Last night, two of my dearest friends and I got to go to the Houston stop of Jen Hatmaker and Nichole Nordeman’s Moxie Matters tour. This was my first time seeing either of them live, which is sort of hard to believe considering what an impact Jen has been in my life over the past few years.
Jen was, predictably, both hilarious and so real and insightful. She did not hold back with her honesty and vulnerability about how devastating the past year has been for her. A year ago, she gave an interview with Jonathan Merritt where she stated that her views on LGBT relationships had changed, and she is now fully affirming. The backlash was swift and intense: her books were pulled from shelves, parts of the Christian community came at her like an angry mob (she writes about that experience here), and she and her family were threatened physically. So Christ-like.
This past year, I’ve watched all this unfold online, and witnessed just the public backlash on social media. But that was just the tip of the iceberg, as Jen said they couldn’t even keep up with the volume of hate mail they received. And all this because she said gay people should be fully accepted in the church. I’ve also watched her stand up for justice and speak out politically, and every time, people tell her to “stay in her lane.” Just the other day on Twitter, she replied to this very phrase with “Human and civil rights, decency, truth-telling, the abolishment of white supremacy, and the exposure of corruption will always be my lane.”
Jen talked about the pain of the last year and how a lot of times there is no easy fix to our pain. Many times Christians want to go through something, learn their lessons, and move on…but often it’s not that simple or quick. But that pain is actually our friend because it forces us to deal with whatever issue(s) we are facing.
That part of her talk resonated so deeply with me. Obviously I haven’t been through anything nearly as dramatic as she has, and haven’t had anyone threaten my safety. But, in the last year, I’ve been dealing with a major shift in my faith and how I see the church, and it’s been excruciatingly painful. And a lot of that pain has been private, because I’ve felt abandoned and judged by many as I drown in doubt and uncertainty. There have been so many times in the past year where I’ve tried to ignore the pain and pretend it’s not a big deal, but it is. I can’t shove it down for long, because for me, it comes out as anxiety and anger.
She then talked about community and how vital it is for women to have other women in their lives who will surround them with fierce protection and love and will stand with them through the pain. Nichole Nordeman gave the analogy of female elephants surrounding another female as she gives birth or is hurt, for as long as it takes for her to come out of that vulnerable state. And I realized that last night that on that pew, to my right and my left, I was literally surrounded with women who are that community for me. These girls have been two of my lifelines, keeping me from drowning. I’m so thankful for them and the other women who I have been able to confide in, cry with, and learn from.
The program ended with this song by Nichole Nordeman. The chorus is going to be my mantra going forward:
This is the sound of surviving
This is my farewell to fear
This is my whole heart deciding
I’m still here, I’m still here
And I’m not done fighting
This is the sound of surviving