There’s been a lot to read about women in leadership, specifically in Christian circles and conference circuits, the last week or so. As I thought about the different sides and perspectives reflected on social networking sights and blogs it occurred to me that something seemed to be missing.
Somewhere in between the Beth Moores and Rachel Held Evans’ of the world there is a group of women who need to speak up.
Nothing against either of those women– I have learned quite a lot from both and I find myself agreeing with many things they have to say– however, I don’t feel like I belong in either of the core groups these women respresent. In fact, when I thought about it, none of the women I know seem to belong to either of those groups.
Don’t worry, I considered demographics…
The thing is, having been involved with an international organization I’ve gotten to know women all over the United States and some outside of it.
It’s not just the women in my area.
So these two sides are what stands as markers for women of faith…
On the one side the more traditional/conservative Christian women’s movement seems to declare, “This is how women should be…” and the example is the woman who has it all together. She’s a devoted wife and valiant mother. She balances grocery shopping, coffee dates, and bible studies all while looking fabulous and radiating joy. She’s the organizer, the Sunday school teacher, and she never misses her running group. These are beautiful, lovely things… and a lot to live up to.
The message of progressive Christian women, on the other side, almost insists, “This is how Christian women are…” and here the example is of the woman who is self-sufficient, politically active and hot-button savy. She is in the fray and society’s face. She is pushing the boundaries of theology, questioning centuries of church history, and her tenacity is unrivaled. Her dedication and determination are also beautiful and lovely, but a lot to live up to.
Both of these groups are vocal and passionate.
Both are valuable and yet… I don’t believe either represent the majority of Christian women. These are not the women I know, these are not the women who have spoken into my life. These examples don’t reflect the woman of faith I am or want to be. And that’s not a judgement against women for whom these examples make sense, but I do believe a big part of the picture the world sees of women of the church is missing and we need to give voice to it.
Somewhere in the middle there are those of us who are mothers just barely holding it together, wives fighting for their marriages, and single women who are neither relationship starved or desperate, but still value their relationships with men. These women believe in balance. They value tradition while they explore creativity, they are confident in their equality and don’t need it to be superiority. You won’t find them signing petitions, joining boycotts or holding picket signs. They are not activists, but they DO act– they find every opportunity to help those around them in need, they give the clothes off their backs, the food from their kitchens, and the time they would be spending asleep in their beds. They err on the side of grace, always, forever, for everyone, no matter what the situation. They look for where God is and they go there, they run, they are the first responders and do their best to honor Him by cultivating relationships that breathe His love and life into the world and affirm what is good and right. They create culture instead of placate, embrace, or rebel against it. They respect each other’s differences and hold each other up.
In the middle they hope, they pray, and sometimes they beg.
They see beauty and call it what it is.
They fight, they persevere and hold on with everything they’ve got.
They forgive what society says is unforgivable.
They stay, no matter what.
They are courageous and they know where they stand with our Creator even when they can’t stand at all, when the best they can do is crawl.
They know mercy, they long for justice, and they love so hard it hurts.
The core female church of today doesn’t have time to look a certain way or to belong to one camp or the other because she is too busy rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty.
If you want to know why there aren’t more women speaking at Christian conferences, writing books or taking positions of leadership, I challenge you, take a look around in all of the least glamorous places, where the hard work that comes with little thanks gets done and you will find women of the church giving everything they’ve got.
These are not the Christian women I hear or read about, these are the women I know. These are the women who raised me, who have been there when I was the most broken, who have patiently stood beside me while I hurt, who have taught me what it means to be seen, heard, and loved by God.
This is my mother.
Women I have served with.
This in between group needs to find its voice– for all of the other women in the world who don’t feel like they can see themselves in the current faces representing Christian women. It’s time to step out into new water, deep water, and take a risk by being vulnerable and honest in the public square.
Women are a ferocious and exquisite part of God’s image, everyone of us. It’s on us to show up, to speak up, to be heard, to think out loud. All of us, not just the groups who are already used to getting out there. No matter what our personal beliefs are about male authority in the church, we can’t keep blaming them for our absence. We have to stop waiting for them to give us openings and start taking responsibility for ourselves, for when and where and how we speak.
My prayer and hope is that we are about to see a new age for women in the church, that together, and in all of our diversity, we begin to reflect the image of Christ in a way the world has never seen before.