Yesterday I experienced an onslaught of online abuse. I’ve been called names before, insulted for my faith and/or my feminism on various occasions. Mocked for suggesting it could be possible to be a Christian and feminist, but yesterday was something else. I tweeted a comment on the comedian Jim Norton’s recent article advocating for prostitution to be legalised so his sex addiction could be supported and apparently so as to keep women safer. He then proceeded to reply to me using .@ which invited his 350,000 followers to join in with mocking me and my faith, calling me names and generally engaging in misogyny.
You can read the Storify of what happened here: https://storify.com/God_loves_women/onslaught.
The impact of this was interesting. For a while I engaged with a few people, in fact with one person we had a really interested conversation and my faith and their atheism, which concluded pleasantly as they went to watch cricket. The tweets continued, with images of male violence towards women and pornography punctuating the comments that I must be unattractive, needed sex, should be making sandwiches and laughing at my stupidity in thinking God was real. And I began to be subdued. Not horrified, not even angry. Just subdued. I had a load of work to get done and two children to look after and actual life to live and in the end I deleted Twitter off my phone and got on with doing actual work.
But I was distracted, drained, subdued.
That’s how this stuff works. It subdues women, wears us down until we can’t take it anymore and we just exit the space, quieter, exhausted and lonely. Whether it’s a partner using put downs, isolation or violation; harrassment and sexual comments on public transport and in the street; being turned down for promotions and pay rises in favour of less qualified men; or perhaps the constant images of almost naked, digitally altered, underweight young women that leave us feeling totally abnormal, we women are being subdued.
Over the last couple of months I’ve spent some time with God reflecting on how jaded I had become. Hearing the stories of those who have been hurt so badly by the church, watching those colluding with people like Mark Driscoll, seeing the pain of violence and abuse day in and day out, it’s impossible to un-know the pain carried in so many people’s hearts. And God spoke to me.
Firstly through the story of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. You can read it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snow_Queen. In the story, Satan creates a mirror that distorts all that it reflects, the bad is magnified and the good is reduced. The demons plan to corrupt heaven by lifting the mirror to it, but as the fly to heaven, their excitement leads them to drop it and the mirror smashes into tiny pieces which fall into peoples’ eyes and hearts, corrupting how they see the world.
The story is then told of little boy and girl. The boy ends up with a shard of mirror in his heart and is taken by the Snow Queen. The little girl goes in search of him and has many adventures. She then is told that her power to save her friend “is in her sweet and innocent child’s heart”. The little girl finds the boy almost frozen to death. She weeps over him and her tears melt him and warms him. The little boy then begins to cry also and the mirror shard is dislodged from his eye also.
The story ends with this verse: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
Women, it is so easy to be subdued by the world, or to be infected by the mirror shards which distort everything we look at, leaving us seeing no Hope, just death and destruction.
Secondly, God spoke to me through walking along a stony beach. I had been praying about how negative I was feeling about the Church. Though my own experience of God has been of liberation and love, of a life restored, of gaining more than I ever lost, I see the pain. The lack of healings, the loss of hope, the many feminists who speak the Truth but know God only as an oppressor. And I asked God to help me with holding onto the Light. God said to me to walk by the shore, in the water. I had on some old school jelly shoes and sploshed along in the waves. Yet quickly my shoes became filled with jagged stones, my walk impeded I had to stop, washing out my shoes before continuing on.
Every few minutes I would have to stop, wash out my shoes and then carry on. Yet that wasn’t easy. I kept almost over balancing as I attempted to stay upright while taking off a shoe, washing it and then putting it back on, all while on one leg. Over and over I had to do this as I walked the way God had asked me to.
As I did this, God spoke to me. The stones were the pain, the bitterness, the anger, the hurt. Jagged little stone after jagged little stone, piling up in my shoes, impeding my steps as I walk where God tells me. “Stop regularly and wash them out.” Says God. “Be vigilant and rest when it gets too much.” As He puts His arm around my shoulder, “Don’t do this on your own, you need people to lean on, while you wash out your shoes, so you don’t overbalance.”
After my walk along the beach, with the shoe washing out ritual, my knee began to ache (an old injury gained while running without any training). I began to limp as I walked. Jacob came to mind, the man who wrestled God and was left with a limp.
We are told that it is Faith, Hope and Love that will remain. And that the greatest of these is love.
The little girl saved the boy through her tears and her love. This reminds me of a line in a song by Kevin Prosch, “Whoever heard of an army of God, who conquered the earth with their weeping and mourning and brokenness?” It is easy to become subdued by the world or to be infected by the mirror shards until all we see is distorted and the stories of Hope are drowned by the darkness and the pain. Yet, even the smallest light cannot be chased away by the darkness.
Thank you to those of you who offer your arm for me to lean on while I wash out my shoes every few steps. And to those whose words have been used as weapons, for whom freedom of speech justifies all manner of evil words, I will wash your words from my shoes and continue on the journey God has called me to.