Sunday, 19 January 2014

Guest Blog: Hannah Rich

Hannah is a 4th year French & Spanish student at Durham, having just spent a year as an intern for Bless.

    I’m a Christian; I’m a feminist; I’m a woman. I’m passionate about my faith and I’m passionate about feminism because I believe that the Jesus I follow was both. The same Jesus who died on the cross for my sins was radical in his championing of women. The same Jesus to whom I owe my life was characterised by an unprecedented, unequalled capacity for love. Love that sparks in women and men alike a world-changing potential that isn’t dependent on gender or relationship status, or wealth or social status. 

    I’m not about to make my life a quest for Proverbs 31, any more than I’m going to spend the next ten years trying to put into practice every saying my grandma ever taught me. I’m not cool with being expected to emulate a domestic goddess (where do you begin when it comes to selecting flax anyway?!) when it’s fine for men to ignore the bit a few verses earlier where we’re told to give beer to the poor so they can drown their sorrows.

    I can’t find anything biblical or godly in trying to be a Cath Kidston-esque 50’s housewife when frankly I’m more proficient at eating cupcakes than baking them and my attempts at sewing look moth-eaten before they’ve even left the machine. 

    And yet there are some gems in there which go beyond cultural expectations which come and go. Strength and dignity? I’d love a bit more of that. And I’m grateful for the reminder that ‘charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting’, especially on the days where my value based on what I see in the mirror amounts to little more than scruffy pyjamas, blotchy skin and flyaway hair.

    There is nothing comfortable about the challenge that ‘a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’ In a broken world, we find ourselves living in fear of culture rather than of God. The compliments we yearn for are too often superficial; the praise we place our worth in too shallow. Culture praises us for being gorgeous, not for being God-fearing and we listen. I listen. What should be the ultimate endorsement – to be known for fearing God – falls flat on hearts conditioned to be seen as beautiful. Being ‘godly’ doesn’t sell magazines, it doesn’t make you front-cover worthy and it isn’t always glamorous. There’s very little about ‘fearing God’ that would score highly on a ticklist of culture’s expectations of the ideal woman. 

    We’re called to live radical lives. What it looks like practically to fear God looks different in every century and society but the God who is feared never changes. The cultural pressures of today bear little resemblance to those biblical scenarios we look to for inspiration, but the radicalness of defying culture to honour God remains. 

    I have plans for my life but God’s got bigger ones. I have dreams but God’s got bigger ones. I don’t have a clue what it is to be a ‘woman of God’ but I know how to get out of bed in the morning and have a go at this thing called life. 

    When I die, I want my life to have been defined by going all out for Jesus, living out an every-day calling to mission. The word ‘beautiful’ will lose its value when the body it was attached to is dead and buried and photos have faded. I want to be known instead for how much I feared God and loved people. 

    One of my favourite poems begins with the line, “I will not die an unlived life,” and that’s the bit I promise myself on my way out of the door every morning. I want my obituary to be a story of how God used the inadequate to do the impossible, because that’s all I have the right to ask. 

And so, incidental to all my dreaming, living, growing and hoping, I am a woman.

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