Saturday, August 12, 2006

Spiritual Feminism

I do not consider myself a feminist in the traditionally political sense of the term. With the exception of a slightly militant run in my early 30's, I've never been the activist type. However, I've noticed a subtle but significant shift in the last year or so, which seems to be shaping a new purpose, a new passion, for the rest of my life.

In trying to summarize this paradigm shift, the term "spiritual feminism" comes to mind. The focus is on the spiritual and emotional empowerment of women, particularly but not exclusively women who have been bruised, battered or broken by the wounds of sexual violence... hence the birth of this ministry as well as Grace Bay Charities. I feel a sense of urgency, perhaps expectancy is a better term, to help propel this movement forward.

I believe there is a growing battalion of women who are yearning to be warriors for Christ, but who simply don't know how to enlist. Many of these women are like me, in their 40's and 50's. (Did you know that 40 is the new 35? I remember a time when I thought "middle age" began at 35. Now 65 seems more like it.) This seems to be the time in which women begin to assess the first half of their lives and begin to ponder how to spend the latter half. Many come to realize that much of their early adult years were spent living by society's rules and expectations and success was measured by the world's standards. Our "value" was measured by our professional success, our mothering skills, our outward appearance, our marriages or other significant relationships with others. Notice a theme here? Each of these roles involves, to varying degrees, how we are perceived by others as a function of how we address the needs of others. It's no wonder that we're waking up now wondering where all the years went, often feeling tired and unfulfilled.

Perhaps our children have left the nest. For some of us, our significant others have left as well (not always a bad thing!), those jobs that nearly drove us insane with anxiety, stress and bone-rattling fatigue don't seem quite as important any more. Many of us even shocked our families, friends and co-workers by deciding to step (no jump) off the treadmill and opt for a saner, simpler life.

So what now? We're standing at a cross-roads. There are choices, finally. We are no longer on auto-pilot, blindly forging ahead in the roles that others have set for us. Now the choice of who we want to be, and how we want to spend the rest of our lives is up to us. Yes, our past (warts and all) have brought us to this place, but they are behind us now and our focus is forward. Which way do we go? Which life do we choose? There may never be a more important choice than this.

Dale Hanson Bourke describes the energy of this time in our lives better than I ever could in an absolutely phenomenal book called, Second Calling. If any of what I'm saying here even remotely resonates with you, I HIGHLY recommend it! In talking about the shift from "success to significance" for the second half of our lives, she says that...

Almost twenty-two million [women in the U.S.] are between the ages of forty and fifty, with another twenty million joining their ranks in the next decade... We also represent an unprecedented level of health, education, and wealth in this country...
Many of us are looking for something more than a job to fill our days. Even those of us who work find that we invest less of our identity in our job and more in the rest of our life. Many of us are seeking deeper spiritual roots...

If all the Christian women aged forty and older got truly serious about seeking God and letting him use us in amazing ways, we could completely change our world... But our incredible opportunity would come with a few challenges. We would have to know God well and seek him as if our lives depended on it. We would have to eliminate the frivolous time wasters in our lives and focus on what was really important. We would wake up each day and ask God to show us what he wanted us to do. We would have to believe that God wanted to use the second half of our lives with more purpose, power, and passion than anything we ever achieved in the first half... If millions and millions of women listened to that whisper and followed their second calling, it is simply breathtaking to think of what God could do."

Wow! That's Dale's dream and I share it. And for those of us who believe that the "sins of our past" make us unlikely and unworthy candidates for this crusade, she offers these words:

... God wants to redeem all of the broken heels, chipped nails, dead-end jobs, broken marriages, less-than-perfect children, bad perms, fad diets, lost friendships, and PMS of the first half of our lives. He needed us to get those things out of the way. He was with us then, but he wants us to really be with him now. He wants us to trust in something so much bigger than the best diet, the most wonderful sale, the biggest house on the block, the finest china, the top title, even the perfect husband. He wants us to know that just as he can take a woman who feels bitter and empty to being full to overflowing [Naomi from the Book of Ruth], so, too, can he transform even our best lives into something so much more.

I can't think of a better way to spend the second half of my life. Can you?

1 comment:

blackpurl said...

this must be why at 41 when my husband said "I believe God is calling us to Russia" all I said was okay!
two years later here we are! 43 and learning Russian, oy!