Psalm 13 — for my sisters worldwide

I struggle daily with the profound frustration of wanting to get involved in some practical, tangible way with alleviating the suffering of women and girls around the globe and empowering them to live self-directed lives within their families, their churches and their communities. My passion for women’s rights globally was galvanized by 9/11 — before then, I had only incidentally paid attention to the lives of women outside my own Western affluent world. Then terrorists, of all people, opened my eyes to the oppressive circumstances most women and girls were living under, and having seen it I could not again look away. I had to get involved — both my humanity anjpegd even more, my allegiance to Jesus Christ, required it.

I started by educating myself, reading everything I could get my hands on that concerned women’s oppression worldwide. I started with Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDun, and if you have not read it I urge you to do so. It is not easy reading — in fact, it will rip your heart out. But it is important. We must not look away.

From Half the Sky I eventually came to Carolyn Custis James’s book, Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women, and together these books hit me like a one-two punch in the gut, forcing me to re-examine all my theology and really, all my assumptions, about what the Bible says regarding women and God’s gifting and role for us. As I prayed and studied and wrestled, God began a major overhaul in me, reclaiming me as His image bearer and calling me to contribute to His kingdom in ways I had previously thought “off limits” because of my gender.

jpeg-1Someday in the future I hope to be involved full-time, at least partially overseas, in bringing God’s shalom to women and girls — through education, through healthcare, through spiritual formation, through church leadership. Who knows what the future holds? But for now, I am a stay-at-home mom involved locally in the anti-trafficking effort here in the Bay Area. I don’t want to miss my daughters’ growing-up years, so my contribution is limited at this stage. Truthfully, this makes me feel a bit restless, and I know this registers to people around me as being “too much” – I am too opinionated, too verbal, too curious, too intense, too driven.

In Psalm 13, David seems restless too. I don’t know if there are historical markers for this psalm, or why he is restless, why his thoughts are in turmoil.

Restless (Psalm 13)

Half a world away
my sister watches
her daughter die of a curable disease
knowing her father won’t
waste money on medicine for her
for the sin of being born a girl.

Half a world away
my daughter sits in a
doorless shack outside of town,
terrified of the jackals her father hopes
devour her tonight
for the sin of a obstetric fistula.

half a world away
my other daughter smiles
at the man who paid another man
to rape her, for if she does not
smile she’ll be beaten until she
smiles so she smiles at him, and

the next
the next
the next
the next
the next
all those smiles in just one hour.

Sister, daughter, I reach for you through
tears and words and screams
but it is not enough
you don’t know my name and
I don’t know your touch.
How long, O Lord, will you forget?

How long would You leave me
buried beneath laundry
crushed beneath boredom
mocked by passion
that has nowhere to go
and vision nobody shares?

How long can I
cry without weeping
talk without speaking
scream without raising my voice?[1]
Why give me tears and no one
whose feet I can wash?

Lord, I cling to Your hesed
my nails torn and bloody but
still I cling despite all I see trusting
You can hear me and my
daughters and sisters and our
blood that cries out to You
from the ground half a world away.[2]


[1] U2, Running to Stand Still, (Joshua Tree, 1987).
[2] The images in this poem are drawn from the book by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010).

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