Things I Am Learning – Lesson #551
Last week my friend Jen made an impassioned presentation that began with these words:
“When I had each of my babies I had this visceral experience. As much as I needed rest and healing, I did not want to be separated from my newborn. I wanted to soak them in, enfold them, inhale them. It wasn’t a head thing as much as it was a body thing. My body needed to take in my baby. My body needed to learn my baby. My body needed to love my baby. My body feels this way about Longmont (where she lives.) I spent some time this week walking up and down the streets that make up the heart of my city, up and down, not really praying, just observing, taking in my town. My body needs my town.”
Guys don’t write like that. Besides the obvious fact that they cannot give birth to babies, it is not the way men are wired. “My body needs my town” is pretty incomprehensible to most men. While their minds are busy solving problems, their bodies are along for the ride. Body and mind are not integrated as they are in women. Men’s bodies do not follow the lunar cycle. They do not produce beings, which leaves them often confounded by the intuition of mothers. This is a problem.
In Hebrew the word wisdom is grammatically feminine. That is the reason the Book of Proverbs refers to wisdom as “she.” Men in the Evangelical church do not allow women into positions of formal leadership. Should we be surprised those leadership structures are so often lacking in wisdom? Only half of the image of God is in the room. The absence of the other half is painfully obvious.
When Jen made the impassioned plea of a wise woman, my immediate response was to fear the men in the room might find it lacking. Where were the facts and figures, the measurements that would sell her presentation? I began speaking to the group about demographics and return on investment. I spoke to the left brained humans in the room. I spoke like a man. I was afraid the words of a mother were not enough. I should have known better.
Cathy, the mother of our three children, rarely speaks up in a business meeting. She listens. She takes in the words, body language and unspoken needs of the others in the room. She takes them into her body and processes them with her being. When she does finally speak, it is with wisdom, clarity and insight.
At Highlands Church, we empower women. I wrote about that four weeks ago. When Jen spoke, there were five women and four men in the room. In most Evangelicals churches there are never enough women in the room, especially when decisions are made affecting the entire church. Women are only allowed to make decisions for other women; they are not to instruct men. At least that is how many Evangelicals interpret scripture. (Personally, I do not understand looking at scripture as a constitution instead of an inspired library of books, written over hundreds of years by a plethora of writers.)
After I spoke at One Church in Chandler, Arizona last Sunday, I spent the afternoon with Ryan Gear, the founding pastor. As we drove through Scottsdale we stopped at The Trinity Church, the new congregation begun by Mark Driscoll, the pastor recently removed from his megachurch in Seattle. The building was filled with women attending a “women’s event.” Ryan and I walked around. I used the restroom, which was strangely satisfying, using the women’s restroom at Mark Driscoll’s church. Ryan took a photo of me in front of the building (pictured below.) Then we left, pondering a theology that says women’s voices are only for other women, while a man like Mark gets to speak to everyone.
In my new life I spend a lot of time with mothers, collecting their wisdom. They are experts in paying attention, grounded by compassion and empathy. They are slow to speak and quick to serve. They intuitively meet the needs of others before attending to their own. They look a lot like Jesus.
So one more time, why doesn’t the Evangelical church place women right where they belong, smack dab in the middle of the decision making process? I know the answer to that question is rooted in the reluctance of existing power structures to give up their power. Alas, I was once a willing participant in the existing power structures. But that is a conversation for another day, maybe we’ll call it lesson #552 .
And so it goes.