a Lutheran seminary, I go to church, I have a degree in Bible and Theology, et cetera.

When I say that I don’t identify as Christian, what I mean is that I don’t ascribe to the “branded” or, if you want to use fancy words, systematized Christianity that currently exists. Additionally, Christianity has some core dogmas that I disagree with, and thus I do not align with that title or group in order to promote harmony. I’ve found people are less offended by what I say when they know I am not trying to say it as a member of their religious tribe.

I am not “lucky” because I got married at 18. My husband and I chose to get married young because we love each other and we saw no point in putting it off until we were older. It may not have been the wisest decision, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. But, and please, please hear me, being married does not make your life better or easier, and it is not some box to check off on your list of life accomplishments. Our two years of marriage together have been really, really hard, but it’s been far more than worth it. We’ve both grown so much, both individually and together. So, when you find out that I’m 20 and have been married for two years, don’t say I’m “lucky” or I’m “ahead of the game.” I made a choice, which I am thankful for every day, but it didn’t flip some magical switch that suddenly fixed all my problems.

When I tell you I have Asperger’s (or what is now known as high-functioning Autism), don’t tell me that I seem so “normal.” I’ve had 20 years to learn how to cope, and a lot of what I do is not instinctual, but is learned behavior. For instance, I apologize when I say something that someone might find offensive (theologically speaking), because I’ve learned that grace and humility build harmony. Or, I look people in the eye when I speak with them because I’ve learned that conveys respect and attention. I’ve learned how my husband acts when he’s mad, or moody, or antsy, or amorous, not because I can sense it, but because I’ve studied him intensely. If I commit a social faux pas, please know that I’m not a massive jerk–I simply haven’t yet learned what to do in this particular situation. Calmly explain what offended or upset you, and I will make amends and learn from that event.

When I say that I believe in works righteousness, I am not saying that I think I can buy or work my way into Heaven, or that I am capable of saving myself. What I am saying is that I don’t believe faith has anything to do with salvation. Living a life in pursuit of letting love abound and continually choosing selflessness over selfishness with care and respect for all of creation is what “saves” a person, not whether or not they happen to believe in the “right” God. Do I succeed at this? HELL. NO. But if God is real, and God is love, and God knows our character, then God will know what I tried (and failed) to do with my life, and count that as righteousness.

When I say that I am a socialist, I do not mean that I want the government to control everyone’s paycheck and that we all should get the same amount of money regardless of how much we work. What I do mean is that I think wealth needs to be spread more equally, so that all people have the ability to meet their basic needs and work towards living a full life. This means that higher education and healthcare would be socialized, banks would be more heavily regulated, and individuals would have a right to housing. Also, and I’m sad I even have to say this, being a socialist does not make you a communist. They are two very different things.

When I say I am a feminist, I do not mean that I hate men, or that I want to reverse history and establish matriarchy. What I do mean is that I believe in equality for the sexes, which requires (at this time) measures directed towards women to bring them up to the socioeconomic level of men.

When I say that I am nonviolent, I don’t mean that I hate soldiers. Also, I would like to point out, pacifism is a specific set of beliefs, nonviolence is a practice. I eat meat, I yell at people, I know how to fight. What nonviolence actually means is that I do not believe in the use of violent force against another human being. So, to make this practical, I don’t support the military, but I am comfortable with the National Guard.

I hope this clears some things up. If there are terms you’d like me to clarify, let me know.

Hope for my Little Ones.

Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives is voting on the Freedom to Marry bill. As I think about this, and how it affects me and my future, I felt compelled to write this letter to my future children about this historic day and marriage equality in general. Enjoy.

Dear Little Ones,

Today, the MN House of Representatives votes on the Freedom to Marry bill, which would make Minnesota the 12th state to make marriage equality a constitutional reality. I do not know yet what the outcome will be. I hope to God that by the time you read this, all couples can legally be married, regardless of their sex.

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing to you about this. There are a lot of reasons why marriage equality matters. I hope your Dad and I have educated you well on this. I hope we have taught you to see the beauty in every person. I hope we have shown you that love, and not sexual orientation, is what makes a family. I hope we have told you about our heroes in this fight, men and women, queer and straight, who faced discrimination and hatred simply for believing that all people deserve the right to marry.

