Revisiting #ReclaimingEve: Cara Strickland's story

cara

Personal Note and update: The book Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God and the Small Group DVD continue to stimulate discussion and impact both individual lives and the Church as a whole. Cara's story was posted over a year ago, but for some reason my new squarespace blog removed it. Her story touched me, because gender reconciliation has been and is such a huge area of first pain and now healing in my own story. Read an update to her ongoing story here.

The whole series of can be found here. And many thanks to Cara, who shines light today on those aha moments that lead us to go about reclaiming Adam even as we are reclaiming Eve. Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know. Come say hi to her on Twitter. She likes making new friends.

What would it take for me to believe that men are the beloved of God?

When I started reading Reclaiming Eve, I didn’t expect to be confronted with complicated feelings about the Eden story. I’ve always felt a certain compassion for Eve, and I clad myself in these feelings as I flipped through the pages. There was only one problem. I might not have a problem with Eve, but I do have a problem with Adam. 

I’ve been through a long journey, through many kinds of churches and theologies. I was uncomfortable with female leadership in church until late in my college career before slowly picking up pieces of the beautiful heart God has for women, and finding freedom in how I saw myself and other daughters. But though I had started attending a church whose senior pastor is a woman, and begun to find healing from many hurtful ways of thinking I’d gleaned in my youth, I still hadn’t forgiven Adam.

In those churches from my formative years, I was taught that men were there to protect and defend women. I learned that women were weaker and smaller and slightly less important. But in Eden, I saw no sign of that sort of man in Adam. He didn’t even seem to be the main character in the story of the fall, and he certainly wasn’t looking out for Eve.

I read about the ezers on an airplanethe Hebrew word used for Eve indicating she is a strong power—and as I did so, I wept. Step one, for me, has been learning that women are beloved by God. Step two seems to be learning that men are, too.

My father is not a terrible man, but he learned to parent from imperfect people. As a result, I learned from a very early age that I am too much or not enough. For a time, my father was also my pastor, further confusing my young mind about how God felt about me.

Over the years, I have dated people who were a lot like my impression of Adam: not quite the main character of the story. I have looked and hoped for a wonderful man to partner with in marriage, and have been disappointed many times. As I read about the way adams and ezers are meant to ally, I realized that I haven’t believed that this was possible. I have given God credit for making the daughters of Eve full of potential and Image, but not for doing the same with the sons of Adam.

I’ve spent many dark nights crying out to God, wondering why I’m single still, after all this time hoping. I’m beginning to think that the hurt I felt as I read this story again might be why.

I have spent time frustrated by my feelings of being on the outside as a single, childless woman. Those panes of glass often exist, of course, but the wives and mothers are not always putting them up by themselves. After all, they have chosen to love and partner with people that I have difficulty trusting. That makes it hard to trust those women, as well.

This all leads back to God, as everything does, sooner or later. I don’t know what to think of a God to whom I attribute the creation of the sort of Adam I imagine. I cry out for a lovely man to partner with, but I haven’t believed that one exists. This is the tragedy of the fall. Not only did sin alter the way the sons of Adam thought about and treated the daughters of Eve, but it changed the daughter’s of Eve’s perception of the sons of Adam, standing in the way of the partnership God intended, trickling all the way down to me, so many years later.

Since I read them, these words have been continuing to resonate in my mind: “For him [Jesus] if something were to be perfect, it would fulfill the purpose for which it was created.” (87) I let out a deep breath at that, reaching all the way to the bottom of my perfectionist soul. For so long, I’ve been trying to do the right thing, to check all of the boxes. It is easy to think that it is the failure to do these things which stands in the way of the life or relationships I want. It is not so great a leap to think that those imperfections are keeping me from my vocation, from my purpose. If only I always said lovely and affirming things, then I might be considered worthy to be a wife. If only I were more traditional, or nurturing, or soft-spoken.

