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Friday, July 26, 2019

The Genesis 2 Feminist -- My journey from a Complementarian upbringing to a Biblical Egalitarian understanding

I remember it well. I was eight-years-old and I decided to pour my heart out to my [then] foster mother. "I want to marry a pastor when I grow up." The "that's cute" smile tickled her lips as she said that was something I could definitely do.
She then said, "You should probably learn how to play the piano. Pastor's wives play the piano." First, I thought this weird since the pastor's wife at the church I attended was not the one who played the piano... actually, that was my [then] foster father. 
I then told her, "Well, actually, I want to be a pastor too." 
"Oh, well, you can't do that sweetie. Only men are pastors. The Bible says so."

I was devastated. I had accepted Jesus as my savior at five years old, and for several months before this conversation, I had been listening to the Bible on cassette tape (remember those?). The more I listened to God's word, the stronger the pull to be a pastor became--but the woman who would in the next couple of years officially adopt me had just told me that the Bible said I couldn't be a pastor. I was heartbroken--but I decided to settle for just eventually being a pastor's wife (and yes, I did end up taking piano lessons--but they were in vain).

As I grew up, I remember certain things being "what boys did" and "what girls did"--boys went fishing. Girls helped with canning fruit. Boys played sports. Girls planted flowers. Boys went hunting, drove the truck, mowed the lawn, helped with the building projects. Girls sewed, cooked, cleaned, and had tea parties. I was groomed to become the "perfect housewife"--but I did fight the system a bit. I was a daddy's girl (having not known my birth father) and clung to my adoptive dad as often as I could. I begged him to take me fishing with him--he finally gave in when I turned 12. Keep in mind, my brothers had all been fishing with him countless times before turning 12, but I had to wait--one excuse was because I would be grossed out by the bait (I have never had any problem with it), another was that I would cry when the fish died (again, no issue whatsoever), finally--I might get seasick (I am the ONLY one in my family--aside from my dad--who can fish in the ocean without hurling). I proved to my dad that I could go fishing with him--and when he started guiding fishing trips, I would occasionally go along to help the "noobies" bait their hooks. But preference to go fishing was always given to the boys before I was considered (unless it was my birthday) and only if I had finished up the "girl's work" before I went fishing. 

I remember during holidays standing at the kitchen sink until past 10pm washing dishes while the boys watched football or other movies. I remember weeding my mom's flower garden while my brother played basketball or put around on his make-shift go-cart (an old riding lawnmower that my dad had taken the blade off of). I remember chopping fruit and veggies for canning and cooking while my brother split firewood with my dad out-back (another job I enjoyed). Eventually, my dad would let me mow the lawn and split the wood... but it was never just a job--it was a "young lady" doing "a boy's job"--and it bothered me... but at the time I didn't understand why.

Fast-forward to high school. Everyone was talking about colleges they planned to attend but I had no idea. Why? Because my future was planned. My mom wanted me to stay home and help her run a bed and breakfast. I would cook and clean with and for her the rest of my life. Why? Because, according to her, I wouldn't cut it as a wife and mother. I was too much like my birth mother. I don't understand why she saw it that way. 

My birth mother had severe mental illness and basically lived in a fantasy world. She would distract herself from reality by continuously immersing herself in fantasy books and movies (not that they are bad by themselves, but she would do it so much she couldn't distinguish between what happened to her in real life and what was a fantasy that she had read about). She WOULDN'T cook, clean, take care of us children, or anything. She ignored the fact that I had been abused by an older sibling and when she was confronted with it again later, she accused everyone of brainwashing me because her "innocent little boy" wouldn't have done that--and this is after he already had a rap sheet. 

No, my birth mother was insane (seriously)... Do you want to know how I was similar to my birth mother? 

I love to read. 

And my reading would provoke questions that I couldn't wait to answer--and so I would ask, or read more to find out... But when I asked--"I was living in a fantasy world", and if I continued to read to find the answer "I was shutting out reality". Truly, I was doing neither. I was simply engaging in knowledge and enjoying fictional writings-- no more or less than my peers. But because I wasn't being a homemaker to my mother's standards, I was no longer even being considered "good marriage material" began being groomed to be a "spinster." Every time I requested any college information, it was promptly thrown in the trash because there was no point in me going. I shouldn't be pursuing a career so college would mainly be to meet someone and get married (an MRS Degree)--I was even discouraged from trying to get a job to purchase my own vehicle--a vehicle is only needed if I am going to be driving myself around... my parents could drive me around and IF I ever was to get married, my husband could drive me around so I didn't need my own car, and I didn't need to get a job if I didn't need my own car. 

