Washing Out My Shoes

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.

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9 thoughts on “Washing Out My Shoes

  1. It is good that you have written of this and good that you can call on God and others to walk with you. We need / I need to hear voices from UK women addressing issues of faith and you are one that I hear, respect and learn from. As voices get stronger and reach into other places the abuse will come and we must challenge it and support each other. We can only do that if we talk about it. I’m so sorry this happened. Personally I will try to be braver in my challenging from now on. Thanks for your strong prayerful witness.

    Juliet

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  2. You’re a great writer, and really well able to put into words what so many people feel the pain of every day. I’m gutted at the onslaught you experienced, but I’m also proud of the way you continue to rise again. Your resilience makes you a great role model. xx

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  3. Hi. I feel very sorry that you had to endure insult from people who clearly have great difficulties in forming decent relationships. Well done for maintaining your composure!I hope that you’re feeling less subdued. We need more people like you who show that God is a champion of women.

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  4. I am an atheist and feminist, and I am disgusted by the misogyny that is the online atheist presence, for a large part. I am strongly anti religious, but I do not feel the need to mock your faith, and I am truly sorry that atheism is being tainted by disgusting misogynists, such as Amazing Atheist or Thunderfoot on YouTube.

    I consider myself to have very little in common with Christians, but your experience as a woman and a feminist is all too familiar to me.

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  5. Bogen says:

    This is such an amazing post. I greatly appreciate you fighting for the cause of womyn. There are so many mysogonistic triggers that we must face daily, especially since we use the double-edged sword of technology to give voice to the voiceless. Such a beautiful metaphor with your feet and the rocks of bitterness womyn must step through as through ragged debris from the violence of patriarchy. Subdued is such a beautifully tragic word to express the ills society perpetuates on womyn. They want to tell us to submit and I can’t help but now see the relationship that has to subdue. Rather, we should subdont.

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  6. For quite a few years i was intimidated (scared) by the many Men’s Rights Advocates on the web – they detest women and there’s no two ways about it. Women should “work” – as if housewives don’t, and women should off-load their babies to the daycare – if not just abort them. Many MRA’s are pro-abortion. In short, way too many of these guys simply want to sponge off someone – and other men won’t have it, so it’s either a girlfriend, or mommy, or both.
    I found out about two weeks ago, that atheism motivates many of these MRA whiners – they do that ALOT. Needless to say, i am not afraid of them any more.
    The worst MRA’s, however, are the ones who make Praise noises and sling Scripture. Bet they steer clear of the Book of Jude and II Peter 3.

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