Choosing Church: A Lament (Part 3)
My husband and I spent several months looking for a church when we moved to a new area. You can read a little about our experiences here and here. We finally decided that we were not going to find The Perfect Church and that we needed to just pick one and make an effort to be part of the community of God.
The church we chose had some very positive traits. Some of the important elements we were were looking for in a church were present, and we were hopeful that we might be able to plug into the community and begin to make friends. It wasn’t the best fit, but we hoped it might be good enough at least for this season.
Fight or Flight
Now, after about three months of intentional effort to get to know people and become involved, it is clear that this church is not a good fit. These are kind, welcoming people. They are genuine and earnest in their pursuit of God and of community with each other. Because of these traits, their lack of support for women in ministry was an issue we thought we could overlook, but I have realized I do not feel safe here.
I will never feel safe here. I cannot share myself with these people because they will not understand or accept me. They will never be able to support and encourage me to live fully into my gifts and calling because their worldview does not allow it.
Since I moved to California, every time I have begun to participate in a community, I have found myself in leadership positions. Sometimes they were vacant, and I just happened to fill them. Sometimes positions were created to fit gifts and skills that were emerging and being recognized in me. Sometimes leadership opportunities were ill-timed or even unwelcome as I was struggling with accepting who I am and who God has called me to be.
I’ve spent so much time learning to spread my wings and trust them to keep me in flight that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have them clipped. Now that I have experienced freedom and have begun to live into my gifts and calling, I can’t go back to the way things were. I can’t go back to being satisfied with being in the background, watching and listening as the men lead, accepting their leadership without question, following well.
I can’t go back to being silent.
And I can’t watch these brilliant, gifted women assume the fullness of their roles in the kingdom of God is only available in the room where there are no men present. It’s too painful. It makes me angry.
Where is the freedom of Christ here? Where is the blood of Christ that covers us all? Why are we standing so far apart on our respective hills, the theological ones we’re willing to die on, when we should be kneeling together at the foot of the cross where we are all on common ground?
At the heart of body theology is the incarnation of Christ. Christ lived and died and rose again in the actual, fleshly sense. Through Christ we have been redeemed: body, mind, and spirit. We are made new. There is no longer race, class, or gender to divide us. All are one in Christ Jesus.
How can we regain our connection with the ideal, the beginning, the first bloom of the coming together of the community of God?
The first step is to recognize our strength and that our strength is far greater than that of the leash that ties us to satisfaction with complacency.
If we can’t be silent and we can’t speak, where does that leave us?
I feel dishonest, sitting in a folding chair on community night while these earnest people open up their lives to each other, knowing I am not being vulnerable in return, knowing they would not know how to respond if I were, knowing there is no room for me here.
I want so much to join them. I want so much to leave.
I feel like the sluggard who buried his talent in the sand rather than using it to his advantage. Here I am with a seminary degree, a woman with all this knowledge and training and no where to put it to use. Here I am, sitting in that chair, keeping my mouth shut, unwilling to rock the boat, unable to move at all.
How can they be satisfied with so little? How can I expect so much?
I feel like a freak for not being satisfied among these people, these brothers and sisters, these members of the body of Christ. Their complacency wounds me, and I can’t even begin to explain it to them. I am already too defeated to try.
There is no room for me here. This space is too small and cramped. I can’t even squeeze in as it is. How can I grow?
I can’t stay here. But there is nowhere to go.