A young woman's plea
'I cannot cook the way they want me to.
I cannot speak the way they want me to. I do not dress the way they want me to
My hair is unruly and should be tamed.
I do not wear enough make up.
I do not try hard enough.'
For these reasons, I have been told I will not find a husband and that I should just accept whatever wayward son of whatever wayward father comes along, because I will never be good enough.
These are the talks we are given behind closed doors.
These are the ways the world has made us feel small.
‘Your highest and only calling is to be wife and a mother.’
I am told I need to compromise all my goals but follow all of his and so there is no need for me to be further educated.
There is no need for me to find a form of independence outside of my parents.
In my disagreement with these things, I find that the church may think I will never find a husband because I am not willing to conform to what I do not believe to be Biblical.
This is how the church has made me feel small.
Depending on where you are in the world, how you were raised or your cultural background, being female will look different to you.
In many African cultures, it means that a bride price needs to be paid in order for a man to be allowed to wed you.
It means that you should be able to cook and clean and serve your husband almost akin to his maid, for you to be considered acceptable.
It means that when you are abused, you are accused because the fault never lies with him but it lies with you for creating the circumstances of your assault.
It means that you should expect him to cheat and when he does, you need to find out what you did wrong and fix your attitude to accommodate him and his indiscretions.
It means that when you are abused, you are accused.
Why am I talking about this?
Because I would like to bring to light certain struggles I have faced within my own unique context of being a black African woman.
I have been raised in a place where adultery has been normalised, sexual harassment overlooked and men are usually not reprimanded for their bad behaviour. Women, however, are shamed for the smallest sleight they commit.
That unfortunately bred in me a cynicism of men because I had not been around enough men that were willing play the part of good men; men who loved God and who treated their wives with dignity and respect.
The role of the insecure 'man-child' played a prominent lead on the
stage of my life and I subconsciously memorised the script.
On a rare occasion, there would be a guest appearance by those other men; the good men, but they were like unicorns. They were not meant to exist.
This ever present 'man-child' gave me an extremely shallow opinion of men and as a result of how I was treated by them, a shallow view of myself.
I cannot fully blame them for all my insecurities - those are mine and mine alone – but they added fuel to a dangerously burning fire.
My expectation was that men would disrespect me and therefore I did not have to respect myself and I surely did not have to respect them.
This was my worldview.
It’s the world’s view that shaped me and which I have had to unlearn after coming to Christ and realising that many of those thoughts and battles that I had then are still battles that I face now.
Learning to accept my value in Christ has heightened this. The disrespect and harassment I experience breaks my heart even more because it shows how fallen and broken our world is.
It shows how broken I am.
The double standard has become the only standard that the world now seems to understand and it is much more so in societies like mine where women have only ever been taught that they are inferior by both men and women.
So what happens?
Young girls and women are too scared to walk home because a car is following them and the men inside it are being crude and threatening.
Young women have to drive to the Police station in the middle of the night because they can hear the men in the car next to them speaking about raping them.
Teenage boys end up being the ones defending teenage girls from the advances of 30 year old men. Girls are unknowingly handed over to the friends of their male relatives in exchange for a bottle of gin.
My discomfort should not be the price of your intoxication.
My discomfort should not be so foreign to you that you are unable to see my body cringe when a man I do not care for tries to lay his hands on me and you laugh and pass it off as acceptable.
We should never get to the place where evil is called good
and yet that is where we are.
In Isaiah 5:20 God says ‘Woe to those who call evil good and who put darkness for light and who put bitter for sweet.’
This has become a day to day occurrence in the lives of many.
The darkness of my skin and the blood of my ancestors has brought me to this place - this place where I am told I need to serve a man and accept his wrong behaviour.
The world has shown me where my value lies and it does not find me valuable.
My prayer is that the church will ask me to desire Christ first before I am asked to desire marriage. Before I should desire a potential husband, I should be able to see that he desires Christ in such a way that he will see my value, dignity and worth bound up in the cross of Christ; a sister in Christ.
Before I aspire to be what Proverbs 31 tells me to be, I should aspire
to be whom I am created to be in my Genesis 2 image bearing design.
My upbringing has indoctrinated me about what my desires should be; it has told me that the ‘man-child’ I speak of is the type of man I should desire to marry.
Ironically, in the church, where men are saved, we sadly still see many having a patriarchal and distorted view of women.
Their upbringing has allowed them to feed into patriarchy which
manifests into a type of Christian chauvinism.
It is not intentional, nor necessarily deliberate. It is inherent.
The godly woman’s entrance into this story seems to require more expectations from her than from him and more compromise is being asked of her than of him. She is not seeing the humble and sacrificial love and service Christ has for His church.
The 'man-child' in society and the godly man in the church should be worlds apart.
So why then do I have same lingering feeling of worthlessness?
I need the church to be a safe haven of protection and to value me the way the Bible teaches I should be valued. I need the church to be the place which tells me to glorify and love God before anything else.
When I am not yet married, the church should be the place where I will not be judged or accused for settling for second best.
I long to see the beauty of Biblical manhood and womanhood modelled in the church so I can overcome my fear and insecurity of walking into the institution of marriage.
Perhaps I am too scared to be with a Christian man when I have seen that many of these men forget that I am their equal and not their subordinate.
They seem to have squashed God into their box of cultural expectations and expect me to be grateful that I am wanted by them.
Genesis 3 has brought us here.
We are taught to conform so that we will be sought out by men who are buying into a manmade system of expectations.
How we were raised does not easily leave us once we are saved.
Instead of fitting Christ into our culture, we need to fit our culture into Christ.
How we were raised reinforces cultural habits and places them where they do not belong.
For men, these are cultural habits which taught them not to lead but to continuously accept their own excuses. It is ingrained.
For women, these are cultural habits which taught us not to respect men but to continuously make allowances for them in their weakness and in turn retaliate in anger and bitterness.
It is a cycle which will have no end until it is broken at the foot of the cross where God sought us. This is my plea.
This is an expression of my aching, vulnerable heart that rages and seeks to be calmed. This is me honestly asking for help in my state of alarm.
To my older brothers and sisters in Christ, I seek your wisdom and counsel and beg you to hear my heart’s distress. You may not fully understand, but I am asking you to listen and to guide me. I need your help to point me to my Father in heaven who loves me and whose words stand true.
To my brothers in Christ, I plead with you to fight what you know and live what you believe and are called to be. I am asking you to see me as God sees me.
My plea is for there to be no more girls like me: Women made to feel weak and inferior; perhaps because they are black, perhaps because they are single or maybe just because they are women.
Yours in Christ,
A black African woman