{On Listening for God in the Midst of the Din}

I’ve lived with what I’ll call spiritual insecurity for most of my life, a fear that I don’t know how to hear God.  At some points my younger self thought that I didn’t know God.  Hadn’t given my heart, surrendered fully, perhaps I didn’t even know this creator God, this Jesus who died — for me, and you, who lives.  It was a grave spiritual insecurity you see, as I have wrestled with idea that this faith walk I’m on

isn’t real.

Some might call it lack of faith and that is what I feared for many years.  But that is not the case. I know that now.  I fully believe that God is, was and always will be.  (Except for those day trips into disbelief, no they don’t help.  But mostly they are kept at bay.)

This spiritual insecurity is something else entirely.  I fear that I cannot hear God, that most of my spiritual nudging are at worst something I’ve imagined and at best me being smart.  Or even if I am inspired in some spiritual way, I fear that it is not the Holy One speaking.  Simply something I’ve conjured up to comfort myself.

It has been a cry of my heart, for as long as I can remember — I want to know (for sure) that I hear God.

I recently found a spiritual director.  I am amazed by what I have learned already from this woman. Firstly being with her, I have felt affirmed.

She said: “You are “different” and this is okay.”  Pieces of myself clicked into place in my soul when she said that.  “Some people are a Stradivarius and others are banjos.”  We had only just met, so I surely didn’t have the courage to ask?

Which one am I? Though I wondered.

I’m okay with being a Banjo.  Who’s judging?  But I think I know what she meant.

(I only think you see, because that’s one thing about spiritual directors. They do not spell out the answers. Answers must be discovered yourself, that’s kind of the point you see. Learn to listen, to trust yourself.  Discover it all for yourself.  Sheesh, this isn’t easy let me tell you.  But I believe it will be worth it.)

Anyway, she meant you are not like most people.

I don’t face my days in the same way — for me, life is a frequent drumming lament, a heart crying.

I am an artist, I think hard and long about the oddest things. All of which cause me to agonize over every aspect of life, its meaning and importance.  With this new understanding, all of a sudden more forgiving of myself for all the time that dissipates and is “lost”, that seems to vaporize from my day

as I sit  pondering the imponderable. And I seem to

imagine, absorb and ache, contemplating everything.  And this, this way that I am, that God made me to be,

is good.

It can be strange for others that I’m so intense but it needs to be okay with me, being this way.  Firstly, I accept it.  Secondly, I learn to love myself.  Thirdly, I learn to listen.  This is where I will find myself and find my God, ruminating late into the night, and losing sleep.

Living a sigh.

I am undone by many things, even

a poem such as this.  For I am a listener and I long to listen well.  I am learning that the din doesn’t have to undo me, but when it does I must listen.

And so, for today I’ll just leave you to this…

The Din Undoes Us by Walter Brueggemann.

Our lives are occupied territory…
occupied by a cacophony of voices,
and the din outdoes us.

In the daytime we have no time to listen,
beset as we are by anxiety and goals
and assignments and work,
and in the night the voices are so confusing
we can hardly sort out what could possibly be your voice
from the voice of our mothers and our fathers
our best friends and our pet projects,
because they all sound so much like you.

We are people over whom that word shema has been written.
We are listeners, but we do not listen well.

So we bid you, by the time the sun goes down today
or by the time the sun comes up tomorrow,
by night or by day,
that you will speak to us in ways that we can hear
out beyond ourselves.

It is your speech to us that carries us where we have never been,
and it is your speech to us that is our only hope.
So give us ears.

Amen.

Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann.

The F-word is a Dirty Word in the Church

I have had something percolating for a while — thoughts on being a woman in the church.

  • It is good to be human. But is it good to be a woman in the church?  
  • And what about the f-word?  It’s hard to be a feminist in the Evangelical church. 
  • Do you ever wonder why people of faith don’t talk more about how Jesus treated women?   

 I keep picking at the edges of it, writing, and rewriting.  Here is just a few paragraphs…

It is difficult and painful to be on the faith journey as a Christian Feminist woman who grew up in the evangelical church.  At first, for me, as I broadened my perspective.  I was cautious, suspicious even.  Mostly I was fearful because of what I had been taught.  And I’ll admit it, even angry at some of the assumptions that people made about what the Bible teaches.  It seemed to me that these conclusions were drawn without being willing to actually study it.

