I’m hoping that the curious will find this to be a safe place to think about hard things. I pray that we’re not afraid to admit that searching produces growth. And that’s everything…
This is the post excerpt.
I’m hoping that the curious will find this to be a safe place to think about hard things. I pray that we’re not afraid to admit that searching produces growth. And that’s everything…
Though I am a staff writer for Ezer Rising, I am posting to my personal blog tonight in order to bring my thoughts and reflections of the recent post from former ER staffers (and friends). I won’t go into great detail on the many unfounded accusations made against Sierra, but I will touch on a few of them.
As the creator and leader of Ezer Rising, Sierra managed a growing staff of contributors who ranged from many different backgrounds. We were all united in our passion to help women to understand who they are in Christ and encourage them to live it to the fullest. We were free to write original content, make our own graphics, or repost (with permission) other tweets or articles that would fall into the content of the community that was building. I was one of the last writers to be added and loved the outlet that it gave me to bring my ideas and thoughts to a public forum for discussion and support. Sierra was very encouraging and rarely limited my ideas, but we did have some rules in place, mainly to keep from engaging in polarizing topics that might pull focus off of empowering all women and onto subjects that had proven to be divisive in other communities.
I felt that Sierra’s decisions on this were right, as I had witnessed how quickly online conversations could degenerate into anger and name calling. I mean, who wants their day ruined by an online stranger’s ignorant comment? Sierra did not want that to be the reputation or experience that would be had on Ezer Rising.
Sierra is a “go getter,” visionary, multitasker, and is able to juggle a lot of balls at once. She’s able to accomplish a lot because she is direct and to the point. She is massively gifted at what she does and yet still tries to make every attempt to engage in private conversations. But she’s not an overly sensitive person when it comes to how she packages her thoughts, and as a verbal processor, she can be found talking through an issue and it not always coming out the way she wants it to in her “first draft.” I understand this well because of my own personality as well as being the mother of four sons. I do not mince words and neither does she. I have hurt the feelings of others in my own ignorance and so I have compassion for Sierra because we both want to get it right so badly, for others to see that our hearts are in the right place but our mental and emotional “sorting process” can be a little messy at times.
In my opinion, the crux of the problem with the prior Ezer Rising staff had much more to do with Sierra’s “no nonsense” communication style than anything else. She especially loved on the Ezer Rising staff, checking in often through phone calls, texts, and messages. She sent real, tangible gifts like jewelry, cards, and fun coffee mugs. And while she could not possibly have said everything right and handled every situation perfectly, she never could have expected that those she was working with were struggling behind the scenes. A lot of passionate people bring a lot of feelings, both negative and positive. Sierra’s preference was that if a person had an issue with her, they brought it to her and she would do the same with them, lest seeds of bitterness be planted when simple conversations would have hopefully brought understanding and compromise. She followed her advice. They chose not to in an effort to feel more supported as they processed negative feelings. They felt that she was silencing them and controlling them. She felt that it was simply respectful communication.
Many of them were becoming increasingly passionate about LGBTQ+ issues and were wanting Ezer Rising to become 100% publicly affirming. But as I said before, we are a diverse group of writers and this topic has a tendency to be a defining one. Sierra was determined that Ezer Rising would be focus on women’s empowerment through God and that if we took on the label of “affirming” we would be swallowed whole. There are, quite literally, thousands of online communities that cover LGBTQ+ issues. When one of the members confided in Sierra that she was bisexual, Sierra’s response was one that was not as supportive it should have been and the member was deeply hurt. It took some time, but Sierra has since apologized, realizing that she should have responded more sensitively. I was allowed to read this apology after it was not responded to, the person criticizing it as being fake. I found it genuine.
I do believe that the establishment of a Direction Team had more to do with Sierra having some support when making decisions that were more complicated. Some seemed to favor writing angry posts with public callouts and hotly charged comments sections to increase traffic. I found that when I would write one, they would praise me and give me muscle emoji’s in my inbox. They encouraged me to engage trolls. I noticed in other egalitarian groups they would gang up on individuals who happened to disagree with one of them. But I was scared of questioning them in private or public, lest they turn on me. I knew that while they projected a sweet and sensitive exterior, it seemed like they were always furious with someone. At times, to my shame, I jumped on the bandwagon because it felt good to feel like friends.
There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of conversations had in confidence that I was not directly involved with. I did have many conversations with her accusers but found their evidence to be inflated and possibly out of a projection of their pain regarding past trauma. They could not give me direct examples, only assumptions. I can’t say for sure, but I don’t want to believe that they are simply mean. This I do know, to call Sierra’s management of Ezer Rising “abusive” is a false representation of her leadership and character. I believe that those who left Ezer Rising have one thing in common, a passion for justice that is so overwhelming to them that they, quite comfortably, will call any comment, behavior, word, look, or perspective they deem fit “abusive.” Not only that but I have seen many of them become extremely upset and go on a full crusade to publicly call it out on social media. They will claim to know motives they don’t know. They will stop at nothing to embarrass a real, human, individual and sister in the Lord. There is no mercy or grace to be extended or given, at least none that I have ever witnessed.
I have no idea what this must be like for Sierra except on a much lesser scale. There is one particular woman who has been viciously attacking my character in whatever online community she has access to for no other reason than that she can (She did it again today, actually). I did nothing to hurt her. I’m not friends with her. I have no relationship with her. She was able to grab screen shots of comments I made on a post unrelated to Ezer Rising and has stored and been using them to try to discredit and embarrass me. I reached out to her to try to understand where I might have caused offense but my message went unanswered. If this is not online bullying, I don’t know what else is. And so my heart goes out to Sierra because I don’t think that they would be constantly attacking her this way if she had given them full control over the direction of Ezer Rising when they wanted it. And rather than to build something new among themselves, they have chosen to make it their mission to dismantle Ezer Rising. Every time their efforts fail, they mount a new one.
