No Words: A Lament for Women

Kate Wallace Nunneley

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COPENHAGEN

When I was looking at the worship life of the American church, I noticed that lament, and something like the book of Lamentations, was absent in so much of our worship life…Why is it that in our typical American churches we don’t want to engage in a very important spiritual practice that we find throughout scripture, which is the practice of lament? We don’t take the time to think about suffering. We want to jump to celebration and victory…

Lament challenges us to say maybe we don’t have all the answers. Maybe I don’t know everything there is to know about God. And in fact, I need the stories of others. I need the reality of the experience of those who have suffered, because that’s a part of God that I don’t know. This is about being discipled in the faith by those who have a different set of stories than we do – different experiences than we do.”

Soong-Chan Rah

I can’t. I just can’t anymore.

What words are there to describe the horror of what women go through in this world?

What could possibly be said about a young college woman having unspeakable things done to her while unconscious, and her rapist somehow getting out of a 14 year prison sentence?

How do we begin to speak about the 19 women burned alive for refusing to have sex with ISIS fighters?

How do we describe the 200 million girls we will never know because they have been killed by preference of sons over daughters, infanticide, & sex-selective abortion?

What words can do justice to the girls around the world who are kidnapped, raped, and forced into marrying their rapists because of “cultural convention?”

How do we speak about the 14 women who were brutally attacked last year for rejecting men?

What can possibly be said about the 420 women raped every 72 hours in Brazil, or the 48 women raped every hour in the DRC?

There are no words.

I see the stats that 65% of sexual assaults go unreported, and I’m not surprised that there are no words to describe even the things that we ourselves have gone through.

When your mouth can’t form the syllables because all your energy is going into processing what has happened, trying to remember, washing the blood off, and attempting to look yourself in the mirror. And when you finally look up, you realize that this is happening not just to you, but to the women all around you.

What words are there to describe the deep, deep anger we feel when we see this happen again and again? When the story of what happened to a woman you’ve never met rocks you to the core and you can’t get out of bed in the morning? Because her story feels like yours, and your mother’s, and your daughter’s. Because if her assaulter is freed of his punishment, that means yours will be too.

What do you say when you look back at history and realize that nothing has changed, and that the main thing that unites your gender across nationalities, generations, races, and religions is the violence that is done to you?

How can we adequately show the anguish of women who are tired of living in a world where we are constantly beaten and taken advantage of and mistreated and looked down upon and told to be quiet and told our opinions don’t matter and mocked when we do try to speak?

There are no words.

When you go to the Church for help, and they tell you your “place” is under the authority of men.

When you tell them what men have done to you, and they tell you “boys will be boys”.

There are no words to describe the feeling when educated, well respected, male theologians tell you that the main source of your identity as a woman is in how you relate to and respond to men, by recognizing and responding to their “God ordained leadership”.

There are no words when those theologians get behind a microphone and say that a woman’s nature is to be deceived.

There are no words to describe the prideful arrogance of men who can’t see that their own mindset of female subordination is the cause of women’s plight and that by preaching their message they are actually contributing to the worldwide degradation of women.

There are no words to confront the lie that more men assuming more authority over more women is going to make the world better.

There are no words.

I was told once that lament can open up things in your soul that you didn’t know were there. When we feel like we have no words, perhaps borrowing them is a place to start. I’ve borrowed a few from the book of Lamentations. How telling that I only had to change a few words to lament our story – the story of women.

How lonely sits the woman
who was once so full of life.
She that ruled over creation
is now considered subject.

She weeps bitterly in the night
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;
all of them have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

She is alone in this world of suffering and servitude;
alive with no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.
Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper.
Is it the Lord that has made her suffer?

And she remembers all the precious things about her life long past
before her sisters fell into the hand of the foe and there was no one to help her,
the foe looked on mocking over their downfall.

The woman cries out,
“Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.
My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of my sisters.

My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite,
until the Lord from Heaven looks down and sees.