As I felt an internal pull, a tugging of my heart toward the truth, I was afraid.  Whereas I had been especially affirmed and promoted at work, at church it was crystal clear that this was not to be expected.  Women were “supposed” to do the receiving and watch men do the vital ministry of teaching and leading the church.

But more than anything, I just wanted other people to talk to about what I heard God stirring inside me.  I could not find anyone to talk to about it.  So I began the lonely venture of studying the scriptures for myself.  I also read theologians, including feminist theologians, with heartfelt trepidation, fearing that I may end up leaving the evangelical church based on what I learned.

The f-word is a dirty word in the Church. 

I went back early this morning to a letter I wrote to my elders last year.   I put everything in those pages, there for them to take in.  My heart out there on the page.  I was told by the elders of my church, not now.  Just wait.  Be patient.  And I think I hear the Lord saying, Sh…………  Stop.  Wait.  Just wait…………..  And be quiet a while.  I have a sense that he wants to work on my heart, my lack of forgiveness, and anger, and so though I have pages and pages I’m waiting.   

In the meantime…

I read a beautiful post on Eugene Cho’s blog that I resonated with greatly.  Pastor Cho is also a great advocate for women.  The article by Dr. Michelle Garred, who is a researcher and consultant in international peace building, talks about experiences at a Christian event as a recently married and yet professional woman, and asks compellingly:

Why does this distorted social setting appear to pit me in competition against my husband and best friend? Why can’t someone meet a couple and assume that these two inter-dependent individuals both have something to offer? Why should I be forced to wield my trump cards as instruments of power, making conversation into a contact sport? Most importantly, what about the many women who don’t have trump cards, but who do have boundless gifts to be shared with the Church? Who sees those women? And who hears them?

I found myself telling the author …

“Thank you for writing so simply and eloquently, with a gentleness that isn’t angry. I found myself resonating loudly! And I have to say that once you lose the credentials of “important work” and you are a “wife” then you seem to have even less stature and credibility, which is partly the culture of “work” being valued over all else. But it is also sexism rearing its ugly head.I know I am very angry and I know that I need to get beyond it to forgiveness somehow. I too resonate when people of colour talk about their experiences with racism, because they echo my own as a woman in the church.  All this to say – amen! Preach it! You are saying something really important and hopefully, PhD or not, others will listen!

I would encourage you to read it: Gender, church, and the art of alternate endings.

I also read and resonated loudly with this article by David Park another great advocate for justice, in the EFCA church.  He talks of  Six Postures of Ethnic Minority Culture towards Majority Culture.  And oddly enough, or not, I found that this has been similar to my response as a woman in the church.   But if you want to read it in its entirety it’s here.   These postures are:

Posture 1: Unaware.
Posture 2: Angry and Wounded.
Posture 3: Silent and Resigned.
Posture 4: Duty and Pleasing.
Posture 5: Unity as Assimilation.
Posture 6:  Equal and Empowered Partnership.

I have lived, am living these.  Park says: In the effort “to build bridges between minority and majority cultures, that there is the feeling that this whole race dialogue is “unfair” to the majority, but it’s really not. It’s hard on both sides to work towards having a relationship, especially a relationship that is part of our witness of a common savior. It takes work, and it is fair. So jump in and assume the right posture. We are in it for the long haul.”

Yes we are in it for the long haul as we work together to build up the Church, to see it as Jesus would and become the beautiful reconciled body of Christ with everyone serving our of their gifts and talents.

I hear God’s call to be a voice for certain voiceless populations, especially for women in the evangelical church.  I am constantly clarifying, are you sure Lord?  And at times I have been unproductive, and not very Godly, allowing myself to be anxious or angry, or even trying to please others rather than listen well.

Each of us must ask ourselves, male and female alike, are we living as an old person or a new creation?  In the flesh or in the Spirit?    And what are we being called to as we serve?

I’d love to know what you think on this or anything.  And in the meantime, as I actively wait to know what I am to do with my writing on women in the church, pray for me will you?

Melody