I think I am mad at Jen Hatmaker? I have made this statement so many times over the last few years. I have read her books, subscribed to her email list, and listened to her podcasts. I have simmered with this idea for a while now. I have been trying to understand my feelings for her over the years and I have come to this conclusion. I like her, I think we could be friends, but also this…
It all started several years ago when a friend suggested we read her book, Seven. I had never heard of her before and it seemed that several of my friends had a positive impression, but did insinuate that they would be interested as to what I thought of her: I was intrigued. I love to read what other ladies my age have to say about life and even more so what they are saying to my friends. As a bible teacher/disciple-er, I am somewhat possessive over my girls. I like to know what they are reading and to whom they are listening. I have a deep desire to stay relevant and to be apart of the conversation of how our faith relates to our culture. So I try to “tune-in” to what others are saying, particularly women my age, and to really hear what they are saying behind their words. It is fun; it is challenging and helpful to my own learning journey.
What I love about Jen is her ability to communicate in her writing with so much boldness. She is so funny, she is saying out loud what we are saying to our girlfriends about life and family and how ridiculous it all is. We all relate around her stories and find the humor in the things that are actually trying to derail us. Truly, we should be laughing at so much more rather than feeling guilty that we actually thought that or more likely, actually said it. Mothering and raising families is outrageously wonderful and taxes every single emotion known to mankind.
I love that she does not shy away from hard topics and tries to push the norms and create a little controversy around habits and forms that may need a little consideration. Even still, she uses satire creatively, and offensively, depending on which side of the issue you are on, to communicate in a captivating way. It is a gift that maybe hides compassion and deeper places of pain to draw people in and force a conversation without even knowing it.
I love that she lives a loud and full life, publically, with a huge desire to affect her people and her “tribe,” as she likes to call them. She purposes to offer tangible relief and awareness to the injustice everywhere, then doing something about it. Yet, somehow she has fun in the process. She has inspired me to enjoy making food, meals around the table and life in the mundane. She evens gives me permission to binge on Netflix every now and again. I think she is likable and I think that she would like me.
Now, to my problem, first, I wondered if I was jealous of her. She is funny and courageous and fun! I know that I am not supposed to be jealous. But honestly, why else would I care so much? I think sometimes that she is telling my story. She is talking about things that matter to me, too, and I want, so much, to be apart of the conversation. I can relate to so much of her story. I often have a resounding yes. She is brave enough to talk about it and throw it out there regardless of the kickback she might receive. There is a freedom that seems to resonate from her life. Though I read her and I feel stifled. Like I am choking on my own freedom to speak out and speak up. Over time, it became clearer that I wanted to add to the story; it was not complete and left me a bit irritated.
So here I am. This is my attempt to join the conversation: To join her conversation. Though so much of what she says resonates with me. Most often I want her to say more. I am not sure if she would have more to say, and at points this grieves me, however, I would often say, “yes, but” to some of her stories. The concern I have about this lies in the area of her influence. She is so liked among woman and I do believe she connects with us in so many ways, yet I am concerned about her conclusions. Therefore I am concerned with those who are listening to her.
I also can look to the past and how I was raised in the church and see so much hypocrisy. I can get so frustrated with the confines of religion and the harshness of the laws of man placed on others as the laws of God and I see so much damage in the wake. I find myself dodging the traditional mandates imposed by man and bordering the desire to rebel against the norms. This, too, has caused me to ask different questions. Jen found the marginalized and made home with them. It is a gift to be sure. I, too, see the marginalized, but my path took me to different places, in my region, with my community of people.
A defining moment in my testimony happened after I graduated from college and I was home visiting my, now, husband’s father. We got into a conversation about global warming and the green house effect. I really do not know why we were talking about this because I had little interests in these things. However, after I told him the “truth” of all that I had learned, he proceeded to tell me how wrong I was. He began to share with me a completely opposing view on the subject and I just could not believe it. He gave me a book to read and it was through that book that I unraveled. It was not about whether or not global warming exists, but rather how ignorant and indoctrinated I was. I was so caught off guard that I sat in a classroom for a whole year and was taught someone’s opinion. That somehow I was not allowed to come to my own opinions after being able to consider all the information surrounding a subject. If it is an opinion than just say so.