This is revenge, folks, plain and simple. Sierra is not only a victim of this online slander, she is a real and actual survivor of childhood sexual abuse. For individuals who don’t understand her experiences to turn around and accuse her of abusive behavior is especially abhorrent to me. For them to throw around words like “racist” and “white supremacist” when she is biracial and constantly speaking out on racial reconciliation is extremely manipulative and slanderous. For them to come out of the woodwork every few months to attack her IS actually emotional and psychological abuse! We are witnesses of it. (Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!) I believe that they are projecting unrelated anger onto Sierra because she is an easy target and has already established that she will not fight back publicly. Many have advised Sierra that the unbecoming nature of their attacks are more damaging to their reputation than her defending herself can possibly accomplish. While I’m in full agreement with that, it’s pushing my conscience to the edge that some might actually believe this of her.
One important thing I want to point out… while they are vaguely speaking about the content of private conversations, in all of their accusations, they have been unable to present a single public Ezer Rising post that is an example of misogyny, homophobia, or the racism they accuse our team of.
Truth be told, for the most part, I found those who left to be very kind and sweet and caring of me. However, I did notice that they have in common an extreme sensitivity level that made me wonder how it could be that they would be able to manage their lives without being in a constant state of offense. To each their own, but if you ever disagree with them about anything, watch your back. They will take screen shots and post at their convenience, context be damned. They will defend each other through countless passive aggressive social media posts. They will not have mercy. They will not stop. They must think it’s their calling and God’s will to bring God’s wrath upon you. That’s why no one publicly opposes their posts anymore. Everyone is afraid of them.
But no one is afraid of Sierra.
If you care enough to navigate this chaos, I sincerely apologize for the drama of it all. I am a busy mom, a wife, and actively involved in my church. I write for Ezer Rising because I love being able to share my thoughts and heart with a community who shares my passion. Sierra created this space. She carved it out with blood, sweat, and tears. At times, it wasn’t the prettiest process but it is what it is because she protected the essence of the vision that God gave her for it.
It is a shame to me that she is being painted in a negative light. All leaders find themselves having to make hard decisions that not everyone likes. Most leaders face criticism from time to time. Rarely, do public character assassinations like this one happen. I can’t stay silent on it any longer. I fully expect them to come after me next. I expect them to fish through year old private messages of things I might have said to take out of context. Honestly, I don’t care. I know who I am and I have a real life outside of the internet. I can quite happily unplug and walk away at any time. I’m not addicted to drama. I have noses to wipe, grilled cheese sandwiches to make, and I don’t have time or energy to worry about the opinions of strangers. But this just isn’t right.
I’m entrusting this message to those who mean to better understand my perspective. I’m entrusting you to know me and my character well enough to consider that perhaps it didn’t happen the way that they claim it did. And I’m trusting you to question whether or not these kinds of public callouts are honoring to Christ or just plain gossip.
I looked at myself in the mirror naked today. That’s right. That’s how I’m starting this book. Please don’t leave just yet. I’ve got quite a story to tell and I’m hoping you’ll stick around until the end. We’ve got some twists and turns to get through and I want you there with me, okay? Trust me, you’ll enjoy the ride.
You see, I’m a Spitfire.
I’m also an adopted, pink haired, an identical twin, theology loving, ezerist with a calm husband, and four wacky little sons. I’ve been rejected. I’ve been told I’m far too talkative, intense, introverted, yet social (YEP, INFP), chill, yet intense, and yes, a prospective boss/pastor once called me “whimsical” in an interview and then offered the job to someone with much less experience and much less personality. (I know because I stalked her Facebook to see what was up. I am ashamed.)
My “Spitfire-ness” has always held me back. Partly because I’m always worried that I’m overwhelming people and partly because if I let the cat out of her cage, she’s likely to sit on your lap and purr, or possibly inadvertently scratch and not everybody likes that, I guess. Not that I’m super friendly, but I just see everybody and respond, often times with emotion and honesty and more candor than is usually expected. For example, a few nights ago, I was talking with a new friend and telling her that I wasn’t eating carbs because my extended family was going to be photographed that weekend at a wedding. As I scraped the tuna out of the sub roll she said,
“Oh, that’s so nice when families get together.”
To which I replied,
“Yes. It will probably be the last time before people start to die, and I don’t want to look at those old pictures and wish I didn’t look like a sausage.”
Soooo… that’s typical and I often wonder how others view me. Do I offend? Do I inspire authenticity? Do those I come in contact with think I am a bag of nuts? Do I even care??
Unfortunately, I do. At least I do today when I’m forcing myself to take a long gander at what the Good Lord gave me, which is where I began and where I’m picking this up. (If you thought I was done with nudity, I am truly sorry. Brace yourself. You can do this.)
I typically avoid mirrors, especially full length ones and when I happen to be naked and on the way to a big towel, only God is the “One Who Sees Me” (ref. Gen. 16:13. Hagar in the desert.). I can be found leaping passed them as with the grace of a newborn gazelle. This is one area where humility isn’t hard.
But there’s one mirror in my house that I sometimes enjoy. The light in main bathroom offers a flattering pop of my green eyes when I’m wearing makeup. On occasion, when checking my teeth for debris or to see if the new zit I am developing is going to ruin my day, I’ll duck into that bathroom and be surprisingly Ok with what I see. Of course, it’s only allowing me to view myself from the neck up.
Don’t be alarmed. This is not a body book. I’m not here harp on and on about insecurity. (Blech.) I want to talk about vulnerability. I want to talk about honesty. We all deal and it’s time to dish. Everybody has a “thing” that keeps them from being courageous for the Lord. I have a few dozen “things”. Today, friends, that long look in the mirror did it for me. I’m emotionally exhausted.
It’s been a while since I allowed myself a full viewing… the kind where you just stand there without sucking in and just let yourself be. The kind where you rotate slowly and see what has been happening behind you that you forgot to check on.
I’m thirty-eight years old. My body has grown six children and birthed four, and the stretch marks that begin behind my knees map all the way up to the top of my rib cage. I can’t even talk about my breasts. Why are my nipples facing my toes?? You used to be friends but now we are strangers.
