Becoming the Women Who Hold Up Half the Sky


We can’t hold up half the sky, unless we do it together.

I remember listening to Nicolas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn talk about their book, Half the Sky. The idea that women hold up half the sky resonated with me so deeply and there was almost a sense of vindication in seeing that reality acknowledged in such a public way. I felt this sense of solidarity with women all over the world.

Around this same time, I started learning more about the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I learned that human bodies are enslaved in the mining of conflict minerals that feed our western obsession for the latest smart phone, while women are raped as a weapon of war.

I felt so conflicted.

How does a woman hold up half the sky if she is carrying such a burden? And it is in the asking of that very question that I found the limits of my own enculturation.

I grew up in the evangelical church. I took the membership class when I was in 4th grade. I received my Bible in front of the congregation upon completion. I asked Jesus into my heart on numerous occasions, especially every summer at camp where I could raise my hand and receive applause and a prize. It also gave me some form of mental assurance that I would go to Heaven and not be left behind as the books and movies of the day threatened.

Our church motto centered around an individual being saved by the grace of a God who loved us beyond measure. Although Presbyterians do not do altar calls, the monthly administration of the sacraments was the time to sit quietly and once again, commit your life to God.

I am grateful for the ways in which my upbringing led to a very personal relationship with God—a blossoming of an inner life that now finds such value in contemplation, prayer, and the cultivation of my soul.

If my faith, however, has been cultivated to reinforce my individualist notion of a linear faith in which it is a one-on-one direct form of communication between God and I, how will I ever come to understand the Church as a collective community?

Perhaps my inability to truly grasp the concept of women holding up half the sky is that even in relation to carrying one another’s burdens, I have only seen it through the lens of a one-on-one transaction.

What does it look like when faith is seen through a collective lens? What does it look like when it is not me helping you, or you helping me, but us helping us?

What would this look like if we, the Church collectively, repented and took communion as a whole—the Body of Christ?

As women, holding up half the sky is a collective effort, an ever shifting of weight as women’s burdens move along a sliding scale between heavy and light. We do it together.

As we grow in this understanding of a collective, communal faith, we are able to see one another more clearly: equal parts of the Imago Dei.