In February, I had the opportunity to attend Rise Up, Sister! in Chiliwack, BC. We spent four days sharing our stories and discussing issues of justice and equality and collectively raising the voice of women in the world. It was an empowering and yet comforting time and I am deeply changed by the time spent in the company of such women.
I went there knowing no one but Idelette, so I was slightly terrified to walk into the room that weekend, but the 99 strangers I met soon became my sisters, my tribe. We bonded over common histories and diverse experiences. We celebrated each other’s successes and mourned with each other in our losses. We compared tales of motherhood and womanhood around dinner tables and prayer circles. And we took pictures. Tons and tons of pictures!
In the weeks since returning home, my social media feeds have been flooded with encouraging messages and countless pictures from my 99 new besties. We are continuing to learn and grow together even though we are all well into our regular life routines. Every day, someone posts a picture or leaves an encouraging comment on someone else’s wall and we all jump in to “like” the ongoing sisterhood we see. I play along, too, “liking” the bona fide lovefest that fills my feed—and so does my daughter.
The first few times I noticed that my daughter had “liked” a picture or comment left by one of my new friends, I thought it was very sweet. I loved feeling the love from my teen girl! After a few days of my girl liking and occasionally reposting the pictures and quotes, I realized my daughter was watching.
She was witnessing all of it.
She watched strong, intelligent, godly women celebrate, encourage, support and elevate each other. She saw how we spoke to each other and about each other. She followed along as we accepted the uplifting words and noticed what we said about ourselves, and what we said about women in general. She was watching and she was taking it all in. As I watched her watch us, I began to wonder what else she is seeing, what else she is taking in.
My daughter heard her pastor say that Jesus was a man’s man. And then she heard a boy in her school threaten her with a degrading sexual act. She listened as her teacher told her she should be flattered by the attention the boys were paying her, even though she felt unsafe and vulnerable every time they touched her or cat-called her.
My daughter has seen powerful men in the media belittle women’s place in the world simply because they are not men. And then she sees theologians debate about where a woman’s place really is, as if it should be anywhere other than where God has called her. She sees men in the church confine female Bible teachers to the church basement where the children and women are waiting, hungry to learn, while the main pulpit stands empty.
And she takes it all in.
But then my daughter also sees loving and courageous women on social media celebrate each other’s strengths and successes. She listens to podcasts and hears amazing female pastors and speakers teach about a Jesus who values and esteems women. She reads books by women who write about a God who created women in His own image—whole and perfect just as they are.
She sees women rise up in business, in the arts, in the church, in every corner of the world. She sees them rise as leaders and advocates. She sees them intelligently and diligently championing for freedom and safety and equality. She sees their strength. And then she reads notes from women in her world who remind her that she is intelligent, gifted and magnificent. And she takes it all in.
My daughter watches as a shift in her understanding begins to occur. She sees that Jesus defies macho stereotypes. She sees that she gets to decide who touches her body and who affects her mind. She sees that a man’s opinion of her capabilities does not trump what she knows to be true about herself. She sees that God, not a tradition of patriarchy, gets to decide where women are meant to be and that decision was made at the beginning of time. Argument over.
My daughter watches and she feels brave and strong and capable. She feels seen and heard. She feels valued. She feels the love of the godly men and women in her world who call out and name the gifts and strengths they see in her. She feels audacious and unbreakable as she sees herself reflected in their words.
And she takes it all in.
Oh yes, she takes it all in.
I rise not to elevate myself but to elevate my daughter and all daughters who are watching and wondering if the dream in their heart is possible. I rise because I watched my mother rise to elevate me. I rise, because God is calling forth His daughters to take their place alongside His sons, because there are dreams to dream and visions to see and prophecies to speak into reality and this can only be done in connection to and in support of each other.
I rise, because my daughter is watching.