Most of all, though, I am writing this to you because I want you to know that, no matter who you are or who you love, your Dad and I support you. If you choose to commit your life to someone, it is of no concern to me whether they are a man or a woman, or neither. All I care is that they are worthy. I care that they are honorable and kind, that they support you, that they see just how beautiful you are. I care that they love you as much as we do. If you find somebody like that, it doesn’t matter to me what their sex, race, age, or anything else is. I will support you and love them as my own. I promise.

Love, Momma

Fatal Distraction.

This past week, this post has been circulating around the more evangelical corners of the interwebs.

While I understand the desire to focus on holy week (trust me, liturgical seasons are big in the Anderson household), I think it’s complete BS. For those of you who didn’t read the post, it essentially says that the “paint the internet red” campaign by HRC is Satan’s way of distracting us from holy week.

Seriously? That is some of the most transparent BS I’ve seen ever since the “women’s bodies can stop unwanted pregnancy from happening” thing occurred a few months ago. I shouldn’t need to write a post on this. But yet, here I am.

Try to stop me from talking. I dare you. DENIKA NEVER STOPS TALKING.

This whole thing seems like a not-so-clever ploy for conservative Christians to not have to deal with the world that is changing around them. A massive social movement of solidarity with the GLBT community has swept the internet; marriage equality is a-comin’, and they don’t know how to deal with it. So, they either fight back (enter Pat Robertson & co.), or they try to write it off as a “distraction,” and so they don’t have to deal with it–in fact, it would be better if they ignored it completely so as to not give in to Satan’s temptations.

But let’s back up a bit. 2000 years or so. There was a man wandering around Galilee with a ragtag group of the not-so-elites, the working class, the terminally ill, the unclean, the outcasts, the sinners, the unloved. He talked about some crazy ideas like unconditional love and self-sacrifice and radical inclusiveness. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable.

But the people in charge didn’t like this. They had a system that had been working for hundreds of years. They didn’t want to change, because they liked the way things were.

But they let him play around for a while. At first, he was just another crazy person in a sea of misfits. Soon, though, he started to have too much influence. A movement was rising like a tidal wave, imminently bound to crash over their perfect little world. He was too strong.

So they killed him.

But this man, the man who was love embodied, wasn’t going to let that be the end of the story. Death only held him back for a weekend–I’ve had colds that have kept me out of commission for longer. He rose again, stating once and for all that love is stronger than anything else, even death.

That, dear friends, is what we celebrate today. That is what holy week is about.

And I dare say, if Jesus were on earth today, his facebook profile picture would have looked a little something like this last week:

601058_10151539078268281_1863021593_n

This campaign was not a distraction from holy week. Actually, I think it was one of the most well-timed social campaigns I’ve ever seen.

In the week when we remember his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus would not want us to ignore what is happening in the world around us. Not once did he put on blinders to the social situations surrounding him; neither should we. I believe this has been a call for us as people who follow Christ to rethink our systems, to see where we have tried to impose an archaic and oppressive set of social standards on a world that no longer fits within them, and to be advocates for those who are still fighting for rights that most of us take for granted.

Jesus didn’t die for your sins. Jesus lived to show us how to be beacons for God’s love on this planet. That’s what holy week is about.

So today, as we celebrate the blessed life of Jesus, the one who was love embodied, let us take a good look around us and see where we perpetuate injustice. Let us stand for the people Jesus stood for. Let us pour ourselves out so that others might be filled.

For Christ’s sake, let us be love.

Domesticated Feminist

We’re entering into a whole new phase of life, my husband and I.

I just graduated a week and a half ago. We moved five days ago. He started a new, much higher paying job yesterday. And I turn in my last timesheet for my old job (which ends with school) today.

His income is now more than enough to support us. And since I’m exhausted from school and don’t have a job lined up, I’m taking some time off.

I thought this time would be super relaxing. I was looking forward to catching up with friends I had neglected throughout the school year. I was excited to build a couple pieces of furniture and revamp some pieces we already have. I couldn’t wait to get all our stuff unpacked and try to make our new place feel even half as much like home as our old place.

I thought that I would enjoy a little time off.

But honestly? It’s really hard.

Because I feel like I’m not living up to my own standards. I have fought and continue to fight really hard for gender equality. I get excited with women who can’t wait to do something amazing in their careers. I love it when women aren’t afraid to be bold, aren’t afraid to take charge, and aren’t afraid that, if they make more money than their husbands, they’ll be doing something wrong.

