I took up reading this book as I was finishing my Teacher Education Program. I knew I would have quite a bit of spare time on my hands through the summer being finished my schooling and recognizing that I was likely not going to be working until September. So I decided on a book that was non-fiction, a subject I’ve been contemplating, struggling with for quite a period of time now and it would ease me out of the life of being a full-time student as I began summer vacation with my kids.
I’m still making my way through the book five months later. It’s a super easy read but I find myself reading little snippets, digesting what has been said, putting it down and coming back to it days later. With each read my understanding and awareness is being clarified. I am feeling more at peace with my understanding of some issues I’ve struggled with in my faith for quite some time. While I am recognizing that people will continue to disagree about a number of issues as it relates to Christianity, I am slowly coming to a place of letting go. I still feel it is important to be honest, open and communicative about my beliefs and how they impact my understanding of who God is. I appreciate informative dialogue and opinions of those who are willing to discuss, even if their opinions differ from mine. However, I do not feel any inclination to debate or try to change minds. I am coming to a place of comfort in letting the Holy Spirit work, which is as it should be.
A Current Burning Issue in North American Churches
This particular book takes a look at feminism and Christianity. There are so many strong feelings on this issue and I’m not really interested in creating animosity or debating positions. For now I’m content to see where God is leading me in this personal journey. In fact, I said to a friend the other day that this stage of faith is so interesting to me. It may sound weird but I feel a settling in my spirit, the high highs and low lows that regularly occurred through my teens and young adulthood have settled into a consistency. I still feel the challenge, the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit calling me to account but it’s a satisfied place. One of the quotes that I found particularly appealing said this:
” Look at this sky above us. Look up and see God’s first cathedral. May you rest in your place in the story of God for awhile…”
This is where I’m at right now. I’m comfortable in my place, eager to discover where God is leading, glad for the day he created me, satisfied in who he created me to be. But it does not escape me that there is still an occasional pit that forms when I see the sorrow that the church brings to women in so many areas.
At this point in my life I’m not interested in lobbying for anything in particular. In fact that was one of the greatest challenges that this book put forward:
“Let’s be done lobbying for a seat at the Table.”
The author’s own journey is chronicled throughout the book and it blessed me to see how God had used her experiences to mold her and continues to shape and re-shape her understanding of a woman’s place in the Body of Christ. But one of the most poignant understandings seemed to be the moment she realized that trying to find a seat at the proverbial table was not a place that God would call us to. It wasn’t a place that Jesus aspired to so why should we?
So we accept whatever role we’re “allowed”?
Having said that, my take away, from as far as I’ve gotten in the book, is that we don’t sit meekly by either. While we don’t need to be angry or bitter or manipulative in our approach we need to be true to who God has created us to be. And we need to rest in our femininity because it is God-made, God-given and God-blessed.
“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them as “The women, God help us?” or “The ladies, God bless them?”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny about woman’s nature.” – Dorothy Day
How incredibly refreshing is the notion that “Jesus thinks women are people, too.” The encouragement I find in this discussion is that I can be confident in where God has opened doors for me as a wife, mother, teacher, and leader in my home, community, workplace and church. I am not subject to the by-laws of my denomination or held at bay by the societal expectation of the place I live. I am held accountable to the gifts and passions God has bestowed on me. If I choose not to use them I am not fulfilling my calling which is what I will answer for when I meet my Maker.
“If a woman is held back, minimized, pushed down, or downplayed, she is not walking in the fullness God intended for her as his image bearer, as his ezer warrior. If we minimize our gifts, hush our voice, and stay small in a misguided attempt to fit a weak and culturally conditioned standard of femininity, we cannot give our brothers the partner they require in God’s mission for the world.”
WHAT! Wait, did you say warriors?
The feeling that has remained with me in the months of picking up and putting down this book is the knowledge God has given me in regards to my own strength. And it’s not about being powerful. It’s about the security I have found in God’s blessing and the fact that he made me strong enough to be considered a warrior. That he intended and created men and women to work alongside each other for HIS glory.
“What a revelation! A man does not need to deny a woman’s identity as a beloved and unique warrior in Christ out of misplaced fear or insecurity or a hunger for power. Let’s praise God together for his truth. Sons, brothers, husbands, friends, can you imagine? God knew that it was not good for you to be alone, and he gave you your best ally. You were never intended to do the work of God – in your home, in a lost and dying world – alone. You were given allies, partners, warriors, and lovers in the form of women. Throughout Scripture and world history, we see the richness of partnership between men and women as God intended when he created them together…”
Where does that leave us?
Is it possible for us to come to any great conclusions about where we should be as women then? Not particularly. This is a discussion that will remain until the end of time. I don’t expect one author to settle an issue that stemmed from the dawn of Creation or goes far deeper than how women are treated in the churches of North America. I expect it will be the gentle shifting of hearts, a plugging along of our masculine counterparts that daily choose to lift us up and encourage us to be warriors alongside them. It will be found in the marriages that equally share the spiritual leadership of their homes. In the fathers who lift up their little girls claiming their strength in Christ. And in the mothers who show their sons the true strength of their manhood is not found in power or hierarchy but in allowing every human being, male or female, to fulfill their calling in God’s kingdom.
As I continue to read through this book, turn back to notes made in the margins I know that God is continuing to work in me. He is quieting my spirit before him and leading me to new places each and every day. I am thankful for these moments, thankful for the truth they reveal to me and thankful that they bring me closer into community with the One who loves me more than life itself.