Monday, May 7, 2018

Dear Paige Patterson

(For those who have known me for years. let me explain. Two and a half years ago I became a member of a young church plant in Asheville, Emmaus Asheville. Emmaus is part of the Summit Network out of Raleigh, and therefore a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. So after 31 years as a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, I jumped denominations. It was a hard decision but Matt and I fell in love with the mission, culture, and people of Emmaus and felt God calling us there. Therefore, as a member of the SBC, I signed this letter.)

Dear Paige Patterson-

I signed the letter.

I signed the letter because I am a member of a church that is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention and I believe that God has put me in this place for such a time as this.

I signed the letter because I have a voice and choose to speak up. I must speak up.

I signed the letter because the objectification of women has to stop. Because the mistreatment of women has to stop. Because the abuse of women has to stop.

I signed the letter because I have had a front row seat to the devastation of abuse in women I love dearly and I know well that abuse of any kind, be it physical, emotional, verbal, psychological, sexual, financial, can wound or kill the body of the abused but will always, always wound or kill the spirit of the abused.

I signed the letter because I have watched women in abusive marriages treated with disbelief, disrespect, contempt.

I signed the letter because I have seen pastors and people within the Body of Christ ill-equipped to handle the destructive and complex issue of abuse and do more harm than good.

I signed the letter because I am tired of the church giving grace to the abuser and law to the victim.

I signed the letter because I am tired of the church putting the institution of marriage above the care of the people within the marriage.

I signed the letter because an abusive marriage is not a picture of Christ and his church. It is a picture of hell.

I signed the letter because I have wondered why men coming out of seminaries are so arrogant and yet so ignorant of issues such a abuse. Now I know. If the leaders do not show Christlike love and compassion and care toward the sheep, neither will the shepherds they train.

I signed the letter because your attitudes that you have expressed show me nothing of the character of God.

I signed the letter because I believe that the pushback and criticsim you have received, that you labeled an attack and circled the wagons, was instead a calling out of your very own sinful behavior and attitudes.

I signed the letter because I am actively, in my own small voice of one, asking you to humble yourself, step down from your position of leadership, and seek the forgiveness of the God you profess for your own sins against women.

I signed the letter because I have a hope, a flailing one, but still a hope, that the views within the church are changing and that one day women will be seen and treated in every way, with the utmost care and respect.

I signed the letter and would like to call all my brothers and sisters within the SBC to do the same. To turn the tide. To bring hope. To be Jesus to each other and to a hurting world.

Ginny Barker
Swannanoa, NC




Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dreams

It is Saturday evening and I can't seem to get hooked into any of the five books I am trying to read. I keep striking on on the sudoku because I have done all the easier ones and the only ones left are the ones that require a skill set greater than mine. I've read over the home inspection and vacuumed the house. And I started thinking. Maybe Saturday evening is for thinking.

I used to be quite the dreamer. At least I was when I was a kid. I was always dreaming of being someone else. Somewhere else. When Olga Korbut broke into our world and flipped and turned and jumped and twisted her way into our living rooms via the 1972 Olympics, I dreamed of doing the same. I suppose every little girl did. When The Sound of Music came to the movie theater I went to see it seven times and dreamed for months of being a little Bavarian girl high in the alps. And when The Waltons played out their rural mountain story every Thursday evening at 8pm I longed and longed and longed to be one of them. And to one day grow up to be just like Olivia Walton with a big farmhouse full of lively children who jumped from haylofts and milked cows and walked to the general store just like in the good ol' days.

As a teenager and even a young adult, I still spent a good deal of time, maybe way too much time, dreaming. Those dreams were mostly of whatever young man was my love interest of the day and when and how he would realize that he couldn't live without me.

I've had other dreams over the years: of living in an interracial urban intentional community, of raising my kids on a farm, of delivering babies or chasing storms, of playing the fiddle, of getting a masters degree, of writing a book, of being good at something. Of making a difference. Dreams live and then they die.

I have never done well with those "Where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10 or 20) years?" I have never had that kind of vision. I have never equated my dreams with where I could see myself. I usually couldn't see myself. I used to think that was some awful omen that I was to die young but I've made it to 54 so far so there's that.

A while back my husband asked me that question. "What do you want to be doing in 10 years?" I just can't see it. I just don't know. I just don't dream any more. And I don't know why.

Perhaps it is because I've seen the foolishness of my dreams. Or the futility. Perhaps it is because life is just so different from how I ever pictured it. It isn't bad, there are indeed very wonderful things about my life, but it is different. Perhaps it is because my dreams are no longer just mine. My life is tied to so many people and therefore what I want doesn't hold the same weight any more. Perhaps it is the feeling of powerlessness that overtakes me when life seems to have spun out of control and I figure why get my hopes up to be disappointed. I really don't know.