But I have a few ideas about the purpose for which I am created, and it looks a lot like the easy yoke Jesus describes in Matthew. I sighed because though I’ve read similar things over the years, they haven’t ever struck me like this. The freedom to be exactly who I am, turns out to be exactly what I need to remind me that God dreams of that freedom for everyone, woman and man.

On #

ReclaimingEve

: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author,

Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece.

Order here

.

Reclaiming Eve: Idelette McVicker's story

designI'm tickled to welcome Idelette McVicker, the editor in chief of SheLovesMagazine.com to share her Reclaiming Eve moment today. idelette profileHi, I'm Idelette and I wish I could go to every spot, village and city on the earth to meet our world’s women. I was born and raised in South Africa, which created a deep hunger for justice and equality in my heart. I have three children (11, 9 and 7) and SheLovesmagazine.com is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I also feel a little bit Chinese, because my heart still resides there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. I live in Surrey, Canada because I pledged my heart to Scott, a cheeky Canadian, 15 years ago. Give me some sweet chai, vanilla rooibos or pearl milk tea and I’m in heaven. And if you don’t know this about me quite yet: Jesus is my hero.

***

What a difference a pronoun makes.

One of my girls had a memory verse to learn for church. We lay side by side on her tiny French provincial single bed that her dad had painted a matte black. I loved those little beds: slightly rickety, painted in the garage over many days, with several coats and deep love. The girls moved into those beds when I became pregnant with their brother. 

And there we lay on that ordinary night, an exhausted Mama and her young daughter, taking just a moment to do the right thing and practice a memory verse, printed in black and white on a square card.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. -2 Corinthians 5:17

We practiced Bible verse and address. We stood before centuries’ worth of wisdom and truth. We honored the holy words and did our part to pass it on to another generation.

But I’d been learning about how much God loves women, even wrote 40 days’ worth of prayers and statistics and stories, so more women could know it.

I gently asked: "Do you know we can put ourselves in these verses? We can put our own name inside the verse and know that God intends these very words for us.”

She nodded.

I repeated the text in my head. We practiced the words together.

Then I said it out loud, one more time, but this time I made it personal for us:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

She.

She is a new creation.

We, from Eve right through to the two of us that night on that little black bed with the pink duvet. We get to become new creations.

And suddenly it felt like an earthquake was rumbling through my very being.

If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

I’d placed my name inside of a verse, but I’d never before replaced the pronoun. Substituting a “he” for a “she,” for the first time ever in my life, I felt like I was meant to be included in those words, not stand outside of it. Always reverent, hopefully obedient, but always excluded.

Quiet tears were streaming down my face. My body shivered with the recognition.

I had said those words so many times in my life: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

But until that moment, it had always felt like I was standing on the outside of those words. I honored them as good, holy, lifegiving, even Spirit-breathed words.

Following Jesus on the cross, these words were for me, but I also felt outside of them. I guess I imagined this was simply part of my cross to bear. The way things had always been. These were the things we didn’t question.

Until that moment of simple yet radical inclusion, it had always felt like I was Eve, still banished from the garden.

Us, women, we’d been shown the gates and it felt like my bible translations made it very clear—we didn’t deserve to be on the inside.

Those words were for all the he’s in the world.

But us “she’s,” it wasn’t for us. It wasn’t intended for us to be newly shaped, newly created, beautifully invited in.

We’d messed up. The she’s still had to pay the price.

But what about that Grace, paid for so dearly on a cross?

Including my feminine self into the core language felt subversive. It even seemed dangerous.

A good kind of dangerous.

A right kind of dangerous.

It felt like a single word—one pronoun—in that instant had ripped through eons of established thought. That single word managed to tear down a veil.

I felt beloved. Included. Invited not only into the ways of Jesus, but welcomed into the vast promises and a revolutionary way forward.

I am no longer content to stand on the outside, looking in, because on that holy ordinary night on that little black bed, I was invited into the center of the story. I was no longer relegated to the margins. Neither are we, the daughters and sisters of Eve.

Ancient gates creaked loudly and swung wide open: Welcome, Daughters.

