For the last several months there has been a lot of talk about men and women in the church. Mostly on the Internet, but there have been sermons preached and books released all seeming to have the answers. Answers to questions such as:
- Is a woman’s place primarily in the home, raising children and supporting her husband?
- Should a woman a work if she doesn’t financially need to?
- Can a woman be a minister?
- If so, can she minister to men or just women and children?
- If she can minister, is there a point at which she cannot serve such as senior pastor, an elder, a denomination leader and/or as an ordained minister?
- What should the role of a wife be?
- What should the role of a husband be?
- Is it mutual submission, period?
- Or is it the man serves and the woman submits, end of discussion?
- Or is it mutual submission but in matters where a final decision cannot be agreed up on or a quick decision is needed the husband makes it and the wife supports it?
And the questions go on:
- Are males and females biologically different?
- How much does environment and culture create those differences?
- Did God intend for us to be different?
- Does being different dictate our roles or calling?
- Is God male or female? Or more one than the other?
- Did God mean for there to be a “maleness” or “femaleness” to Christianity?
- Is the church too effeminate?
- Is the church driving men away by catering to women?
- Are women leaving the church because they have no voice?
And still the questions could go on and on.
All of this has left me heart sad, the deep down ache of a heart.
And it’s not just the questions that have my heart aching. It’s our answers. There are so many. Varied. Divergent. All “Biblically based”. Answers in all shapes and sizes. Some angry and defensive. Some arrogant and hurtful. I wish I could say that those on “my side” and from “my team” were much better, but I am not sure about that.
I’m honestly not sure any more that the best answers, intelligent responses given in kindness and humbleness with love and respect for the other person, are all that better. I’m not sure any more that whichever “side” you are on, anything that could be said is “better” at this point. I’m not sure I understand what “better” should be. (I wrote about this earlier this week.)
Do we mean: more right, more academic, more biblical, more loving, more compelling, more contextual?
No matter our answers (and to be sure there is a right way to answer even if we disagree about the rightness of the answer) there is still a divide. And it’s this divide that causes the ache in my heart, the ache that settles in my bones and seeps in under my skin. It’s this divide that makes me wonder: what is the point? does any of it really matter? will it ever be any better?
See I think that hidden somewhere in all those questions and myriad answers, there’s something more. I think, no matter what side you fall on in recent debates, your questions and answers – OUR questions and answers – reflect something more. They tell us of a hidden, secret longing in us all – for a Kingdom that runs with order and beauty and simplicity and love and joy amidst the complexity and chaos and brutality that is life.
These questions and answers are about the calling forth of something more dynamic and mysterious and ancient. We are searching for Eden, for the place that God intended for us, His people.
And whatever our answers to our questions, that is what unites us. It unites us with almost every person on this planet. The hope for something better, for something different than what we see. And whether we like or not – no matter how pissed off we may be at each other’s answers or how ignorant, naive, rebellious or arrogant we find each other’s questions – we have this in common.
Wrestling with something internal that seeks to be lived out externally because that something internal is actually external.
Kathy Escobar wrote a post that has been germinating in my soul this past week. I’ve been pondering just where do we go from here. There has to be another way. I can’t convince you and you probably can’t convince me. I can’t control you or change you and while I’d love to, I’m guessing to do that I’d have to give up my right to not being controlled or forced to change by another and that’s not something I’m willing to do.
So here we are once again at this divide.
I think Kathy’s idea of planting trees fits best. Let’s plant trees.
I’m going to plant them all over that stupid ditch. And all over “my side”. And anywhere else I can find an inch of soil and a teaspoon of water. You are welcome to join me. Go plant some trees all over that stupid ditch. Go plant some on your side too. And maybe in the planting we’ll end up with a forest so wide and beautiful the ditch will fill with flowers and old logs and we can sit and have conversations, conversations that are life-giving and life-up-lifting. And maybe I’ll plant so many darn, tootin’ trees and they’ll grow strong and tall and old and wise that you’ll want to come help me plant some more over here or invite me to come plant some on your side.
I don’t know.
I do know I’m gonna plant me some trees.
But to do that I’ve got to dig deep. Deep into the soil.
And something tells me that if I dig deep what I’ll find is that silly, shared experience we call humanity. That humanity that, for some un-godly-but-Holy reason, shelters a Kingdom longing. A Divine image seeking to break out and shine light on all that it touches.
So that’s where I’ll start.
With remembering you are just another tree on the other side of the forest. You are just a tree with roots that are connected to my roots, that share the same source, no matter how mangled we get before we rise up out of the ground.
You are not my enemy.
You can’t be.
For you hold a piece of the Holy, the Divine … God in you.
And God is not his own enemy. So why make you mine?
To make you my enemy is to be an enemy with myself and that, my sisters and brothers, is why I think our hearts really ache. When we war with one another we war with ourselves.
Now I confess I don’t know how this all works out when we are compelled by God’s Word and by the life of Jesus to stand up for the oppressed, to fight for justice, to speak truth and to show Truth. I don’t know how this all works out when the questions asked deal with issues of oppression and justice, truth and the Truth.
But because I follow the Truth I know that it can never begin except here.
With mine and yours broken and shared humanity.
A humanity that is seeking, perhaps with wrong questions and wrong answers, something bigger than ourselves. Like trees seeking the sun, we are each, and all, seeking the Son.
In heat of the moment, in my anger and hurt and frustrations and wrestlings, in my questions and answers, I’ll remember this about you.
Will you please remember this about me?
Next in this series: Trashing Labels; Planting Trees