Written in December 2016 for the Womanhood and Manhood sermon series at Cornerstone Church Simi Valley in January-February 2017.
Posted in honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2017 and Women’s History Month, March 2017.
Recently a friend and I were talking about how I like wearing tight pants and I joked that I have a theology for wearing skinny jeans. I mean, if I wear skinny jeans, why not have a theology about it? So here’s my construed theology for tight pants: I think skinny jeans are one way to show the world I am a female. By wearing them, I am displaying that my figure is feminine. That must be Biblical, because I am female. Therefore, the less ambiguous my outfit is about my figure, the better, right? Not much of a theology though.
But really now. You would think it would be easier for me to talk about something difficult if I make a joke about it, right? However, I definitely do not think womanhood and manhood in the church is a funny topic for me. It’s not something I can easily laugh about. It’s hard for me to talk about and it’s actually a source of pain for me. It’s far easier for me to just pretend it’s silly and have a made-up theology about skinny jeans. It’s difficult for me to speak honestly about what I feel about womanhood and manhood in the church.
How can I laugh about a life-time of conservative Christian church indoctrination that told me by words or looks, silence and actions, that I dressed the wrong way? Or that I wasn’t the right kind of girl? Or that I didn’t do the things a Christian woman should do? How can I easily talk about two decades of church people implying that I should only wear certain things, act a certain way, or do certain tasks that I had no preferential interest in?
How can I make you understand that I never felt valued when I was called a Tomboy? How can I tell you that I never felt like a treasure because almost every sermon on marriage and almost every wedding ceremony message I heard were about women submitting to men like possessions, servants, bodies to be owned, had, and used? How can I explain to you that I don’t want to look the way conservative Christians define as “feminine” but that doesn’t make me any less female? How can I prove to you that I am woman enough when I shouldn’t even have to?
Is there any way to explain how much it hurts to feel less than the men in church? Is there any possibility to convey that I never felt like I was good enough as a woman because I didn’t meet the church’s “feminine standards?” How can I articulate the pain I still feel about all of this? How can I let you know that most of the emotion I feel about this I can’t even put into words? How can I describe to you that almost every time I walked into a conservative Christian church, I felt like a second-class citizen because I’m a woman, an unmarried woman, and furthermore, a woman who doesn’t subscribe to the “feminine prescriptions” of the conservative Christian church?
Why is this the case when the church is supposed to convey the grace and love of God to all people, not just men? Why can’t I feel equal if I don’t look like so many other conservative Christian women? How can I feel like I matter if I’m not bearing a child for a husband and therefore fulfilling the “only” godly purpose of womanhood by being a wife and mother?
I wish the church looked more like the God I know to have created me uniquely. I almost believed that God looked like the conservative churches I grew up being disapproved by. I thought God was disappointed in me but now I know He’s not. I almost thought God would have preferred me to be male but now I know He wonderfully made me who I am. I thought God wanted me to look and act and be a certain way but He gave me Jesus to look like. There is no shame with God. I learned so much shame from people, from church, from the world, and maybe even from myself. But not from God. He has a much better way.
My God sees people, His children as precious creations. My God doesn’t assign levels of status or hierarchies of humans. My God doesn’t give value based on women’s procreation or outside appearance. My God doesn’t put worth on how I compare to other women. My God doesn’t think me an object for male gratification. My God doesn’t find me less than or not good enough. My God never lays shame or guilt on me for my gender. My God doesn’t think my words, thoughts, prayers, or feelings as any less important because of my being female. My God always loves unconditionally. My God is God even when His church has unknowingly conveyed wrong ideologies.
What if I felt just as valuable as men in church? What if the church treated woman as equal to men? What if women were not oppressed as being the lesser of genders? What if I felt just as much of a woman as other Christian women, despite the fact I may not look or act like them? What if I was encouraged in my freedom in Christ instead of confined to a small box of the conservative Christian church’s narrow expression of appropriate womanhood? What if I felt appreciated for the uniqueness of my godly feminine expression instead of rejected for it? What if God’s beautiful creation of me was accepted instead of being a disappointment?
I pray for the people of my generation. I pray for the children of my generation. I pray for the girls and boys growing up in church. I pray they would be able to see the truth of God’s word being lived out in front of them instead of contradicted. I pray that they would not see the womanhood and manhood portrayals in Hollywood, America and/or tradition as being Biblical. I pray they would see God’s view of womanhood and manhood, which is this: that women and men are just people. And that we are all created in God’s image.