Turning around, I’m shocked. Dimples for days! Hello Shirley Temple!! I didn’t know you were back there! I would have spent time with you if I knew.
Is it too much already? Sorry. I might have mentioned that I am, indeed, a Spitfire. When I gave myself the second minute of truly examining my image, I think I laughed out loud. My immediate response was that I need to “fix this mess.” I need to exercise. Sugar is the enemy. Potato bread, you are dead to me. I’ll see you a year or two or three. It was nice knowing you but you should also know that I shall miss you the most…
As I dressed (quickly), I thought about what my body has been through and how at 112 lbs (my wedding day 15 years ago!), I still could not seem to get past the fact that there was a wrinkle in the waist of my dress that had been smooth before I consumed food at my bachelorette party. I remember trying everything to get it to lay perfectly flat. I was obsessed.
My mother came into the bathroom of the church when I was relentlessly pushing it down, and said so lovingly,
“Honey, I know that little wrinkle is bothering you, but I promise that nobody is going to notice it. You are beautiful.” I wish it would have brought comfort.
Friends. Sisters. Brothers. Can we talk about the crazy impossible standards of beauty that women are held to? Women are plucking and waxing and burning the flesh off of their faces. They are injecting poisons and spending thousands on products to diminish blemishes, wrinkles, spots, acne, moles, and whatever else happens to be there. We’re bleaching our teeth, dying our hair, taking supplements, starving ourselves, working out, and spending all of our money on clothes and makeup that make us feel good about ourselves.
ENOUGH of this shenanigans!
And that’s not the half of it! The “home maker” part of us kicks in and we’re buying houses outside of our means and furnishing and decorating to impress Jones’s who will never step foot. We’re breaking the bank to “host” but our homes never look, smell, or are comfortable enough to bring anyone in. (Does anybody else’s house smell like a straight sewer or is it just mine? Ok. Sorry. You’re not ready to admit just yet. Glade Plug Ins to the rescue!)
We want to be beautiful, fit, educated, and to be able to support our families financially, while also taking the time to let our creative juices flow (so we don’t die of boredom) and also to make sure to pack several healthy lunches for school and grocery shop, and study, and have sex, and maintain friendships, and listen to our kids’ neverending stories and also breathe!
Is anyone else exhausted or is it just me?
And I how to I take the Spitfire in me and turn her into a woman of peace who loves Jesus and her family and is able to shepherd the flocks that God might bring her way?? How do I become courageous when I’m almost always certain that I’m not doing enough??
Well, I did it. Believe it. This is not a book about a hot mess woman taking you on a crazy journey through a life as a Baptist child, preacher’s daughter, Theology buff, short term missionary, Bible study leader, Church innovator…
Or is it? You’ll have to see.
Read on, friends.
We’re in this mess together now.
“Many books on Christian marriage have been written, but most assume that the Bible puts men in a leadership role, while women are to be submissive. But there’s a better way. Not only is it healthier for families, but it’s more faithful to the Bible. The Bible casts a vision of marriage where men and women co-lead and co-serve as equal partners. This book explores that vision.” (preface)
Mutual By Design is divided into three sections, the first being foundational, the second practical application, and the third “touchy subjects,” or problematic issues like divorce and abuse. This book is the result of a collaboration between highly qualified writers, therapists, and ministers that have come together with CBE- International in order to create a resource to aid couples to thrive in egalitarian marriages. The topics covered are God’s original intentions for marriage, friendship, communication, finances, forgiveness, sex, and defining headship.
The first chapter establishes a ground work that thoroughly spells out the equality and unity between Adam and Eve, the first married couple. They were created in God’s image and for the same purposes of procreation and dominion over the earth. It is clearly explained that the outcome of the fall is not that husbands should rule, but rather that the world will be affected by sin and dominance of men and subjugation of women. Seeing as this was not God’s original intent for marital unity, it can be deduced that creating a more balanced tradition is possible, and helpful, as we work together.
“Mutuality in marriage was God’s design when the foundations of the earth were laid, and it remains God’s desire to this day. Let’s pursue God’s way with all our strength.” (pg. 15)
As the book goes along, I was impressed with the importance it gave to nurturing friendship and mutual respect. Strategies offered in Chapter 3 (on communication) made me feel like I’d just received h a month’s worth of marriage counseling! Several different strategies are laid out, in detail and I wanted to grab my husband of 15 years and print charts and graphs to make sure that we were on the same wavelength! It was like a breath of fresh air how the writers focused on mutual understanding, empathy, and helping couples to find common ground. I’d been so used to reading books in which the husband is encouraged to listen to the wife, the wife is encouraged to give her opinion, and he ends up with the responsibility of making the final decision in question. I’ve heard it a thousand times before that his authority was and her submission led to equal voice in the matter. But this was different. This actually seemed healthy.
As I progressed through each chapter, I became more and more… happy. Thrilled. My husband even noticed that I was smiling from ear to ear, even though our four little sons had systematically destroyed the cleanliness and structure of our house. I guess I was elated that someone was finally teaching couples HOW to live a truly egalitarian marriage rather than to convince them that they should. Somehow, it exemplified the beauty of equal love and equal respect. Honestly, I longed for it. They were saying what I have wanted to hear for years.
The third and final section of the book handles “touchy subjects” like divorce and abuse. In my humble opinion, CBE does a fantastic job of addressing issues that allow for Jesus’ message on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to shine brightly as opposed to Old Testament Law and Paul’s opinions based on traditional laws of that day. There is a clarity provided that helps individuals in IMPOSSIBLE situations to gain the tools that would glorify God but also obtain freedom to live their lives without the oppression and guilt that might be put upon them by others.
Mutual by Design gives me hope for healthy, broken, and healing marriages, where wives and husbands are strengthened by each other, rather than suppressed or elevated by a picture of hierarchy that is detrimental to authentic unity. The strategies and advice offered would work well in ANY relationship (Comp or Egal) and should be considered as absolutely invaluable.
I hope and pray that this book finds its way into many hands. There’s a truth here that is finally being told. It’s about time.
Pastors should read it.
