It was a Sunday evening prayer meeting. I had not been attending this particular church for very long and was not completely familiar with the way things worked. One of the elders was up front explaining how the evening would go. “Feel free to read scripture if you feel led or simply pray what ever is on your heart.” That sounded simple enough and then…”Even the women should feel free to jump in.” “Even the women,” he said– even the women!?” I was stunned. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all week. I wondered what he meant by that? I wondered what role women played at this church. It concerned me. I couldn’t let it go.
Coincidentally, that very same elder called my home later that week to inquire about how we liked the church and if we were planning continuing there, etc. I did love the preaching and I so wanted to be a part of that church. They seemed to be so “biblically sound” (shudder). When he asked me if I had any questions, I thought hard about whether to ask about what was on my mind, but being who I am I couldn’t hold back. I told him that I noticed that there weren’t really any women involved in the worship services, aside from singing. I asked him if that was purposeful or was it that there just weren’t women willing to step up. He said that the male dominated leadership on Sunday morning was by design and he gave me all the typical scriptures to back up “the leadership’s” philosophy. He informed me that that is the way it is and will be and if I had a problem with that I might want to choose another place of worship.
I was a little taken aback by his words; it did seem a bit defensive, but I immediately let him know that I was willing to accept their decision about that. (Kook-aid anyone?) Undaunted, I asked him about the prayer meetings on Sunday nights and if women are typically “allowed” to pray then, He said that they were, but for some reason didn’t very often (go figure). Then I did a baaaaad thing. I made the silly mistake of thinking we were peers having an intelligent conversation and said, “I think it might be because the women are intimidated. When you say things like, “even the women can pray.” It sounds condescending.”
He responded politely and calmly, “You know what this is, Barbara, don’t you?”
“No, I asked, what?”
He told me it was my sin rearing its ugly head. He informed me that my attitude toward male leadership is a result of the fall. He explained how God told Eve she would desire to rule over her man, but he would rule over her. He chuckled softly and said, “You just might need to pray about that.”
I immediately felt horrible, like a Jezebel or something. He had pushed a button in me. He had hit upon one of my biggest struggles and heartaches in my Christian walk. I was always feeling like I was falling short as a Christian woman because I couldn’t shake the idea that we should be treated equally. Why I didn’t run like the Devil (excuse the pun) away from that place? I think it was because I truly believed the lie that women are to submit and there were things we were not allowed to do, due to our mother Eve. The struggle between Christian doctrine, and what I knew to be true, were in conflict and the desire to be a “good Christian,” would always win out and to my detriment, I might add.
As fate would have it, what that Elder said would come back and haunt me eight years later when I would hear a similar comment made about a very dear friend and talented woman at our church, when I asked our pastor about her whereabouts and what had taken place. It went something like this, “Well, she has always had a problem with the male leadership having authority over her here.” It was at that moment, I believe that my blinders starting coming off. I was done keeping quiet and making nice; it was the beginning of the end for that church and the beginning of a new and freethinking life for me.
Sometimes it’s really hard to look back and see what a mind-numbed robot I was, but I’m learning that regrets are counter productive and I am really thankful that I no longer feel duty-bound to fit into the “ good Christian woman” mold.
Free at last, free at last, thank goodness for my brain, I’m free at last!