Are You Going to Hurt Me?, A Response

Tim Challies recently wrote about his observations running in the early morning and the women whose path he crosses in his article Are You Going to Hurt Me?

The article resonated with me as a woman, Christian, and runner and I wrote a response. Tim posted my response in his Letters to the Editor. I’ve copied my response below for you:

Tim, thank you for writing the “Are You Going to Hurt Me” article. It brings to light the tension I have long felt as a woman, runner, (recovering) feminist, and friend of many good men.

As a woman, I walk around knowing that 50% of the population could hurt me if they so choose. Although I am strong for a girl, I am weak compared to men. Yes, I work out regularly, I lift heavy weights, I run, I do everything “right,” but I am weak. At best, I hope to be able to defend myself long enough to survive, to get away, or to get help; that is all.

As a believer, I walk around knowing I am equal in worth to men. I have strong parents who loved me and taught me true self-confidence, I am a daughter of the King. I have unique skills and talents because I am a woman that neither diminish nor are greater than a man’s unique skills and talents.

As a (recovering) feminist, I fight the lie that I have to be the same as men to be valuable. I fight the temptation to turn a blind eye to the unique image bearing of men and women. I want to be the strong, unafraid, woman confidently striding down the street or running down the dark path, but I am not. My ears are pricked, I eyes are peeled, and I’m always a little afraid.

As a friend, daughter, sister-in-Christ to many good men, I walk around with the security of knowing there are good, godly men who desire to protect me – even when I don’t want it. They care for me emotionally and yes, even physically. I know men who go out of their way to make me feel secure when I am running alone—they step to the side, they speak, their eyes do not linger with a lustful hunger. These men speak kindly, they walk me to my car, they hold doors—not because I am incapable, not because I can never walk alone to my car, but because they care. They remind me that my hope is not in myself, it’s not even in them, my hope is in the God who they reflect—the one who cares for me when I am alone and afraid.

Thank you for bringing this simple issue to light. It is a reality for many women and we need good men in all areas of our life.

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Equal Play. Equal Pay.

I was 10 years old and riding in the car with my family; a Dodge Minivan, to be exact. The 1999 Women’s World Cup was fast approaching and I could not be more excited. My Dad starting singing the theme song from a popular commercial featuring Mia Hamm and Michael Jordan.

Anything you can do I can do better…

…I can do anything BETTER THAN YOU! was my loud reply

The women on the US Soccer Team were my heroes and idols. I wanted to be just like them. I could name every player and her number on command. My room was covered floor to ceiling in posters of women’s soccer players, swimmers, runners, and articles cut out from Sports Illustrated. I love sports. I love female sports. I love playing and watching sports.

I am part of the generation of girls who count the 1999 World Cup as a turning point in their life. I will forever remember Bob Gillespie’s article in The State newspaper decrying women’s sports and urging everyone to “wait for the hysteria to die back down.”

Well Bob, you were wrong and I’m glad. The popularity of women’s sports has only continued to rise and millions of girls around the world love and play sports.

Many of the players on the reigning World Cup Champion team were also influenced by the ’99ers. They too remember exactly where they were when Kristine Lilly saved a goal line shot with her head or when Brandi ripped off her shirt after beating China in PK’s.

The current generation of players are standing on the shoulders of these giants and they are reaching higher. They are demanding equal pay for equal play.

On the surface, this is a no-brainer; an easy decision for any non-female hating person. On the surface, I agree. Equal play, equal pay. Still, I think the issue is more complex than social media typically allows.

Let’s first acknowledge that women have been (and are still) paid less than their male counterparts for the same work across many (if not all) fields. This is not right. This should be challenged, called out, and changed.

The issue comes with how we define “equal.” I think most of us agree, equal does not mean the same. A butter knife and a steak knife are equally knives, but they are not the same. A chimpanzee and a rabbit are equally mammals, but they are not the same. With this in mind, I would argue men and women are equal, but not the same, especially in sports.

I work out regularly with guys and while there are somethings I am better at, across the board, even the weaker guys are bigger, faster, and stronger than me. I work hard, sometimes I’m more skilled, but all things (weights) being the same, I cannot keep up most of the time. This principal holds true across the majority of the male-female spectrum with regard to physical pursuits.

Drawing this out to sports, the work effort, hours of practice, and technical skills required are equal, but the results are different. The best female players in the world, the US national team, are on par with a talented U16-U18 boys team. Though the work is equal, in comparison, the result is not the same.

This being said, the women have achieved what their male counterparts have not – multiple world cup titles, olympic medals, and higher world rankings. All things being equal the women are competing at a higher level than the men and succeeding.