Until that time, it never occurred to me that I could sit under someone who would teach me something, from a book no less, and it might not be true. It made me ask myself what else might I believe and think was truth, and so began my life as a skeptic and also my annoying habit of asking the question, “How do you know?” I drove my husband crazy because I always wanted to know how he knew the things he did, like he had to give me his credentials every time he wanted to teach or fix the car or figure out how to build a patio or whatever the task.
In like fashion, as I approached my bible studies and sat under preaching, I would gravitate towards those who used scripture to support their claims. Those who would send me through the stories and lessons in the Bible to see what God had to say. For me, the law of God is what saved me. It was the traditions of man that I leaned on. I know that the purpose of the Law was to expose my sin, and lead me to my need for Jesus, but it is so much more. It is the sustaining power of His unchanging nature that helps me through my tempest life. The uncertainty that I find surrounding my life and closing in, is only held at bay by the power of His Word. John 1:1 tells us that the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. The beauty of Psalm 119, which is full of the benefits of the Scriptures, yet it is Jesus revealed in the pages. I ONLY know who I am and to whom I belong, because the Bible tells me so.
I have journeyed through my life and I have sat with so many hurting and confused and devastated women and the only thing I have to offer them is the Words of God: His Words to each of us. I can find common ground with someone based on my experiences but I can only go so far in someone else’s shoes. Jesus must take them all the way for there to be any healing or life restored. Recently in a podcast, Jen was talking to a guest on her show, and she alluded to the audience that Jesus was in the wilderness with all the hurting and outcast, and when you get knocked down you get back up and press on. If you look around you, you will see others like you braving the wilderness and even Jesus is found there. Though I am not certain I fully agree with where she was coming from and what she might have meant, I can absolutely say that there is more to the story.
When I woke up and found myself in my own wilderness, and I agree, it takes some major grit to endure the desert places of life, the only hope that I had to survive was His promise to me that I would one day walk into the promise land. It was His constant, tried and true Word and the fulfillment of His promise that He would never leave me nor forsake me that carried me through. The gift to me was that even though my circumstances were slow to change and many of them still unchanged, He gave me Himself through His Word. It was all Him. Period. I get no credit.
He sent me His people, He sent me a song, He sent me encouragement all along the way, but it was the power of God through the Word of God that changed me and brought me up out of the miry clay and set me feet upon the Rock. I want everyone to experience Jesus, and I do not believe it is possible separate from His Word because that is who He is.
I am among a generation of women who have flocked together because of the pain we have experienced and the suffering we witness all around. There is an openness of sharing that pain with others in hopes that it will break us free from the bondage and even resonant with others who have suffered in similar ways. There is something so beautiful in transparency and honestly and to find loving acceptance among a friendship or in a community. However, the only hope for any of us is that the Bible is in fact true and has not been compromised at any point. There is a movement of moxie and a sisterhood of Esther’s for such a time as this, but be assured, it is the power of God working in us and through us for His glory. We can boast in only this, that we are known by Him.
I am concerned about the message we are sharing and passing along to the next generation. We must bring every thought and every feeling captive and subject it to the Word of God before we can claim it as Truth and be ever so careful to reflect a Jesus that only tells part of the story of grace and leaves out the unchanging nature of God revealed in His Word. He is the final authority, and thankfully He has not left it up for our interpretation and woe is me who think she stands, lest I most certainly fall.
The fun and camaraderie and fellowship of the sisterhood is so precious, the gentle kindness of one woman sharing life with another is image bearing beauty. The binding of us all together, breaking down boundaries and diversity and division, however, is the Word, the Holy Scriptures. Let us bring all of the stories and filter them through the lens of the Bible, let us enjoy our tribe as added blessings, and let us always point people to Jesus. He is the beginning and the end.