Your turn: Have you read Scripture with feminine pronouns? How does including women in the reading of Scripture in this way affect you?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Cara Strickland's story

cara

cara

Personal Note: The book Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God and the Small Group DVD continue to stimulate discussion and impact both individual lives and the Church as a whole. Read the whole series of #ReclaimingEve stories here. And many thanks to Cara, who shines light today on those aha moments that lead us to go about reclaiming Adam even as we are reclaiming Eve. Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know. Come say hi to her on Twitter. She likes making new friends.

What would it take for me to believe that men are the beloved of God?

When I started reading Reclaiming Eve, I didn’t expect to be confronted with complicated feelings about the Eden story. I’ve always felt a certain compassion for Eve, and I clad myself in these feelings as I flipped through the pages. There was only one problem. I might not have a problem with Eve, but I do have a problem with Adam. 

I’ve been through a long journey, through many kinds of churches and theologies. I was uncomfortable with female leadership in church until late in my college career before slowly picking up pieces of the beautiful heart God has for women, and finding freedom in how I saw myself and other daughters. But though I had started attending a church whose senior pastor is a woman, and begun to find healing from many hurtful ways of thinking I’d gleaned in my youth, I still hadn’t forgiven Adam.

In those churches from my formative years, I was taught that men were there to protect and defend women. I learned that women were weaker and smaller and slightly less important. But in Eden, I saw no sign of that sort of man in Adam. He didn’t even seem to be the main character in the story of the fall, and he certainly wasn’t looking out for Eve.

I read about the ezers on an airplanethe Hebrew word used for Eve indicating she is a strong power—and as I did so, I wept. Step one, for me, has been learning that women are beloved by God. Step two seems to be learning that men are, too.

My father is not a terrible man, but he learned to parent from imperfect people. As a result, I learned from a very early age that I am too much or not enough. For a time, my father was also my pastor, further confusing my young mind about how God felt about me.

Over the years, I have dated people who were a lot like my impression of Adam: not quite the main character of the story. I have looked and hoped for a wonderful man to partner with in marriage, and have been disappointed many times. As I read about the way adams and ezers are meant to ally, I realized that I haven’t believed that this was possible. I have given God credit for making the daughters of Eve full of potential and Image, but not for doing the same with the sons of Adam.

I’ve spent many dark nights crying out to God, wondering why I’m single still, after all this time hoping. I’m beginning to think that the hurt I felt as I read this story again might be why.

I have spent time frustrated by my feelings of being on the outside as a single, childless woman. Those panes of glass often exist, of course, but the wives and mothers are not always putting them up by themselves. After all, they have chosen to love and partner with people that I have difficulty trusting. That makes it hard to trust those women, as well.

This all leads back to God, as everything does, sooner or later. I don’t know what to think of a God to whom I attribute the creation of the sort of Adam I imagine. I cry out for a lovely man to partner with, but I haven’t believed that one exists. This is the tragedy of the fall. Not only did sin alter the way the sons of Adam thought about and treated the daughters of Eve, but it changed the daughter’s of Eve’s perception of the sons of Adam, standing in the way of the partnership God intended, trickling all the way down to me, so many years later.

Since I read them, these words have been continuing to resonate in my mind: “For him [Jesus] if something were to be perfect, it would fulfill the purpose for which it was created.” (87) I let out a deep breath at that, reaching all the way to the bottom of my perfectionist soul. For so long, I’ve been trying to do the right thing, to check all of the boxes. It is easy to think that it is the failure to do these things which stands in the way of the life or relationships I want. It is not so great a leap to think that those imperfections are keeping me from my vocation, from my purpose. If only I always said lovely and affirming things, then I might be considered worthy to be a wife. If only I were more traditional, or nurturing, or soft-spoken.

But I have a few ideas about the purpose for which I am created, and it looks a lot like the easy yoke Jesus describes in Matthew. I sighed because though I’ve read similar things over the years, they haven’t ever struck me like this. The freedom to be exactly who I am, turns out to be exactly what I need to remind me that God dreams of that freedom for everyone, woman and man.