My eyes cause me grief at the fate of all the women around me.

I called on your name, O Lord.
From the depths of the pit
you heard my plea.
You came near when I called on you;
you told me, “Do not fear!”

You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord;
judge my cause!
You have seen all their malice,
all their plots against me.

You have heard their cat calls,
their taunts, their murmurs.
Whether they sit or they rise,
I am the object of their taunting songs.

Pay them back for their deeds, O Lord, according to the work of their hands!
Let them feel my anguish
as you judge them for the evil they have done.

You have taken up my cause, O Lord,
You redeemed my life.
Restore my sisters, O Lord, to what we were meant to be.”

Amen.

Kate Wallace Nunneley

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32 Comments

  • Excellent piece. Very thoughtfully written concerning such a critical topic for this country and its citizens.

  • A word to those pastors who with indifference say “let the women leave the church:

    “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:1-2

    Yes we are very scattered, we have been driven away, and no one seems to care…but we have not lost God…He is with us at all times…and somehow I don’t even miss church at all…in fact I am so much more at peace in my walk with God…but what of those younger women who haven’t built up a circle of Christian friends…woe indeed to you men who keep driving women out of the churches…as if they are YOURS.

  • Mands….Amen, amen, amen…ditto….ditto….ditto…to every word! If I didn ‘t know better, I would think I had changed my name to Mands ☺

    As to the ‘men’ who say to women leaving the church “let them go” I hope God teaches them something about Christianity someday.

  • I’m a woman not so inclined to lament as to anger. I know the world would like me to be all weepy and sad about this, but I’m furious. And furious about the way nice Christians contribute to this reality. When we teach next to nothing about sex, or talk about men having “uncontrollable urges” we’ve contributed to the culture in which these things take place. When we hear all the tsk-tsking about women whose skirts are too short, or who happen to get drunk –as if that justifies their abuse — we’re part of the problem.

    Those psalms of anger — let’s use those.

    • Yes! Lament and righteous anger are both needed in this day and age.

  • this.
    this is why we started Her Legacy, a regional women’s ministry. God is restoring, releasing and moving among women as I have never seen. We are the body of Christ, not bodies divided by men and women. My sisters, I love you and am so blessed to be part of you.

  • This is a beautiful and heartfelt message. However, since you brought politics into it, I wonder why you didn’t ALSO mention the woman that the democrats are behind who maligns, verbally abused and tried to destroy other women who her husband abused.

    • Agree. If we are going to involve politics, then why not mention those who vehemently demand the right to kill unborn girls if a boy was wanted, those who insist these girls have no rights until after they are born? A female presidential candidate who protects with frenzied passion the murderers of innocent, unborn girls… girls who will never even get a voice, because they were killed? Female politicians who protect the savage practice of abortion, a practice which enables evil men to take advantage of women, then manipulate, abandon or coerce them to kill their own child?

      • Hi Alicia,

        I’m not sure if you read the whole post, but I do mention many of the things that you ask about in your comment.

        “How do we describe the 200 million girls we will never know because they have been killed by preference of sons over daughters, infanticide, & sex-selective abortion?”

        • Kate, thank you for this lament. One small correction, re: “with the full backing of the Republican Party?” This is an exaggeration, although the amount of backing is still lamentable. For example I am a member of my state’s Republican committee. I am #nevertrump. Many others are the same, such as many published at National Review, Red State, and The Weekly Standard. Also, this candidate received a plurality of primary votes but not a majority, far from it.

    • I think Kate’s post was highlighting recent current events. There are many ways this has played out over time.

  • Hello Kate,

    Thank you so much for this reflection! Yes, this is the time for lamentation… You have streghthened and re-enforced my energy and passion to continue fighting and advocating for equality and justice. We need to lament to all these happening.

