single and stubborn: a strong ass woman of god
I am a stubborn and feisty lady.
A strong ass woman of God.
I remember in detail the day that I first came to terms with my stubbornness. My sister and I had been in the middle of a petty argument during her visit in Tenerife. “She is so stubborn!” I complained to my coworker. “It must run in the family,” was the reply. I then proceeded for a solid ten minutes to firmly argue why I was the peacemaking, flexible one, and my sister so unreasonable.
In years since, I have seen this stubborn and strong will as a negative trait. To be faithful as a Christian woman, I was taught, I needed to learn to quiet my voice, to tone down my anger, to be calm, submissive, peaceful. As I barrel through life, I see the ramifications of this strength – in friendships where I argue my point beyond what another might find comfortable, in class where I shamelessly express disagreement with a professor, in work where I make known that my gender is not to be seen as a hindrance for me to battle against. When I find myself firmly clinging to what I consider right, I grow ashamed that I cannot shirk the stubborn strength that drives me on.
Last Lenten season I reflected on Sabbath rest. Paralyzed by a year of restlessness, I sought to understand what it might look like to live a Sabbath-centered life in the midst of a crazy schedule. The lessons I learned in that time extended into a full Sabbath-semester last fall and have allowed me to survive an incredibly busy semester this spring. I expected that as I learned to rest, a loosening of my stubbornness would follow. Yet I continue to find myself holding fast to my habit of driving full-steam ahead: speaking my mind and going after the things that I desire.
This Lent, I have begun to recognize that perhaps my strong will is not a trait to work against, but a gift that must be trained. Perhaps I don’t need to learn to quiet my voice, but to lean into the message I feel compelled to proclaim and learn to speak boldly, with courage, undeterred by those who don’t want to hear. Perhaps I don’t need to slow down my pace, but to recognize the visions given from God and chase them without abandon. Perhaps I’m meant to feistily fumble through life a little louder than the rest. Perhaps submission to God looks like accepting that this weakness can be great strength, not allowing shame to overshadow its beauty.
This Lent has also been a season, as many seasons before it, of reflecting on my singleness. While I’ve never been particularly content with being single, recently loneliness has threatened to push me angrily away from God rather than drawing me towards Him. Feeling as though I’ve been cheated of a relationship that God calls good, I’ve placed the blame on the shame I find whenever I hold my ground. I’ve seen men deterred by my firmness of belief (I’ve actually been on a date that ended with an argument about the source of ills in our food system. He was definitely wrong), by my education (a friend setting me up on a blind date reported that he backed out once he knew I was applying for PhDs), by my travels (one had never left the coast and didn’t care to know where I’d been). I am a tank, I’ve found myself accepting; I mow down everyone before me. No one will have the strength or desire to deal with my feist, I’ve allowed myself to believe. And no amount of stubborn desire can change the way they feel.
I wish I could report that this strength allows me to happily live independent and free. But, like most people, I do actually long to share my life with another. I wish I could say that I’m learning to subdue myself, to melt away the demeanor that other’s don’t desire. But as I come to terms with the importance of my will, I realize that viewing it as a gift means only accepting a relationship with someone who can see it as good too. I am empowered by the realization that I don’t need to make myself less than God created me to be, but well aware that the sort of person I need is few and far between. I wish I could say that I feel God’s promise that such a person is on his way, but instead I hear Him asking me to keep holding this strength on my own.
The church doesn’t know too well how to handle her strong, single women. In part it’s because there aren’t a lot of us, and sometimes she just doesn’t like the things we have to say. Nevertheless, I find solace in some of Scripture’s leading single ladies. Last Sunday’s Old Testament reading came from Genesis, the story of Hagar. I was struck by the words of her prayer. Single, pregnant, and scared, she said of the Lord: “You are the God who sees me, I have seen the One who sees me.” I tend to brush past Hagar, that unsightly speck in Abraham’s genealogical line. But this week I hold with stubborn strength to her vision of the Lord. He is the One who sees me, who made me stubborn and strong.
So I will stumble through this stubborness, clothed in dignity and strength.
I am a single, stubborn woman of God.
I am seen by God,