Dear Donald Miller,
You asked me, yesterday, whether I wanted to be treated like a man, or whether I wanted to be treated like an equal. You want to know, you say, because the conversation is confusing.
If this is the way you have chosen to frame the conversation man vs. equal, then the conversation is going to get confusing. Because that dichotomy is confused.
I don’t want to be treated “like a man.” I don’t want to be treated “like an equal.” I want to be treated like a person, like a life, like someone who has been beautifully and wonderfully made by a God who had me, gender and all, specifically in mind. I do want to be treated like I am special, just like everyone else. No more, or less because of my gender. If you want a specific list, I give you the fruit of the spirit, with gentleness, with patience, with kindness.
I think what you are speaking to is the attitude that I too have noticed in the evangelical women of a certain age. I have noticed it because I am of that certain age, and the attitude exists within myself. You have noticed the tendency of women in the church (not all certainly, but some of us) to say we want to be treated like equals, but we don’t demand it, don’t yet act with the presumption that we are in fact equals.
I need you to understand something about many of the women sitting in your pews. They were raised in the same youth group you were. Even churches that had women as elders, denominations that allow women to preach, were recommending books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye singing the praises of Wild at Heart. Books that may have spoken a lot of truth to a lot of people, and I don’t mean to discount that, but books that told me in no uncertain terms that I was not the star of this show. The best I could hope for was the trusty assistant.
Not only was I told that I could not hold the reigns, I was also told that any man who loved me wouldn’t hand them to me. A true man of God would do the hard work of steering himself, if he really loved me, he would want to do it for me. It was the boys job to discern, to direct, to hear from God. It was the girls job to wait, patiently and trust that God and the boy knew what they were doing. In good time all these things would reveal themselves and all the girl had to do was say yes, and be whisked away.
I was told that more than anything the men in my life, my brothers in Christ needed RESPECT, and me taking over (even when I knew exactly what I was doing, and they not so much) or talking up too much was disrespectful and harmful to the growth of these men. I wanted very much for these men to know God. Even though God made me to be a first responder, to be a yeller in the wilderness, I learned to sit on one hand while covering my mouth with the other so that I would not interrupt this process between God and man. I did respect my brothers, I wanted them to grow.
Do you see how we could grow up and hoped to be petted, told that we are special and pretty? Do you see how easy it is to accept the part of trusty assistant when you have been told that your husband, or boyfriend will love you like God loves the church and that needs to be enough for you. If it isn’t enough for you, then you are rejecting God’s best. Do you see how even when you grow up, call yourself a feminist, and have two daughters of your own and reject much of what was taught to you, you would still be in the habit of waiting to be asked?
I imagine that you do see the soul as genderless like you say, you have never been limited as to what you can do based on your gender. I know that you personally don’t espouse those beliefs, but I need you to recognize the privilege of that position. You’ve never had to consider your gender as it relates to your God. No one has ever insisted it changes the game.
It is hard work to unlearn those lies. Even still in a small group that has always welcomed me, I worry they are sick of hearing me pipe up, in my marriage I wait for him to come reconcile the fight because that is his job, don’t tell him what I need because that is between him and God. Even when I don’t believe the thought behind it, the behavior lingers.
We need your help, instead of making us choose between our old ways and new ways, we need you to gently push us to a relationship with God, with you, beyond the old boundaries. If you see us crying equality in a corner while we simultaneously wait for someone to invite us to the journey, remind us that God already has. When we think all we are good for is being petted, call us out on our selling out, and when we don’t open doors for you, remind us that you sometimes need a hand too. It isn’t fair for you to have life all in your hands. It gets heavy sometimes.
Your Sister in Christ,