Couples should read it.
Counselors should read it.
*Noelle Toscano is a published author, speaker and the founder of the group, “Preach Like a Girl.” She is also is the manager of the page “Empowered Ezer’s; Resources for the Rising.” She is constantly looking for books that will empower women to thrive freely in their relationship with God. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her husband and four sons. (Noelle has no pets, because there is enough poop to clean already, and she enjoys being indoors, under a blanket… with chips and dip nearby.)
“3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
1 Peter 3:3-4
Ahhh, Biblical Womanhood. We listened to the sermons and took notes attentively at the conferences. We sat at our mother’s kitchen table and heard that God wants us to be gentle.
(Apparently, this is of “great worth” in God’s sight.)
I think I’m in trouble. You see… I was born with an opinion.
(That’s me on the right. Yellin’ as usual. My identical twin sister was a bit more “Biblical,”
As the years have gone by, I have studied the Bible for myself, and amazingly, a different picture of Biblical womanhood has been painted for me. I began to notice that as the many narratives are threaded together, Peter’s short passage is incomplete. Of course, God does not want women to be angry or combative, but it would appear, based on countless Biblical examples, that God uses all kinds of women for His glory. However, they all have one thing in common:
They are bold.
They are confident.
They are spitfires.
They have straight up “cajones” (in the figurative sense, of course!).
*It was with great courage that Eve gave birth to the first human being. (You know that that she thought she was dying. Lord knows I thought I was, every, single, time, even when surrounded by doctors in sterilized hospitals where over twenty healthy babies had successfully been born that day.)
*It was with great courage that Tamar became pregnant in order to keep Judah’s family line from dying out. (Even Judah called her “righteous.” She is in the line of Christ.)
*It was with great courage that Miriam followed the floating basket that held her beloved baby brother, Moses. She approached the princess of Egypt and gave him back to his Hebrew family by way of a his mother’s ability to nurse him. (Miriam, with her brothers, would later become a spiritual leader over all Israel)
*It was with great courage that Rahab hid the Israelite spies, protecting them from those who sought to kill them (also included in the line of Christ and Hebrews 11 which praises individuals for their faith).
*It was with great courage that Deborah was raised up as a prophetess, judge, and leader, becoming, without question, one of the most respected and inspiring judges in Israel’s history.
*It was with great courage that Jael became a valiant warrior, killing Israel’s enemy, Sisera, in her own tent and without her husband’s knowledge.
*It was with great courage that an unnamed woman threw a huge millstone on the evil judge, Abimilech, saving her city as he was attempting to burn it to the ground.
*It was with great courage that Ruth clung to her mother in law, Naomi, abandoning her heritage in order to worship Yahweh. She pursued a marriage to Boaz which was not acceptable at the time. However, the Israelites proclaimed that she was “better than seven sons.” (She is also in the line of Jesus)
*It was with great courage that Abigail usurped her foolish husband’s authority and fed David and his men when they were starving. She saved her entire family from his wrath. (King David later married her after God struck her husband dead.)
*It was with great courage that Esther set a plan in motion to have Haman executed, a military leader who had carefully planned the genocide of her people. (She is considered a savior of Israel.)
*It was with great courage that Mary graciously accepted being the mother of the Messiah, even though the consequence for pregnancy outside of marriage was excommunication, abandonment, or even death.
*It was with great courage that Mary of Bethany elbowed her way to the front of the room to hang onto Jesus’ every word. (I’m also of the opinion that it was the gutsiest thing when she poured that perfume out on His feet, surrounded by men who criticized her for it! Talk about chutzpah!!)
*It was with great courage that Mary Magdalene grabbed those same feet and later ran and publicly proclaimed His resurrection, even when no one believed her!
*It was with great courage that Priscilla risked her life to save Paul! And not for nothin’, she taught the most charismatic preacher of that day, Apollos, setting him straight. (and he actually listened!!)
Since the very moment that Satan fooled Eve, he knew that if he could find a way to steal her courage, he stood a fighting chance for the soul of mankind. What’s worse, the very words of the Bible are being used to shame God’s Holy Spirit filled daughters into silence!! It’s time for this teaching to stop. It’s time for women to know the power of God within them, and to have the courage to
Woman of valor.
Now is the time.
Today is the day.
A day for audacity.
It’s a day to take courage.
It’s a day for epic bravery.
To stay in a marriage that’s rocky…
or leave it if it’s abusive…
To forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it…
To get out of bed after losing a baby…
To speak up…
To be quiet even when you know you’re right…
To start a ministry…
To start a business…
To start……… SOMETHING………….
To say hard things…
To step up…
To finally embrace the freedom that’s always been yours…
Dear sister, the Enemy is going to attempt to disempower your amazing influence on the world. He will tell you that God loves it when you sit down and shut up. But he is the “father of lies.” Don’t believe it.
You are incredibly dangerous.
Mary carried the child that crushed his head into a bloody pulp. Don’t give him a lick of control over how you see yourself. We’ve got work to do! Don those keds or heels or boots or wedges or Converse Airs, (whatev)
This is who you are and what you were made for.
Let’s FINALLY show them what Biblical Womanhood really is…
…and this time,
we’ll actually use the whole Bible.
I keep hearing that this is a “scary time for men.”
“That the whole world is against you.”
“Feminists are taking over.”
“Any woman can say anything about you and ruin your whole life.”
If you are a good man, you have nothing to worry about. (Seriously. Take a breath and listen. I’m trying to help you out here.)
In case you are wondering if you are a good man, or always were, check yourself in these three ways:
then it is considered an unwanted touch. So if you saw this reaction and stopped, you’re fine.)
2.) Have you ever sexually harassed a woman (this would be defined as cat calling, texting or messaging sexually explicit pictures or words, or spreading humiliating rumors)?
3.) Have you ever used a position of authority in order to manipulate woman into having a sexual relationship with you?
