That same scary knot was back in my stomach again.
That mixture of fear, shame, embarrassment and confusion.
I was getting very familiar with the knot since I had gotten serious about serving the Lord. I had felt it several times before.
I was in trouble again and I knew exactly what I had done that caused the trouble. What I didn’t know was how to turn off the Words on the inside of me that kept getting me into trouble.
The leadership in my church was not happy with me.
I had spoken up.
I didn’t have to speak up, I could choose to be quiet but then the Words would just pile up higher and higher. I felt so lonely. The other ladies seemed to be able to stay in the “role” God had created for women, why couldn’t I do the same? I was different, like a black sheep in a flock of cookie cutter white sheep.
The same thing had happened at the last church we attended. What was this flaw? Why couldn’t I be a woman with a “gentle, quiet spirit” and be more pleasing to the Lord? Why couldn’t I be “submissive”? The specific brand of submission that required nothing of me except an ability to turn off my own thoughts and spiritual gifts and keep them hidden? Why couldn’t I turn them off?
I was kicking myself mentally as I sat dejected at my dining room table muttering repeatedly, “Why did I say that? Why did I do that?”
I truly agreed with the church leaderships interpretation of various scriptures that seemed to say a woman should not teach a man, that a woman should be silent in the church, that men were chosen by God as the more capable of the two sexes to lead and make decisions. A woman should be seen and not heard and take her questions and opinions home to her husband.
Why couldn’t I make myself fit those guidelines?
I tried, I really worked hard at it.
I prayed, I repented, I apologized and I pleaded with the Lord to change me into what a godly woman was supposed to be. Not just once but repeatedly over a period of years.
I certainly did not want to be one of “those women” we were often warned about. Those women in the church that were contaminated by worldly feminism in their thinking. Those women who were labeled as rebellious and much too assertive with their demands for freedom!
However, sometimes when I was alone and quiet before the Lord I did have some questions. Nagging, insidious questions that would creep into my mind uninvited. Questions like the following;
Why did something deep inside me feel like the church leadership’s words were condescending and full of pride when they taught on the subject of the “God created differences” in men and women?
Why did it seem there was a certain amount of secret satisfaction derived in reminding us ladies of our “God ordained roles”? We were assured repeatedly that we as women were of equal value, so why didn’t I feel like I had equal value?
What exactly was it that made a man more qualified to lead in the church whereas outside the church men and women’s leadership abilities often seemed equal? Why would God create some women with leadership abilities that surpassed some men’s and then forbid the women to use those abilities?
What was the definition of “silent in the church”, if the woman was allowed to sing, sometimes pray and even take part in the infamous exercise called “sharing”? [In a soft spoken voice of course, not in an authoritative or forceful tone.]
What did the Scriptures mean in 1Cor. where it is written, ALL may prophesy and ALL should desire to prophesy? To prophesy is to speak on the Lord’s behalf and at His command, was it not?
At what age did young boys actually become men and off limits for a woman to teach them and why wouldn’t God give us that important bit of information? Why was it wrong for a woman to teach young men in church but not wrong to teach them in school or college? At what age did a man become unable to learn from a women?
Was it really “usurping a man’s authority” when a woman who had been given a Word from the Lord stood up to tell the rest of the church the truths God had shown her? How did that threaten any man’s God given position of authority?
The worst question of all, why did I sometimes feel I was called to “speak”? I wasn’t sure what that “speaking” was supposed to look like and it was something I didn’t talk about, but it stuck with me and wouldn’t go away.
The questions above are only a small sample of the conflict in my mind and heart. I kept pushing the questions down, but the gift of God in me kept coming out. It didn’t always come out correctly or in wisdom, sometimes it came out combative and defensively , but it was the gift of God none the less. Looking back from this vantage point, I can see that.
As I sat at my dining room table that evening with my Bible in my hands and my spirit crushed, my heart was pleading with the Lord to help me.
Help me out of this place that was between a rock and a hard spot. Help me with these Words that would surface inside of me and the encompassing desire to release them.
I had no particular section of Scripture I wanted to look up, the desire to read was more out of a need for comfort then for answers. But as I sat there I heard the soft voice of the Holy Spirit in my heart. “Study the women at the tomb on the Resurrection Day.”
My spirit leaped to attention and the dark clouds started to dissipate. Before I even got to the Scriptures located toward the end of all 4 gospels, I already knew where the Lord and I were headed! Revelation started to flow before I even began to read, because I already knew the story.
I spent days, even weeks, squeezing every bit of life and revelation I could from those scriptures the Holy Spirit directed me to that evening.
It marked the beginning of a journey to freedom as a woman called of God, a journey that continues today.
I now had a whole new set of questions to add to my list and they were for any church leadership that seemed determined to keep women in bondage. Now years later , I would still ask these same questions of many churches today. Questions like the following;
If God doesn’t desire to speak through women, why did Jesus tell the women, “Go tell the men I have risen… and tell them to go to Galilee..”? The news of His resurrection is arguably the most important message ever delivered to the church. This was a message of life changing proportions and also personal direction for the men. It was delivered to them by faithful and obedient women.
If God has identified men as His chosen or preferred spokespersons why did Jesus not appear to the men? He could have, he appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus, did He not?
Why did God send an angel to deliver the same message to the women, who then also commanded them to, “Go tell the men”? Could He not have sent an angel across town to wherever the men were?
As for questions that relate to churches and church leaders today, I would ask the following;
Are you able to recognize the same unbelief and hardness of heart in many people today that Jesus rebuked the disciples for in His day? A rebuke because of their refusal to believe a woman He sent with a message.
Are you able to recognize the same tendency in many people today, as it was in that day, to level an accusation of “idle tales” or weightless babbling against a woman who dares to boldly declare, “I have a message from the Lord!”
Are you able to recognize the total inability to receive a life altering, destiny changing message from the Lord, present in many people today, simply because the message may come through a woman?
If so, what have you done about it? The women that are in bondage in so many religious circles need strong Christian men to speak up in their defense. They need fellow laborers to help them in their pursuit of freedom. Not rebellion, but freedom to walk in all the gifts and abilities God gave them.
The same fear of establishment and hierarchy that holds the women in bondage is also a hurdle the men have to cross, those who decide to speak up on behalf of their fellow laborers in the Kingdom. I’m well aware there is a price to pay for any one who dares to open the gates and allow the women in their congregation to be free.
All of the above listed questions and many similar ones are valid questions and deserve to be addressed without the rapid fire, prefabricated, one size fits all responses that have held the truth at bay for years, even centuries!
The sad thing is, while there are multitudes in need of the Word of the Lord to keep them from drowning, the church is still debating if half of the rescue team is qualified to throw out the life jackets. While the army of the Lord needs every available soldier to bear arms against the darkness of this present world, the church is still arguing against the woman’s right to wield the Sword.
I believe the Holy Spirit is grieved by these mind sets and while my list of questions may not be honestly addressed by all churches in our day, I would still say, “Be encouraged, women of God!”
The Lord is still building His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it! We do not fight against flesh and blood and while the enemy’s battle against the Kingdom of God may rage on, he has been defeated! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has spoken! “My sons AND my daughters shall prophesy!”