It’s coming up on a year now that pretty much everything changed in my family’s life. My over twenty years of married life, up until last year around this time, our lives had been built around my husband’s job. John’s work as a coach in the NFL and Division I collegiate football had moved us all over the country—coast to coast and in between.
This time last year our move was for me to take a job. No more football. And a move not for football meant massive shifts in the daily life of our family.
I cannot count the number of times since I took this new job that people have said to me, “Finally, it’s your turn!”
Most often this comment comes from other women, with a celebratory, triumphant tone. As if, after all my years of catering to John’s profession, now I finally get to be the one whose profession is being catered to in our family.
The first few times someone said, “It’s your turn,” I felt myself being squished into a container that was someone else’s reality. It was curious to me how people over-laid that interpretation on my life when it resonated so little with me. As I continue to hear this comment, it has become the cause of some critical thinking and some feelings of being unseen and misunderstood.
And so begins what some may label as a “feminist rant,” but what I prefer to call my “femifesto” on what this new chapter in my professional life actually says about me as a feminist.
First of all, I did not wait in the wings for twenty-one years for “my turn.” All along I have adapted to make my family structure work, but I never gave up investing in the work I love to do. I had life-giving work in every place we moved for John to coach football. And I improvised at every turn. I wouldn’t trade the skills I learned and the discoveries I have made about my own creativity and about the things I truly love to do.
My improvisational career gave me freedom from some of the constraining and life-diminishing aspects of institutionally dependent work. In fact, I reentered institutionally dependent work with this new job with more than a little trepidation. I don’t want to spend my energy propping up institutions—especially institutions that have been such prominent carriers of patriarchy and white supremacy. Ecclesia and Academia (the two institutions I am trained to work in) certainly have done more than their fair share to care and feed for both these oppressive cultures.
So, my second answer to the “it’s your turn” comment is: if it were really “my turn” to get to finally follow my professional dreams, I would not imagine a job for myself in which I have to work so hard just to do the work I love. My dream is not to spend so many hours and so much energy working in and around structures and functions created by white men who were working with templates of power I reject.
Which brings me to the third and final point of this femifesto on this particular woman’s work: this job isn’t my turn to get to do what I love; it’s my latest attempt to trust and respond to the twists and turns of life. I do not feel like I had much choice in the matter in how this all unfolded, if the truth were told. That doesn’t mean I was powerless in the decisions we made; it means life arises on causes and conditions that shape our horizons and possibilities.
My family made a choice to leave the world of football. And we decided to open ourselves up to new and unexpected possibilities. The job I have now as Pastor/Head of Staff in a Presbyterian Church USA congregation is a good fit for me and I am grateful for the Divine provisions in such a mysterious turn of events. My husband and I didn’t switch places, we took a leap of faith once again together. In that way, the decision to say yes to this job used the same spiritual muscles for trust and risk that all the other moves we’ve made have included.
And how are these three points the stuff of a femifesto, you may ask? Well because these points should make it easy to see that I am, indeed, a feminist. After all, feminism is not about power over, either/or thinking, or individualism. Feminism is a constructive interruption of those ways of navigating the world. Feminism is about relationships and mutuality. It is also about the health of a society being tangled up with what room there is for women to be generative, creative, and empowered to be ourselves, idiosyncrasies and all. We cannot essentialize women’s experiences, nor can we extract women’s agency from the systems and cultures that help to shape our complicated lives.
This new chapter in my life means that through my job I am paying more of the bills now than I was before. It also means there are some things I had to give up—flexibility in schedule, being an available parent, ample space for creativity and rest, and an income level that my work can never match in terms of my husband’s former earning capacity. I also have gained some things—new colleagues, a community that has called me here to invest in it over time, and a place to call home that won’t shift and change with the vagaries of football.
Sometimes I miss the way my life was before I took this job. And I have a lot of clarity and peace that being here is where my family and I belong right now. Far from my turn to lead the way in my family, it’s my family’s time to relearn the power of coming together for a purpose bigger than ourselves.
Marcia Mount Shoop is an author, theologian, and minister. She is the Pastor/Head of Staff at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC. Her newest book, released from Cascade Books in October 2015, is A Body Broken, A Body Betrayed: Race, Memory, and Eucharist in White-Dominant Churches, co-authored with Mary McClintock Fulkerson. Marcia is also the author of Let the Bones Dance: Embodiment and the Body of Christ (WJKP, 2010) and Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports (Cascade, 2014). Find out more at www.marciamountshoop.com