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I Dare You

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I was seven years old, sitting in my metal student desk, wearing my appropriate length skirt, staring up at the hole-y paddle on the wall, when I was first told women couldn’t be pastors. I went home and cried and told my mom I wanted to be a boy.

How dare you.

I was standing next to my parents in the church parking lot, staring at the black asphalt beneath my feet, listening to a grown woman weep. She was telling my parents her ministry had been shut down. The church elders had determined she was teaching men. I felt humiliated for her, and for all women, everywhere.

How dare you.

I was sitting in high school theology class, with my legs crossed femininely under a skirt and a white folding table, when a missionary told us only men could fly planes on the mission field and only men could preach. My heart pounded in my chest and my hands trembled in my lap and I did my best to contain the rage in my body until I could get home and scribble out an impassioned reply:

“How dare you.”

I was sitting in my high school homeroom listening to morning devotions when the name Bill Gothard was introduced and his ten rules for marriage were pronounced “Biblical.” I remember my shy, yet outraged hand flying into the air as if propelled by something more than nerves and muscles. “Where are these rules in the Bible? This should not be called a Bible study,” I demanded. I went home, disgusted.

How dare you.

I was lying on my parents’ couch, reading Equal to Serve by Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, and learning about Greek words like “kephale” and others which had been translated and interpreted to men’s advantage. I held my breath in stunned silence that despite these revelations of freedom, more oppressive interpretations continued to be taught.

How dare you.

I was in the living room of a California bungalow on a college missions trip, when my raging youth pastor verbally chastised my friend for publicly undermining his male authority. My eyes flew to the door between us as I heard her quivering response through too thin walls. I wanted to go home immediately, but was reliant on a bus ride. I had to wait three more days before I could be permanently out from under his ‘male authority.’ I thought to myself:

“How dare you.”

I was staring at my new engagement ring, sitting in a wooden pew on a polyester cushion, listening to yet another sermon about how my future husband should be like my coach, and how I should be like a loyal player on his team. “Et tu Brute?” I thought. I had hoped this pastor was different. He wasn’t.

How dare you.

I returned home from Fuller graduate school knowing there were valid, inclusive, mutually submissive and loving ways to interpret passages about women. But I struggled to find a church which embraced them.

How dare you.

I sat in many pews trying to block it from my mind that all or most of the deacons, elders, and pastors were male. I was online researching the staff pages for all the local churches, trying to find one with female pastors and female elders. The choices were slim. I sat typing my anguish and fury onto its keys. “How dare you. How dare you. How dare you. How dare you. Have you considered how you might feel as a woman in your church? Have you considered what it feels like to beg like a powerless pauper before a king, requesting a female voice at the very table you take for granted?” Night after night, on keyboards and in notebooks I would write versions of:

“How dare you.”

I was sitting across a desk from a pastor, listening to my heart pound and trying to understand his scowling eyes which seemed to demand, “Who do you think you are?” I sat nervously explaining what it feels like to be a woman in the church. What it has felt like my whole life to be told my voice is not wanted; what it has felt like be told that the church is better off without my input. His scowl turned to feigned empathy and he figuratively patted my head, sent me away, and continued doing things exactly the way he had always done them.

How dare you.

I am sitting on my phone right now, pounding out this message to pastors everywhere who have chosen to exclude women; to all the pastors everywhere who teach little girls that their leadership gifts are not wanted; to all the pastors everywhere who tell women that their silence is more valuable than their input:

How dare you.

There are volumes of valid, thorough, scholarly, Biblical research and reasons to include women at all levels of ministry and leadership. But you choose to ignore them.

Deborah was a God-designated leader of a nation and an army in 1100 BC. She was a respected judge and a prophet more than 1000 years before Christ. But in 2017, 3100 years later, you still choose to deny women the right to lead and blame the exclusion on God.

How dare you.

Women are made in the image of God, just like you. Women are filled with the Holy Spirit, just like you. Women have been given the gifts of wisdom and leadership, just like you. Women are worthy of respect, just like you. And you have stuffed us into cramped, humiliating, restrictive corners.

But women are rising. We will no longer be silenced. We will and are use our God-given gifts. We are leading. We are preaching. We are speaking up for those who have been oppressed, silenced, and abused. We will continue to work to set the prisoners free.

I dare you to join us.
Triple dog dare.

Luke 4:18-19
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. ”

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12 thoughts on “I Dare You

      1. Thanks for writing such a brilliant post! It was irresistible!

        I saw your comment about feeling burnt out – and I’m in the same boat. I live where tradition reigns supreme and gender roles are just so normal that I’m afraid that so many little girls have absorbed the message to just give up because nothing will ever change. But then I see the other side of the coin, the divorced women having to find a job, the women who have finally gotten out of a bad situation only to have no idea where to start putting the pieces back together and lament for how the church lets them down. Sometimes it just feels like a drop in the bucket – but one of my favorite movies reminds me that “one raindrop raises the sea”. And I’m reminded that’s just how God works – not always through the strong and the mighty and the powerful, but through the weak and the few and the powerless because he more than makes up the difference. Then I look around at our world becoming a fairer and more just place and I see God working out there are whole lot more than he does in his church – so I know we just have to hold out as our mighty helper is on the way and he’s bringing with him change.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I agree and am in the middle of writing a post with a similar idea. Reminds me of Horton Hears A Who. Each of our voices is important, no matter how small. God uses Davids to defeat Goliaths.

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  1. One of my search criteria for churches is that women are in positions of leadership. We’ve been attending a church for the last 6 months, and one of the reasons we attended was because of a sermon that we listened to online about women in leadership. When we realized this sermon was available, I found myself holding my breath in hopeful anticipation since we had liked the other sermons we had heard; I was worried this one was going to go down the familiar path of women having their place in non-leadership positions. Thankfully, the sermon didn’t. It’s sad that it is “refreshing” for women to be in leadership and that it isn’t the norm. This specific congregation also has women elders, which demonstrates their beliefs in action. I’m so thankful that I’m in a church that values both men and women as leaders. I’m saddened that this isn’t the norm. Thank you for writing…

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  2. The painful aspect is that some women are dying in silence, and leaving the faith. Not every lady is called to “keep” the home alone. If you say anything contrary, you are tagged rebellious. I recall the hurt I felt when my sister was stripped of her role as a Campus fellowship leader. She had started the group as a small bible study group of 2-3 persons, the moment it grew; They just called her in and informed her that she needed to step down. Some verses of Scriptures were thrown at her, no advance notice, it was so heartbreaking. The most annoying thing was that her successor’s major credential was that he was male.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry. I have heard many similarly painful stories. Isn’t it amazing that so many have been deluded into believing that keeping women silent and out of leadership is what God wants? What kind of Father gives his daughters stones when they ask for bread? God is love and God is good. He does not want his daughters shamed, humiliated, or silenced. Blessings to you.

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