A couple of days ago I wrote about the fear of the Slippery Slope and how that pertains to the disagreement and debate over the role of women in the church. I've written before about the need for women to be listened to, respected, and protected. And I've thrown it out there in saying that, regardless of where you come down on which roles women can and can't do within the church, we really, really want to matter.
I'll be honest here that my experience with men, especially older men and men in authority within the church, hasn't been terribly positive. My opportunities to speak up have been limited. My words have been misunderstood or ignored or corrected. I feel that there is little value in my presence. Yes, I "feel" that way. Another bad word.
Here is the issue for me. I grew up with very little interaction with my father. The interactions I did have with him were oftentimes corrective in nature. He could be brusk. And forceful. And scold. Then he was gone. I had no grandfathers in my life. No uncles. No family friends. I had no males in my life whatsoever that told me that I had any value in who I was. This left in me a gaping hole and a terribly skewed view of who God is and what he thinks of me. Then I am in a church of all male leadership. Authority figures. Like my father. Like God.
I was a disappointment when I was born. My father desperately wanted another son. I found the letter my grandmother wrote to him after I was born, telling him how sorry she was that I was a girl. You know what? I can't change that. I can't change the fact that God saw fit to make me a girl.
But it is so hard to go into churches where there is an all male rule of authority and rarely be engaged with and or listened to and then, when you speak up, to be chastised that you are doing it wrong. Do you think that in any way that helps me view God as any different than my father?
Diane Langberg is one of the best of the best when it comes to understanding people and pain. She explains how victims of childhood trauma, while they may fully believe the truths of Scripture, feel that somehow they are the exception when it comes to their relationship with God and how even thought they know the Bible says that he loves us, they believe they are the exception. She says that
One of the things that turns this around is ...others in the Body of Christ, who become the incarnation of God's love in the flesh for that person. It's over time, loving them through their anger and their fears and their struggles...speaking truth into their life with grace--over those years of experiencing in the flesh what they should have experienced in the flesh as children--that love begins to go in, little by little.
So it is the incarnational work to be in community with somebody who has been so injured because the Body of Christ becomes a representative of God in the flesh for the survivor.Her point is that, just as neglect, abuse, pain, and suffering happen through relationship, so does healing.
I'm sorry if this makes it sound like I am just going on a royal sob fest. I'm sharing my heart. But it isn't just my heart. This is the experience of thousands upon thousands of women out there. For once I know, I KNOW I am not the only one.
Think of every woman who has been sexually abused by the time they are 18. Think about every woman who has experienced control and abuse at the hands of her husband, maybe even an apparently fine, upstanding Christian husband. Both of these statistics alone are around one in three. One-third of the women in the congregation who have been traumatized by a man! THINK ABOUT THAT! Then think about all the women who grew up without a father. Or with a father physically present but emotionally absent, or perhaps even physically or verbally abusive.
I would dare to say that it might be the minority of women who enter the church doors with a remotely positive view of God as a kind and compassionate Father who values them.
So do you see how very damaging it can be to women when we are shoved aside? Left to have our own tea parties with cookies and doilies? And if we speak up we are put in our place? Do you think that in any way that helps us see God as one might care about us? Value us?
How men treat women within the church matters. It matters a lot. We aren't scary. We are't trash. We aren't out to seduce you and ruin your reputation. We aren't out to grab at all your power and run down the streets with it, squealing with glee. We are here, wanting to matter. Again. I'm a broken record on this and I've said it and I'll say it again. We want to matter.