I’ve been in church for as long as I can remember. Sunday School, Missionettes, youth group, summer camp, bible study, and even tent revivals (if you are unfamiliar with tent revivals it is exactly what you are picturing in your head)- I’ve been to it all. I grew up in a small evangelical church, in a small town where women raised small kids while their husbands worked in the larger (but still pretty small) city. A minivans and bake sales kind of town.
And for the most part, I liked being a part of that community. I have beautiful memories of my home.I can look back and say that I loved my church, loved my community. Loved the people there, loved the pastor.
But hand-me-down faith is fickle, and it didn’t take very long before tension entered my young heart and mind. I was about 10 years old or so when that small inner voice stirred. It was a regular Sunday morning, not a revival type of morning (so no one was swinging from chandeliers or anything), when the pastor shared with the congregation a conversation he recently had with his young daughter. As he told it, they were driving down the road when he asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Simple enough question for a father to ask his daughter. But he wasn’t prepared for what came next. She looked at him and asked…
“Daddy, can women be pastors?”
And I can honestly remember holding my breath. It would be years before scholarly feminism entered my life, years before I left the church because I couldn’t listen to a sermon without breaking down in tears, years before I argued with people (who I knew loved the Lord) that I had a right to speak in His house of worship. But still I held my breath. Something inside of me knew that this was cosmically and intrinsically important. In the split second before he answered the question, I had already made up my mind that if this man, who I had admired, who held my budding faith in his hands said “No, women cannot be pastors” – well then I would chose to not believe another word he ever said for the rest of my life.
I was a stubborn child. I am a stubborn adult.
(It took me years to step outside of myself and wonder what the other women in the congregation were thinking at that moment. Is it possible that for this one moment each female member held her breath? Were we all connected in this split second of hope in a way we had never been connected before?)
In the moments that followed I listened as this man of God, quite vulnerably shared his internal thought process. How he debated what he had been taught- theological reasons for saying no, theological reasons for saying yes, all while his daughter waited for this answer.
“Yes, women can be pastors”
I let out an audible sigh of relief and went back to whatever it was I was doing, because I could not tell you what the rest of the sermon was about at all. I had gotten what I needed for the day.
My relationship with my faith has not been easy. It has been a journey full of dead ends, disappointment, and utter despair at times. There have been countless moments of holding my breath and swearing off Christian religious leaders. Moments of losing whatever breath I had left in my lungs as I was sucker punched by bad theology or scripture taken out of context and used to put me in my place. There were moments where it would have been much easier to just throw my hands up and walk away. It would have been easier to take myself out of the relationship and claim that there is no God (or if there is, I for damn sure, want nothing to do with it). I understand why many people do.
But it has also been the singular greatest passion of my heart. Yes, it has been a struggle. But it has also been dance.
It is in this dance of Faith and Feminism that I chose to engage. I will not choose between the two. It is not often comfortable. It is a journey of opening and reopening an ancient feminine wound given to me by the very faith I am seeking. This dance has left many partners dead on the side of the road, people who decided it hurt too much to continue. But I am choosing to continue.
As Brené Brown so eloquently said- this work is “Infinitely Terrifying & Achingly Necessary”
And if you’re interested, I invite you to step into to this constantly evolving journey with me. I do not have all the answers. But what I can promise you is that I will be as vulnerable and authentic as possible. And I will continue to dance.
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This is very beautiful. It is so honest and inspiring, and I believe your experience resonates with many women. I think women individually and collectively have held their breath for too long. I do see the Spirit moving in each of us and in the world – let us trust what her love can really do and open our heart’s desires and change the world.
Thank you so much for your kind words and taking the time to read my thoughts. I cherish our meeting at the Richard Rohr conference- a chance encounter! i look forward to connecting in the future.
I’m speechless. But also incredibly hopeful an optimistic about this. About you. I remember this exact sermon you are referring to. I can remember which side of the sanctuary I was sitting on and the way I was sitting in my chair and what I was holding in my lap. I vividly relived that pin-drop moment with you as I read this. I think he’d like. To read it too. What you are doing is BIG and I want to stand along side you and say I was with you at the beginning of this movement. Yes to all of this!
I love that we share this moment. As we’ve shared so many others also in our faith journey. I am so proud to know you. Thank you for your trust and encouragement.
I was holding my breath with you.
I am regularly in awe of your brilliance intellectually and emotionally. I can’t wait to read more.
Yes! It is so important to recognize the impact pastors have on young girls (and boys, too!). Someone is always listening, and you are shaping peoples view of God. It is such a great responsibility. I am so glad the women, girls, men, and boys of Quest have you!.
I am so proud of you.
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