IF you answered NO to all three, congratulations!! You’re one of the good ones!! You don’t need to worry about whether or not a past victim is going to come out of the woodwork and suddenly remind you of something that happened 20 years ago! I would be remiss though, that
So here’s the thing… if there is something seedy in your past, it’s time to make it right. You might have been a “good guy” in recent years, but suddenly you remember that girl from high school that you spread a rumor about. Or the time you spiked a date’s drink. Or the time you inappropriately touched the babysitter…
Fix it. Seriously. Make the call. Send the email. Do what you gotta do before it explodes in your face. But most of us don’t see it that way, so take heart. We’re all human.
The real difference between a good guy and a bad guy is his heart…. not his history…
We’re not looking to destroy you.
If you have been feeling like crap lately, you can still fix this but it’s all in how you handle the past…
Because here is the thing I keep noticing… the women are not lying and the men are not denying. For the most part, events were misunderstood because he was being blindly selfish and she was totally confused and trapped. These are impulsive events that reveal the true heart condition of all involved… (ahem… complementarianism on full display)
His desire to dominate and her desire to please and in a moment’s notice, they both fail miserably. Yup, he’s to blame but I’ve noticed this crazy shift of power.
And so our world is suddenly changing because he realizes that there are going to be consequences for every bit of bad behavior and she she suddenly knows that she has a voice that matters.
These are not scary times for men,
they are amazing times for the human race. You don’t have to be afraid!
For the first time, as far as I can see, men are not “ruling” over women in a way that exploits them sexually. For you “good men” out there… please observe without being defensive. It’s not an attack against you. It’s an epic defensive move that is suddenly actually working to support those who have been consistently suppressed since the beginning of time!
And “meh.” (For you who just cannot understand. It’s Okay. Empathy is hard.)
And I don’t want you to feel at all steamrolled by a movement that you are not at all responsible for igniting, but you should know this…
She knows all too well the impact of a “bad man” in her life. (I can almost guarantee it)
Do you care if she was raped?
Do you care if she was manipulated?
Do you care if she was broken?
Last question: How “good” are you if you don’t care what has happened to her?
So rather than to be proud that you have not been a “bad man,” perhaps you can find yourself being a better man.
A better man is:
1.) One who asks. (Don’t be afraid of her feelings and experiences. She doesn’t blame you. She wants to tell you. It’s ready to pour out if you are ready.)
2.) One who owns. (If you have harmed her by ignoring or denying or being oblivious, she’s ready to forgive. Your ignorance is the thing that makes her feel truly lonely.)
3.) One who cares. (If she tells you what she’s been through and you show her that you understand her. It’s a healing balm like nothing else.)
Dear Good men, I believe that you are truly good, but the difference between being good, and truly great, is your ability to own your own past, and be there for her in hers.
The future is male and female. Female and male He created us in His image.
To rule together.
Your face is hot. Ears are suddenly bright red. (I don’t know about you, but my chest becomes blotchy like I have a ferocious sunburn. Unexpected confrontation is just about the only time I welcome a confining turtleneck sweater.) It’s happening. Someone has just asked you a direct question and though in your heart you have the answer, the right words can’t seem to find the way out.
***Many Egalitarians have been indoctrinated with complementarian theology. It’s in the very foundations of our faith in Jesus and our trust in the Bible to tell us how to live. Currently, we endure the torture of reevaluating scriptures that have been utilized to subjugate women for thousands of years. It’s no easy undertaking, but don’t fret. Stretch out that tight collar. I’m here to help! (And don’t worry! It’s easier than you would think!!)
I want you to imagine the devoted complementarian’s Bible. You know it well. It’s worn, highlighted, and most margins are filled in with years worth of thoughts and cross references. They are lovers of the Good Book. Let’s not hate on them for it. Most are not power hungry or evil. They are simply misled.
Somebody taught it to them wrong.
Somebody taught it to you wrong.
Somebody taught it to you right later.
And who knows… you might just be the person who teaches it to them right… now.
This particular complementarian has cornered you with a statement similar to THIS:
“The best way to read Scripture is in its ‘plainest sense.’ 1 Timothy 2:12 spells it out perfectly.” (And then they will recite it, word for word, stinging your soul because though they would appear to be right, they just aren’t. With a smug smile, they look at you and blink hard. They are waiting. They think that they have sunk you. It’s Okay, because you are ready. Let’s move, grasshoppah. We’ve totally got this.)
First of all, become extremely familiar with the entire passage. Likely, they read it with their choice words highlighted, yet ignore the surrounding verses. You can use this to your advantage later.
(There are a few ways to righteously handle the person who decides to point this verse out to you but I will offer three “rebuffs” or “BOMBS” that you can keep in your back pocket, ready to whip out in a moment’s notice.)
THE FIRST BOMB: Ask them the rhetorical question,
“What do you think that it means that Paul uses this unique phrasing when he begins that statement, ‘I do not allow…’?” (then wait a minute. If they stumble and fumble, help ’em out!)
“I have often wondered if he is offering his own opinion, based on personal experience and within the context of the culture at hand. Women were uneducated. Women were considered second class citizens, barely valued above livestock and even then only for their ability to bear sons. Do you think their legal roles within the society and tradition of that day affected Paul’s opinion of the leadership of women?”
*(And does Paul offer his personal opinion anywhere else? Oh YES! Remind them of a 1 Corinthians 7 passage and be sure to know the address. Comps are totally intimidated when you know the verse and can recite verbatim! They mistakenly believe that YOU are led by feelings and THEY are led by facts. So when you offer facts, they can become a bit befuddled. It’s totally great to watch them try to come up with their own verse to outsmart you.)
Lock it in your memory: 1 Corinthians 7:25
The point: Paul’s phrasing in 1 Timothy 2:12 that that “I do not allow” can be compared to the wording here where he says, “I have no command from the Lord.” Basically, he is saying, “God has not told me either way.” We should raise an eyebrow and consider the fact that Paul seems to, at times, offer personal opinions and judgements.
This particular example in 1 Corinthians 7 discourages women from marrying, which could be said to be contradictory to God’s command to human beings to “be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28).” Paul is giving a personal opinion, based on his own experiences with having a desire to be undistracted by a wife and family. Basically, it isn’t always black and white and here we have a perfect example of a gray area.
