Along with those unfinished stories are multiple attempts to write about how those intertwined things have affected me since that time. I've done a lot of writing about things I've sorted through, from thoughts about why in college I let guys talk over me in class without calling them out on it, to listing out words I didn't mean yet said anyway because I believed they were words I was expected to say because I was a girl. I've spent a lot of time trying to put into words all the questions and doubts that I learned from a patriarchal view of religion that became part of who I was back then. I've spent a lot of time trying to explain how I eventually realized that I'd learned to question things I should not question and that I'd learned to avoid questioning things I should.
I’d learned to question my right to speak.
I’d learned to question my right to disagree.
I’d learned to question my heart.
I’d learned not to question contradictions.
I’d learned not to question when someone else “heard God” for me.
I'd learned not to question the notion that I was somehow less because I am a girl.
As much as all of those things still bother me at times, there is no reason for me to share those stories in any more detail than what I've shared in the past and what I've written above. The details of the stories don't matter anymore. I’m no longer involved in that community. I’m not going to try to go back and talk to those people about what happened. It’s all still there in my back story, but continuing to hash out the details is only going to distract me.
What I need to focus on now is figuring out what to do about church. What I'm currently doing with staying home on Sundays is fine for now, but I can’t stay away from community with God’s people because I had some bad experiences years ago. I can’t keep avoiding it because my more recent (admittedly half-hearted) attempts to find a place to serve with other Christians have been dismal failures. I can’t keep hiding because I’m afraid of being overwhelmed with my baggage and damaging my kids with it.
I realize communities are comprised of people and therefore no community is perfect. I’m not looking for perfection. I am not perfect and would not fit in any community where perfection is the goal. I know I need to be willing to listen to people with whom I disagree. I know there will be times my heart or thoughts will be wrong and I need to be willing to admit that and seek forgiveness if necessary. I know I should always be striving to be a better version of myself and to learn and stretch and grow. And I know now that I need to find a place where all of those things are possible and encouraged.
Yet it must also be a place where my faith questions won’t be met with hostility and where my self-doubts won’t be fanned back to life. I need to find a place where the way community is lived-out reinforces, to me and to my sons, that my heart is not less because it beats in a female chest. That my words are not less because they are spoken with a female mouth. That I am not less. I refuse to raise the boys in a Church community where they are taught that having a Y chromosome makes them more or better or gives them the right to control anyone else. We need to be in a place where it is understood that we can all serve and learn and grow together, with all our differences and despite disagreements. I need to keep looking until I find that community – flawed and imperfect as it may be – where no one is taught they are less.
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.
For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Galatians 3:26-28