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.)