word, but I’m frustrated about the varied ways in which we use the word. It can be praise or defamation, depending on the context. I mean, I could be seen as a “raging femi-nazi” by one person, and then viewed as an “strong, proud woman” by another. And the aspects that make one a “feminist” tie in to the person’s beliefs on femininity (which vary greatly, person to person).
For this past year one of the issues I’ve had emerging clarity on is my being a strong woman. I’ve suspected it for years, but I’ve always danced back and forth on the line of accepting this aspect of myself. Some times I’ve responded by trying to deny it, even supporting unequal pay for women (gasp!). And other times I’ve shouted my strong views to anyone with ears. Lately, I’ve felt more settled in this part of myself. I still am learning what this means, but I don’t feel the shame that I used to experience. I also feel a deep interest in what it means to be a woman called to working in the church.
Two interesting articles came to my attention this week, which peaked this interest of mine. While they varied greatly, both mentioned the place of women in our theology. The first comes from the recent (and first) interview with Pope Francis. A. You need to read this article. It’s a long read, but absolutely worth it (in my humble opinion). B. Pope Francis briefly mentions women in the church, identifying the lack of theology about women. Now, I don’t want to read this interview with rose-colored glasses, ignoring the potentially political nature of his comments. However, I appreciated that, at least to some extent, this is an issue he is considering. I especially valued his comment on how women are a vital part of the church:
Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church.
The other article was from Her-meunetics, one of my favorite blogs right now. In this cleverly titled piece (The Christian “F” Word), the author explores the ideas of both men and women being seen equally in the eyes of God. Both of these articles encouraged me. It’s nice to feel that I’m not alone as I consider the implications of being a strong woman and how that ties into my faith.
Along my journey this year, two other written works have been immensely helpful for me. The first is an article by Amy Simpson for the Qideas blog. In the article, Simpson took the economic principle of scarcity and competition and overlaid that onto church dynamics with women. In scarcity, we are drawn to compete, whether it is for business, relationships or influence. In the midst of the article, Simpson identifies the turning point for women:
So what happens when, instead, women stop focusing on scarcity, recognize their own abundance, decide to stop competing, and share? They find a kind of power they never would have otherwise: solidarity.
This is something I hope and pray for (solidarity amongst women), yet I know I so often fall prey to responding out of my scarcity. My mom has continued to encourage me in my frustrations of scarcity, reminding me that God is the one who holds the ultimate power. He can move barriers that humans cannot.
The other helpful work is the book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” by Rachel Held Evans. I must be honest. I was completely skeptical of this book when it first came out. I mean, the whole “literally living the Bible” thing has been done before. This is old news. However, upon the recommendation of a friend, I picked up the book. Wow! I loved the way Evans writes competently about her subject matter, while at the same time, learning humility along the way. It’s a beautiful picture of wrestling through an idea with God and the book perfectly captures the experience. I’m still chewing on the implications of this book in my life, but I actually think it was one of the things that really unlocked my freedom in femininity in a way I’ve not experienced before.
As for myself, I’ve come back to the creation account in Genesis throughout the year, specifically Genesis 1:27 (ESV):
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Both men and women are created out of the image of God. We each reflect different aspects of God, men and women. If this is true, then wouldn’t we want both men and women to play a significant role in the life of the church? This question has been what I’ve continued to return to. We miss so much when women are excluded. We miss so much when men are excluded. What would it look like to welcome both?