Dreams at this age are different any way. What do you dream about at this age? My brain doesn't work. My body has taken on a life of its own without asking my permission. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. And maybe I am just tired.

I guess life has taught me that my dreams pretty much need to stay just that. Dreams. Part contentment. Part resignation.

After all, it isn't about me.. I need to keep an open mind and take what comes.  Maybe dreams are overrated. So much else matters more.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Experience and Its Lessons

Experience is an excellent teacher. In fact, some might say it is the best teacher. An experience that brings on intense emotion can become seared in our mind and in our heart like nothing else. Students leaving college and seeking to break into the job market know the frustration of being told that you can't have a job until you have experience and yet wonder how you can get experience without a job.

Yes, experience teaches well. But what it teaches can be limited to, well, our own experience. It can be easy to assume that our experience is everybody's experience which, in fact, may be far from the truth.

Think about the person who trusts no one. They probably got that way because they have had their trust betrayed once, twice, or time and time again. On that front, their distrust makes perfect sense. Their experience has taught them well. Except that it hasn't. It has taught them not to trust when, in fact, there are trustworthy people out there and a life where you trust no one is fraught with angst and fear and cynicism and there can be no true bonding of friendship or intimacy without trust. So, the experience taught them well but taught them only part of the story.

Think about the person who trusts everyone. They may have grown up in a world of good and kind and trustworthy people. Many of us might call this person naive. A Pollyanna. Foolish, even. Their experience has taught them that people ARE trustworthy. This person can end up a sitting duck. A target for scammers. We still need to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. People aren't always acting in good faith. Trust...but verify.

Our experiences are so important. Yet if we only focus on our personal experiences, we become nearsighted, only seeing what is right in front of us instead of the entire picture. And from there it is an easy step to black and white thinking. Setting up our perspective as right and all others as wrong. Champion my position and demonize the other party. We become so certain about what we believe, what we have seen, and that puffs up into arrogance and offensiveness, and before you know it you are living in a world of snarky memes and pat answers. A quick spin through the Facebook newsfeed and you'll see what I mean.

How do we fix it? I think we start by listening. Listen to each other. Learn from each other. Share our experiences with each other. The broader your frame of reference, the less foreign and scary other people will seem. They are people, by the way. Human beings.

It is so easy to get frustrated with people until you find that their experience may be coloring their thoughts and actions. I used to get so annoyed driving down a particular road in town when I got behind slow drivers. My shortsightedness had me antsy and eager to get on with things. Then I got a ticket on that road. After that, I drove the speed limit (a ludicrously low one) and understood why others had driven so slow. Sometimes I would have people behind me obviously irritated at my seemingly laid back and pokey pace and I wanted to stop and yell, "Don't you understand? I just got a ticket!" But no, they didn't understand because they hadn't gotten a ticket.

I need to remind myself of this the next time my adrenaline surges at somebody else's opinion. They have experience that is informing their ideas, words, and actions. Maybe I should ask what those are.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Empty Nest

Last night, for the first time in 28 years, Matt and I slept in an empty nest. Officially empty, that is. I mean, at this point, I still share a bed 3-4 nights a week with my granddaughter, a pint-sized, human version of a Kitchen-Aid mixer on overdrive. For some reason she detests the thought of covers and spends half the night pulling on my hair to self-soothe (Ow! Ow! OW!). But this is a season that I know will, one day, be behind me. And life will change. As it always does.

The empty nest is one of those things that parents long for and dread, sometimes with alternating emotions and sometimes at the same time. That is the way most of parenthood is, really. Mixed emotions. Mixed everything. A perpetual state of confusion. You love them so much you can hardly breathe and they drive you positively insane at the same time. You remember how badly you wanted a baby and then you wonder what the hell you were ever thinking and when when WHEN will you ever have a moment to yourself to think or your house to yourself to have a little bit...just a teensy weensy bit of peace and quiet where you brain cells can come out of hiding and maybe, just maybe, you can coax them back to life again.

So here it is. We went to bed last night and it felt so empty and it was weird. We woke up this morning and it was still weird. Peaceful, but weird.

I recently read the book Walking on Eggshells by Jane Isay. It was so wonderful to hear that other parents find having adult kids a challenge. In fact, the author said that most parents find parenting kids in their twenties (though you aren't really parenting, you are still relationaly their parents) just as challenging as any other stage. Sigh. We are eight years in to that decade with eight more to go.

That really was a wonderful book and encouraging to the likes of people like me, who want to have a good, healthy, respectful, loving relationship with my adult children but are having to learn by hunting and pecking, trial and error, like a dance. Step forward. Step back. Step forward and stumble on toes. Fall back. Gradually get the swing of things. Do a cartwheel. Look ridiculous. Whatever. Be a safety net, not a hammock. Love them but don't smother them. Listen way more than you speak. As one woman interviewed for the book said, "Keep your mouth closed and your door open."

