I had finished speaking and stood near my propaganda/book table waiting to greet the small crowd of listeners who wanted to thank me. This is sometimes an awkward experience for me—to humbly tell folks “You’re welcome.” But I love hearing the stories people tell of how God used the things I said to encourage them to go more bravely into the darkness to be the Light of Jesus. I especially enjoy the people who simply ask if they can hug me!
In these moments, I always speak to my own, tired soul, “Look her in the eye. This just might be one of the “least of these.” Open your heart. Give her your whole attention.” Who knows what God might do in both of our hearts during those brief moments of connection? This still does not come naturally for me, one who has been hurt by people. My natural default is to reinforce the walls, to protect my own weak heart. So I speak to myself, to my soul . . .
Recently one of these moments took an awkward and painful turn, as I gave my attention to a young woman who stood waiting with her Bible in her hand. Her comments began with a question: “In the introduction they gave you tonight, they said that you are a pastor?” I said, “Yes, of the coffee shop church I told about tonight.”
She went on, “You and your husband co-pastor the church?” I told her, “Yes, well actually I am the Lead Pastor, and my husband is the Assistant Pastor.”
The young woman opened her Bible and said, “Well, I have some verses that I would like to share with you.”
. . .
I felt myself take a physical step backward. The thing she held in her hand—the Bible, meant to be the beautiful story of a God who so loves His creation that he has come to free us from oppression—took the form of a weapon. A hidden sword, pulled to slay . . . something . . . to slay what? Me? A doctrine? An ideology? Who or what is the enemy here?
Like the slow motion scenes of Gladiator, I saw it coming. Peace rushed in. Clarity of mind. I took a step closer and told her, “I’m pretty sure I know which verses you mean, and I am aware of them.” Her response, “I think it is important that we look at them together.”
There was a small group of others who were waiting to speak with me—people I hoped had been blessed by what I had shared, but she would not relent. She energetically turned the pages of her weapon, reading from Paul’s writings on the wrongness of my teaching men and being away from my home. She even pointedly accused me of “reviling” the word of God (Titus 2:5).
Finally, she asked me, “What do you say to all of this?” As gently as I knew how, I told her that I see these things as cultural, and pointed out to her that neither she nor I were wearing head coverings.
She would not engage in conversation or dialogue with me. She would not respond to my requests to consider Paul’s writings forbidding women to braid our hair and his admonitions to slaves—my questions about how we decide which parts of Scripture to take literally and which we decide to adjust as our consciences have borne witness to Love over the ages.
Instead she continued to turn the pages of her weapon—finally landing in Ephesians 5—loudly demanding that I submit to my husband. I told her that I do submit to my husband. He is all for my traveling, my speaking, my preaching, my pastoring. In fact, he is my greatest fan!
Then I did it. I did not mean it as a final blow, but for her it was the proverbial straw. I said, “I submit to my husband, and he submits to me. We yield to each another, as Peter wrote, “All of you be submissive to one another.” (1 Peter 5:5)
By this point, she was snorting and blustering. I had blasphemed the holy word of God.
I asked her to do some more research—to consider some of the great theologians of our time who are wrestling with these issues, to which she responded, “The Bible is very clear. It is all I need to read.”
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel angry. I felt sad. Sad that she was so upset that she stormed out of the room. Sad that she and I could not connect. Sad that she is locked down, oppressed by a religion that heaps burdens upon our shoulders (Luke 11:46) and prevents us from becoming the fullness of the image of God within us. Who knows what potential for greatness may reside in this very girl?
And I felt grateful. Grateful for a husband who loves me and believes in my gifts, my talents and my callings. A husband who promotes me and makes a way for my own potential “greatness.” And I felt grateful for a Daddy, who when I was a little girl overheard me telling someone I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up and he said, “What if God wants you to be a preacher?”
. . .
This experience is not uncommon for me. I recently taught a class in which two male pastors interrupted to use their “weapon” on the class facilitator for having invited me to speak, and then proceeded to sit, arms crossed and ears fuming, while I taught about God’s heart for the poor.
On another occasion, a young seminary student came forward to speak to me. He was deeply confused and processing out loud. Fumbling for words, he told me that God had spoken to him, that he enjoyed what I had said, and that it must be okay that I taught him, because I had taught with “modesty.” I wasn’t sure what that meant and looked down at what I was wearing to check how my breasts looked. No cleavage. I guess that made it okay with God.
I am so grateful for people who are on a much larger “stage” than I, and are paving the way for me and taking the heat that I could never endure. (I told you, my heart is weak.) Here are a few links to books and blogs that have helped me, not just with the “women in ministry” question, but ultimately the question about what “the Bible clearly says . . .”
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans http://www.amazon.com/Year-Biblical-Womanhood-Liberated-Covering/dp/1595553673/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364327342&sr=8-1&keywords=a+year+of+biblical+womanhood
Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham: http://www.amazon.com/Why-Not-Women-Biblical-Leadership/dp/1576581837/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364327372&sr=8-1&keywords=why+not+women
A Leader and A Woman by Tracy Rouse: http://traceymrouse.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/a-leader-a-woman/
Christian Piatt’s comment: “No penis, no dice.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christian-piatt/evangelical-20-the-decept_b_1299486.html
Is Abolition Biblical? by Rachel Held Evans: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/is-abolition-biblical