  • “We don’t take the time to think about suffering. We want to jump to celebration and victory…” Because our churches are full of false bravado and shallow confidence, based only in part on the saving grace of Jesus, and in part on checking our brains at the door. I’ve done it myself…

  • Yes, Kate! When we begin to see the reality of how imperative it is as followers of Christ, to “do to” even “just one” of the lost, least, lowly and left behind (Matt. 25), our hearts will begin to be broken and our attitudes toward justice will begin to come into alignment with His.

    When we, as women, (particularly in the Body of Christ), have been on the receiving end of the reality of spiritual abuse associated with false doctrine that promotes male superiority and privilege … may we be compelled by God’s Spirit to “travail ’til Christ be formed” in the Church … lamenting the extreme loss of our true identity, individually and collectively, in Christ Jesus.

    May our hearts as image bearers of YAHWEH ELOHIM, daughters of our ABBA FATHER, sisters in CHRIST JESUS, unite in prayer allowing the HOLY SPIRIT to “make intercession in us, for us, and through us, with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance.”

    May we allow our Creator to reveal the deep lament of His heart as He gives us ears to hear and eyes to see the reality of the nature of deception and false doctrine that propagates the “traditions of man, which render the impact of His Word ineffectual.”

    May we become skilled at discerning between good and evil in His Church, particularly sensitized to all manner of disparity, divisiveness, inequality, discrimination and prejudice against anyone due to matters of gender, race, or age.

    May our spiritual senses be exercised continually, thereby disallowing pride, inexperience, and ignorance from shaping our viewpoint concerning the reality of our true identity as female image bearers of the the One and Only Righteous Judge over all.

    “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed!” May we lament in humility for all held in bondage and captivity … for “where the SPIRIT IS LORD there will be liberty!”

    Bless you!

    • What a beautiful prayer! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  • I say this a lot in my daily life: There is no such thing as benign patriarchy. You said it better: “…by preaching their message they are actually contributing to the worldwide degradation of women.”

  • Aren’t we glad the BIGGEST “Man” came to balance things… “Serving one another”. Sin is the basis for all these wrong doings… God must deliver…

  • We need to get past this patriarchy rubbish; However, thankfully i don’t buy into it anymore; it’s abhorrent, degrading and serves to no purpose whatsoever from either the female or male point of view; it’s been going on for far too long now and it’s past it’s sell by date. I’m sick to death of reading about all this male superiority clap trap (or should i say how some religions put it; it’s ‘God’s order of things’) that’s been going on now for millenniums; most particularly in mainstream religion(s). We need to realise and understand that we are all a Microcosm of the Macrocosm regardless of race or gender and we are all equal partakers of life. We are all the very Essence (breath) of the ‘Divine’ (God) and that essence is within all of us. In truth we don’t need any church organisation to tell us that the only way to salvation is through them. When we restore the balance and harmony that mainly religion/government (politics) and education has almost destroyed due to an unbalanced male dominance; and i say almost because the time will come when the truth will be exposed and their true agenda will all be revealed; that’s is to say that in some cases if it hasn’t already done so. As Jesus said as regards to the ones who do this: You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. The hypocrisy of those that do this and keep on doing it knowing full well of their agenda, yet keep on lying in order to retain their power, control and dominance over the masses.

  • My heart weeps as well. And yet, I can’t help but think of Mary’s Magnificat that praised the Lord for what He would do. My eyes are likewise fixed. Otherwise, my anguish would turn to despair.

    My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
    And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
    He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
    he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
    he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
    He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
    as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

  • I don’t know if I would have made it this far if I had not learned like Hagar that there is a “God who sees.” I love this!

  • I am right now sitting in a coffee shop reading this and I suddenly hear the music playing in the background: an old Gospel song “Up Above My Head, I Hear Music in the Air.” God’s message to His daughters, my sisters: despite it all He still sings over us. We are celebrated and valued in heaven. Despite the lament we sing down here. “Up above your heads, I sing.”

  • We weep with you. Oh, God, may you remember and act on our behalf! Are we not all the work of your hands?

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