Then conclude the line of thinking with something like this:
“So in order to more successfully investigate the context of this verse, we must consider that Paul may not have been offering God’s mandate as an all inclusive, prescriptive command for all of humans for all of time. Rather, could it be that he is addressing the culture of those days and the extenuating circumstances surrounding the early church?”
(If you can make them think critically, even if just for a minute, consider it a WIN! People respond well to not being judged, but rather to leaving it open ended so they can come to their own conclusions.)
THE SECOND BOMB: What is the meaning of “quiet” or “silence?” Get to the bottom of this issue. Instead of going on the defensive and psychoanalyzing the Greek words used, or whether or not that part was added (which many believe is the case but comps will give you a giant eye roll if you even suggest), ask them the question pertaining to application within their own churches.
“Are there currently women in positions of authority over men? The missions team? Youth ministry? Children’s ministry? Worship? Finance? How do you reconcile that women are, in fact, leading men within your fellowship?”
(This is a great one if there are men and women serving in many areas and women are permitted to speak, lead, or have authority over men, but just not as pastors or elders. The bottom line is this: THEY WANT THESE WOMEN WORKING. They just don’t want to acknowledge that they are in charge. It’s amazing to see comps backpedal, trying to figure out how to maintain a “structure” of hierarchy without looking like total hypocrites. I like to get a really “spacey” look on my face and say, “I’m confused.” When they try to explain why it’s OK at their church, I remind them of 1 Timothy 2:12.)
Then finish it off with something like this:
“It seems like you don’t have an issue with women in authority when it is convenient, but when it comes to titles and maintaining control, you straddle the fence. So should the men on the worship team, children’s ministry, and youth group simply quit, or should the women in leadership be fired?”
(Then let that marinade for a minute.)
THE THIRD BOMB: It’s time to address context, specifically referring to the fact that 1 Timothy 2:8-15 is chock full of some of the most confusing (and disobeyed, I might add!) verses that Paul ever penned.
(In case you hadn’t noticed, a few, carefully worded questions, contradictions, and misapplications are all that you might need to punch holes in the entire foundation that one cherry picked verse has afforded them.)
You don’t need a doctorate in theology. You don’t need a 100 page thesis statement. You don’t need fancy formal ordination. You are qualified because God has qualified you. He approves of you. You just need to become super familiar with these bombs and be ready to detonate at any moment. Remember, the goal is not to convince them. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Your goal is to be obedient to open your mouth and speak, to handle the pressure and dismantle the proud (1 Peter 3:15)
You are not going to convince a lifelong, confrontational, complementarian to change their mind in one conversation. The best we could ever hope for is that they would consider that it deserves another look from a different angle.
(The kingdom is like a mustard seed, my dear friends. It starts small and becomes huge… Start small.
And lastly, let go of your poor, stretched out, turtleneck collar. Take a deep breath, and smile at them confidently.
Take a look around.
You aren’t trapped in a corner…..
I read the words over and over again but I couldn’t seem to grasp that he’d really posted it to my wall. An old college friend who’s last “in person” words to me were,
“I’m so proud of you!” (followed by a zealous bear hug in spite of my gigantic pregnant belly!)
You see, my book had recently been published and a speaking tour had followed. He had become a pastor. I was a wife and mother. But he was proud of my independent ministry accomplishments.
Four full years later there was no pride. Only shame.
We all have our things we post about constantly. Some love to share a picture of their latest favorite meal. Others enjoy the car selfie (which provides the best lighting! AMMIRIGHT??). Others love their diet plans or a finger and thumb grasping the essential oil that is currently saving their morning. Some people are political. Some are religious. Some request prayer for their child’s case of strep, or a cold or stomach bug. Whatev. I don’t mind. Post away. You do you. I know what’s important to you and I’m totally kew wit it. I promise.
If you know me at all, you already know that I often post about equality and women’s issues and empowerment. I realize that I might be annoying at times. I can be very direct. Forgive me. It’s truly amazing how black and white it can become when you’ve finally seen the light. I just get excited, ya know!
Some have been quite gracious though they disagree. Some have taken me aside to confront me in person. Some have become angry. Some have said I was dangerous. Many have said that negative experiences have damaged what God intended to be a beautiful hierarchy.
(Everybody has an opinion. It’s fine. Really.)
I thought I’d heard it all, but I never expected to advocate for women and then be faced with the words,
“Little stay at home FB mommies are not oppressed.”
It stuck in my brain like a piece of chewed gum gets tangled in your hair. It hurt like hell, but it was also insignificant. I’ve taken the last few weeks to process, pick away, and try to figure out what bothered me so much.
First: as I support women, am I doing it in a way that paints me as a victim seeking restitution? If so, then I am definitely doing something wrong. Yes, I have had negative experiences in the name of complementarian theology, and perhaps that has painted a somewhat skewed picture of what complementarianism is supposed to be. You tell me.
Do these experiences count as oppression? Am I currently oppressed?
Truthfully, I have no interest in identifying as a victim. These things are in the past and I do not feel as though they put me in the category with those who are truly oppressed on a day to day basis. Because that’s what I believe my old college friend was trying to say when he said I was not oppressed. There ARE so many that are victimized daily with no help in sight!
World wide, over 90% of the violence and abuse that occurs is towards females.
-Female genital mutilation.
-No voting rights.
So here’s the kicker… I had no idea of the true measure of the worldwide oppression against women until I experienced a teeny toenail clipping of it for myself. What I mean is that by psychoanalyzing the pain and marginalization that I have personally felt, I am able to more clearly understand, somehow, and to realize how devastating it is to millions of women every single day.
So what good does it do to speak about empowerment, freedom, and equality in the Facebook vortex of desserts and politics and oils and stomach bugs and miles run? Honestly, I dunno. I do it because you do it, too (about the things that you care about). I do it because maybe somebody is listening that needs to hear it. I do it because I care about the oppression of other people… especially those who I relate to most…
Christian women who don’t believe that they can and should do hard things for God.
