In the past, my churches have usually excluded me. Most of the time they don’t outright say it, but their actions send the message loud and clear. What brings this up? I was just reading a blog about middle schoolers that went through a church leadership training program and each graduated by deliving a sermon from the pulpit. The post emphasied that the participants were young men and gave no mention of the young women. I remember my grandparents church had a Pastor’s Class which I was allowed to attend because this church didn’t believe in exclusion. In fact, the pastor was also a woman. Fast forward about a decade and most churches I attend have need of my particular skills, but no rules allowing me to use them. It’s far more important, they say, that I watch over nursery than explain how The Council of Nicaea helped form the Docrine of the Trinity. Oh, and of course I can attend the couple’s classes, even though I’m single – so I can prepare for my eventual marriage.
The message they tell me is the ‘me’ that God made is entirely mismatched and cannot be the ‘me’ that is supposed to serve God at church. I must embrace femininity, they say, it isn’t just dressing the part, dresses and skirts and heels and make-up, but accepting the role of (future) wife and mother and preparing for it until such time as it is reality. So as a single young woman, I shouldn’t care about church history or doctrine or theology, but I should in all modesty dress in such a way that attracts my (future) husband but not in an immodest way that causes his thoughts to turn lustful. I should show off my skills as a chef and nursery worker to prove that I’m mom material, and pray each and every day that God will send him into my life no matter how long it takes.
The ‘me’ that the church is stuck with – really isn’t a walking stereotype of femininity. I don’t own anything that’s the color pink, my wardrobe mostly consists of t-shirts and jeans. I can cook anything that has a recipe, following instructions is pretty simple that way, but I can’t just throw food in a pan and turn it into a three course meal off of the top of my head. I’m actually pretty good with kids, I just refuse to work with them at church because once you agree to it, you can’t get out of it unless you move away – I know from experience. I’m far more interested in the hows and whys of theology – like Mary at Jesus’ feet, I am trapped in a Christian world of Marthas that only want me to be just like them. (It also occurs to me that since God didn’t make me a walking stereotype of femininity, He likely made guys that aren’t a walking stereotype of masculinity and giving advice based on both stereotypes being true of everybody would obviously be flawed for those of us that are exceptions to the rules.)
But then I realized – I have a blog. I can say whatever I want, right? So if I were hypothetically be one of the ones who also went through the training class and given permission to deliver a sermon from the pulpit to the entire church … what would I say? I think I’d talk about the other ‘Marys’ in Christianity, the ones that were hostesses to the entire church, the ones that had ministries were no men were allowed to go, the ones that took in and personally cared for plague victims in the hours before they died, the ones that were too busy teaching to serve tea and cookies, the ones that ran their own businesses to support their own ministries, all in the face of ridicule, and other obstacles thrown up by other Christians who believe that the Word of God came to them only and was not fit for lowly females. If Jesus thought his own words were fitting for Mary, then the whole Bible is fitting for women – not just to read, but to teach, to preach, to correct, to admonish, and to equip every believer with the one thing that is needed. That’s probably why they exclude me – my pretty little head is filled with far too many dangerous ideas about Christianity. They fear that all Marys would leave behind the nursery and the kitchens – and given the choice, a great many would.
Your love never fails
It never gives up
Never runs out on me