Admittedly, there are more factors than just the play on the field. Marketability, media coverage, sponsors, all factor into an athlete’s value to a company. I do not know the exact dollars, but I would imagine the marketability of the female players as reigning world cup champions is equal to, if not greater than the men. The players leading the charge for equal play, equal pay are some of the most highly marketable athletes in the world, particularly when marketing to women, though more than a few Sports Illustrated magazines have been sold as a result of the work of these women as well.

My concern for the movement, and the reason I desire clarity, is because I see a trend in sports (and Western culture in general) towards declaring men and women the same, and not merely equal. I fear a day when women’s and men’s sports will be combined and women will be excluded not because they’re women per se, but because after around age 13 they simply cannot compete on the same level as their male counterparts.

Women and men are different, but equal and those differences need to be celebrated. Women and men are much more similar than they are different, but much like a painting by Monet, the beauty is in the detail.

I still say equal play, equal pay, but let’s not confuse equality with sameness. Women and men bring different strengths and people to the game and that should be celebrated, valued, and rewarded, not minimized.

On Sacrifice and Reward

A little throw back from my own soccer playing days to go along with some lessons I'm learning as a coach.

A little throw back from my own soccer playing days to go along with some lessons I’m learning as a coach.

Last night, my soccer team (the one I coach) won their first region game this year by a margin of 3-2 against one of our rivals. The game was easily the best team effort I’ve seen in the history of the program; including the game we won 10-1 playing a man down the whole game with no subs. It was a come from behind win with many dramatic moments, pk’s (penalty kicks for you non-soccer fans), and injury, all on the hottest day of the year so far.

At half-time we were tied 1-1 after a late, gritty, all-effort goal for us. It wasn’t our best half, but we kept ourselves in the game by fighting hard and refusing to give up. Our focus at half-time was less on tactics and more about playing for each other and sacrifice. Our team has the talent to win a lot of games this year, but we are still fairly inexperienced and, like many all-girls teams, there can be underlying drama and tension among ourselves.

I told the girls before the game I didn’t care about the weather and how hot it was – everyone was playing in the heat. I didn’t care about little owwies and boo boos that hurt (but I do care about real injuries, for the record). I cared about who was willing to work hard and push themselves for the sake of their teammates.

During pre-season, in the middle of sprints, I often told ok, yelled to, the girls

1. It pays to be a winner and

2. Your body can go farther than your mind will let it.

Last night, we saw, felt, and enjoyed these truths first hand. Our girls came out of half time fighting and willing to sacrifice for each other. Each person gave more than they thought they were capable and each person executed their role with a mind for their teammates. Tactically, we had to switch positions, players, and formations several times and the girls embraced each new challenge and gave their best effort.

In the last minutes of the game, with the other team pushing all out, we maintained possession and kept playing our style of game. We refused to let down and there were several instances of girls playing beyond their skill or fitness level to make a play for the team. Their bodies pushed harder than their minds thought possible and it paid off.

All in all, I’m thrilled for the first region win of the season, but I’m even more impressed and excited about the sacrifice the girls made for each other. The challenge now is to continue the momentum and fight to remain united against continued obstacles. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the win!

On Coaching

coachOne of the best decisions I ever made was the decision to coach high school soccer. I started as a volunteer, mostly as a way to get to know girls while I was a Young Life leader, but that quickly turned into an official assistant coaching position. Eventually I was lured away by lots of money (not) to start a program at a local charter school.

There are many reasons I love coaching – I love the game of soccer, I love working with high school girls, I love building something from the ground up. Still, my favorite part of coaching is the opportunity to lead young women in a unique season and in a unique context.

As an assistant coach, my responsibilities for the emotional side of the team were clear and easy to fulfill. I was able to be the kinder, softer side of the coaching staff. I could easily focus extra attention on a single girl if she needed encouragement, correction, or advice. As a head coach, however, this balance is a little trickier.

As a head coach, I am responsible to not only the individuals, but also the team. My strict and intense side comes out when I am fighting to forge individuals into a team in a few short weeks; a time when I am admittedly not the most approachable. To be honest, I love introducing difficulty and hardship (aka running) into their lives because I thrive off the energy created by individuals sacrificing for one another and achieving something greater than themselves.

There is immense satisfaction in teaching young women to lead themselves and their peers – especially through challenge. I am elated when a girl is able to push through her mental barriers and realize she possesses a strength she never knew she had.

