Regaining feeling in my feet

Today I read the Danvers Statement. I didn’t wake up planning to read the Danvers Statement.  But who wakes up planning to read a manifesto that basically downgrades one’s own beliefs and upbringing to a savage attempt to devalue the authority of Scripture?

Yeah. That’s where this post is going. You’ve been warned.

I could write for days about my position as an egalitarian, a Methodist, a fairly progressive Christian.  I’m still not always wonderful at expressing these beliefs with humility or without anger, but I’m getting there.  God is teaching me grace.  He is teaching me to listen more than I speak.  I will be the first to admit that I am not there yet.

But I don’t really want to prove points right now.  I don’t want to rehash the same arguments, the same talking points, the same interpretations.  My purpose right now is to thank.  It is to honor.  It is to – well, I guess it is to prove one point wrong.

According to the Danvers Statement,

7. the emergence of roles for men and women in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching but backfire in the crippling of Biblically faithful witness…

You see, I expected most of what I read in the Danvers Statement; I am not unfamiliar with complementarian thought or ideas.  I go to a school with a complementarian bent, run by individuals with strong complementarian views and quite a literal interpretation of Scripture.  I don’t doubt that one can form a solid complementarian exegesis from Scripture.  I don’t think God intended for us all to read Scripture the same way, or to draw all of the same conclusions on matters that don’t directly relate to salvation.  But, as many* would also attest, it’s a matter of interpretation.  It’s what we come to Scripture with just as much as what we walk away with.  Our presuppositions, our upbringings, our families, our churches – all color our view of Scripture to the point where I wouldn’t claim that anyone “just follows what the text says.”  Because the text is a living Word; it is the breath of God, and breath is not stagnant.  Words and stories have contexts, hidden meanings, biases, and peculiarities.

Therefore, because of my relationship with the Lord, my upbringing, my church, my research, my gifts, my experience, my observations, and yeah, even my biases and opinions, I call myself egalitarian.

Anyway.  I expected to read most of what I read in the Danvers Statement.  It wasn’t shocking or offensive because it is the arguments and logic that is presented to me often in the current environment in which I find myself.  But point 7 was different.  Point 7 hit my heart.  And it hurt.

When I’m told that the roles faithful women have played in my church – and in my life – serve only to “cripple Biblical faithful witness,” what I really hear is “the ways God has worked in you and through others is false. He didn’t actually do what you thought He did.  In reality, you’re knocking the legs out from under those through whom God is actually working.”

They can’t mean that.  Can they?

Because when I was a baby, I was baptized in a church that ordains women.  And when I was in preschool, a group of women taught me how to share, write, and listen in the basement of that same church.  The summer before second grade I started going to a camp where college-aged men and women, together, led Bible studies, shared testimonies, showed us the stars, and taught us what it looked like to worship.  I never attended a gender-segregated Sunday School class, but I did attend many that were taught by women and couples.  Under the prompting of a female camp counselor from Scotland, the summer before 7th grade, I read a poem I had written at a talent show and men and women told me I changed them.  My church had three female youth pastors serve during the time I was a part of youth group, and the current youth pastor is one of my closest friends, a confidant and an ally and a woman.  She preaches to the congregation, teaches dance, and has a Master of Divinity.  I am best friends with a 21-year-old full-time missionary who has shared the Gospel in India, Turkey, Germany, Nicaragua, the Midwest.  My other best friend is 20 and moving to Australia next year to be a youth pastor.  She was a missionary for a while, too.

I go to a Baptist school but many of my professors, both male and female, have faith in a God who calls based on giftedness, not gender.  I have girlfriends who will be pastors.  I have friends who are stay-at-home moms.  I have been “shepherded” by women writers whom I’ve never met.  The pastor at my church is a woman.  My mother and grandmothers (and so many others) taught me how to love and how to stand up for myself.  They have stepped aside to allow my strength to grow.  They have never unconfirmed my passions.

These women have not crippled Biblical witness.  They have taught me and others how to witness with our lives more than with our words.  They have inspired me to seek God.  They have helped me interpret the Bible.  They have let me think for myself.  They have cleared out a space for me to grow into and out of.  They have showed me who Jesus is.  They have given their lives to Him.  They have shown others to the head of the dusty path to salvation.  They have listened to Yahweh.

These women have not crippled anyone.

They have sent me running.

 

 

 

 

 

*Following are a list of books/bloggers/organizations to check out for more on this.  I’ve read or interacted with all of these resources:

Sarah Bessey | Rachel Held Evans | Scot McKnight (no, I’ve not read everything he’s written) | Elizabeth Esther | Dianna E. Anderson | The Junia Project | Ed Cyzewski | Kathy Escobar | Hilary Sherratt | Micah J. Murray | How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership | SheLoves Magazine | Christians for Biblical Equality | The Priscilla Papers

 

 

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A Terrifying Lullaby

Tonight I wrote a paper for my Old Testament class.  I turn it in tomorrow, but I don’t want to wait till then to post it here.  I think it needs to be posted tonight.  It’s nothing long or extraordinary – it’s a Job response paper.  Job as in Job from the Bible, with the suffering and questioning and comfort.  Well, it’s always been comfort for me.  I talk about that in the paper.  The premise of the paper is simply to talk about the point of Job as we understand it.  Because Job isn’t about refining fire or growing closer to God because of suffering or even that being a Christian will make you happy and content.  The point is this: Do I follow God because He can make me happy, and I want to be happy, or do I follow God because I must, because He is everything I’ve got and because His joy is eternal and because ohmygoodnessHeIsGod.  (And yes, I know that is technically a question, but I needed the sentence to end with a period so I did it anyway.  Sometimes, you just have to break grammar rules.)