And then I turned 19 and everything came crashing down. My brother got in a severe accident resulting in being permanently physically disabled, and I was left home for nearly six months alone-- fortunately, I had been able to convince my mother the year prior to allow me to at least get my license so I wasn't stuck home, but due to the accident, my parents were spending every waking moment at the hospital with my brother--and so I decided to get the training necessary to help my brother when he would eventually come home from the hospital--I got my first job as a CNA.

However, the accident changed a lot in the family. My mother, whose abuse (and yes I am saying abuse because it caused a lot of issues that I am STILL working through) had mainly been verbal, became physical. In the course of a month, I showed up at work with bumps and bruises from where I had been injured and my co-workers told me to leave home. After about eight months, I did--and ended up moving closer to a boyfriend who was abusive as well--mainly verbally. He would constantly use my lack of a college education as a weapon against me and would demean me because I was a woman... but I didn't recognize this as abuse until later. What I did recognize as "wrong" but not yet as abuse was his insistence on my performing certain "favors" and would put me on a guilt trip saying how I must not love him if I am not doing this... but if I did give in, he would put me on a guilt trip because "I should have been stronger... I knew he was just a man and a man always wants... I should have said 'no' but I am a slut because I didn't." 

I knew this was wrong. I knew how he was treating me was wrong. But I was afraid. You see, I had been raised to believe that the one thing any man cared about was my virginity--and I no longer had that. It didn't help that immediately after my first experience, he had told me "No one else will want you now. You're damaged goods." and I was afraid to be alone. I put up with the abuse for two years--well almost. 

I got pregnant. Shocker right? I never told him. Instead, I started looking for a nanny job out of state to get away from him. I suddenly had a realization that I didn't want him around my children. Well, before I was even six weeks along, we got in yet another fight... but this one turned physical. He had been learning some martial arts and used a move on me--he threw me down, but I hit my stomach on the wood portion of the arm of the couch. It did more than knock the wind out of me, it caused a miscarriage. I grieved alone--First, because no one was supposed to know we were even sexually active, and second because I didn't want him to know that I had gotten pregnant in the first place. Who knows what would have happened then. Regardless, I pressed harder to find a nanny job, and in April of 2011, I finally moved away from him to Colorado. 

But we didn't break up.

Actually, I got lonely and began to miss the familiar. And we continued our relationship from afar. 

He came to visit for my birthday that June and the same pattern continued--at least until that Sunday. He told me that he didn't want us to keep the sexual relationship anymore. He was feeling guilty. I told him that I was happy with that decision, but should he even once try to make me feel guilty for not giving in, we will break up for good. 

Not even a month later---

We were skyping and he went off telling me that he was struggling with pornography and that it was my fault because I wasn't giving him what he "needed". First, he had a pornography addiction LONG before I was in the picture so I was not the one who had caused it nor the one who had kept it going...

***I feel like I should add a bit here*** when I moved to Colorado, I moved it with a Man, his wife, and their two children. I connected on a sibling level with the man and he became like a protective older brother. He saw the way my moods would shift to the negative after talking with my boyfriend and how happy I would be when he wasn't on my mind. I remember one particular conversation when he told me not to settle for the best I think I could do but to raise my standard to what I want in a man and in a relationship and to not lower it. I realized then that I was, in fact, settling for what I thought I could do instead of acknowledging that I didn't really want to be with my boyfriend anyway.

So when my boyfriend said that to me, that was it. I was done. I was sick of getting guilt-tripped no matter what decision I made and I told him--that day--July 3, 2011--that we were over. And I haven't looked back. 

Just under a month later, I met the man who is now my husband. Our relationship was completely different. First, he actually listened to me and my opinions. He would take my advice *gasp*. When I went to visit his family for the first time, I saw a totally different element to the world. I didn't notice any specified gender roles....everyone helped everyone. Everyone listened to everyone. I didn't notice this specifically at the time--again, I still had my blinders on a bit--but little by little as our relationship grew, It became more and more apparent. 

