Am I brave enough to write this?
Late to the table, days late in this Instagram world, where vitriol and love pass each other in the hallway with barely time to acknowledge one another. So much wondering in my head about this group with whom I self-identify: these Jesus people.
I love them. It’s a crazy kind of love.
They infuriate me.
So many issues. Complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. Wealthy pastors with big houses. World Vision and gay people. So much room for judgement and hate. Or love and forgiveness, if we so choose.
I have been sticking my toe in the proverbial pond — quiet, way over there on the other side, away from the crowd — for some time now. I have also been quieted by forces duplicitous and external. All of it whispered in emotional tones with small groups of people who think we are alone.
See here. This is the issue. I am just entering the landscape of evangelicalism while many other like-minded folk are way on the other side, disappearing into the horizon. It makes me wonder where I — do I? — fit. I am an alien in foreign terrain, me with my large, green antennae among a people white bread and normal-like.
But I have discovered a rich-like-chocolate-cake sisterhood in other writers you have probably known about for quite some time. I’ve known about them too, but busy with life I rarely stopped long enough to read. Working so hard to be a modern Biblical woman, I forgot to seek out the experts. Now that I have, it feels like I have found a soft bed in which to lay safely, fluffy with sterling-white sheets that are both crisp and cool and warm and welcoming at once.
Silky-smooth linens welcome me to a woodsy, earthen home where my crazy hormones and my intellect are allowed to be themselves. A place where I can speak out the truth of my doubts over an evening glass of wine and my feelings hurt by God over morning coffee. Where I am allowed to wrestle with him in the safety of a sisterhood, encouraged by their words to yes! Go! Wrestle with the mighty savior because girlfriend, he can take it. He wants it. He wants you to poke him and prod him and seek him and scream to understand him and his seemingly crazy, subversive ways.
After all, among all the religious leaders, Jesus was the one who looked at women. He looked at us — smack in the eye — and he loved.
Writers like Rachel Held Evans, who I swear has been in my brain for the past few days, make me feel like there are smarter, better, more spiritual people than I engaged in loving the LGBTQ community right where they are. She makes me feel not so alone when I wonder why homosexuals seem to be the only group of people that capital-E Evangelicals insist must change before they are accepted into the body of Christ. And she makes me feel affirmed when I think that even if we meet them there — right where they are before they fall in love with Jesus, that we only “let them in the club” with the understanding that they will definitely change this aspect of their lives once they’re in.
Because yeah. That would make me want to “join” — knowing that one of the most core parts of my identity and all the life I’ve created around it would need to be “farewelled”.
I just can’t do it. I can not bring myself to ask something of someone else that I’m not sure I could do myself. I’m not sure I could give up the hope of romance, of being held and loved by a person I truly desire, and building a life with them. And yet this is the silent threat we hold over the heads of our LGBTQ friends — maybe I’ll let you in, but don’t expect any grace once you’re here. I can not do that. I prefer to simply show them the love of God and let the miracle worker work the miracles — if he’s in the miracle-making mood.
Writers like Sarah Bessey comfort me, confirm that no, God wasn’t having an off day when he created woman-kind; we’re not simply a second-rate clone who’s DNA didn’t map out exactly right, who need to be coddled with condescension and the stinging spice of sexual overtones associated with everything we say and do. I’ll continue to struggle with the Apostle Paul over telling me to be quiet in church. I’ll continue to have some serious problems with patriarchy, and Sarah Bessey helps me feel like I am not crazy. I’ll continue to wrestle with God’s word, especially in places like Genesis 19:8, where Lot was fighting off a mob who wanted to rape his male guests, and Lot offered his virgin daughters instead. How is that okay? Imagine their fear — and their hatred. No wonder that family ended up drunk and incestuous.
Truth be told, I was personally hurt by that scripture for the longest time. It was horrific, I thought, a father offering his two young daughters to a mob of angry, violent men. And I was mad at God for letting it in there — in this book that would give men and women operating instructions for eons to come. But then I realized something:
It wasn’t God’s idea.
That was Lot’s bright idea. Not God’s. And God knew it was just as evil as what the mob had planned. And God didn’t let it happen. When I realized this, it was a soft place to land, and the warmth of God’s love washed over me. I felt how much he valued me — his girl-child.
Writers like Anne Lamott help me find company in my radicalism, which may have softer edges than hers. I can melt into her luscious writing and find a communion. Since we both have a BC life (Before Christ) I can string our memories of too many beers and too many boys together and find that solace I had been looking for in a wasteland of conservatism. I can offer a certain kind of grace to other sinners because of all my own mistakes, and for that reason, I have become eternally grateful for each and every one. Every day I make more mistakes, and every day I learn to be less judge-y.
I want to invite Donald Miller to the sisterhood. His writing about faith is like the smell of early spring after a long winter. A freshness and freedom dwells there, earthy with the power of a visceral God, a God who came down to meet us — right where we are. To keep loving us even when we get divorced and yell at our kids and gossip about our neighbors and hate our enemies and feed our pride.
Some day, maybe, I can offer a copy of Jesus Feminist and yes, even Lean In to a Christian man and not receive the Oh isn’t that cute look in response. Maybe someday both these books will be an important part of the theological conversation — especially since they provide insight into the realities that at least half the population faces every day. Even though one is not theological at all. Maybe there will come a day when Christian men will say, yes, this is important enough for me to think about.
Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to speak out, to speak truth, to rest in the veritas of simply following The Way. Maybe I’ll sit at the table Rachel Held Evans is dreaming of in the wilderness, where all the people who have been othered — the black children whose mothers put them in gang colors as infants, the lesbian who was ostracized for her butch haircut, the needle-marked heroine addict, the drag queen with a better manicure than mine, the wanderers from capital-E Evangelicalism can sit down with our rabbi and let him work his miracles deep in our dark and tangled souls. We’ll sit at the wooden table with un-dyed linens and clay pottery dishes. We’ll eat of the earth, in sunlight and the light spring breeze, and our Jesus will be there, smiling at all his girls.
There will be no old white men threatening to spank us for misbehaving. Jesus will be free to speak in whatever translation he chooses. For the wilderness has a language of its very own. It is intimate and vast at once, room for all and sweetly solitary, too.
But most important is that Jesus is there. See him? Out on the horizon? He is setting the banquet table, his sandal-ed feed upon the pebbled earth. There he places a bouquet of green herbs and twigs. Wild flowers lend their scent to the air. There he places earthenware pots filled with manna for our bellies. And then he stands, smiling and waiting, for the black children dressed in gang colors, the drag queens and the users, the wanderers and the prostitutes. He welcomes us to the table to bloom in his presence, under his watchful smile. You are invited, too.
And we are all his girls.