Jun 29, 2012
I first learned about Jen Luitwieler when she released her book about becoming an accidental runner because her dog kept pooping in her craft room/office. She wrote a hilarious and inspiring book about it that you need to read soon. Jen has a real gift for encouragement and a passion for equality that I’m delighted she’s sharing with us today:
Unlike other contributors to this fantastic series, I do not have a story of overcoming institutional oppression. I cannot wax poetic about shattering the stained glass ceiling with my particular brand of awesome. I cannot show you the scars from my shackles and share the balm for my wounds with you.
What I do have is a deep and constant stream of encouragement and empathy for those who have buckled under the lies we’ve been fed, as women in the church. I have seen how it can work, how we can operate according to our creation rather than our biology. I have seen it, and it is good.
The church of my youth sounds almost perfect in this context; women and men worked together without so much as a batted eyelash. Women served in the pulpit, the lectern, the office, the mission field. No big whoop. It makes sense that my family would be involved with a church like this since our home was as egalitarian as they come. Everyone did their share. No one was too weak or too strong to do dishes or cut the grass.
There was a time when I tried to swallow the lie. After we married and moved from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma, the lie was served up on the good china, garnished with a saccharine smile and a tall sweet tea. I was shocked to learn that in some churches, women pursed their lipsticked mouths closed. The "one piece swimsuit rule," about which I had never thought, taught me that women were responsible for men’s lust. I didn’t know that women were "born to serve their husbands." No one told me that women don’t pray in mixed company. I did not get the memo about women only leading other women.
Despite a protest from ever single fiber in every single part of me, I tried to become that sweet young thang who nods her head quietly while her husband speaks the same words of wisdom she herself would say if she could force the words out of her mouth. You guys, I even tied a red ribbon on my ponytail on the fourth of July, something my family back in Pittsburgh would have mocked me ceaselessly for doing. (I’m not, nor have I ever been, a ribbon in the hair kind of gal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
I bucked against it even while I tried to choke it down, its bitterness a costume I tried to apply from the inside out. If I could just learn to be quiet. If I could just learn to keep my opinions in check. If I could not thrust my hand out for a firm shake with everyone we met, asserting my individuality as I was taught.
It didn’t take. I sat on my hands. I looked demurely at my husband, biting my tongue in Sunday School. For like, a day. The good news is, my husband never wanted me to be someone other than the woman he married. My church never asked me to zip my lip or stay in children’s ministry. I had the opportunities to teach anywhere I was called: men, women and children. Mixed company even!
I tasted that lie. I held it on my tongue, letting the bitterness spread, feeling compelled by outward mandates to swallow it, no questions asked. I could not hold it on my tongue any more than I could have forced it into my gut. I could not believe that I was drawn toward leadership in direct opposition to the way God had made me. I could not believe that women are incapable, or weak or anything other than made for His good purposes.
When I read the other stories from this series, when I am told by my friends of their systemic oppression by a community that is called to love, I get fired up. I taste that lie again and I want to rally the troops, to dilute the horrid aftertaste for my sisters who are crumpling under it. I want to gather them in to me, to tell them the truth: that they, we, are created by a loving God to use the gifts he gave us, and that it can happen, in this lifetime, on this earth.
About Today’s Guest Blogger
Jen Luitwieler is a wife, mom, homeschooler, seamstress, doula and author in Tulsa, OK. Her book Run with Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo, was released in September 2011. She writes monthly pieces on craft and sports and blogs about running, faith and writing at jenniferluitwieler.com. She knows she’s going to hear something about the "one piece rule."
Next Week’s Blogger: Summer Groenendal