On Sunday nights, we could wear pants to church. The air was more jolly, and we might have thrown in a couple more upbeat accapella songs. We were less somber and less sin-focused, had full bellies from a day with the family, and enjoyed sitting with our friends, practicing the glory of a southern alto and then sitting for a nice game of hangman while the preacher gave a short talk. For the most part, I loved the church when I was a child. I believed in it and the roles it told me to play on behalf of the kingdom.
One Sunday night, the man reminding us of the sick among us couldn’t remember a detail, so he asked out into the congregation to see if anyone knew. Mrs. Whitaker responded aloud, and I remember that her feminine voice in the blank space above the heads of men and God and everybody jolted me up stiff, and my arms went numb. I was terrified.
It’s silly now when I look back as an adult, how it was merely a prayer request, and Mrs. Whitaker was neither leading the prayer nor doing any teaching. But I do remember the shock of it and how it reveals a deeply ingrained teaching that women are to be altogether silent in church as a symbol of the authority that men have, as placed by Christ as the head of the church.
Friday I posted a video confession at theRunaMuck about being embarrassed with my gift of preaching, how it has revealed in me shame in the Gospel, how I don’t want to step out of my upbringing to share my part of the story in all the ways I’ve been called (and gifted) to share it.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the POWER of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith unto faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17). Whatever our giftings are, the purpose of them is to point to Christ’s Lordship, the vastness and righteousness of God and our own smallness as creating beings.
The truth is that I am willing to be silent. Even in my video I confessed it’s the easier way, but also, what if it really were the design? I haven’t earned any right to speak. More often than not, when I hear women argue for a voice in the church, something in it turns me way, something other than my upbringing.
The word feminism has intrigued me in literature, which is why I studied it in college as much as it was offered, but in the church? I haven’t cared to ride that bandwagon at all because I haven’t often recognized gospel in it, and this judgement of mine has numbed me a great deal toward really asking the LORD what to do with the scripture and especially what to do with a gifting that I know I have as one who loves to share what is being revealed in me.
But then enters Sarah Bessey and her upcoming book entitled Jesus Feminist. Enter my love for her and how I know her personally, how she swells with gospel and sends it from her lips in such meekness and boldness that she leaves a trail of peace. Enter Christine Caine, how she could care less for my comfort and calls out like a voice from the desert to follow hard after God. I only began to question God and His calling on me as His child when I began to consider the many women who are speaking and dancing and leading. It was never a woman preaching feminism that changed my perspective. The only women who have given me glimpses of freedom in my calling are the ones surrendered and focused on the one thing–not their rights, but on the righteousness of God.
If gospel were our goal as women in the church, then how low would we be willing to go? Even to mutest depths of solitude to bring God glory? Even to the least of these? How small of a position would be too small? How big of an audience would be too big to hear the Good News of the God who redeems a people by the shedding of His own blood?
I am familiar with shame. It’s long whispered to me. I’m of Eve. My voice is weak. I’ve done it all wrong. Shame tells me God’s righteousness isn’t enough. But it is. Isn’t He all we have to proclaim? If we paint, let it be that the strokes marvel at and reflect Creator. If we build, let it be that our work reflects our capacity for God.
I believe that women will be free in the church to use their gifts as they’ve been granted only when we begin to aim for the gospel. When Kingdom comes, there will be no shame.
original image here