*Note: I’m participating in Rachel Held Evans “Week of Mutuality” this week. She’s explaining the case for egalitarianism all week. I urge you to follow along on her blog – it looks like some exciting posts coming up. And who knows, you might be an egalitarian and not know it either! If you’re unfamiliar with the definitions of all the terms, she did a great job explaining them all here. You can follow this important discussion on her blog, here.
By every account I am one of the privileged few. No one would ever look at me or listen to me talk about my life, past or present, and think for a second that I was in any way oppressed.
Like most of you all, I grew up in the richest country in the world.
I never lacked food, clothing, a home, heat in the winter, or air conditioning in the hot Texas summers.
I graduated from arguably the best high school in Texas, a high school ranked consistently in the top 50 schools nationally. We had the best of everything there – the best teachers, coaches, computers, resources, alumni, sponsors. Every resource was at my disposal. Had I been interested in resources at that point in my life, that would have been useful. Unfortunately, all I cared about in high school was getting good grades with minimal effort, hanging out with my friends and boyfriend, and looking cute while doing the above two things. All that to say, I had some good educational opportunities.
I got a brand-spankin’ new car when I turned 16. So did most of my friends. I drove it scott-free, both insurance and gas paid for by my parents since I had to put so much time into school and sports. Okay, I think I maybe paid for some of the gas in the summer when I would baby-sit more often, but it was definitely sporadic at best.
Not sounding too oppressive yet, huh?
Kids get asked that “what do you want to be when you grow up” question all time. Right now my kids are stuck between firefighting, donut-making, being a super-spy (the obvious choice), studying rocks (BORING!!), and dentistry. It always amuses me when they choose something new. Just the other day when Simon was reallyreallyreallyreally tired of school and ready for summer vacation in a bad way, he announced he was forsaking the rest of his educational endeavors because he was just going to be a dad when he grew up. So could he stay home from school and go swimming instead…
Uh, yeah, NO.
Well, if you would have asked me when I was around seven, eight, or nine what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you something along the lines of, “I want to go to Yale and then law school and become a lawyer and eventually be on the Supreme Court.” I mean, that was my ten and twenty year and fifty year plan. I was a planner.
I was smart and driven and a born leader. More importantly, I was encouraged to develop these qualities, by my parents and my teachers and my coaches. Not only did I have the talent to accomplish anything I set my mind to, I had the support of those around me.
I became serious about God. I went to bible studies. And youth groups. And some more bible studies. And youth retreats.
I did all my quiet times. In a row. I never missed. I memorized chunks and chapters of scriptures. I got super holy.
Because I genuinely loved God and treasured my faith, I wanted to please Him.
I relied on those in power above me to tell me, show me, direct me, on how to be the best me for God I could be. What is so wrong about what happened is that as inoffensive as it all was meant to be, as well-meaning as everyone might have been, the destruction was the same as if it was purposeful.
The old me was indeed gone. But not just the old me of sin and flesh. The old me of leadership and strength and opinion. Toned down. Acceptable. Allowable. Allowed to operate in certain arenas but not others.
My ambitions and dreams needed to change. My job as a Christian woman would be to support my family, care for them. My satisfaction would come from this, and if it didn’t, I was doing, BEING, something wrong.
I was young and naive. I thirsted for mentorship, longed for an older woman in the faith to guide me, invest in me. Didn’t we all. Don’t we all still?
And that was their message for me.
If the church is the body of Christ and we are its parts, women, it seems, can be feet and hands and hearts and eyes, noses and fingers and ears and lungs, anything, it seems, but mouths and brains.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the uneasiness and tension I was feeling as a young woman in the church was because I was traversing in a traditional cultural environment and going to a complementarian church, but at heart, I was indeed an egalitarian. I didn’t know it because no one bothered to teach any of these terms. Or actually teach on any of the passages that contain women leaders in them.
No, no, complementarianism was known to me simply as “biblical.”
I wouldn’t know that another “biblical” way of marriage, of womanhood, existed until YEARS later.
And this truth would finally set my spirit free.
Free to choose, not feel required to stay home with our children. Free to lead ministry. Free to speak out against injustice both within the church and around the world.
Free to question.
Free to grow into and embrace and love the person that God uniquely made me to be. To accept the mission and the call that He uniquely gave to me.
That is one of the biggest dangers of complementarianism to me. Or any system that assigns roles based on anything except the gifts and talents of the individual. The danger of those people missing the joy of fully inhabiting the place, the person that God fully has for them. Missing their calling. Shrinking from their true callings because of outside pressures to be something God has not made them to be. That is the tragedy for me.
I hope I have learned this lesson of being unique, being strong or being weak, of satisfaction only in the Lord, not in the roles the world tries to assign, well enough to teach my kids. To pass on. So my kids can avoid my pit-falls. After all, we need more super-spy, rock-collecting, donut-making, dentists in this world.