When I began to write these thoughts I was supported by the faith of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28), who does not take no for an answer, even from Jesus. I imagined the determination, the tenacity of that woman in favor of her beloved daughter. Love impels her to plead the cause of her vulnerable child. I almost felt as if I knew her, because she resembles all the women of faith that I have had the blessing to meet. Her faith and her plea lead to a miracle.
As an African woman, I understand very well how that Canaanite woman became familiar with being rejected, belittled, insulted and ignored. She asked for nothing but crumbs, pity and mercy. In addition, it saddens me to realize how her approach touches me deeply. I feel how that woman could have approached Christ with the certainty of being loved, just as Mary and Martha did, so that Jesus, who cries with her, could comfort her full of compassion. Love. In a word, this young African woman expects love. May the Church be moved by love and, yes, may she work miracles, and accept the legitimate request for all to be seated at God’s table. This love applauds the richness of everyone’s gifts, abilities and talents, and creates opportunities for all African girls and women to make use of them. This love rejoices in the different ways in which we are called to build community and nourish the human family. The marital status itself is not praised, while ignoring the suffering of women who are victims of domestic violence, or turn a blind eye to feminicide. This love supports mothers so that they can give birth safely, and families can take care of their children. This love honors the body as created by God with its inherent dignity and beauty. This love respects creation and is in solidarity with those who protect it. This love is much more than I can think, imagine, or my heart can desire, that is the greatness of God.
Women were the pillars that supported my faith as an African woman. Through their actions, I felt the love of God and was inspired by their commitment to try to build the kingdom of God here. These women cleaned churches with pride, organized joyful celebrations, recited prayers before meals and at bedtime, comforted and washed the sick, raised me, an orphaned child, supported victims of human trafficking, accompanied prayer groups, led wandering souls, fed the homeless and strengthened the faith, not through dogma, but through acts of love. To ask for the crumbs would be to expect the dignity and value of these women to be recognized. My experience of God’s love leads me to expect much more from the Church. This African woman expects a love that sustains and promotes life.
by Bokani Tshidzu
Artist and climate change activist. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, lives in London.