Friday, May 28, 2004

sick jokes

i was raised in a tiny denomination that called itself a 'new testament church' and believed in the 'priesthood of all believers' (well not 'all' just men), no pastors, only laity and itinerant speakers. three, hour-long services each sunday (one at night). the first was 'the breaking of bread' or 'the lord's supper'- a quiet contemplative service where men, nudged by the holy spirit (or their wives) would be moved to share through scripture, prayer or suggesting an a capella hymns all focusing on the death of christ.

women were to be silent with their head’s covered. i grew up in the left side of the fourth pew, learning to daydream and that god didn’t care what i had to say, or if i had an opinion. it was a very confusing time for me.

my father wasn’t given any ‘up front’ or public gifts, which the church didn’t respect and regularly forced him to the podium. he would get physically sick every time he had to participate publically. because the church was small (dying actually) every man needed 'to carry the burden'.

i watched my mother, outspoken and resentful most of the week, except in church on sunday, where she would feign not only a covered head, but a covered heart, slowly erode and crumble in her spiritual life because she had no outlet for her gifts, which by some sick joke of god were the 'up front gifts' that my father was lacking.

the church taught me that my father was weak and my mother was shameful. and it also taught me that god had a sick sense of humor.

as i aged i realized that i too was 'honored' by the sick humor of God because i was so much like my mother. i fought every tendency within me to distance myself from the gifts rising to the surface in my own life. i longed to be the 'silent, submissive woman' the church ideal held up. what i saw in my own life were the same gifts that so ruined my mother, and made my parent's marriage so painfully difficult.

watching them relate was confusing. they'd reverse their roles for sunday morning and fight the rest of the week because they were learning that neither of them were equipped for the kingdom of god.

my father was a helper, an encourager and the most dedicated, loyal worker a church could hope to have. that was never honored. his confidence was ruined, he was a failure to god and ashamed of himself.

my mother was an evangelist, a teacher and a speaker/writer. god had no use for a woman with those gifts. she couldn't sing or play the piano, and teaching children's sunday school was not 'up her alley', so she too was ashamed, disgruntled and seethingly angry at a god who would 'save' her for this.

this heresy made a mockery of spiritual gifts and the love of god. to those of you who don't 'get' why it's so damaging to misinterpret pauls teachings this is why. the wall that it places in lives and the damage that it brings is so completely ungodly.

i hated the parts of me that reminded me of my mother. why did i have to be like her? why couldn’t i be quiet and content, respectful and silent. wasn’t it bad enough that god wrecked her, why me too?

it has only been since coming out of that brainwashed 'sect' that i have had the understanding that god has made me (as he made my parents) to be exactly who i am - and that he doesn't want me to be the singing submissive silent piano playing stepford wife.<b>r>
he truly adores my opinionated, passionate zest for life, my perspective and my voice. he created me this way for a purpose. i don't know exactly what it is yet, but i do know that i am not a reject in the kingdom of god - not a sick joke. god doesn't have a warped, punishing sense of humor.

how sad that it's only been in the past six months that i've realized the true implications of all of this. how it distanced me from my mother, how failure still haunts my father, how distorted teaching masquerading as the 'truth' forced my family, and so many others from having a close, personal, intimate relationship with the god they were so trying to promote.

emergent church, church of the future - please get this right. please allow each of us to participate by using the gifts god has placed in our lives - and honor each of them for the glory of god. if you screw this up you will truly not be changing anything but the decorations.


TCS said...

I am reading your earliest posts and on this one "sick jokes"... holy crap! your from the farther (more restrictive) version of church as I am. We have many,many similarities, including being adult children of acoholics.

Stresspenguin said...

Hey, thanks for sharing this part of your story. I came across it while looking up stuff for my sermon tomorrow...well, at this point, more like today. Anyway, I commend you for following God despite what the church of your past dictated. The two most influential pastors I've had were both women. God bless.

Kay said...

Isn't sad how often churches get in the way of relationships with God?

bobbie said...

tcs, i'm so glad my story resonates with you.

thank you stress penguin, i'm so glad that you've been in churches where women have been allowed to use their gifts. please do all you can to stretch the envelope so that more can serve. blessings.

yes kay, it is sad. i think it breaks god's heart.