I know it’s not for everyone, and that’s cool. But I still get excited when I encounter such women. And I want to be one of them. I want to do something radical in my career.

Yet, where do I find myself? Sitting at home, cleaning, without so much as a bike to get myself around (our bikes are still in a few different pieces, in our car, which my husband takes to work). I’m in a new city and I only know how to find Target and a coffeeshop (priorities), so even if I had a mode of transportation, I don’t know where I would go. I have nowhere to be anyway, so even if I had a mode of transportation and an idea of where things are, I don’t know why I would bother going to them.

Yesterday, I didn’t leave our apartment until 6:30 p.m.

I am, currently, the definition of what it means to be domestic.

And as a feminist, I’m having a really hard time being okay with that.

Now, I know this is temporary. I’ll find a job in a few weeks when I’ve had time to rejuvenate from the last 16 or so years of perpetual schooling. And eventually I’ll remember to drag my bike out of our car and find some places to go so I can at least travel a little during the day. I’ll make plans and do things and get involved in some sort of mischief, I’m sure.

But, right now, in this moment, I am doing exactly what I swore I would never do.

Now, I’m hesitant to think that God ordained this, because it seems like a minor detail in the grand fabric of existence and it’s easily explainable. But I have no doubt that God is using this time. If you’ve met me, you know that my ego rivals Jeff Winger’s. I am not a humble person. I’m not saying that’s okay, but it is the truth.

Yet I’m currently taking one of the greatest blows to my ego of all time.

God is constantly reminding me that, yes, egalitarianism is a biblical picture of marriage-love, that there’s a reason I want to do something with my life (and my career) and it’s a good thing, that I cannot stop fighting for the equal rights of my sisters, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a 60-hour-per-week breadwinner career woman.

Feminists can fight from the home, too.

And God reminds me of all my sisters who have fought and still fight for the same things, but are most content in the home, whether raising a garden or raising babies, cultivating life in its functional locus.

It’s really hard for me to accept. But, little by little, I’m learning that it takes all types–yes, even domestics–to fight for equality. If I don’t acknowledge their work, I pass judgment on them and I render their efforts useless.

So I thank you, stay-at-homes, work-at-homes, or for-some-other-reason-at-homes, because your work is important too. Don’t forget that it’s your choice, not your role, to be there, but keep fighting the good fight alongside your sisters who find their place elsewhere.

Because whether male or female, domestic or employed, we’re all one in Christ Jesus.

Secrets.

I have a secret.

Someday, I want to be a theologian.

Yes, I want to spend my life working for justice and love and other good things. No, I’m not going to grad school (much to the dismay of my professors). Yes, I would be much more content running a bakery in Palestine than being a professor in the States.

But I still want to be a theologian.

And I don’t really know why. It makes no sense to me. But that’s what I’m going to school for, even though I had planned, up until what I sort of call my freshman year of college, to be a pharmacologist. Theology makes me feel alive in ways that other areas of study do not.

I have another secret, though. One that makes this dream, and everything else about life, much more difficult.

I have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Most people who know me have no clue that I do. I didn’t, until I was in high school and wasn’t developing emotionally in the way that I was apparently supposed to (because every teenage girl needs to be on an emotional rollercoaster, right?) and, after a series of diagnostic tests and awkward conversations with psychiatrists, it became clear that I had AS. Because I had already reached my teens by the time I was diagnosed, I had already learned to cope with it. I thought I was just a weird kid who was socially awkward, and I needed to fix that if I ever wanted to be “successful” in life.

The few people I told after I found out asked me if I was okay, did I need a hug (no, please get off me, you’re too close), did I want to talk about it. They talked to me as if I had just been diagnosed with a disease.

But I was feeling like everything finally made sense.

I wasn’t weird, or crazy, or abnormal. I just have a brain that works differently than other people’s brains.

It seemed natural, then, that I would go into a field like pharmacology. It was science (so it depended on reason and fact, things I could easily grasp), and it would allow me to isolate myself in a lab with perhaps two or three other people who I would only have to interact with on a professional level (read: I didn’t have to be friends with them if I didn’t want to.)

But, despite my efforts to the contrary, I feel called to the field of theology.