We ended up getting married on July 1, 2012, and that was when my real processing began. You see, I didn't realize there was any other way to look at the Bible other than what I had always been told--Women are to be the submissive helpers, yielding to their husband's authority...they must be quiet and not offer too many opinions or thoughts in church, and they definitely cannot be in authority at all over a man. But for some reason, my new husband didn't see the Bible the way I did. He would constantly push for me to be more assertive in the decision-making process (actually, he kind of created a monster there). He would ask my advice and, without hesitation, he would take it. He would listen to my theological thoughts and would offer input or acknowledge when he considered it valid without trying to put his own spin on it. And it was frustrating.

You see, my voice had been shut up for so long, I didn't like sharing my thoughts about a decision or giving advice, or daring to speak about anything theological--at least not seriously. It was mind-boggling why he would value my opinions as highly as he did. I was just a woman.

And then the battle started inside me.

A friend of his spoke one Sunday morning about his call to ministry--and I felt it again... not that I had ever stopped feeling it, but it was stronger and revived. The pull to be a pastor. But I told myself that women cannot be pastors. I tried to shut it up--but I decided to test the waters with my husband. He was, after all, very wise in his biblical understanding (at least to me at the time--we've both grown a lot since then). As we were getting into the car to head home, I told him, "I felt called as a little girl, and I still do, that I need to be a pastor." His response not only surprised me, but it caused a bigger battle to stir within me. 
"I kind of figured!" 
WHAT?!? -- I told him that I didn't think women should be pastors though. After all, men were called to be the head of the home, therefore they should be the head of the church--the church is, after all, more important. 
And then he said something that floored me. 
"I don't believe that."
WHAT?!?
He didn't believe that men were supposed to be the head of the home. He couldn't explain why... he just knew that in his personal studies, he never really found solid evidence that men were supposed to lead in the blueprint God designed. 
And for years I wrestled with that. 

Fast-forward several years, we had moved a couple of times--Once from Indiana to western Colorado--then from western Colorado to central Colorado, and then to Pennsylvania. During that time, I had tested my ministry abilities by working in the Children's departments--the one area I felt women were allowed to serve. And then we had to undergo Pastoral Assesment (a process on some Church of the Nazarene districts to evaluate the readiness of a prospective pastor to obtain his/her district license and continue on in their ordination process). During that assessment, I met several women pastors--and each of them showed me that the call upon their life was not only real but being used by God. I couldn't deny it any longer. I told God that if he was really calling me, I would answer--but he HAD to show me biblically how I can serve him... because I had always read the Bible in a way that said women must not be in authority. 

That day, as though to confirm that I was, in fact, called, several people came up to me asking if I was called to be a pastor--and that they could tell that God had gifted me for ministry. But I still didn't know what that meant.

So I waited to tell anyone else. 

For five months, I said nothing--and then I finally told our senior pastor (Jason was working as a youth pastor at the time). His response was gold. "Oh, I know. I could tell."

I was given a local license and was told to go ahead and start taking classes. I got to work on my schooling through Nazarene Bible College and started two weeks after giving birth to my youngest baby. I did my best in my classes but was still wondering about how women could be pastors--and then I had to take History and Polity of the Church of the Nazarene. As part of the class, we also learned about the Foundations of Women's Ordination---and we had to watch this video 



It points out that the passages in 1 Timothy as well as in 1 Corinthians speak about women learning before it ever speaks about them not being able to hold authority over men--and that triggered a hypothesis. You cannot teach something you do not know about--and maybe that is what Paul was saying.

So I started digging. I learned that Timothy was a pastor in a Church in Ephesus and Ephesus was a central hub for a pagan goddess (Artemis)-- Remember, within the general population, women were uneducated unless they had some social standing--the women in Ephesus who would have had ANY education would have been educated not in God's teachings but in the teachings regarding Artemis. Gnosticism was huge at this time and was constantly blending pagan and Christian teachings-- so women in THESE CHURCHES were told to be silent as they learn the truth instead of speaking up and possibly stirring up heresies.... I found this interesting, but still, I needed proof that women could preach.