Today I will go downstairs, to the emptiness. I will tidy up and clean. I will sort and stow. I will put my clothes in the washer without having to take out someone else's load first. I will look around and remember and be thankful for what I had. And what I have. For who I have. Even if they don't live here any longer.

Friday, February 16, 2018

On Sadness

Some emotions are hard to handle. I seem to be one of those people who feels certain emotions intensely. It is easy to try to wriggle away from them, cover them up, explain them away, even, at times, drink them away. Anything but just let them be.
Some emotions are red flags. Anger, for instance, is like an alarm system, telling you something is wrong either with a situation or the way you are perceiving it. Anger takes some digging to figure out what caused the alert and what needs to happen to defuse the ticking bomb from exploding again.
Other emotions sometimes just are. Sadness is one of those. Sadness can be the most natural of all emotions in light of grief and sorrow. In light of loss. There often isn't a thing to be done with sadness other than let it be. Covering it up or dressing it down will only push it underground to erupt in some more destructive way. Sometimes the best thing to do with sadness is just to feel it in all its heaviness and let the tears gradually, in time, carry it away.
Life gives ample opportunities to be sad. Even changes that are, on the whole, very good, can bring with them hard, hard emotions. I am staring the empty nest in the face. Within a few days my youngest will be gone...moving on to a new life 12 hours away. While I know this is so good, a step toward independence and learning and growing and adventure, and while I am excited for her, I am also sad. I will miss her dearly.
So today, in the middle of the hubbub of packing and plans and work and caring for my granddaughter and all the other calls on my time and attention and my head and my heart, I will let myself be sad.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Man of Sorrows

Isaiah 53 says that Jesus was a "man of sorrows." I wonder how many people told him to look on the bright side. To not be such a Debbie Downer. To smile. I wonder if he was told that he wasn't living the victorious life. He wasn't trusting God. That he should just be more thankful.
If God Incarnate was a "man of sorrows" who looked the reality of life on this planet straight in the eyes and knew just how much life can hurt, why are we so darn scared to do the same? And why do we shun those who see the hard for what it really is?
If you have experienced sorrow up close and personal, you are not alone. That is the beauty of the gospel. God became man and is there with you in it. He knows. He knows.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#metoo and Eating Out of the Trash Can

Honesty alert here. Maybe even more honest than usual. Frequently I have other women thank me for saying what they don't have the words, or the courage, to say. I don't know if that is the case this time. I don't know if any other female shares what I am about to share. I guess we'll see.

A few months ago I was walking the dog and a pickup blew past and whistled at me. And I smiled. I actually smiled. I have no idea who was in the truck and why he (I assume a he) whistled. I realized that I like it....I actually like it....if a man whistles at me. And that bothered me.

A few days later the #metoo movement broke wide open. At first I wasn't even sure exactly what women were saying #metoo to. Sexual assault, certainly. But what else? What qualified for a #metoo? I asked around and found out that sure, I could say #metoo. What women were describing was what I assumed was part and parcel of being female. Lewd and crude comments. Propositions. Getting looked up and down. Hasn't every female had that? But it bothered me that it didn't bother me.

The vast majority significant interactions I have had with males I have ended up ignored, shut down, or  corrected. So of course when a guy makes some comment or whistles at me, I eat it up. It is about the closest to being valued I am going to get. My thoughts, my feelings, my experiences don't seem to matter but hell my body does. Apparently it still does. Yes, total honesty. And no, I am not running off with the the next guy that whistles at me. I love my husband dearly. But I also see that in many ways I am starving for interaction with people of the opposite sex and it seems like the only time I am seen of value is if I look attractive (even at 54). And they whistle.

I am eating out of the garbage can. I am ashamed of it. I am ashamed that I care.

I don't know what it is inside of me that so desperately wants to be seen as a person of value by men. I don't know what makes me want my ideas to matter. I mean they do matter to my husband. I wish that were enough.

Do other women feel this way? Do they wish their ideas, their views, their feelings (gasp!), their experiences mattered to all of humanity? Do they want to engage in conversation and interaction that has no sexual expectations whatsoever? Am I the only one?

I read this a couple years ago in an article by Jacob Phillips: "The vast majority of pornography objectifies women; their bodies are important, as is their function as an element of sexual gratification. But their hearts, minds, opinions, experiences, feelings, and everything else that makes them self-consciously who they are is completely irrelevant."

I don't think it is just pornography that objectifies women's bodies and ignores their value. This seems rampant everywhere. At least in my experience.

I don't want to care. I don't want to eat out of the trash can. I read the gospels and I see Jesus and the way he treats women is food for my soul. I want that to be enough.