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I often find myself going to Job for comfort.  Throughout high school, I remember pouring over Job (occasionally moving to the more depressing portions of the Psalms for variety), as if I was searching for some semblance of reason behind my pain, some definitive promise of “all will be well.”  Once, after months of living in Job, I remember stopping abruptly and questioning my insistence on finding what I was looking for in this particular book.  It felt like I was just seeking comfort in the fact that someone had suffered a whole lot worse than I ever had – and if that was the case, I was obviously evil, or so I thought.  No one who really loves God delights in someone else’s pain, even if it was the pain of some ancient, long-dead Bible guy.  I related all this to my mentor and youth pastor at the time, wondering why I kept returning to Job even though I never felt better afterwards.  I only ever felt vindicated in my sullenness.  She told me she didn’t think I was comparing myself to Job; rather, she thought maybe I just longed for what Job longed for: I wanted God to speak.  I wanted Him to tell me I was wrong, that I couldn’t understand Him, that His plan was too vast to comprehend, and therefore my trials were as well.

I read Job differently after that.  I read it with my true intentions in mind: in the midst of my own pain, I wanted God to assure me of His glory.  I wanted a reminder of why I chose Him even though nothing made sense.  I didn’t have real, concrete words to put to my intentions for a long time.  But in a book of the Bible so many people avoid for its gloom, I found solace.  I read God’s responses in Job and I tried to imagine myself standing in the middle of a great desert, being talked down by the God of the Universe.  I imagine it would be the most terrifying lullaby in the world.  To have Yahweh calm my spirit by unveiling my eyes to my own insignificance was a joy.  In His words to Job, God was also proving to me that as hard as I tried, as controlling I thought I was, I could never come close to getting it right.  You see, I yearn for order.  I can read a person’s voice and tell you his feelings, then predict what he is going to do in order to launch a counter-attack for my own advantage.  I like to be in control, and I’ve gotten horribly good at it – earthly speaking.  But I hated that I was like that, growing up.  I hated that I drove myself sick with worry over my lack of control, that there were so many things far out of my control.  I worked hard to combat this trait throughout high school.  No one would see it, but inside, I was grasping blindly for an order that I could never truly master.  I had gotten so good at having a perfect life, but I was crumbling.  I wanted someone to tell me it was okay to let go.  I wanted to be told I couldn’t do it.  So I read Job, because that is exactly what God tells him.

When I finally got a grip on myself in college, when I finally started to understand the “letting go” thing, I had time to think about the process.  I had time to reflect on why I sinned the way I sinned, why I thought there would be comfort in control.  I realized that when my mind felt frenzied, it was because I thought there would be satisfaction in the end I could achieve.  If I could master my life, if I could ensure that everything would always fall into place exactly right, then I could be content.  I worshipped – I still often worship – control.  I worshipped my own power.  But in the back of my mind, or in my heart of hearts, I knew I could never do it myself.  I knew that I was inadequate.  I knew I needed God to control everything, not just the aspects of my life that were easy.  I knew I needed to trust Him.  I was born into a community of people who trusted Christ.  I grew up in a family of loving, wonderful people who, despite their faults and trials and humanity, knew they needed Christ.  But I am so, so stubborn.  I wouldn’t let go unless I was forced.  And God, in His infinite grace and love, kept a spark burning within me that sought truth.  As cliché as it sounds – and I do not like cliché’s, so I only use them when absolutely necessary – God led me to Job.  He instilled in me a love of Job.  Because He knew I’d hear Him there.

I have tried hard my whole life to follow Christ.  In the ever-referenced Seasons of the Life of a Christian, I have thoroughly experienced each one.  I have been the ideal church-going Christian girl, leader of her youth group and the next-generation hope of the local congregation, all while a darkness lived inside me that I didn’t understand.  I’ve been to the mountaintop, in the height of summer, blazing and on fire, truly, for my God.  I have prayed with passion and with legality.  I have been inexplicably joyful and inexplicably lost.  And I think we are all like this.  I do not think an ideal Christian exists; I do not think anyone is perfectly content for long.  We are cyclical beings, depressed for a season and then consumed with peace the next.  I think it is normal, but not natural – we weren’t made to feel empty, but we fell, and maybe when we fell we sprang a slow leak.  Job’s story, while extreme, is not too unlike that of many.  I question God constantly, even now, when I finally feel like I am beginning to really fall in love with Him.  We have been friends for my whole life, but these past few years I feel like I truly understand why people have called Him the Prince of Peace, the Lover of the soul, the Good Shepherd.  But I am still so often full of doubt.  It comes down to this, though: do I call Him my Lover, my Prince, my Friend, my Father, because of the way He makes me feel, or do I call Him this because He is Yahweh?  Is it about me, or is it about Him?  If it’s about me, then I only read Job because it makes me feel like I’m not alone.  It makes me feel vindicated in my anger.  But if it is about Him, then I read Job because He sings the most terrifying, beautiful lullaby, and nothing else can satisfy.  He doesn’t tell me all will be well; He tells me something even better:

 

“Who are you?  Because I Am God.”