On #

ReclaimingEve

: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author,

Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here.

 Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies!

Order here

.

Reclaiming Eve: Heather Caliri's story

heatherHeather Caliri is a writer from San Diego. She started saying yes to joy in her faith two years ago and was surprised to find that joy led straight to Jesus. Find out about her upcoming ebook, Unquiet Time: A devotional for the rest of us, here

***

The slogan caught my eye as I turned a corner inside the Humanities building: “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.”

Later, I’d discover that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the writer who penned the phrase, had done so almost off-hand, in an obscure work about Puritan funeral services. I’d learn that it became a feminist catchphrase without her help, and was often used out of context. I would find that Ulrich, a practicing Mormon, wasn’t trying to denigrate the histories of ordinary, domestic women, but instead, illuminate them.

But at the time, I assumed the phrase was attacking me: a well-behaved, white, upper-middle class Christian housewife. I felt a flare of anger and shame and ducked my head. I tried to pretend the slogan wasn’t there.

The building, which was shaped like a squared-off figure eight, was easy to get lost in. You went around corners so often that you lost all sense of direction; the decrepit state of repair and the bleak décor only added to the disorientation. 

I found the staircase I’d been hunting for and went up another floor to the English department.

As I ascended the staircase, I turned the phrase over in my head. Well-behaved. Make history. Women.

I wondered why I’d have to behave badly to make history. I wondered if that was something I’d want. If that was something God would want for me.

What I didn’t wonder was this: Well-behaved by the standards of whom?

It was my first semester in the Creative Writing Master’s degree program at San Diego State University. I was pleased and excited to be writing so much.

But it also wasn’t what I’d expected.

My first fiction professor, Hal, was a writer of very experimental political pieces, with titles like “Terror-Dot-Gov.” In class, he told us writing should be political, should address issues in the world, should engage in social justice.

Also, he said “dialectical” about every other sentence.

During Hal’s political rants, I’d look down at my stories, full of white, upper-middle-class family problems, and feel my stomach twist.

I rounded a few more corners as I made my way to the MFA copy room, mentally arguing with the whoever had posted the slogan.

Was there something wrong with just being a nice Christian girl? Was I not enough? Does every woman have to burn her bras to be significant?

I hated feeling judged.

But even as I fumed, I knew my anger was mostly aimed at myself. I felt shame. I was not significant. I wasn’t brave. I would never raise my voice.

What makes me ache about remembering this moment is how much I sold myself—and my womanhood—short. I could not yet see my own bravery, how I’d keep writing in the face of post-partum depression, pushback from loved ones, and deep, unrelenting fear. I didn’t see that my shame about not being “political” underscored how I longed to address issues of injustice, but assumed I had nothing to contribute.

I didn’t know that when I became a mother two years later, something would break in my heart. I realized then that it bothered me that my femininity didn’t seem represented in my faith.

The almost exclusively masculine imagery for God I’d learned made me feel excluded. Did a God described in masculine terms mean that I was left out or less-than?

I winced when I read the rapes and sexual violence written, without comment, into the Scriptures.

I couldn’t bear to face the parts of church history that diminished or demonized women.

But when I started digging, I noticed all the women in the Bible who weren’t exactly well-behaved in their patriarchal cultures: Deborah, Ruth, Mary with her hierarchy-shaking Magnificat. I noticed God described as a midwife, a mother hen, and Eve described by the Hebrew word ezer, the same strong word used to describe God’s rescuing help for his people. I noticed Jesus treating women with respect.

As Suzanne wrote in Reclaiming Eve, “I never would have guessed how highly God thinks of his daughters. I hadn’t understood how invaluable we are to his kingdom.”

After I saw my worth through God’s eyes, his incredible power transformed me.

I started caring less about whether I was nice, and instead wondered if I was loving and just.

I started seeing my words were significant, and that I wanted to use them.

I noticed that I could speak up about injustice in my own way, for my own reasons, at my own pace. Not because a professor told me to, but because I felt called.