It’s strange, being a theology major and having AS. People use the phrase “I feel…” or “I believe…” as a precursor to nearly every statement. The word “fact” is our F-word (incidentally, the F-bomb gets dropped by my professors on a regular basis). Often, I don’t understand concepts that come naturally to other people (like how God could be loving and wrathful simultaneously). Much emphasis is placed on the spiritual nature of this realm, which is completely foreign to me (I tried the whole charismatic thing. I was freaked out the whole time and I felt like people were always trying to get inside my head. Take prayer, for example. For me, it is a conversation with a being who I simply am unable to see, not an esoteric, other-worldly experience). I usually feel incapable because my emotional reasoning is almost non-existent.

This is true, too, in marriage. My husband is an INFJ, so he processes emotionally and is very feeling-oriented. I am an ISTJ–I process by reason and logic and I am very fact-oriented. It’s a constant learning experience.

I am faced with two realities: 1. I have AS, and 2. I want to be a theologian. It is always a battle to reconcile the two. Especially when most theological issues demand some ability to understand non-logical reasoning.

Here I am, at the end of my post, and I have no idea why I’m telling you this. Perhaps it’s because I need to share my weaknesses. Perhaps because I want to show you my location so that you can understand my theology better. Perhaps I just want more traffic and more posts will get me that. I don’t know.

I think, though, that I’m sharing this because I know that we bond best when we are honest with one another. I’m tired of keeping these secrets. This is a part of who I am, and denying that doesn’t bring about anything good.

I’m a work in progress.

Stronger than your Strength.

I’ve debated telling this story for months now. I had decided not to until Sarah Moon’s post here prompted me to do so in the name of feminism (and you all had better know by now that I can’t resist that).

It’s a hard one. One that, of all the people in my kome, only one other person knows, and that’s because I married him. And he doesn’t even know the whole story because I can never tell the whole thing at once. Even here, it will not be complete, or even close to it.

This story is my story.

I haven’t always followed Jesus. That was a recent development, somewhere in late 2008-early 2009. I grew up in the shadow of the church, though, perhaps because my middle and high school shared a parking lot with a Lutheran megachurch. My mother and I went there occasionally throughout my youth, and I went through confirmation there, though it meant very little to me at the time. I sang in the senior high choir at this church as well, but my doing so wasn’t out of desire to praise Jesus or even to make beautiful music for him, but because I loved to sing and didn’t have time to be involved in my school’s choir.

All of that changed during my junior year of high school. But before we get into that, a much more painful story needs to be told.

Remember how I said that my mother and I would attend church? Notice that my father is nowhere in that statement? This is not because my parents are divorced or even that my father is dead, but simply because he had no desire to be a part of a church, or even a part of my or my mother’s lives.

I say this as one convicted of how wrong it is of me to judge him: my father is an awful man. This may not really be true, I don’t know, but every experience I had while forced to live in close proximity to him makes it seem pretty accurate.

In his (not our, his) household, he was the king, and my mother and I were his servants. Everything had to be done his way, and he was never wrong nor could he ever be wrong. His authority was not questioned, and should anyone attempt to do so, they would hear it (as I would quickly learn in high school). If we did something wrong, he would yell at us, degrade us, tell us we were worthless and that we couldn’t survive without him. This started with my mother before I could remember, and with me when I was six years old, if not earlier (I can’t fully remember).

My mother, born in the late 50’s and an ardent feminist in high school and after, did not know what to do. She ended up in a constant state of chaos, smiling one minute and crying the next, and furious the minute after that. She became very controlling over me, as I was the only person over whom she could have any authority. She would often chastise me for not meeting my father’s expectations, blaming me for his rampages, and then come into my bedroom late at night, weeping, saying she wasn’t sure if she loved my father anymore and that she wanted out.

For this reason, I had a suitcase packed in my closet from the time I was twelve or so until I went away to college. I was always ready to get out of that hellhole. But where would we go? My father was right in one thing, we couldn’t really survive without him. My mother worked full time, but her highest level of education was an Associate’s degree, and thus she didn’t make nearly as much money as my father did (especially after the company for which she worked 25 years shut down, leaving her in a very difficult place for finding a new job). She paid the bills with her income, leaving her with not a whole lot to spare. We would have had nowhere to stay if we had left, since her family lived far away, as does my father’s, not that they would have taken her side. We both wanted to leave, but we had nowhere to go. We were stuck.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit rebellious. I’m also very hotheaded. In high school, I decided not to be like my mother, that I would be strong, and I started standing up to my father, though not always in the best manner or in the most profitable situations. This went swimmingly, as you can assume, and I made things a hell of a lot worse. I ended up running away to friends’ houses for the night on occasion, simply because I thought that if I stayed in that house, I would not see the next morning.

