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Thursday, February 15, 2007
some thoughts on being a woman
In the interests of full disclosure, this is something I wrote last year.

I’ve been engaged in some other conversations regarding women in ministry - one of which was prompted by the Together for the Gospel document I commented on.

I’ve been mulling over what I want to talk about regarding this issue because it’s not as nice and clean as I personally would like it to be.

First of all, I want to emphasize that my definition of egalitarian does not mean “same”. I do not think men and women are the same. I do not support any attempts to make women “like men”. I recognize fully that women and men are different. We have different strengths and weaknesses that can be attributed to our gender.

Second, I HIGHLY VALUE the roles of wife, mother and manager of the home. I am a wife of 7 years, I am a mother of 2 daughters and I have been the manager of my home without an “outside job” since I was pregnant with my first child. I am an outspoken advocate for the honor and beauty of being a wife, mother and homemaker. I am grateful for the opportunity to stay at home with my children. I am honored to love, serve and respect my husband (as he is me). I take my job seriously and do not discount its value.

Finally, I know that I read the “gender verses” through a lens. I am fully aware that my understanding of certain scriptures and my study of them has and will always be tainted by my cultural preconceptions and personal bias. My husband and I have not come to the conclusions we have without caution and fear and much prayer. After study, research, prayer and much conversation we have landed on a point of belief on this issue. We know that God honors a pure and contrite heart and that as we strive to maintain that before Him, His grace is sufficient for any shortcomings we may have in our interpretation of these verses regarding men and women in marriage and in the area of women’s roles in the church. I am very aware of both sides’ arguments on this issue. I have vacillated on it for some time because brilliant scholars on both sides (men and women) make compelling arguments for their own conclusion. Both sides, and several opinions along the spectrum, come to conclusions that are possible. I have landed on the one that seems to me to be the most plausible and the most consistent with God’s character overall. But I agree that I could be wrong…And I fall on Grace.

Having said that, I do not believe that God pigeon holes women into certain roles simply because they are women. I think saying that women have strengths that help them in the roles of wife, mother and homemaker is different than saying that because someone is a woman, she is left with only those options in life. I also do not agree with anyone who asserts that a woman who does other things, does so because she is rebellious or not satisfied finding her place in those roles.

Being a minister and leader in the church (and yes, I do lead men) does not mean that I want to be like men. It doesn’t mean I’m not secure in my femininity. It doesn’t mean I burn my bras and think all men are pigs. It doesn’t mean I’m not satisfied as a wife, mother and manager of my home. It doesn’t mean I boss my husband around or “wear the pants” in the family.

God made me a woman, it is part of who I am. But being a woman does not define who I am. My identity in Christ defines who I am and in Christ there is neither male nor female. I am not proud of being a woman because I don’t feel I can be proud of something I had nothing to do with. First and foremost I am a servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. I have been graced with certain gifts and I use those gifts as the Spirit leads and provides opportunity for. I have served in the church my whole life. Sometimes I have been in leadership roles, sometimes I haven’t. I have the opportunity to serve with my husband as co-minister of college students and young adults in our church. I am honored to have that opportunity. But neither does it define who I am. Being a minister is no greater than being a teacher, a garbage collector, a coffee shop owner or a seamstress. Nor is it greater than being a mother, a wife and a homemaker.

Christians are called to use their gifts in the service of the Kingdom. We are called to serve one another, confess our sins one to another and exhort and equip one another. I see myself, above all, as a servant. I am not an overlord. I am not a commander. I am a servant. When I am called upon to lead, I lead with fear and humility as does my husband.

If you must judge me, judge me by my fruit and let God sort out the rest.

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posted by Ari at 9:20 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


13 Comments:


  • At 2/15/2007 10:00:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I think what you wrote is beautiful and authentic from your experience. The only thing is that I get the sense from reading it (this is probably unintentional on your part) that there is a sense that a woman has justify any non-traditional facets of her person or calling because of the way you emphasize that you love your roles as wife, mother, household manager. I'm guessing that you didn't mean to generalize that every woman has to love any or all of these roles, but it almost comes across that way to me. From your understanding, is it okay if a woman doesn't love homemaking? Or marries someone who is more of a nurturer than she, while she is a go-getter in the world? Or chooses not to marry or have children as her authentic spiritual path?

    While I think there are some generalizations about areas of strength for women and men, stereotypes do not include everyone, and this is the danger of making blanket statements about what feminine strengths are compared to masculine strengths. I think you were getting at this, but at certain points it seemed a little contradictory (of course none of us is 100% internally consistent, and especially not me!)

