After work a couple of days ago, I met a young woman that I mentor at a coffee shop. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so we were catching up on basic goings-on as well as significant developments in our lives.
This young woman (I’ll call her Sue) recently started a new position at a prestigious firm here in Houston. She is smart, driven, organized and competitive. She is a leader, a planner, a mover-and-shaker.
She also loves Jesus.
As we were talking the other evening, Sue mentioned that she was having difficulty working with her training team. She was the only woman involved in this particular training and noted that she had managed to build rapport with only one of the men. The other men were, for the most part, sleeping, on their cell phones or otherwise engaged.
Sue, who was trying to do her job (and do it well), did her best to motivate the others in her training group to finish their assigned presentation (and finish it well). She received pushback from several of the men, who made her feel that she was too bossy, too uptight, and, well, too bitchy.
With an exasperated sigh, she said:
“Maybe I should have just sat back, said nothing and been like Jesus wants me to be.”
Sue has heard for most of her Christian life–from other Christians and the evangelical Church–that desirable “woman” traits are meakness, generosity, submission to male authority, service, quietness, and hospitality.
She has also internalized that undesirable “woman” traits are intensity, drivenness, leadership, decision-making, competitiveness, having/vocalizing opinions, and strength. In the evangelical church, these traits are rewarded in men and are discouraged or muted in women.
In giving her these traits, Jesus must have made some sort of mistake, right?
At least, this conclusion is what is communicated when the biblical principle of mutuality is ignored. Sue believes that she is a mistake, and she carries that belief with her into her home, her church, and her (secular) workplace.
I can relate.
I too have had to wrestle with my composition as a human being and in particular a woman human being desiring to love and serve the Church. I am who I am: strong, vocal, question-asking, emotional, educated, teacher, leader, servant, influencer. Every personality test, every giftedness test, every honest Christian in my life confirms it to be so.
So is it wrong to be me in the Church?
This has been my question over the past several years. In college, I began to seriously engage this question and can remember weeping in my dorm room because I could not understand a) why Paul could say things like “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12) and b) why God would allow such things to be put into His Holy Scripture.
Thankfully, I did not give up the search.
Many women and men (either personally or via their writing) gave me the courage to look past the imposed structure of complementarianism and into the beauty of untamed Scripture. Deborah, Ruth, Mary Magdelene, Priscilla and many others helped me to see myself through God’s lens.
I am just right.
Whoever we are and however we are made, God desires to hone and perfect the personality traits and quirks He’s given us.
His purpose is not to get rid of the stuff He’s made us with, but to refine and purify who we are already with His gracious love.
The other night, I did my best to reassure Sue. “You are beautiful as He created you,” I said. “He did not created you to sit back and say nothing. He created you to lead, to speak, and to thrive.”
I am just beginning to believe it myself, but it is true:
He wants us to be who we were meant to be. Period.
Who are you? How is God refining and purifying you (as you were meant to be)?
This post was written for Rachel Held Evans’s Week of Mutuality 2012. Join the conversation!