Christian women who are suppressing their spiritual gifts.
Christian women who don’t believe that what God is teaching them could help a dear brother in his own personal walk.
Christian women who are stuffed into man made boxes that they were never meant to fit into.
Christian women who have no idea who they are or what God longs to do through them.
I can’t control how you perceive me, no matter how pure my motives are. Maybe you are totally right and what I say doesn’t actually matter
. But this I am absolutely certain of…
at least I saw the oppressed,
at least I tried.
And if you won’t even see me and what I have been through, what does that say about your care for them?
We started so strong. The minute my children were released from school, back in June, I was absolutely determined to develop and maintain a level of structure that would find us all thriving.
(Haha. So close.)
I have four sons who’s ages range from nine to two. The “big guys” would go catatonic playing Minecraft and Roblox without intervention. Seriously, watching a Disney movie together is practically quality time. So I carefully devised a “notebook system” which gave them accountability to accomplish daily tasks in exchange for one dollar ($5 in total per week). They read chapter books, had “constructive” time both indoor and outdoor, and did chores. We did Ok for a while (These boys love cold hard cash and have been able to save most of it as the summer has progressed.).
I dug these out from under their beds tonight. Don’t you worry, I dusted them off just for you.
And I can’t complain because I was absolutely loving that I didn’t have to schlep anybody to and from school. The mornings were amazing. Rolling over in bed, I’d gaze at the clock: 9:46 am. Tossing myself back over, I’d plan to reevaluate when I heard somebody crying and went right back to sleep (Mama’s of little “littles,” don’t hate. I did my time. It gets better. This is my little hopeful ad for you.). Not gonna lie, I usually got up at around 10:30 am, and remained squarely in my pajamas until well after lunch.
But of course that means that everyone was wide awake late at night. I thought we were doing Ok giving everyone ten minute warnings at 10:00pm, but then it just seemed to push later and later. By August, I awoke at 3 am to find my seven year old sleeping on the staircase. He was holding his tightly to his tablet and passed out on the way to the bedroom. (Oh my stars!) Carrying him to his bed, he whispered,
“You let me play too long…”
“My dear child, I failed you.”
I pray he never remembers.
Can we talk about my two “little guys” for a minute? They are two and four years old. My four year old has taken to yelling “Oh My God” randomly even though I haven’t taken the Lord’s name in vain, regretfully, since I was thirteen. He likes to hide behind couches while I imagine kidnappers have invaded my home and snatched him, laughing all the while I search in vain. He is almost always covered in his own feces. Heaven help me.
And my two year old is as clingy as saran wrap. He is most happy to be sitting on my lap while breathing my air and caressing my face. He is the world’s best hugger, the sweetest of sweet, and because of my issues with personal space, I often wonder if I am going to lose my mind by breakfast. I’ll take “poop kid” to this invasion of privacy.
One nice thing, is that their summer wardrobe is exclusively underwear. Camo, Superhero, or their Grammie’s generous gifts of neon boxer briefs, it all makes the laundry situation much easier. I do apologize to the neighbors though. There are a lot of underwear clad boys running around in our back yard. I suppose it takes a minute to get used to…
I have one big guy that never stops talking, from the moment he wakes, until he passes out from exhaustion. He shares with me every nuance about Pokemon and Digimon and Skylanders with a passion that I wish I had… about anything. I adore you child, but I need a minute. The other big guy is truly fascinating, but he fidgets and can often be found tearing the seams of couch cushions and picking the leather from our kitchen chairs. His thoughts are deep and has yet to find a landing point so our home is very gradually being dismantled. It’s Ok. Summer is long. I’m over it.
I have what I call, “The Witching Hour.” It’s four o’clock. The moment that my patience drains like tub water and they start to hide and scatter in various corners and cubby holes. They all, including Mr. Clingy, have gotten wise to the moment it is time to avoid the lady with the grumpy face that we usually seek for anything we need. She doesn’t bite, but she barks… I don’t know what happens to me at that hour, but I just can’t seem to get it together. Maybe it’s the disaster of a house. Maybe it’s the fact that I have yet to wash my face. Maybe it’s the lack of creativity that I can muster an interesting and nutritious dinner for this pack of starving wolves (and the fact that each one has been eating food, every moment of this god forsaken day since they woke up). I dunno. Maybe it’s just me.
I tried to drown my boredom and sorrows in Netflix binge watching but it hasn’t made me any happier. As they approach to present a new and damp watercolor painting, I can be heard muttering,
“I love you. Your picture is amazing. Mom is currently busy watching… something grown up. Please go do something else until I’m not sure when…”
(Forgive me again. Summer is hard.)
I’m not one of those moms that has the need to get them out of the house everyday. If that’s you… bless. I will never be you. I have dealt with a few too many tantrums, blowouts, and lost children in public places to believe that it’s really worth it. No thank you. This mom is committed to her children believing that boredom is good and their home is awesome and all they really need to thrive… here… in this house that we pay for with money that they can never really appreciate. Enjoy. It’s all there is.
This brings me to my final point… Nutella. You are my savior.
In sandwiches… my children have loved you.
And I thank Costco for selling two giant containers for $8.99 because my kids needed you in crunch time. When “Witching Hour” zombie mom gave you crackers and nutella, you were there to make sure that they were oblivious to my obvious depression, and they dug in. When I had a moment of rare creativity, I knew that grilling nutella in a beautiful and perfect sandwich would erase the woes and boredom and monotony this late August summer day.
Nutella, you are heaven.
You saved my summer.
Even for the child that avoided the bread and licked the insides clean, I could not give a rip because he was truly happy.
And in the end of this summer, I’m thankful.
I’m thankful for the raw, uninterupted, time with them.
I’m thankful for my children. You are unique and amazing.
And, I’m thankful for Nutella. You kept it real.
Get your perfect… shining… flawless…. new backpacks on….
and get the heck out.
With all of my love,
(Hope you had a fantastic summer!!)
As I sit here and fold the laundry, it’s just little boys’ underwear.
