I used to be angry. I used to ache to see someone like me with a voice doing what you do. I used to feel so deeply hurt and confused about who I was. Why were you afraid of me? I used to hurt for the infinite chasm I felt between you and me, with only a rare skinny, treacherous bridge suspended across occasionally.
It used to break my heart when a sister would gush about the blessed experience of reading scripture or singing or praying in church like she had shattered a glass ceiling into heaven. Because you do it all the time. You’ve never known that feeling. You’ve been encouraged all your life to participate in church. I hadn’t. Those of us who gush hadn't. I’ve had my experiences too that touched and soothed deep wounded places in my heart. They will sound so small to you. But oh, they meant the world to me. They meant so much to me.
I volunteered myself for all kinds of things. I was usually allowed to do it. So I won’t begin to try to make you think that I am an overtly oppressed female with a bone to pick. It was this: for the first 18 years of my life nobody in my church encouraged me. Nobody volunteered me. No one said I’d be great at (insert church activity here). No one saw my burning love of scripture, God, theology even, and encouraged me.
I call you brothers. But you were so far away. If I had a real brother as distant as you have been most of my life, I would grieve that relationship. I do grieve it. I am a sister you are afraid to be close to. This taught me a lie that I made an agreement with when I couldn’t see around it: because my body is female, something about me is inherently dangerous and bad. Because my body is female, life is going to hold out on me.
As an adult things have changed a lot, but it takes a long time to heal formative wounds. For one, I've been able to identify the lies I've agreed with for too long. But they are healing, please be patient with me. Understand that these wounds are deep and well worn paths we’ve walked. Even light treading creates a lasting trail.
I’m not angry anymore. God and you have done so much to heal this in me. Men who were listening to God and who responded in crucial moments for me. Men who dared stand a little closer than the politics of church typically allow. Ready for my brothers’ healing words I have clung to?
“Want to sing this Sunday?”
“Let’s get together and talk about your heart for ministry”
“I think God wants us to take a walk together” (literally)
“I love you”
Other healing moments for me:
Every group of brothers and sisters that I’ve worshipped with in my home over the past 7 years.
A brother’s tears in his eyes when I tell him about these hurt places.
A brother’s willingness to enter deeper friendship with me because God is leading it.
My husband admiring my passion and leadership qualities rather than being threatened by them.
Watching a seminary making deliberate shifts to encourage women to lead, as well as saying “we were wrong”.
Being part of a congregation where women fully participate.
I am not angry anymore. What a huge relief that is. But my heart still breaks when I see my sweet sisters clinging to the small bright spots that they’ve been offered. They get brighter, sisters. They do. We have good brothers.We have a good God.
Brothers, understand that these small things are not small at all to your sisters. You are part of our healing. We want to be part of yours.