But what about our men?
Part of the reason I am so passionate about women’s issues in the world today is because I am also passionate about men.
I’m the mother of a strong little boy. I’m the wife of a strong man. I’m the daughter of a strong man.
And the men in my life are Jesus feminists.
I cannot fathom my life without my men.
My father shines in my life as a north star, a man whose integrity and godliness can orient me instantly. He is the one who raised me to stand, who raised me to hold fast, who raised me to use my brain and my heart. He is a man of prayer, a warrior and a shepherd. He’s a “guy’s guy” with his competitive nature, his drive to succeed, and his taciturn introversion – and yet he is the most tender-hearted and gentle of souls, the one who can make me laugh, the one who tells me to speak up. His eyes have only ever followed my mother and she moves through his life with freedom and confidence. He calls me with his dreams and visions for me, he lays his hand on my head and commissions me before God and everyone, setting me apart for the work of the ministry with his blessing.
My husband – every 6’6″ red-blooded American inch of him – has challenged me, refined me, supported me. He has always been more convinced of my calling and my vocation than I could be. At my book release party this past Thursday, he stood up in front of a packed room and reminded me how he bought me that blank journal more than 15 years ago with the inscription to “go write like you were meant to write.” Oh, he’s a guy’s guy, all right – a leader wherever he goes, opinionated and (usually) right. He’s the one who wrestles with the tinies, who has no qualms when it’s time for discipline, who only checks the Internet for news about college football. And yet, he calls me a preacher, calls me “called” and sends me out on the road with a grin on his face, tinies at his feet, a toddler in his arms, and a reminder that he’s “got this, babe. Now go on.”
I long for my son to grow up in the nurture and admonition of his father, of his grandfathers, of his uncles. He is surrounded by men who love God, who love women, who seek first the Kingdom of God, men who go boldly to the throne of grace and walk confidently in their callings.
I cannot imagine a better example of manhood for him to embrace: they embody the best of manhood, the best of marriage, the best of fatherhood, the best of discipleship that I could imagine.
They have done this for my entire life without falter, without fail.
Women cannot be the ally our men deserve in the Kingdom of God when we are bowing down in a misguided attempt to lift them up.
My father has never required for my mother to become less of herself to feel more like himself. He has not silenced me or my sister, he has given us a compelling example to follow and a high standard for manhood.
My husband has never required me to quiet my voice, hide my calling, downplay my gifts. If anything, he has felt most loved, most supported, most joyful when we are both fully alive.
I suppose that men of God aren’t usually so insecure as to require less of a woman in order to be more of a man.
The other night when I spoke at The Junia Project gathering, we had an impromptu Q&A with the audience. Someone wanted to know more about mutuality, more about this “mutual submission” thing in a marriage, and I watched my husband take the microphone and preach with great pride in my heart. I slid into his shadow, listened with my whole heart, nodded at his truth: yes, we take turns leading, we submit to each other. It has been beautiful, he said, the way that we look to Jesus, the way we see each other with the eyes of hope, the way we trust each other, the way we lead together. I couldn’t be more proud, he said. It made me want to do this – whatever this is – with him, both of us together, forever. When he talks about Jesus Feminist, he uses the plural pronoun: it’s our book.
Feminism is not matriarchy. I don’t know any one who would like to replace the system of patriarchy with the system of matriarchy.
Feminism is simply equality. Feminism is not the end of men. Certainly not Jesus feminism.
But what about the men?
Really, let’s talk about this, shall we? We could, I suppose, talk about the false gospel of manhood that is preached in our churches, the one that makes stereotypes of us all.
Let’s talk about the fact that God made men and women to thrive together, as true allies, as partners, as friends and lovers. Let’s talk about not only our created purpose, but the vision for our redemption set forth in Scripture. Let’s really think about what heaven breaking through in our world would look like for men and women.
Of course, as disciples of Jesus, we are called to servanthood.
I just don’t think that that calling is restricted to those of us with vaginas.
Those sacred words are for all of us.
The last shall be first, brothers. The least of these are the greatest, sisters.
Serve one another with love, men and women, practice playing second fiddle to each other.
Are our men not faltering under this same false system from the Fall? Are they not being fed an ungodly image of manhood, one that flies in the face of the Son of Man? Are our men not being encouraged by the world (and sometimes by the Church!) to worship the god of power, the god of sex, the god of violence, the god of fear, enmity, war, and scarcity?
We can prophecy something better with our lives. I’ve seen it, I know it’s real, for the Bible tells me so.
I look at the men around me – not only my father and my husband, certainly not! – and I see men of God who do not fear, who laugh at the idea of holding women back in order to bring men forward. I see men who are peace-makers, men who are providers, men who are caring for their children and their wives, men who are learning, who are leading and following, who are making space and holding witness and speaking out, who are hard working. And these men are able, somehow, to do that while still celebrating and affirming women as people, too.
Do we serve a God of abundance or a God of scarcity? Do we not see that there is room for us all, room for all that we are and all that we are created and called to be, in the Kingdom of God?
In the Kingdom of God, we don’t have to choose between lifting up men or lifting up women, it’s not one or the other: it’s both together, it’s the sacred union, the created purpose as co-image bearers of God.
Men and women, rising up together, in faith and in abundance, in sacred reconciliation, hallelujah, it’s gorgeous to behold.
photos taking by Tina Francis at the Jesus Feminist surprise book release party