The same thing every single goshdarnn day.
It is their summer wardrobe. And I’m just jealous because of bras and skin toner and shaving and…. someone coming to the door that I’m not prepared for………….
What must it be like for four children who know nothing of birds and bees and shame and patriarchy and privilege? I wouldn’t know.
I’m raising four sons to be leaders… not of women… not of their future wives… but of the world. I’m raising them to become servants of people, to be humble and considerate and kind and selfless… even though they are white, and male… and dear friends…..
Forgive me if this post seems strange. I’m just trying to be honest. I have no idea why society will give them status and honor that they have never earned. I have no idea why they might be escorted to the front of the line or to the head of the table based on skin pigmentation and gender only. I have cautioned them to put others first… to be colorblind… to be feminists, to advocate… to be sensitive to the fact that they are, indeed, no more important than any woman, or man, or child, or anyone of any race than they themselves have found themselves.
But how will they understand injustice enough to care when they never experience it for themselves?
But I just can’t seem to find my footing. I am 37. I’m a free spirit. I love the fringes. I have pink hair. I have four sons. I have a very kind husband. I love the Bible and teaching and I have a heart for the lost. I’m a shepherdess and (at times) a prophetess and when I am mopping my kitchen God audibly tells me things…. (shhh, don’t tell anyone that this happens!)
But I just don’t seem to know what to do with that.
I’m… just…. lost…..
Four piles of tiny, superhero underwear.
Four carefree boys.
Four beautiful souls that could change the entire direction of our world some day…
if they wanted to.
I preached my first sermon today. A year ago, I would have called myself a heretic. Yes. It happened that quickly. I couldn’t even quite tell you exactly what led to such a change, except to say that one, seemingly kind, yet chauvinistic, pastor has himself to thank for throwing open the doors to my tireless quest for truth.
I could also thank my father, who taught me that my value in Christ could be directly measured in how well I supported and submitted to the men in my life.
Or I could thank my mother for submitting to him in everything, and teaching him nothing (He might have been a kinder person).
I could thank my youth leaders for ensuring that my shorts weren’t too short and that I was honoring my future husband with my current behavior.
I could thank the professors at my Bible college for training me well for positions that could only ever be on a volunteer level, in spite of my monumental tuition.
I never really disagreed with complementarianism until I found myself emerging as an author, Bible study teacher, and leader. And while most would tell me that I should have been content and honored to minister exclusively to women, I kept finding myself in this pastor’s way. He seemed to feel that my influence would pull the congregation away from his elder led initiatives, which he reminded me were the priority. He gently squashed me at every turn.
And it didn’t sit right with me but I wasn’t exactly sure why. You see, I was raised to submit so I didn’t know that there was another way. Now, don’t get me wrong… there has rarely been a moment that I had an opinion and didn’t share it with whomever might be within earshot.
I’ve always found myself at the forefront of groups, whether it be in school or on teams. I never asked for the job, but there was something about me that kept getting me nominated. And in the world, my ambition and initiative were praised, but within church walls, I was viewed as difficult and insubordinate. While I was always trying to think out of the box, they were desperate to stick me inside of one. The box was framed out with seven separate New Testament verses.
Put ‘em on notecards.
Today, I’m raising four sons. I’ve been married for almost fifteen years to a wonderful man who lets me be who I am. In fact, I would say that he is quite uncomplicated while I lean more towards intensity. We’re absolutely perfect for each other… but he doesn’t get me either, unfortunately.
He doesn’t understand why it is a need for me to study Scripture and then communicate it back to others in a teachable and perhaps profound way. He can’t comprehend my passion for ministry and working hard with other believers to make the world a better place. He looks at me like I’m nuts when I rant about injustice. I write obsessively. I am almost always followed by some sort of flock of women who are wondering what I might say or do next.
So when I began to read books by Sarah Bessey, Jen Hatmaker and Carolyn Custis James, I think that he thought he was losing his wife. In the span of a few months, my entire belief system changed. How I viewed my husband, myself, and God was just… different.
*I viewed my husband as an absolute equal with strengths that I do not have (and didn’t need to in order to achieve some sort of “Biblical Masculinity” that was anything but). And I began to appreciate my strengths and value them in our marriage rather than to suppress them.
*I viewed myself as a daughter of the King, the Bride of Christ, and a fierce soldier that is armed and actively fighting for souls in the Army of the Lord. I was suddenly free to serve and submit to His divine will, not depending on the men in my life.
*I viewed God with both feminine and masculine qualities as both men and women bear His image. He just seemed approachable, compassionate, emotional, and caring. I loved Him/Her infinitely more.
Colors were brighter, sounds crisper, and I was filled with a joy that I had never before known. Things that had never made sense were now crystal clear. The truth was before me, and when I looked around, I was the only one who seemed to be able to see it.
I spoke to friends, pastors, family members, and the blank stares coming back threw me for a loop. It was like they had blinders on. They railed on me.
I have to be honest, the road ahead was probably the most frustrating I’ve ever endured. Loneliness overwhelmed me at times. Some days, I couldn’t get out from under the covers. There is a special grief to be surrounded by people who love, and yet staunchly disapprove.
But I’ve been learning to heed the still small voice of the Lord. I believe that He meant it when He said,
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And lo, I am with you even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
I long to obey Him. Like a fire in my bones, I cannot keep it in (ref Jeremiah 20:9).
So I can’t care what anyone else thinks. Today, I picked up a microphone at a conference and told my story. Amongst peppered “amens!” and passionate “preach it sister!” I was led by the Holy Spirit to open the Word and speak. I spoke on the Tower of Babel and unity in Christ, and how the sky really is the limit when we are united by Christ, rooted and grounded in selfless love for Him and one another. It was like God took me over and gave me His words… AND I FINALLY LET HIM!
I’m well aware that some (who are still rocking their blinders) will read this and call me a heretic.
Or maybe they won’t.
Either way, I can’t care.
Today was a very good day.
(And I’d say any day is good when the Gospel is preached and heard by many.)