Instead of feeling like I needed to become someone I wasn’t in order to please Hal, or Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, or other Christians, I started worrying about pleasing God instead.

Doing that made me come alive.

I assumed, walking down that hallway, that Ulrich was trying to shame me into becoming someone else. Someone unChristian, offensive, and impossibly brave. I assumed I could never feel empowered, and I assumed that God agreed.

I didn’t know that like Ulrich, I could have my own ideas about what “well-behaved” and “world-changing” looked like. I didn’t know I was significant, just as God made me. I didn’t know He was cheering me on.

As I remember trying to find my way in that impossibly mixed-up building, I cheer my old self on too. I had no idea what was waiting for me, just around the next corner.

 Your Turn: What emotions do you feel when reading the quote "Well-behaved women seldom make history"? In what ways is God empowering you to greater things?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Robin Lake's story

R LakeRobin Lake is a pastor, worship leader and writer from New Hampshire. She also works full time as an executive administrator, runs a healing discipleship ministry and is studying to become a Spiritual Director. She is fiercely devoted to seeing the marginalized find the hope and healing she has found in Jesus. She loves her family, friends, the church, photography and football. Laughter is imperative, books are necessary and beauty compels her. Find her blog at muddybride.wordpress.com. “We are called to be MEN of God!”

The young preaching student bellowed those words throughout his sermon. They reverberated off the walls of the seminary classroom and blasted into my soul, dropping deep into the chasm of self-doubt and hatred I’d spent years trying to climb out of. 

A second year student at a conservative seminary, I chose this particular course, Expository Preaching, partly as an act of rebellion. My truer motivation was the fact that I love to break open and teach God’s word, a passion I have known since I was a child.

A child raised to believe in God, to believe in Jesus, but also to believe that within the church, women could only teach music, children and other women, or be a missionary (if there were no men to go). A child who had suffered years of sexual abuse and confusion. A child who, safely tucked within a grown woman, wondered if she ever could be who she felt compelled to be.

Signing up for this class felt scandalous. There were only three women in the entire class of over fifty students. I wondered what the other two were thinking. Did they even notice the call to “be men?”

The time came for us to critique our fellow student. I listened as various men in the class gave good, constructive input, their words accepted with nods of quiet affirmation. The orator thanked them. I found myself concerned for this gifted student beginning in ministry not knowing he would offend. As I raised my hand, decades of my own silence mocked me, luring me back into the safety of my not-yet-healed, but familiar, broken sexuality. The professor acknowledged my trembling limb as I took the plunge.

“I know this may seem a small thing. Your sermon was well delivered and scripturally solid. Yet, I wonder if you’re aware that your words discount more than half of any given congregation? When you call me, a woman, to be a man of God, I disconnect a little. A part of me shuts down and I cannot hear what God might say through you.”

There was immediate murmuring around the room as the student stated that he meant nothing personal. I was about to reply when my professor spoke up.

“Robin is right. What if she preached the same sermon, but called everyone to be women of God? How would you feel? I know some of you take issue with women in the pulpit. I don’t. My wife is an ordained minister. She would feel exactly the same way. Robin, thank you for taking the risk to share your thoughts.”

A small trickle of water began to pour into the chasm of my soul. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a very long time, perhaps for the first time ever. Maybe it was OK to be me, full of words, full of God, full of teaching. When my turn came to preach, five male students purposefully chose not to attend.

I believe God allowed this painful memory to surface as I was reading the book Reclaiming Eve to remind me of my purpose. He was reassuring me that inherent within my created being was a desire to be a strong helper and power for the men I walked beside.

“The full force of the original meaning of this verse [Gen. 2:18] might come out something like this: to end the loneliness of the single human, I will make another strong power, corresponding to it, facing it, equal to it. And the humans will be both male and female.” (p. 29)

This desire to be a strong helper had always been there, even when I was at my most confused and broken. I feel that my heavenly Father was reinforcing what the authors of Reclaiming Eve came to understand: “So when women don’t show up—when they can’t or won’t show up—everyone loses.” (p. 37)

Twenty years ago, I remember being met with anger, fear and dismissal—but the professor’s response began a shift inside of me. Now, as an associate pastor who preaches a third of the sermons for my church, I am ever-grateful for his words.

