For a long time, I’ve avoided personal blogging. Mostly, I’ve preferred to research and write articles about other people, and to post links to other publications bearing the brunt of comments that I’ve preferred not to read. That’s been safer.
In recent months, I’ve had the urge to blog more regularly on my website, and it’s stretched me. Storytelling is scary.
It’s difficult to share my stories, to put myself out there. A year and a half ago, when I published an essay on being a woman in seminary, I thought I’d throw up the day it went live. I regretted submitting the story. Had I made a mistake?
I assumed nobody would care. I expected a hailstorm of rocks for saying less-than-positive things about my experiences as a woman in the body of Christ (a doozey of bad experiences). And I was wrong.
Many people cared. Many related to my experiences—men and women. To this day, I’m grateful to know so many kindred souls on social media. Knowing you is the best part of my day, even when trolls throw tantrums.
Most of us don’t fit into tidy little gender boxes. We are weary of hearing instructions about who we are supposed to be, and what we can and can’t do, as men versus women. It’s clear the status quo doesn’t deliver on promised carrots or joy in Jesus.
It’s hard to find permission to tell our stories. It’s harder even to find the courage to speak. So many of us feel pressured to minimize our experiences because we’ve been taught not to make churches look bad.
We feel responsible, as if keeping quiet somehow protects Jesus’ reputation.
We know Christians are less than perfect. Still, it’s hard to call out the real faults of faith communities, especially leaders.
After some risks, telling my own uncomfortable stories, and listening to others, I’m finding it’s less scary. It’s not that my skin has grown thicker, or that I care less what others think.
A funny thing is happening as I learn not to take things so personally. The voices of disrespectful opponents aren’t so loud. I’m learning to dial down the volume of emotionally harmful and draining comments.
Don’t get me wrong, I still care. But their voices are growing softer as Jesus’ voice grows louder. And he reassures me:
God never throws rocks at us for expressing real hurts.
God doesn’t minimize our painful experiences.
God doesn’t shy away from our hard questions.
God doesn’t write us off for doubting.
God patiently and kindly walks with us.
God supplies us with endless streams of living water.
God embraces everyone who wants a place at the table.
A strand of three cords is not easily broken. (Eph. 4:12) We are stronger together. This doesn’t mean we have to agree about everything.
I’m grateful for my friends who think differently, who are willing to have reasonable and respectful discussions. A Facebook friend recently disagreed with my article about why churches don’t have more women leaders. He asked thoughtful questions and listened patiently before explaining his own convictions.
Truth be told, I struggled not to dial down my friend’s voice because I disliked what he was saying.
When it was clear that neither of our consciences could see eye to eye, we mutually ended the discussion. No harm. No foul. We are still friends.
Having closed the doors on friendships, earlier in my life, mostly out of arrogance, I’ve learned it isn’t worth it. At the same time, I refuse to engage with abusive people.
I doubt that in heaven angels are handing out theological inventories as souls enter the gates: “Please tell us, were you Calvinist or Armenian? Premillenial or postmillenial? Complementarian or Egalitarian ? . . . ”
More realistically, I’m guessing that Jesus greets everyone with hugs and invites them to sit down for dinner.
I imagine him asking, probably over a glass of red wine, “So how did it go with your neighbors?”
The more I know Jesus, the more convinced I am that God is less concerned about our theological positions than how we actually treat each other.
Let’s do our best to be kind. If others throw rocks, we can always turn down the volume. But if they are willing to have respectful and reasonable dialog, let’s try our hardest to be friends.
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Rom. 12:18)