Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sit in the shape of a what?

It's not often that I come back from dropping my son off in the nursery at church to find my husband shaking with barely suppressed mirth in his lonely pew. It was as I sat down and was about to lean over and ask what joke I had missed when I heard what was being read from the front: The passage in 1 Corinthians 14 about women keeping silent in the church. Why was my husband laughing? Well, as we've been forging ahead in this tedious church search, he had asked me to consider a church in a denomination whose position on women in ministry I wasn't particularly enthused about, saying that every church is different and surely they'd be excited for me to be there and to contribute in vital ways. Come on, it wasn't like they'd stand up front the day we visited and quote scriptures about the "woman's place" in church, was it? Right.

We stayed through the rest of the service because I was keeping an open mind and I wanted to hear how the pastor interpreted the scripture. After it had been read, it was sort of left hanging out there like a big uninspirational quotation supposedly meant to spur me into a frenzy of excited devotion. Needless to say, when he finally attempted to explain it, I was left unsatisfied and disappointed. We won't be going back but we did laugh the whole way home.

Most days at church haven't looked like this for me. My journey with the church and gender has actually largely been positive, that because I think a lot of my growth has happened in the context of InterVarsity, a place that has affirmed my gifts and demanded that I use them. I have been on church leadership teams, led tracks at camps and conferences, given sermons, led co-ed worship teams, mentored both men and women and largely felt like I was valued, not in spite of being a woman, but because I was a woman. But there are those moments when I just get frustrated.

I have known men on my journey, who upon finding out that I have "feminist tendencies" would hurry to find or quote scriptures to me about women submitting or keeping their heads covered and then stare at me expectantly. I'm not sure what they were trying to do, but it usually resulted in extreme anger and frustration on my part. I've had women on my journey tell me that it is sinful and even "murderous" to my child to keep working in ministry now that I'm a mother. I have sat at women's retreats listening to a speaker who is only attempting, and often rather shallowly, to engage my emotions or my funny bone and wonder why more female speakers in the church won't attempt to engage my mind and challenge me in my theology.

While there are definitely things I've doubted about God or had difficulty understanding about his character, I am thankful that at each of those moments, moments when people would have me believe that I'm less than or silly or only emotional because of my womanhood or that I'm evil for continuing to work, that God has responded in truth. That He has created me in His beautiful and perfect image, that He has gifted me in ways that are meant to glorify Him and that when I'm working as a young mother that yes, maybe my child has to sacrifice more than a child whose mother is at home in terms of how much time he gets with me, but, to quote a friend, "he is learning that there is sacrifice involved in the gospel" from a very young age. That has gotten me through mornings when guilt would have had me turn my car around and drive home.

This morning, I am deeply thankful for the people in my life, who have loved me in this, who have helped me see truth, who have helped me deal with my anger and apologize when necessary, who have laughed with me (thank you, Husband) about the absurdities we sometimes encounter in the church (and who may remember being asked to sit in the shape of a "womb" at a women's conference) and who believe alongside me that as men and women we are called to work together, to reflect in unity that beautiful image of God as we live out his calling as co-laborers.

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