God continues to show me more of this beautiful alliance between the ezer and the adam. Recently, after preaching a sermon, I received the following response from a male theologian: “Now THAT was practical theology.” He followed with this email: “Your sermon continues to REVERBERATE with me . . . You hit on some very insightful points that I have continued to ruminate over. That is always a hallmark of good preaching. Thanks for being faithful to your calling.”

As I more deeply accept the truth of who I am as a daughter of God, I defend less and simply try to do what I am gifted to do. And today I own this truth: we are called to be men and women of God. Embracing my responsibility as a full partner in God’s kingdom has enabled me to embrace the men walking next to me. Together, we represent the fullness of God’s intention for his Creation—a beautiful alliance, indeed.

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Dorothy Greco's story

DLGport-Jun-0612-009-©DGreco-224x300 Dorothy Littell Greco has spent the past thirty-three years following Jesus. In addition to trying to become more like the One she loves, Dorothy works as a photographer, writer, and pastor. She and her husband have three sons, and as of August 2014, one daughter-in-law. You can find more of Dorothy’s work on her website or by following her on twitter (@dorothygreco) or on facebook.

If ezer[1], the Hebrew word used to describe Eve, literally means strong rescuer, being a mother and being an ezer have often felt mutually exclusive. Changing diapers, settling sibling arguments, teaching my sons to read are all important but definitely not on par with the adventures of Joan of Arc or Tolkien’s Éowyn. One could argue that the activities which have dominated my days have actually disqualified me for the job description laid out in Genesis. Or have they?

Carolyn Custis James writes in Ruth, “The Bible’s consistent usage of ezer within a military content has led to the conclusion that God created the woman to be a warrior alongside the man in advancing God’s kingdom throughout the earth.” I’ve never fired a gun or drawn a sword but I assure you, I mother like a warrior. 

Our eldest son recently got married at the tender age of twenty. The wedding itself was a glorious celebration of God’s faithfulness and provision. My son’s bride is every bit his match. She is smart, passionate, devoted to God, and fiercely loves our son. At the reception, Anthony stood up and gave the following testimony:

weddingjeffs-Aug-0814-001-©DGreco

“A lot of who I am today is not just because of homeschooling but because of the attention and love that I got on a daily basis. The ways that I can get along with others, the ways that I can perform well academically, the ways that I can love and respect Kate, most of them stem from [my mom’s] parenting and leadership.”

(In case you were wondering, yes, I was crying.)

Anthony is a substantial young man. He is disciplined and missional. He cares about weighty issues such as racism, sexism, and poverty. He hopes to leverage any of his privilege to bring God’s kingdom to the earth. If I take Anthony at his word, I had a hand in this.

This was no accident. My husband and I have made some radical parenting choices, including ten years of homeschooling. Our goal was quite simple: teach our kids to love to learn and incarnate Christianity in our home. How we learned and the level of care, compassion, and love we demonstrated toward one another was significantly more important that what we learned.

We made this choice in part because we had seen one too many Christian families who appeared shiny and perfect on Sunday morning but whose lives failed to reflect Jesus Monday through Saturday. We believed for more. We believed for a faith that would transform us, that would free us from our besetting sins, and allow us to actually become more like Christ. 

With this in mind, the boys’ schooling was not confined to grammar, history, and math. Theology, the works and words of Jesus, how our faith might impact larger social issues were all fair game. One of the specific topics I sensed God wanted me to explore with my three sons was the disparity between how the world valued women and how God valued women. We read and repeatedly returned to the creation story:

So God created human beings in his own image.

