I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have misunderstood each other. I keep wanting him to think like me. He listens to my talkative ramblings about all my big and small feelings. And at the end of the day, we sometimes feel like we just don’t get each other. It can lead to a lot of comedy and eventually, pain – isolation. We all want to be known. It makes all kinds of relationships hard. If we’re all better together, what does that mean when it comes to gender? A leader in the early church, Paul, reminds us to become all things to all people so that we can share a story of wholeness.
The gospel, the power of God, always encounters and engages people where they are, where they live, in their social matrix. Inevitably, the gospel moves them and changes them, but it always comes to them, engages them and nourishes them from that very point, as and where they are. All people of faith have a responsibility to listen deeply to others, especially those who see the world differently from us. This month, we’ll look at a female perspective. Jesus valued women and unleashed them for ministry in an extremely patriarchal culture.
He addressed women publicly, a radical act in those days. Many women were the recipients of profound revelations from Jesus. Some people today are still reconciling that all genders are truly equal in the eyes of the God who created us. When we had our first African American president, we watched the veil get pulled back on racism in this country.
What was hiding just under the surface rose up in new ways. The same is happening with sexism as we watched a woman run for president. The “Me Too” and “Times Up” movements are a reckoning of what’s been hiding for years. Sexism and gender inequality is in the air we breathe. We might think we’ve moved past it but we keep breathing it in in small and big ways.
The air that women have breathed for centuries has sent damaging messages: Stay small. Be quiet. You are less than. You are an object to be admired. Accommodate others. Put them first. Care for yourself last. Look a certain way. Don’t be high maintenance or sensitive. If something is wrong, then it’s wrong with you. This air women breathe is not true. Glennon Doyle says: “There’s poison in the air. Women are sensitive to it. We stop singing once we get the messages of shame.”
Listen to the girls and women in your life. Ask them what it’s like to be them. What messages do they pick up in subtle and overt ways? Which ones have they internalized and feel are true? What if they’re not? God created women to be fully alive, whole, grounded in who they are and who they are not.
God wants women to feel safe and confident of their place in this world. We all benefit when women and girls get to be fully themselves.
Jenny Smith is pastor at the Marysville United Methodist Church. She writes a monthly column for this newspaper.