Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Recognizing my own value

I've had a number of conversations lately about the role of women in the church. While not always, what very often happens is that someone says that women should not teach in the church, I refute, and then they respond with 1 Timothy 2.

I'm not here to unleash anger, or frustration, or tell you so and so is wrong. Instead, I will bare my heart to you. And then let you decide how you feel about women teaching in the church.

I fell in love with God and Jesus and the Bible at a young age. I created strict discipline patterns for myself of reading the bible, of prayer, even of service. And no - it was not the genuine relationship I have with God now, based on my own knowledge of Him, His work in my life - both in the past and at this very moment, and how to pursue him while also recognizing and bearing my weaknesses before him. But it was as close to in love with God as my young middle school self could get. And so when my youth pastor asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said I wanted to be a pastor. And he sighed, and told me he didn't think that was a good idea. That I shouldn't do that.

I felt personally insulted. I wondered whether my faith wasn't strong enough, if I wasn't doing the right things, if I didn't have the leadership abilities to do it, if I wasn't a good enough speaker - there were so many things going through my head at the time, most of which were questions that just let me asking myself over and over and over why I wasn't good enough.

When my dad explained to me later that my youth pastor was referring to the ban on women teaching in the church, I sat in shock.

And you know what?

The exact same questions started to go through my head. I asked every single question I could to figure out what I didn't have as a women that maybe, just maybe, God could make an exception for. Perhaps I could get that one "thing" in some way or fashion. But as much as I searched, and I tried in every way to be the perfect church kid, I was still always a woman. I couldn't change that part of me. It was... a curse in some ways - I've never felt uncomfortable in my skin as a woman. I think it is a blessing and an honour, and that women add a great deal of needed qualities to the world. - but it was something I could never change about myself, even if I had wanted to.

It was at this young age that I asked almost every religious leader, every pastor, every women, every youth leader, why women couldn't teach. And every time they responded, I was never satisfied. I couldn't break this constant search for a way to be whatever it was that my youth pastor said I needed to be. And I tear myself apart, even today, trying to live up to whatever it is that these church men want me to be. And my standards are so much higher, because making one mistake in front of a man counts 100 x more in terms of why women shouldn't be pastors. So the tearing up never ends.

So what I have left is questions.

A pastor has many roles - You can argue these, but I think there's good biblical grounds for the following job description: 1) teaching/preaching; 2) Caregiving - visitation, counselling, comforting, taking care of people's needs; 3) Performing rites of passage, such as weddings, baptisms, etc.; 4) Administration; 5) Serving as an ambassador of the church to the community and to the world. 6) Maintaining a strong relationship with Christ Jesus and understanding of the scriptures.

Have you ever had a female teacher in school? Have you ever had a female caregiver? A female nurse? A female counsellor? A female social worker? Have you ever had a female secretary? a female wedding planner? Have you heard of female ambassadors?

I would answer yes to all of the above questions.

And this is where I am always stumped - if we can allow for women to fill all of the above roles in our everyday lives, then why won't we allow female pastors?

And the only answer that I can come up with is that men believe women can never have a strong enough faith life, connection with God, understanding of scripture, relationship with God in general, to be able to teach. Because if we have every other skill set needed, then this is really the only reason you can give me for why women cannot teach.

I've tried, over and over again, to convince men that women should be able to teach. And I am so thankful for those men who stand up and say that women are equally valuable in the sight of God - my voice has been told to be quiet and so very few choose to listen to what I have to say, and so I appreciate you speaking out on women's behalf so that our plea is finally heard.

But I think, in the very end, that I can't win this argument through words. Perhaps I simply have to live it out. Because I have been stuck in this rut of trying to figure out what's wrong with me, instead of recognizing that God does - in fact - love me very much, as much for my womanhood or for another's manhood. And that I can teach, I can understand, I can counsel, if this is what God so desires for me.

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Chris. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." - Galatians 3:26-29

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