I must confess. I am not a witness.
I have never understood those people who speak frankly and unreservedly about their relationship with God. In fact, the only person I have ever met who did that with complete integrity was a friend I made in the last ten years. She speaks out of her love for Jesus, with a passion and a need, a pure desire that makes me hungry for the same. Whenever I am in her presence I want to know this Jesus she speaks about, know him more and more.
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said: ‘…eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God…’ (John 17)
When I was a child I recall often being afraid that someone might ask me what I believe.
I had not put it all together yet. As a teen, I recollect, on more than one occasion lying in bed late at night after a youth event at church, rehearsing what I would say about my faith if I was ever asked. I whispered the words out loud, under the covers, uncomfortable with the sound of my voice. An extreme introvert, I was overly burdened with ideas and thoughts that I was afraid to express. They remained jumbled up in my head. And there, under the covers I became sweaty and slightly breathless, as I whispered my thoughts–my imaginings. There was nothing that I could say with certainty. It was the beginning of conviction.
In my twenties, I found that if you keep your mouth shut no one would know what you thought. Genius, huh?
A quiet person is not going to be the one thought to be a fool. And I am not a fool.
I rarely said what I thought. I still had little idea what I believed. I was going along. It was in college that I discovered a passion for the words in the Bible. In a rare moment of clarity and conviction–and vulnerability–I blurted out to my professor that I’d like to study the Bible! I wanted to learn the original languages, so that I could read (for myself) the true meaning of these texts. I finally knew what I wanted to do. I had an intensity for it, which up until that time I hadn’t found for anything in college, or in life. I knew that what I wanted to do was to study the languages of the Bible.
My male professor, with a cruelty I now recognize said, “What would you do with it?”
What would I, as a woman, do with a special knowledge of scripture? Um, right, the implication was clear. Nothing.
I had no understanding of the possibilities. I didn’t believe that I was capable of pushing back. I didn’t know that I was allowed to disagree with him, because no-one had ever given me the example growing up in a conservative Christian sub-culture. Women were taught it was good, even Godly, to submit. I did not know that I might have something unique to say. So I stayed quiet. And for the next two decades more or less, I continued on that path, mute.
I was already tragically insecure. Melancholy and hopelessness were things that I wrestled with and over time I came to believe that I had nothing to say. Though I was good at thinking and writing, I got the message from my professor, and my parents, my youth pastor and others, that as a woman I had no message. That is what I thought. That is in the end what happened—that professor spoke a negative prophesy for my life.
I didn’t find my voice again until my forties. And coincidently, parallel to that, I began to discover my own belief. Don’t they run hand in hand? Parallel growth that only comes out of gaining personal power. By beginning to believe in myself and knowing that I am, now, a person with something to say. I still love the word of God, the Bible, as much as I did when I first discovered it. I want to lose myself in the real meaning of the original texts. I want that for myself. I quickly become frustrated by others telling me what it means, mainly men making judgment calls about what the Bible says, and wanting me to take their word for it. I cannot accept it.
I study, but I lack discipline. I think, and then I doubt myself, my audacity, to think I might find some truth there that other scholars have not. And yet, the spark that was ignited many years ago still burns. The legacy of that question rings as loudly after two decades as it did that day in college.
What would you do with it?
I will leave a different legacy for my daughter. That is why, much to her embarrassment at times, I constantly point out to her the places in the Church and in our church where women still do not have a voice. Where women are not able to be totally free in their passions, talents and callings.
I have told her what is possible! That is it okay to push back. That she is allowed to disagree–with me, with her Father, with her Youth Pastor, even her Pastor.
The evangelical Church is still sending women the message, submit. Wait. In time, things will change.
The Spirit will witness to the unconditional love of God that became available to us through Jesus. — Henri Nouwen
I highly recommend this article titled Women in Ministry: Between the Pulpit and the Kitchen from the Center for Women of Faith in Culture.