Women Wars & The Ministry of Reconciliation

The weight in my gut feels so steely at times. Heavy and dark, it acts as a literal sensation, threatening at any moment to pull me oceans deep into its current.

Sometimes, it begins rumbling long before I see any explicit “reason” or evidence...it’s just there, tugging at my attention, pointing out vibes and nuances everywhere. 

Until recently, my habit was to brush it aside. Move on, move away, move around. Without a doubt, this form of self-preservation was far less complicated. But today, I am learning that this one of the ways God speaks to my spirit, helping me lean into the discomfort.

As if on cue, the historic events of the past week have been wrought with such tension, the heaviness in my gut growing tenfold with every day.  

Social media has been LOUD: first, surrounding the inauguration, then regarding the women’s march in Washington and around the globe. At first, I didn’t know much about this march other than that it involved women coming together to make their voices heard.  But as social media amplified the two increasingly divided viewpoints, I watched friends from “both sides” begin to shame the opposing argument. Judgment spread like wildfire, spewing flames towards participants and nonparticipants alike. I watched strangers jump on personal posts and berate friends for holding certain ideals. 

I’ve had conversations with women who feel like misfits. Some aren’t “all in” either aisle and therefore this “discredits” them from being “real feminists”. Some feel that you need to really choose a side in order to fully support the overarching cause. Some feel convicted of certain truths, and this Women’s March is “making us all look bad.” Some are afraid to ask questions. Some feel shamed and belittled for their religious or anti-religious affiliations. 

Brett and I stayed up into the night discussing the issues. After a 1:00 a.m. bedtime, the 6:00 a.m. alarm went off too soon. And while my body should have been tired, that faithful gut was still wired. The usual morning shuffle began: coffee brewing, uniforms schlepped from the dirty clothes pile, and breakfast negotiations. In the chaos, an idea offered me peace, “Gather the women,” I heard. “Gather the voices, no matter how opposed. Dialogue, listen, make space for the ‘ministry of reconciliation’”.  

If I have learned anything over the past 14 years through women in the commercial sex industry, it is that many of my assumptions about “them” have been based in fear or ignorance. These fears have exposed brokenness. Brokenness requires healing. In the healing process, fears are released. A step even further: I would submit that healing always comes through giving to God and to others. In the pouring out, we are filled. 

Sounds like Isaiah 58, eh? The prophetic wisdom in this passage is almost too thick. If it weren’t for the poetic imagery, we might be too offended to tolerate it. (Church nerds: please don’t skim here because you’ve read it one hundred times.)

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in.”

In other words, it is in doing justice (also known as “life worship”) that the light comes on and our bones are healed. When done with a pure heart, this work of collective healing and reconciliation directly affects our own ability to be healed and whole. Why? Because in living worshipful, our pride is confronted, our sin is exposed, and we begin to see ourselves in the very people we are serving. The poor, the voiceless, and the oppressed actually teach us how to love ourselves like God loves us. 

This passage essentially says: “Listen, religious people: you have it backwards! I haven’t chosen the way of perfection: singing perfect songs with perfect people, lifting high-performance petitions in the name of “worship.” What I am after is a lifestyle of worship that seeks to right the wrongs of your culture: poverty, nakedness, hunger, systemic exploitation, and oppression. If you spend time on this, your entire life (and entire city!) will change. You will be healed in ways you never imagined, like the dawn rising in your cloudy soul. You’ll be so well-watered by my Presence that you’ll have plenty to give away.” (My paraphrase.) 

This is the essential work of reconciliation, a gift God gave us through salvation in Christ:“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

“Not counting their trespasses against them.” Whoa. 
“Entrusting to US the message of reconciliation.” Gooseflesh. 

We’re back to the lightbulb moment. “Gather the women. Gather the voices, no matter how opposed. Dialogue, listen, make space for the ‘ministry of reconciliation.’”  

We can learn eons from one another concerning how to listen and love - no matter HOW differently we cling to certain ideals. Respecting another woman’s voice does not mean subscribing to her view. Shaming, judging, and attacking one another only raises the barometer of hate in our world. So, very soon, JSL will host a chat where we discuss all things considered divisive by FOX News, CNN, and Facebook: The Women’s March, Trump, feminism, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, abortion, misogyny, “smash the patriarchy,” and any other phrases thrown around in 2016 that could be missing context.

I have a beautiful and diverse panel of women from whom we can listen and learn. I believe this will be a safe space (both inviting and informative) for dialogue and differentiation...a space where reconciliation might start with a #PauseBeforePosting . 

Jesus Said Love!
Emily Mills

P.S. Please like our Facebook and Instagram pages, as we will post and advertise this event via those platforms! 

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