I finally reached a point where I would do anything to not go back to that house. I stayed out as long as I could. Remember the bit earlier about my school sharing a parking lot with a church?

That church became my new home.

One of the youth pastors there who I knew well invited me to come to their youth group. This happened near the beginning of my pivotal junior year. It was a few hours after school got out, so I would hang out at school, or the coffee shop near my school, and do homework until group started. Eventually, I just started going straight over to church after school and either doing homework or volunteering there. I became a permanent fixture in the youth department and ended up being the worship coordinator for the young adult service they held on Sunday nights. I also started dating a guy from that church who had a great Christian family that took me in. It was a pretty sweet deal.

Until I became so consumed with the love of Christ, though I didn’t know it at the time, that he started changing my life.

I was all set up to do exactly what my father wanted me to do. I was going to go to the University of MN-Duluth for my senior year of high school (MN has a program where high school juniors and seniors can do college classes for both high school and college credit, and the state pays for it, which I did do both years), and then I was going to go to Purdue University and study neuropharmacology, become a doctor, and make lots of money. That was how he had planned things. That was what I was going to do.

But, after all of my involvement in the church, I felt pulled towards–today I call this “called by Jesus”–to vocational ministry. I started looking at other colleges, Christian colleges, to attend. I talked to my pastors about seminary and ministry and everything else related to that. I eventually settled on the school I now go to, partially because my boyfriend was going there.

I had finally found someone who loved me and loved Jesus, and I didn’t want to let him go.

There’s this thing with abuse victims that makes them people pleasers, which was the only way I knew how to relate to anyone, and so I just started doing whatever this boyfriend wanted. He loved Jesus, but he was still a teenage boy, and it wasn’t long until he started pressuring me to have sex with him. We never did, thank God, but that led me on a slippery slope that would end literally with me choosing life or death for myself.

But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

My choice to go to a Christian school and do vocational ministry did not sit well with either of my parents, especially my father. He now had two faces, one full of rage, the other of disengagement. He either hated me or I simply did not exist. My mother became very frustrated, probably because she didn’t understand my decisions. This pushed me further and further out of their house and into the church and the arms of my boyfriend.

He was a normal teenage boy. He wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship. I was not a normal teenage girl. I was looking for someone to promise to love me, to really love me, forever. I looked for this in him. In the same way that he pressured me into physical commitment, I pressured him into emotional commitment. This cracked the summer after my junior year of high school. He tried to break up with me, I was devastated, and convinced him to stick around. This lasted for two and a half weeks. He finally had enough and broke up with me.

I didn’t know what to do. I felt like the only person who ever loved me had just left me in the dust. I came dangerously close to committing suicide.

I still thank Jesus for that church. Three different girls who had become very close friends of mine came and visited me after all of this went down (my parents were out of town), as did two of my pastors. They brought me food and gifts and gave me rides to church. I was there every day, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and they never let me be alone.

At the same time as all of this, I had been reading The Shack by William Paul Young. I will not argue over its merits here, that is not the point. The picture of God in that book showed me that the unconditional, forever-love I had been seeking was only available from one Source. I committed myself to Jesus, to loving and following him, on July 5th, 2009.

Since then I have grown and struggled with this Jesus in remarkable ways. I married an amazing man of God who knows that the best way to cultivate a marriage and a family is to do as Paul said, to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). My faith life has not been easy in this time, and there have been many seasons of doubt, but the beautiful Love that first called me has captivated me ever since.

Here I stand. Breaking the cycle of abuse. Refusing to be an angry dictator or a passive subject. Stronger than my father ever was, not by my own strength, but through Jesus.

I said I was doing this in the name of feminism, so I figure I ought to address it. Piper, Driscoll, and anyone else out there who wants to tell me I am not strong enough, let this story be a message to you. Neither I nor you nor anyone else is strong enough on their own. Jesus, the great Love, is the only one who can provide us with the strength to overcome anything that we may endure. You say I am weak, you say I need a man to lead me. I say to hell with that. I am strong. I overcame. I needed no man, no leader, solely Love.

I dare you, tell me I am not enough.