Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mental gymnastics

So today at church we talked about psalm 22. Through the service different parts of the psalm were read and people, well men, in the congregation shared their testimonies of how they learned to trust in God during hard times. It was a beautiful service that encouraged a real discussion of faith in the dark times that doesn't happen enough in our churches.

But I am writing this post for a different reason. Kirk asked me to participate in the first reading. Basically he had four people (2 men, 2 women) read the first 3 verses of the psalm. That's right people me and our minister's wife, Jenny, read a scripture during church today. We sat in the front row to read and spoke with a microphone.

The church is still standing, God didn't send a bolt of lightening to get us even though women participated in the service. No one even got up and walked out. There will probably be some complaint among members, although I probably won't hear them first hand. What we did today was acceptable, but for some arbitrary reasons that I don't understand. You see, we could have read the passage exactly the same, but if we had been standing facing our brothers and sisters it would have been deemed inappropriate.

My whole life I've been learning how to perfect the mental gymnastics of being a woman in the church of Christ. I should pray fervently. In fact, to be a real woman of God is to be a prayer warrior, and pray for those who are broken hearted, sick or hurting. But I just can't do it out loud when there's a baptized man around. Unless it's before a meal and the people I'm with are really close to me or kind of progressive. And I can pray in front of the men I'm closest to who are my spiritual brothers when were in the library or at my house or a coffee shop. Just not during a church service. Also, my church really loves that I'm a decent singer. Because i went to ACU and had to sing every day in chapel I know alot of songs. But I can't lead singing at church. But on Wednesday night a few weeks ago, a woman requested that we sing a song and our normal song leader had to work late. The sub didn't know it. So they asked me to start it. So I guess I can lead singing, but only if no other man who can reasonably carry a tune knows the song well enough to start it off, and I keep my seat rather than stand up. And of course, I really need to read the Bible and know a lot about to be a good Christian woman. They even let me teach children's classes because they think I know enough to pass the good news along. If I wanted to teach other women that would be fine to. And it's also ok for me to talk about my biblical knowledge or how God has spoken to me through a certain passage in casual conversation with other Christian men. But I definitely couldn't share something like that with my church on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night. That would be totally against the rules. I can prepare the communion trays (which I used to do at SoHills) and set them out. But I can't pass the trays around. Unless the guy who was passing it me forgot that I had it and I'm on the end of a row, then I could probably get up and pass it to another row, but just to be on the safe side I would probably just sit there holding the tray out until someone came and got it or just hide it under the pew ( I did that once when I was 10 because I didn't know what else to do and I knew I wasn't supposed to get up...).

I'm tired from all the swinging around the issue. The rules keep changing on me and I can't always keep up. Today I find myself wishing that it weren't like this. Wishing that we could all focus a little more on the Father's great love for us and a little less on the rules of a stupid game that we made up ourselves. The thing is, I've spent my whole life learning these arbitrary rules. I'm not sure what I would do without them. A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend about how the church ought to base roles off of giftedness rather than gender. The more I've thought about that the more I find myself wondering what my gifts really are. I'm not sure I would even know.

I was honored to participate in today's service. And I am thankful that I go to a church that is so full of love like Carrollton is. I just hate that I spent the rest of the time wondering if people would be mad that I read. What a question, right, "Will people be mad at me for reading the Bible?" Something has to change. Maybe in my own heart, maybe in the church (probably both). But I have no idea what exactly that is or how to accomplish it. May God give us wisdom to do what is right... May God have mercy on us when we have it all wrong...


Brent Bailey said...

My patience is really wearing thin in regards to the mental gymnastics you describe, so forgive me if this comment is too preachy or angry. It seems to me like mental gymnastics are our way of working around what has become an obvious problem instead of giving the problem the time and attention that it deserves. Maybe we're too busy, too distracted, or just too cowardly to re-assess the roles we've designated to women, but there are many situations that show us that something isn't working.

For example, in the song leading situation you describe, there should have been one of two outcomes: either the church should have held fast to its particular teachings about women's roles (and a man should have stepped up to do the work, or they should have chosen a different song); or they should have already figured out what they believe about women leading singing (so that you didn't have to think about whom you would offend when you stepped up).

I'm certainly not trying to attack your church in particular—I've only heard good things about Carrollton. But from what I can tell, it's been long evident that we need a change—either the men need to get to work and stop leaving such big holes, or we need to look honestly and courageously to see whether certain outlets of the Spirit's gifts are being silenced.

Brent Bailey said...

.......aaaand I just quoted (and linked to) this post on my own blog.

Anonymous said...

And I just came across it from the link he posted on his blog...

As someone who's got a bit of experience with Carrollton (during a semester-long internship with Operation Nehemiah and Fred Franke a couple of years ago), as well as other churches like it, I've come to realize that the body of Christ is both beautiful and broken. Overwhelmingly beautiful and overwhelmingly broken. The attribute I am able to see most clearly often just depends on the day. The past few years I've been having more bad days than good...

And as a fellow woman in the Churches of Christ, let me say simply that I understand. I understand those mental gymnastics. I understand the kind of ridiculous "training" you have to go through to get to the point of being able to perform them. I understand just how extremely exhausted they can make you - mentally, spiritually, emotionally, even physically. And I'm beginning to understand the kind of reaction you'll get from an expectant audience who are disappointed or angered when you give up on the futility of that performance.

Though you may have come across this or something like it already, I'd encourage you to check out for a heartbreakingly beautiful attempt to address this matter within the Churches of Christ. The voice of experience - one in which you speak so strongly - is an important one that should not be forgotten. Thanks for your contribution. God bless!