When I am helplessly sad, you may not notice.
Because when the anxieties and dramas of life are manageable, believe me, I will tell you. There’s a reason one of my nicknames growing up was Leah Whiner.
But when things feel out of control – when I am grieving – I become stoic. You will see me laughing, but you will not see my tears, because I’ve buried them deep in my chest where they carve a deep gorge.
Eventually I will break.
This week was the breaking point. The tears unloosed, I am ready to speak.
In early August, my Grandma Rosie died suddenly. Three weeks later my Grandma Howell died, too. I barely made it to Grandma Rosie’s funeral because the men in the family insisted on rushing things. I couldn’t make it to Grandma Howell’s funeral because the men in the family ignored the pleas of my mother to delay it. Around the same time, my dad got a job in Florida and my parents began the process of selling their house in Ohio and moving back down. My grandpa, now a widower, moved in with my parents. That’s a lot for one month.
Then the Kavanaugh hearings began.
My brittle and fractured spirit wasn’t prepared for the torrent of rage, grief, and fear stirred up as I read hundreds of #whyididn’treport stories, reflected on my first experience of sexual harassment (light assault? What could I have done differently?), relived the grief and trauma of rapes experienced by loved ones, and remembered all the times I had to fight, hard, to prove that I mattered as a woman.
This, while the Christian community I grew up in called Christine Blasey Ford a liar, suggested she was just confused (how patronizing!), or mocked her tears.
As I’ve spoken about before, I grew up in a politically conservative household influenced by the Religious Right, which attached things like abortion and the free market (?) to our religious education. Despite this, I also learned about a God who used his male privilege not to harm but to lift up the voices of women. A God who was self sacrificial to a fault, who both loved and was himself (Trinitarian theology is weird, ok?) a regular human being who wept over his coming execution and gave himself up to the state anyway.
This is a radical, counter-cultural, frankly horrifying story, and I was reminded again and again as a young kid and teenager that this person-God Jesus was the one to emulate.
If you follow Jesus, I’m pretty sure you end up dead.
And while I struggle with the severity of the narrative, I have never thought that the Gospel narrative is telling us anything otherwise. Christianity is about humility and sacrifice, it is about seeing the Kingdom of God as an imaginative, wide-open space where everything we thought we knew is just a blip of what is true. It flips everything on its head: the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The poor and the orphan and the widow are the heads of the table.
So why are Christians hell-bent on establishing a kingdom of death?
I don’t know, though I have theories. But the past few weeks have made it difficult to believe that my time isn’t being wasted insisting that the “pharisees” and hypocrites in the wider Christian community just need a little grace.
And I know I have to give it anyway, but I don’t want to. So I grieve. I grieve for not being as kind as I want to be. I grieve for the ways my own family members have betrayed the very values they taught me. I grieve for a world that can’t and won’t believe women, who would sooner give “vulnerable men” body cameras and weapons to defend themselves from “lying women” than find a way to protect women.
I grieve, too, because my Grandma Rosie tried to kill herself once and if you ask her sons and husband about it, they can’t tell you anything because they never asked why.
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.