    Personally I am a wife and mother and at present these are the most primary roles for me, although I do many other things and have many other interests and passions. I love my husband and children very much. But I can say with confidence that I do not love homemaking. I would much rather do just about anything than to clean the kitchen, pay the bills, monitor the social calendar or organize the file cabinet. I have respect for people for whom these things are strengths, but I am much better and derive more pleasure from other things :)

     
  • At 2/16/2007 01:22:00 AM, Anonymous Christina

    Ari,
    This is the closest in spirit and in content to how I feel. Thank you for sharing it.

     
  • At 2/16/2007 06:53:00 AM, Blogger Miz Melly

    I agree with Jemila. This is a really eloquent clarifying piece of writing but I wish that we didn't feel we had to justify ourselves so much still. I want to pat you on the back and say 'it's ok, you've got friends here.'

    We focus so much on our roles that we let them define us instead of accepting that stripped to our very core, with none of the validation of these roles, whether as home makers or leaders in the church, WE ARE ENOUGH.

    This is what I am struggling with right now. I am financially dependent on my husband, I'm voluntarily ministering in various aspects of my church and culture, my chosen career as an actor is on the skids. Strangely the one area of my life where I feel 'safe' is in my training to be a Methodist Preacher. And yet, none of these things can be allowed to define me. I need to experience that just existing is enough. That God's definition of me is paramount and that is of daughter, sister, friend.

     
  • At 2/16/2007 07:04:00 AM, Blogger Lori

    This is beautifully and sensitively written. Thank you for taking the time to think this through and articulate it so clearly. As someone who frequently finds herself in circles that encourage a "traditional" role for me, this feels like the sort of article I could share without giving offense. While I, too, wish that we didn't need to "justify", I'm trying to learn the value of nuance--and it's that caution and sensitivity that your writing exemplifies. Thank you for handling a contentious issue with such a beautiful spirit.

     
  • At 2/16/2007 11:14:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks for sharing.
    I too wish "roles" weren't always such a focus. I struggle with both sides. I have been a housewife and mother the last 5 years. I did it because "I thought that is what God wanted". I do not regret being home with my children, but do regret the box thinking I got sucked into. I was critical of others who didn't "stay home" and contantly was defensive of my "job". I now try to see things outside of "roles". There are so many variables that play into what "roles" we are in. Some are chosen, some in way are chosen for us, and we feel helpless to change those. Our backgrounds, our raising, part of the world, faith tradition, etc. all impact what "we are".
    I now am trying to "find me". The authentic "who I am". Not defined by others, but my wants, interests, and my soul. That is not easy to do.

    I watched the movie "Mona Lisa Smile" with Julia Roberts the other night. I had watched it in the movies when it came out a couple of years ago. I was surprised that it impacted me more than it did in the past. If you haven't seen the movie, Julia Roberts is an Art History teacher who is considered a "forward thinker". She is teaching at a conservative, all girls school, in the 1950's. The women are at the college only to by time until they "find a husband". It shows very intelligent women that are trapped in the ideas of the world around them. The description of the movie is "The world taught them to be wives. She taught them to be women."
    The movie is great. I just walked away feeling....thank God for the women in the past who went against "tradition and culture". Those women have been called many things, but we wouldn't be where we are today, if there had never been strong women to stand for what they believe in. I only hope I can play my part for my daughters generation. I want her to feel the world is at her feet; she can be and do anything she puts her mind to.

     
  • At 2/16/2007 03:29:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    I watched the movie "Mona Lisa Smile" with Julia Roberts the other night

    I second this recommendation.

    It was a truly excellent movie that showed women who made all kinds of decisions about their lives. Despite the intentions of some of the characters in the film, the overall message of the film didn't demonize (or deify) any particular role or style of living.

    It really emphasized the importance of letting women decide for themselves which roles they want to have in their lives. Not every woman is cut out for marriage, or motherhood, or being a stay-at-home mom, or working full-time. Different strokes for different folks, and all. :)

     
  • At 2/17/2007 09:54:00 AM, Blogger Ari

    Lori - thank you for that comment, that's EXACTLY what's going on in this post.

    For the record, I don't subscribe to the notion of "God given gender roles" necessarily.

    This is obviously a personal piece written from and to a specific place.

    I have to navigate the modern/pomo, compl/egal. waters every single day in ministry...I wish it weren't so but it is what it is and God is using it. If one can find a way to be sensitive in language and tone, gender justice can be contagious even if it takes more time than we would like.

    and I do not believe women should have to justify non traditional experiences but the reality is that we are in a "world" where we at least need to teach - and teaching by finding differences and focusing on those things and criticizing is rarely effective in a practical sense. (which is where my life is right now, practical ministry)

    I hear what you all are saying and share your frustrations, know that I am not defending the current status quo but rather trying to diplomatically navigate the shift...a very difficult place to dwell and those who are doing the same know the feeling :)

     
  • At 2/17/2007 10:02:00 AM, Blogger Ari

    I also wanted to say that I think it's very very important that we don't fall into the same trap as the very vocal strong liberal feminist minority by demeaning th role of wife and mother. That alone gives feminism a bad name within Christian circles.