Still, all of these emotions and goals are secondary to the greater goal of preparing these women for life. As high schoolers, these young women are just beginning to understand who they are; their unique gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. As a coach, I get to bring clarity and encouragement as they figure themselves out. I have the privilege of a natural platform to speak wisdom (I hope), encouragement, and truth.

The opportunity to bring clarity and wisdom(?) is not unique to coaching, but coaching provides more daily, uninterrupted time than almost any other opportunity outside of parenting. The girls on the team are about to enter one of the most tumultuous seasons of life. Someone once told me, your life will change more between 18-28 than any other time in your life. As I have yet to reach age 28 I cannot verify this personally, but it seems to hold true for me so far!

As a coach, my goal is not only to prepare these young women for the soccer field, but also for the onslaught of challenges they will face when they leave home and/or the safety of college for the first time. Lessons like perseverance, building mental strength, and overcoming obstacles will serve them well in life and on the soccer field…That is, if they don’t die from running first!

The Spirituality of CrossFit

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That’s me in the middle (kicking tail, I might add)

Call me crazy, but I love working out. I love pushing my body beyond its perceived breaking point and conquering another obstacle. Perhaps this is why I love CrossFit, whose slogan is forging elite fitness.

Tonight was my first night returning to CrossFit Redeemed in a month. Part of me dreaded the beating I knew I would take, the feeling of weakness as something that was once easy is now difficult again, but I had to go back. I crave the endorphin rush and the feeling of bending my body to my own will.

It is tempting to dismiss the physical from the spiritual. Ironically, it makes the spiritual seem more spiritual. However, if you listen to any elite athlete you will hear an almost religious tone to their voice. Words like passion, discipline, and journey are commonplace. We cannot separate our bodies from our souls. This is why women will kill themselves to be thin, why men strive to bulk up and “get big,” why my mind is distracted if I feel fat.

Our bodies will exist into eternity with us, scars and all (John 20:19-29). What we do on earth to and with our bodies matters. Perhaps this is why my spiritual health and my physical health are inextricably tied; when I work out physically, I am also working out my soul. As I train my body with rigor, I am preparing my mind, body, and soul for the rigors of my spiritual life.

“…Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Just Do It.

This is me, training at CrossFit Redeemed!

Rigorous: manifesting, exercising, or favoring rigor: very strict, scrupulously accurate, precise.

This upcoming weekend I will be running a half-marathon. I haven’t been training; in fact, I haven’t run more than 6 miles in over 6 months. My training has been anything BUT rigorous. I’m relying on my natural athletic ability, self-determination, grit and pride to get me through this race. My goal is to finish within 2 hours.

Recently, I’ve heard a lot about giving your life away, spiritual disciplines, living missionally, and training for godliness. Though these are not necessarily easy concepts, I usually think I’ve got my mind pretty well wrapped around them. Words like training and discipline come pretty naturally to me. Once I set my mind to something, I am determined to follow through with it. (side note: the wives tale that the ability to curl your tongue is genetic is false. I worked for 2 weeks to learn this skill because I was determined that my younger sister would not best me at anything)

Unfortunately, I often approach spiritual training and discipline with the same mindset that I do to running: just do it. Worst case scenario, I’ll grit my teeth and get it done because I am a Generation Y American and I can do anything. Ha. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as helpless and weak as I have in the past year. Y’all, it has happened – I’ve become a full-fledged crier, no bones about it.

Ironically, I’ve also never felt more dependent, yet invigorated; helpless, yet powerful; exhausted, yet energized. I don’t know if my life is rigorous, but I’m learning what it means to live outside of my own strength. I’m learning how miniscule and pathetic my own strength is and how infinite and vibrant God’s strength is. All the more reason to train for godliness.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8

My top 10 reasons why I love hanging out with athletes:

This post is inspired by the lovely ladies on the soccer team I coach as well as many memories as a former athlete.

10. Dinner time. No one judges you if you take 2nds, or 3rds or 7ths.

9. Who doesn’t want to smell like sweat, BO, and grass?

8. No hair bows.

7. There’s nothing that says bonding like planning to massacre another team, break their spirits and make them cry.

6. Any time is game time. Athletes can turn anything into a competition.

5. You learn valuable survival skills. Any injury can be fixed with pre-wrap and tape.

4. It’s OK to drop a deuce, if ya know what I mean – as long as you’re not the person next in line.

3. It is OK to discuss said deuce on the bus. Was it good? How bad did it smell? How long did you have to evacuate the room until it was safe to re-enter? – All worthwhile discussion topics.

2. You can look like a slob and no one cares. In fact, people notice if you get new sweatpants.

1. Athletes have more fun. Period.

Do you have any other thoughts on why life is great (or not) when you hang out with athletes?