So I dug around some more. and came across this:



Pastor Craig Laughlin points out the obvious when he says "the Bible interprets itself."-- My entire Biblical understanding had been based on three verses in two books of the Bible when there are MORE accounts of women being given spiritual authority BY GOD. So, no, God does not limit women to submissive roles within the church.

But I still battled with this idea that men are the head of the home. I kept pouring over my Bible trying to figure that out--and then I realized something--again, plain as day and obvious as can be.

Genesis 1:26-28

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

Now, clearly, this is the English and one could argue that it does not say "Them" in the original Hebrew. Well, actually it does. Genesis 1 says that God did not give dominion to Adam, but to "them" meaning male and female. But it doesn't end there.

You see, Genesis 2 provides a more detailed account. Adam was created first and God said that it wasn't right for him to be alone so he decided to make a "help-meet"... only... that is a HORRIBLE translation. The word that is actually used is "Ezer Kenegdo" which actually is translated "Helper like him"-- in other words, Adam was made in the image of God, therefore Eve was made in the image of God--but beyond that. Here's something interesting about this word "Ezer"-- it is used only twice in the Bible to describe women (and both are in the creation of women in Genesis 2)--HOWEVER it is used 16 times referring to God as Israel's defense against their enemies--- That doesn't sound like some submissive, passive, weak, "help-meet"--Women were not created to be passive and weak but as active defenders and protectors of our mates--and vice versa--we are each other's Ezer--remember: Helper Like Him... therefore Just as women are the helpers for men, men are the helpers for women.


"But what about this head of the household stuff?"

That doesn't happen until Genesis 3 and it is a result of the curse of sin and death. Eve's consequences were pain in childbirth and men would lord over the women--that was NEVER God's intent.

And news flash men, you guys feeling like you have to work your knuckles to the bone to provide for the family is part of the curse as well! 


But I have some wonderful news you guys!

When Jesus came, he established a new kingdom--and a new law--

And in doing so, he re-established the design he was going for in Genesis 2.

Now, don't get me wrong. Genesis 3 is still alive and well in this world--and in the church sadly enough... but God has given us the opportunity to no longer live under the curse but under his grace--a grace which pulls us back into his original intent. 

Women, let us not continue to burden our husbands with the expectation that they must lead the homes spiritually or financially--We are Ezer's--Let's be the warrior helpers we were intended to be and come along-side our men as we fight for our families together.

Men, stop burdening your wife with all the domestic duties (if any) and instead come alongside her and be her Ezer. Her warrior helper. 


Stop trying to force these supposed "biblical" gender-roles upon one another and see the design for what it really was--God wanting men and women to walk with him together in perfect community--each doing as God has designed and not as society dictates. 

You see, God's design is about love--that is really what it all boils down to--but can you really love someone fully if you are telling them that they cannot do what God has called them to do because of the way God designed them? Can you really love someone the way God loves them if you are telling them that God cannot use them EVEN AS GOD IS CALLING TO THEM TO BE USED BY HIM?

And are you really loving God when you are telling someone he CREATED and that he is calling that they are incapable of being used by him when THROUGHOUT the Bible God has called and used people just like them--people like Deborah, Junia, Phoebe, Abigail, Priscilla... just to name a few. 


When the first person Christ chose to share of his resurrection was a woman, the men of the church should have stopped and shushed--Of all the people close to Jesus to share the good news, he chose Mary. He could have chosen Peter or John---but instead, he chose Mary. Is that not significant? Is that not a clear indicator that God plans to continue to use women to share his message of grace and hope?

Who are we to try and limit God by something he created? We don't limit God by physics, mathematics, language--but somehow he is limited by biology? That doesn't make sense. We don't limit him by time, space, or matter---but somehow he is limited by X and Y chromosomes? We don't limit God by age, race, or background---but somehow God is limited by estrogen? No, I am sorry, but if God is omnipotent, that means that NOTHING is a limiting factor for God--and news flash: not only does God use women, but he uses women whether men are willing to step up or not-- Women are not the back-ups or the bench-warmers-- we are to be fighting, loving, living, and serving alongside our brothers right here and right now.

You ready ladies?

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