The moment that I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew that my entire life was going to change. I remember sitting by myself, on a bench, outside the sonogram room, clutching her picture to my growing belly. I was 20 weeks along as I sat there, paralyzed. I couldn’t even pick up the phone to call my husband. Because in that moment, it was just us. My heart was racing as I noticed both elation and dread rise to the surface. It was as if the two emotions held hands and took an elevator up from my uterus to my gut, into my chest and they lodged themselves in my throat. This gave new meaning to the term “lump in my throat” because that is literally what I experienced. Twenty weeks into her existence, as I sat alone on the bench, with her picture crammed against my belly, I wrote these words,
“For this moment, it’s just you and me. No one else in the world even knows that you exist like I do. It is quiet now and maybe, just for now, that is the way it is supposed to be.”
I knew two things in these intimate moments of honoring the existence of my daughter. The first one was her name. I knew that her name was going to be Ruth. And this is where the elation set in. My insides were dancing in ways I had never known before as I imagined Ruth shaping and loving and experiencing this world. And the second thing I knew was that everything was going to change. And this is where the dread came. The dread moved in and took up space in my throat because I knew that having a daughter would require change. I had served the previous decade in an evangelical church who held to a strictly complementarian theology. I had struggled, over the years, to find my place in it. I even obtained a Masters of Divinity, believing that somehow this would earn me a place at the table of input and influence. I believed wholeheartedly that if I were faithful enough, good enough, smart enough, talented enough, that the theology, (and therefore the practice), of the church would change. I believed they would adapt to a world where women run companies, host talk shows, and run for president. I was hopeful that eventually they would invite me to walk into the fullness of my gifts and affirm me as an equal partner in ministry. I had earned it, after all. Or so I thought.
As I sat on the bench, with the picture of my daughter, I changed. Suddenly, I did not fit in this church system anymore. The stories I had formerly told myself in order to survive became empty, repetitive and annoying to me. I became more than a minister at a church who loved her ministry, I became Ruth’s protector and everything else paled in comparison to this. I decided, in that moment, that I was not going to allow her to grow up in a church that did not affirm her God-given giftedness. I determined that she would not receive negative, identity-forming messages from the spiritual authority in her life about her worth or her value. I prayed that she would never wish that she was a man so that she could be a full participant in the Kingdom of God. I never wanted her to loathe the feminine gifts that she would bring to the world. On the contrary, I vowed to myself that she would grow up seeing women leading, preaching and shaping theology on every level at her church. She won’t have to adjust to the voice of a woman speaking prophetically in a service because this will be her norm. I wanted to protect her from sexism, as far as it depended on me. I found myself adamant about this.
And then, I heard God say to me, from somewhere deep in my spirit and ever so tenderly,
This is how I feel about you, My Child. You want to hold her tight to your chest and I want to hold you tight to mine. You want to see her free and I want to see you free.
This was a moment of spiritual awakening for me. I had never before considered God’s desire for my flourishing in these areas. Until these quiet moments, the issues of women’s liberation or the “appropriate roles of women” in the church were external debates where there were good people on both sides. But on that day, and in those quiet moments, it moved internal, literally inside of me. A growing feminine soul who was 20 weeks old changed me forever. In growing and birthing my daughter, I also birthed my own feminine soul. And yea, she has changed everything.