By Melody Harrison Hanson
Yesterday as I was sitting across from one of the people I respect most in the world my life changed forever.
You see I have had many long years of being in pain, though I am on a path of healing. Yes, this story does have a happy (-ish) ending. Well, happy isn’t quite right but I feel hopeful in the knowledge that we have not seen the end of Our Story.
Here it is. Being a woman in the evangelical Church can be painful. Being a natural questioner is too.
More than a decade ago, I began to question the roles of women in the evangelical church and this has caused me a lot of pain. The process of learning what was true - scriptural, cultural, and relevant for us today, was slow and difficult because no one really wanted to talk to me about it or help all that much, as I questioned my pastor, and the elders, and pursued these questions with others I respected. Little did I know that, in some cases, it was because others didn’t really know what they thought. This is a part of what makes this issue so slippery. I pushed, sought clarification, and ask for perspectives and read a lot of books! The process of the last ten years has been uncomfortable, isolating and even at times agonizing.
And I learned recently that I have even scored a “reputation.” Not as I would hope of being a theological person – because I have asked the biblical basis for these things. I would take that as a backhanded compliment. And not as I might wish for being a questioner –because I do have many questions and never saw this as liability, as a person of faith. Rather, I have been called the f-word, yeah that f-word – Feminist. And even more malevolent, an " Angry Feminist."
Actually, the angry part has been true; once I step back from my defensive, hurt posture, I’ll confess that I have been angry. I have carried around inside me, close to my heart, an oozing, pussy, and infected spiritual sore and this has been very bad for my soul. I even picked incessantly at my spiritual sore. I have been wounded, offended, bitter and angry and worst of all, for me, is feeling unheard.
Sitting there across from my beautiful, big-hearted and loving, Bible cherishing, Jesus following, Holy Spirit filled, Bible Church attending friend, she uttered the most unbelievable words. And she repeated them when I seemed to just look at her bug-eyed, in shock.
“You are not alone. You are not the only one wondering what's true,” she whispered to me. And s he asked me this simple question:
“What did Jesus say about women?”
Well, nothing that I am aware of and I will double-check because she asked. But I am not aware of anything prescriptive that Jesus said about women.
Jesus saw women,
Jesus spoke to women,
Jesus healed women,
Jesus taught women,
Jesus was financially supported by women,
Jesus loved women,
Jesus listened to women?
Jesus was persuaded to change his mind by a woman.
All in a culture and time when women were unseen and unheard, unworthy, unquestioningly invisible, and were rejected, Jesus loved women!
So I ask you friends. What did Jesus say about women? And what parts of Scripture bring you hope as you consider the place of women in the church today?
I’ve had a healing of that sore that I allowed to fester for more than a decade. That incredible story is found on my blog.
And I have a renewed challenge by my friend, someone whom I never thought would ask, about the injustices toward women in the evangelical Church. Because of her, my life changed in a moment.
I now dream of somehow bringing a riptide of change into the middle of this vast ocean of tradition and tired beliefs which have been calcified into orthodoxy.
These days, most days, I feel hope about the place of women in the Church. Other days it feels foolish and the lack of certainty is soul crushing.
On the days that I maintain my weak hold on Jesus, I do believe change will come. And hearing the questions coming from this dear friend meant everything.
I am resolved to begin again to study and write on this topic -- I gave it up for a good long while. The angry feminist in me has become resolved and certain of Jesus and his love for me and all women. Something shifted in my mind and heart , in my soul as I sat listening to my friend.
I am not alone. I am not the only one asking. I am not the only woman looking for answers. We will find the Truth together. We have not seen the end of Our Story.
Melody Harrison Hanson can be found at logicandimagination.com: The messy musings of a feminist, believer & doubter, mother; always alcoholic, sometimes melancholic, frequent poet, writer and photographer, who is trying to use her power for good. She is forgiven and grateful.