    I do indeed highly value those roles. I don't think it's ALL a woman has to do and I don't think it defines anyone but being a homemaker and all that involves (even if you also work a job outside the home)is an honorable thing and if it's all you ever did, you would have done "enough".

    one way we can find common ground with compl., patriarchy, et al is in the arena of the role of homemaker and what an honorable role that is.

    That is NOT AT ALL TO SAY that it's the ONLY role that carries honor. It's just saying that if you CHOOSE that role for a season or your whole life, that it is honorable and beautiful. And if we could simply concede that without qualification, simply say "yes, being a homemaker is a beautiful and honorable role", it would go a long way to moving forward with those "outside our camp"

     
  • At 2/17/2007 10:11:00 AM, Blogger View from the Trekant

    Great posts all - I appreciate the thoughtful writing on this site.

    Don't you think verses mentioning women are taken much more literally than those that are general or mention men?

    Meaning there are a long list of verses giving men specific direction, but where we see that these directions are culturally or historically no longer reasonable, we just read past them or try to take some general spiritual point away - rather than condemning men to literally do the thing discussed.

    It's a blind spot even for women. We see ourselves as roles or objects more easily than as individual people.

    And, as I wrote about on my own blog (http://viewfromthetrekant.blogspot.com/2007/01/rabbi-zusia-and-judgement-day.html) , I think we are going to be held responsible for being the individual Jesus designed, not for looking and acting like some stereotype.

     
  • At 2/17/2007 10:56:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Ari, thanks for the expansion and clarifications -- much appreciated. I completely agree that the magnificent value of motherhood (and fatherhood) and creating safe, healing places for family togetherness MUST be honored for the health of women, men, children and our communities.

    I have the utmost respect for your courage, sensitivity and perseverance in transforming and healing the wounds of patriarchy within Christ's more conservative parts of the body from the inside out. I guess it's a fine balance between emphasizing common ground and subtly implying that a woman *ought* to embrace traditional roles first and only then find freedom to explore other aspects of her calling. Perhaps simply a clarification along the lines of "I love motherhood and homemaking and sense that it is truly a sacred high calling, but respect each woman has a purpose of her own in Christ, which may look very different from ine." Basically what you said when you expanded on your piece a bit -- but I think women and men in conservative churches need to hear that part too, in a loving way of course.

     
  • At 2/17/2007 11:02:00 PM, Blogger Ari

    jemila - yes of course I agree with you. but I think sometimes, women like me who consider ourselves feminist often feel that we have to justify ourselves to other feminists who aren't homemakers because we feel like we're not radical enough. I don't need to defend myself to my fellow feminists or be apologetic for my choices. and I don't need to be apologetic to those who disagree with me for being a feminist. But honestly, I often feel stuck somewhere in the middle at times and to add what you said would just make the whole thing sound overly qualified - IMO .

    also, this was just some personal thoughts, not an article that I thought through. But were I to turn it into an article, I would add something to the effect of what you said.

    Thank you all again for your thoughts

     
  • At 2/18/2007 11:01:00 AM, Anonymous Rachel

    Thank you for sharing that excellent piece, Ari! I appreciate your insights. A few thoughts/observations...

    I think it very important to stress that when we minister in the church, we minister AS women, not in spite of being women, not as substitute men, not because we got the dishes done first. We minister AS women, because both women and men are created in the image of God and equally image aspects of God's character.

    Also - I think it is important that we the roles of wife, mother and homemaker when those roles are part of a woman's journey. But I think it is important that we give equal honor (and responsibility) to the roles of husband, father, and stay-at-home/homemaker dad when those are part of a man's journey. I have been thinking about this more since a male friend of mine commented that he feels that much of the church's near idol worship of the mother role really demeans and devalues the importance of fathers.

    I have had occasion to observe the response of some more traditional females in my circle toward stay-at-home dads of their acquaintance. It is amazing to me how incredibly threatened they were to see a dad as the primary child caregiver and housekeeper and how critically they spoke about these men. It was interesting how they would refer to this role as "the hardest job in the world" and treat it as SO honorable when performed by a woman. But when a man does the same job and does it well, he is "lazy" and is referred to as unemployed and needing to go out and get a "real job."

     
  • At 2/18/2007 05:15:00 PM, Blogger Ari

    good points Rachel :)

     

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