“What do you want to do, be like Jasmine? She’s just a teacher, she makes hardly anything. She’ll get married and stay home and disappear.”
Words like these, said by one of my relatives to her daughter post-graduation last year, would have crushed me ten years ago.
Now, for me, ten years ago is just barely creeping into teen status, entering the tenuous high school years and daydreaming about the future. To me, ten years ago was not a power-suit and an upward rise to fame, or an advanced degree and command of a university classroom.
But I knew one thing: ten years from then, I was going to be a successful black woman who proved to them (the ubiquitous and mysterious them) that such a thing could exist. And my extended family was pumped: “She’ll be a strong black woman. We need more of those in the world.”
The Smart One
Growing up, my extended family would look at my grades and beam with pride. As the young women in our family began to set themselves apart by their various gifts, talents, and abilities, the label I coveted more than any other was that of the smart one. The door-opener with the brain. The double minority who laughed in the face of opposition.
Intelligence, in our culture, is never just intelligent for intelligence’s sake. It’s marked either by a string of degrees that put more letters behind your name than are contained in the alphabet, or a fat paycheck attached to an enterprise of your own invention. So it isn’t enough for women to be smart. They have to prove it. Out there. Or it’s not real.
“She’ll be a strong black woman. We need more of those in the world.”
The Troubled One
Something interesting began to happen during those teen years, though.
Incredible insecurities began to pop up. Worries about my salvation riddled me to the point of sleepless nights. My dad diagnosed the problem one evening while I sat sobbing on the arm of his chair, wailing, “I just try to do so much for the Lord but I keep on failing!”
His chuckle unnerved me. “Baby. You are a legalist.”
In my mind, favor was gained by performance. It was not the way I had been raised, it was not a message that had ever been directly put before me, but it was something that had seeped into my subconscious, no doubt through the conduit of a natural bent for pride. Be, do, and become were my mantras.
That night, my father offered me a new command, a command I think any militant needs to hear: rest.
The Hidden One
Rest. Because I was completely hidden in the finished work of Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:1-4).
Your shortcomings, your insecurities, your wretched sins had been dealt with in the marvelous act of sacrificial love and obedience that took place on the Cross. In my words to my students every day after we read the Bible: “What does this have to do with your day?”
For me, it slowly peeled back the over-achieving attitude that had been eating me alive from the cradle. And it began to supplant my goals for personal advancement with new priorities. No longer was I to be defined by what I could do and be and become… my be, do, and become was newly-enlivened with what he already is, does, and became for me (Ephesians 2:10).
And this is its power for every woman who calls on the name of the Lord. She is given the freedom to prioritize his beautiful pattern above a power struggle.
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SOURCE: RAA Network