In the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

If men and women were both created in the image of God, then as Reclaiming Eve states, “both men and women have the capacity to reflect God equally.” Despite the patriarchy, the concubines, the generations of misogyny that are portrayed in the Bible—all of which are impossible to skip over—I always assumed that if our goal is to be reconcilers and to bring God’s kingdom to earth, part of my job description is to help us get back to the garden. In this specific case, to teach my sons how to treat women as co-heirs and then expect them to live out that reality.

I remember one particular morning at the local playground. Before he understood how to embody leadership, Anthony was quite bossy. The six-year-old girl he was trying to coerce into playing the game his way was having none of it. She said no emphatically and Anthony did not back down. I pulled him aside and with way too much heat said, “When a girl says no, you stop what you are doing. Immediately. Do you understand?” I was not simply protecting that befuddled girl with the ponytails at the playground. I was looking ahead and contending for his future wife.

In all of this intentional parenting, it never occurred to me that I was “disrupting the created order” by teaching my sons how to honor women. (This charge was leveled at me during a radio interview last year.) I thought I was helping to restore the created order and bring God’s kingdom to earth in the process.

Custis James writes in When Life and Beliefs Collide, “God’s calling for women applies to all of us from the cradle to the grave, whether we are single or married, divorced or widowed, childless or moms, infirm or able bodied. . . . The strong helper isn’t a role a woman puts on like a white veil as she heads down the aisle to the altar. It is a lifetime calling for all of us.”

Rather than disqualify me from fulfilling my role as an ezer, mothering provided me with a sacred opportunity to step into this god-given role—and work toward reclaiming Eve in the process. As my son would attest, this has been a win-win for all of us.

[1] “Ezer is a Hebrew, military word most often used in the Bible to describe God as Israel’s helper.” (Carolyn Custis James, The Gospel of Ruth, p. 211)

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson's story

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson-Headshot2_2013 Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is an inspirational speaker, freelance writer, and human trafficking advocate. As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.A. Christian Leadership), she has over 15 years of experience in leadership and mentoring. She is currently authoring a book about mentoring women from the perspective of intentional discipleship. Natasha resides in North Carolina with her husband and daughter. Connect with Natasha through her website or blog, on facebook or on twitter.

  “Unfreezing Eve from the story of her sin.” This was the focus of the Reclaiming Eve book review I wrote a few months ago. Now that I’ve read the book three times, other nuggets are sparking my interest and passion. As I sit down tonight, I seem to connect with a very simple sentence tucked away in Chapter 7, Restored: The Serving Woman:

“Read to educate yourself.”

Next to that sentence in the margins, I have scribbled the word, “Yes!” 

I am a leader, which in the Christian context means that I am a serving woman. For the past few years, I have been serving the women at my church as the Founder and co-director of the Women’s Mentoring Ministry. We focus on helping women understand their identity in Christ Jesus. Before they can understand their identity, they must first know God.

The majority of our struggles and insecurities in life are a result of a poor theology concerning God or an inaccurate view of ourselves. If we are confused about the God we serve and are strangers to ourselves, it becomes difficult if not impossible to love others well.

Obtaining an accurate view of God begins with theological reflection. It is important that women learn how to think theologically and that often requires reading and a commitment to study. Completing deep studies and wide readings through large chunks of the Bible informs us about our God who longs to be known. The Bible reminds us of God’s love, his redemptive story, and his kingdom agenda. The Bible also reminds us of our purpose and convicts us of any wrong doing. In addition to the Bible, reading Christian classics are also a good source of learning. Finally, reading books that help us develop a Christian worldview, exposes us to injustices and God’s hand at work in the world, and Christian biographies are also helpful choices for our reading diet.

Besides knowing God and learning about ourselves, reading is an excellent discipline to help us prepare for our Christian calling. Part of my responsibility as a leader and mentor is to train and prepare others to lead and mentor well. One of my most challenging undertakings has been convincing mentees of their need to develop the discipline of study. The writer of Hebrews makes an interesting statement when chastising the hearers of his words:

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Heb. 5:11-14 NIV).

