Sometimes you just need to say “thanks.” Every now and again it is good and right to tip your hat or bow your head in gratitude to the one who stood up, spoke out and held steady. There are times when what is honorable is to acknowledge the valor of one who did what you could not; to recognize the gift of God that is a courageous heart.
I have been following Rachel Held Evans for about a year, not in a psycho stalker sort of way, rather as a distant admirer with my own set of reservations. I read her blog, bought her book on Biblical Womanhood and shared it with women in my church. I wonder where she studied and the origin of her passion for gender equality in the church and am dumbfounded by the precision and frequency of her posts.
I often take note of criticism cast her way, of jabs taken at her online persona, words wielded like swords that would reduce me to whimper and whine. I am humbled as she fights on. This past week Held Evans took on Catalyst’s online NINES Conference who offered 110 speakers in their line-up only four of whom were women. Held Evans objected via twitter to Nines organizer Todd Rhoades writing, “this is not what the church looks like.”
I read the twitter log back and forth a few days later and was once again, disappointed in church leaders who consistently make the error in lack of diversity and gender inclusion in events such as these and was disheartened by the venom cast Held Evans way by Christian men and conference organizers.
I thought about all the times I’ve returned home from attending some Christian conference, frustrated at the lack of female preaching presence, of all the countless instances when the male pronoun is the only one used or assumed when speaking of clergy, of every time I’ve avoided an event because of the numerous faces on the brochure, none of them looked like me. As a woman, a pastor and scholar I know this pain-this white hot anger-first hand but I have never, not once, publicly, forthrightly challenged a convener, denominational leader or conference organizer on these points. Instead, I go home, I wrap my frustration in a smile; practice my disappointment in detachment, return to my research, study harder, write better, preach more daringly, believing excellence is the path to overcome the obstacles before me.
Due to Held Evans persistence, the twitter battle led to some helpful dialogue about inclusion and we hope for good things to come. This post is not so much about my frustration or the short sided work of conveners of conferences such as The NINES as it is, a humble and heartfelt thanks to the woman who always raises the flag, who is ever taking the heat for the good of the church. This is a moment from one woman to another, to issue praise and thanksgiving for prophetic and provocative imagination, for dreaming the dream that we can be better than we are, that even on this side we can reflect the image of God in whose likeness we are, all of us, made.
To Rachel Held Evans, fierce heart, irreverent grace filled, blogging phenom, I raise my glass and say “thank you, I am with you and for you”
I have a confession to make; I need to come clean. I am worn out and ragged and weary, I am my disintegrated self, my shadow side has come full front and has all but taken over. My allergies are on overdrive and my chocolate consumption has surpassed the normal and legal limits.
I feel competitive, like if I don’t post enough blogs, present enough papers, complete the never ending re-writes for the book contract I’ll be nothing, no one, lost.
I am red and raw from new opportunities that are both thrilling and terrifying because the truth is I don’t have what it takes to pull it off. I am sore and scathing at the same time because I am a forty year old woman who is still considered an emerging leader.
I watch my body morph with age, succumb to hormonal changes and surrender clothes that will never fit again to the consignment store and try to love the new soft curves I see in the mirror.
I lose my keys, every day, in the designer handbag that may as well be a hazmat container. I spend countless minutes each time I need to open a door scraping through tissues and gum and receipts and bottles of herbs to find the keys that I said I’d place in the same pocket next time so this would never happen again.
I have an unpaid speeding ticket on my refrigerator and if I don’t pay it, some piss ant county in a not to be named Midwest state will have my license suspended. I think, maybe that’s a good thing because then I could just sit here all winter by the fire with my cat on my lap and watch the seasons change outside my window.
Naturally, I blame Irenaeus and Augustine and all those fire brand holiness preachers who emphasized original sin and depravity because somehow from that I bought the lie God’s favor had to be earned.
I am afraid. I am scared that I am not now and never will be enough; paralyzed by my own fear that if I don’t produce, create, launch, cultivate, stratedgize, organize…
So I get my hair blown out, buy a new red lipstick, Chanel no. 99, and sit across the table at lunch with a friend who refreshes my spirit reminds me that I’m okay.
I study Scripture, I read the ancient text and I am aware that I come from a long line of busted up, broken folk, that my fore mothers are not likely heroines but over comers of great odds.
I visit strip clubs because the women there remind me that life is hard but God is near. In their embrace I am loved not because of the degrees that hang on my wall but because I have come to sit with them in the darkness. We share bread and drink and our lives and I remember why I was created, I remember it is all about showing up and stumbling through together, I remember it is all about love.
Praying for you all out there who might be feeling this way too; buy yourself some red lipstick and remember you are loved, you are not alone, you are enough.