“Being a woman is very hard, I sometimes wish I wasn’t a woman because you suffer all of your life” I heard this for the first time when I started working for Heshima Kenya, a group that advocates and provides holistic care for young refugee women in Kenya. Since then, as a French interpreter for torture survivors at the Marjorie Kovler Center, I have heard this sentiment repeated. What these women and many of us have experienced and continue to be subjected to around the world is terrible. We have been ridiculed, threatened with bodily harm, beaten and raped. Women’s bodies are easily regulated by various governmental, religious, social, etc…. laws and we are often left vulnerable to abuse, discrimination, poverty and general unhappiness.
So during Lent, with the lens of womanhood, it is easy for me to identify with Jesus’ nonviolent journey to the cross. My history is full of women being stoned, chased out of our homes, belittled, mocked and aggressively questioned about our qualifications to do important and prophetic work. I myself have walked down a street, happily thinking of chocolate chip cookie recipes, and been grabbed by the chest. As I turned around to yell ‘what the f**k!’ the guy asked me for my number. I walked away, thinking, “Who does that?” feeling scarred and vulnerable. I was not prepared that morning to be harassed. I thought I was just going to get some ingredients at the store. I wasn’t looking for that kind of attention. I don’t want that to EVER happen again! Has this ever happened to you? You are minding your own business and something suddenly happens that makes you uncomfortable and vulnerable.
Lent reminds me that Jesus was ready. He knew that his message and nonviolent witness would not instantly be welcomed. He intentionally surrounded himself with friends and prepared them for this. He warned them and he felt sadness and solitude when they forgot (maybe he forgot sometimes, too? The Bible makes him seem super prepared though …). I like to think he also took deep breathes before entering a tense situation, took pauses before answering threatening questions, and sought support from his friends when engaging in controversial actions.
Lastly, I think a gift that women bring to the world, is perseverance and community building. We are faced with a lot of tough systems that need liberation and we continue to create, and birth incredible projects and relationships (and little people, too). Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and social change activist, wrote, “The fact of the matter is that God transforms it all, so out of this junk heap comes beauty”. Lent is my time to remember the junk that needs transformation, but also to admire all of the beauty I have co-created.
Marie Shebeck is a Program Co-Coordinator for Pace e Bene in Chicago – Check out her current project Campaign Nonviolence. Marie lives in an intentional community that focuses on resilient and sustainable. In her spare time, she makes rugs out of jean scraps, takes long walks, bakes bread and loves bringing friends together for silly games or just fun conversations.
Art by Molly Costello – www.mollycostello.com