Reading increases our learning. Reading also solidifies the understanding of our faith so we are not constantly having to learn the basic elementary truths. Like a baby who grows from drinking milk to eventually eating solid foods, reading matures us and ushers us on to holy and righteous living. Reading also helps us grow in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, it helps us to discern the difference between good and evil.

It is widely accepted that all great leaders read. If we are to equip women for leadership that includes training and encouraging their discipline of study so they grow in spiritual maturity and are able teachers of others.

We don’t need to stay in a place where we are confused about ourselves, about God, and about our struggles and insecurities. We have the opportunity to learn and grow so we might be better leaders and lovers of those God places in our lives. In that spirit, let’s go about Reclaiming Eve by encouraging every woman to eat more and more solid spiritual food. Let’s read!

Here are a few recommended reads to help women think theologically:

How to Think Theologically by Howard W. Stone & James O. Duke Think Like Jesus: Make the Right Decision Every Time by George Barna Discipleship of the Mind: Learning to Love God in the Ways We Think by James W. Sire

Your turn: What is your favorite read on theology, discipleship or mentoring? And why?
On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

 

What we talk about when we talk about women in church: part one

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A female Christian leader I know and respect once said, "I've yet to visit a church that doesn't hold to something being funny about women."

Her comment either rang true to you or raised your hackles, didn't it? Let's stop for a minute while you ask yourself Why? Why did I respond the way I did?

Perhaps you don't believe that women are often perceived as dangerous in the Church. I am used to hearing, however, over and over again, that we don't allow women to serve in certain pastoral or elder or leadership or director roles because that would put them in close proximity to men. "And you know what happened in that one church when they..." 

If you've read the book Reclaiming Eve, you know we pointed out a few things the Church Fathers said in history that have caused no small amount of pain and questioning about the role and value of women:

  • Augustine: women were only made in the image of God if they were married
  • Tertullian: women were the devil's gateway (and worse)
  • Aquinas: women were inferior to men

As we also mentioned, these are only the tip of the iceberg. Our theology, history-wise, comes from men who were often openly sexist, men who viewed women disdainfully, from a place of superiority. And, I am sorry to say, I believe we are still buying some of what they are selling, even if we can't back it up biblically.

Let me tell you a story.

I attended a class once on Church Leadership. At one point, the instructor told a sad story of a pastor who was ensnared in adultery and sex with a minor. The instructor extolled the dangers of pastors meeting alone with a female and told of the vast damage done to his ministry and his family. He talked about the need for extremely tight boundaries around interactions with women. I knew the boundaries he suggested would limit women in a myriad of ways.

But what was so confusing about the story is this: the pastor had intentionally invited a young women repeatedly to his office, after hours, when the secretary was gone, to counsel her. So was the young woman inherently dangerous? Or did the pastor put himself in a situation ripe for compromise? (Let me be clear: the pastor was not engaged in adultery, but the rape of a minor.)

During this class conversation, I mentioned that I had met with a pastor privately to interview him for a class project, and that to me, the situation did not seem unsafe. A young man whipped his head up and said, "I would never allow my wife to do that!"

What has happened to us as a Church when a man and a woman who are reflecting Christ to the world cannot have a productive and fruitful conversation for the sake of the Kingdom? Have we so sexualized women and vilified them that their presence is an immediate cause for panic and fear?

For sure, appropriate safeguards are needed anytime we interact with another person, male or female. Both men and women can—and do—fall into sexual sin. But is the Church's view on what a women can do based primarily on fear and the Fall in Genesis 3?

Because Jesus reversed that situation, my friends. He is in the business of renewing us so that each one might reflect his image and his mission more and more, not less and less (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 3:23-29). Galatians 3:26-27: "So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized with Christ have clothed yourself with Christ."

Are women truly the "devil's gateway," as Tertullian said? Or are they brilliant imagebearers of the living God, created as ezers or strong powers (Gen. 2:18), and commissioned alongside their brothers to rule together over God's very good Creation?

I suppose you know what my answer is.

Your turn: How does your church view women? What safeguards in our interactions seem helpful and redemptive? Which don't?