Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The countdown has begun.
In twenty minutes my doorbell will ring. Then it will be too late. I grab my husband and ask if we can pray together. Now.
In a moment of holy irony, I pray with a man—right before the visitor at the door will ask me not to.
I struggled as a woman in a very conservative church for a long time. Should I stay and work for change? Or escape and enjoy freedom elsewhere?
For years I was determined to stay.
Before the newest crisis about to erupt at my door, my friend Kay and I had started a new Sunday class for teen girls. We focused on how Jesus touched the lives of women in the Bible. And how he continues to touch ours.
The day before our first class, Kay and I were pulled aside by a godly woman a few years our senior. She asked to see our classroom. Then holding us both by the hand, she bowed her head and prayed for us there. We felt the power God gives through prayer.
The following day, early Sunday morning, a peer entered our room, again to pray, asking Jesus to transform us, including the teen girls, into his image.
It suited our goals for the class: To raise up a new generation of women who will not stay silent, who are not afraid to pray out loud, like I was afraid to for much of my life.
Talking things over with each other and with God matures us in many ways.
Men and Women Praying Together?
But what about women praying with men?
Community calls for a blending of all who are made in God’s image. At my physical family gatherings, both males and females talked to my dad together.
At our spiritual family gatherings, can’t both sons and daughters there also talk to our Father together?
In our Sunday night small group, we prayed in mixed company for years. It grew us closer to God. Closer to each other.
But no longer?
The visitor at my door, now on my couch, is confirming the decision: No. Not for now.
The leaders are asking all women—both young and old, in large or small church gatherings—to refrain from verbalizing our prayers in front of a man until they complete yet another long study of women’s roles in the church.
A brother had come to the leaders a few weeks earlier, complaining his conscience was offended by hearing women talk to God in his presence. He believed a woman should not verbalize a prayer if a man is in the room.
I was one of those women who had prayed in front of this man in group settings. I had no idea it bothered him.
So now what?
What happens if it’s a problem to him if we do, but a problem to us if we don’t?
Follow God’s Spirit
How do we create spiritual breathing room for us both to follow our consciences? To find grace in the tension? To maintain unity in honoring God?
It took the church leaders a very, very long time to conclude their study on women’s roles.
After awhile I gave up waiting on their answer to come. And I followed God’s Spirit leading me elsewhere instead.
I believed God would not put limitations on who I prayed with. He would rather I pray than run away from opportunities to talk to him with others.
Conversations in God’s presence aren’t biased concerning gender. He invites us all to talk.
I remain friends with the church leader who sat on my couch that night a few years ago. I understand he had a job to do, and he was trying his best to do it.
But I had a job to do, too. My responsibility was to grow deeper in my relationship with God. It wasn’t about girl-power versus boy-power, but about God-power.
God empowers us all with voice. All the men. And all the women.
Let’s keep praying together.
Beth Allison Barr on Biblical Womanhood
I just finished a most interesting book on how the church and culture have viewed women’s roles through the ages. I highly recommend Beth Allison Barr’s new book, The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth.
Dr. Barr, a history professor at Baylor University, writes from both a historical perspective and a Christian perspective. She tells us that,
“Christians are, historically speaking, pretty late to the patriarchy game. We may claim that the gendered patterns of our lives are different from those assumed in mainstream culture, but history tells a different tale.”
She says that Christian patriarchy has long mimicked the patriarchy of the non-Christian world.
And she asks that if Christians are called to be different from the world, shouldn’t we treat women differently, too? This is the world’s way:
“From the ancient world through the modern world, history told a continuous story of patriarchy—of women suppressed, oppressed, devalued, and silenced.”
But in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
“This is what is radical. This is what makes Christianity so different from the rest of human history.”
As I reflect back on my own past in the church, I look ahead to a brighter future. Barr suggests we all should.
“Historically, one of the greatest problems for women is that we do not remember our past and we do not work together to change our future. We do not stand together. But what if we did?”
What if we all did?
- Permission Granted: Pray
God made this clear—we have his permission to pray aloud. He approves. Prayer can be not only between God and me, but also between God and me and you.
- When You Want to Pray WITH Others, Not Just FOR Others
Have you prayed with a friend lately? Is it easy or hard for you to pray aloud with friends?
- This Public Prayer Stirs Up Grace
I wasn’t sure what the response would be to Larry’s request. Our ragtag group surprised me.
My thanks to NetGalley, Baker Academic
& Brazos Press for the review copy of this book
- A Jewelry Box, a Button Jar, and a Writing Change
- I Don’t Want to Remember. But I Can’t Forget.