I know that they have told you to be silent. I know they’ve explained away your gifts and your callings, your abilities and your wisdom, even your marriage, your stories, your testimony. They’ve clobbered you with paragraphs and words and proof-texts, made you feel like you are wrong somehow, either in your practice or your orthodoxy or your very created and called self. I know they have hurt you, stifled you, broken you, bound you, held you, cornered, badgered, limited, silenced you. I know, yes, I know.
And so here, I’m going to preach you on down. (You could say that this daughter is prophesing, if it makes you feel better about it.)
Stop waiting for permission.
Stop waiting for someone to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, that you have a place, that you are called. Stop waiting for someone else to validate the person that you already know you were made to be. Stop holding your breath, sister, working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, and your quietness, your submission and your “correct” doctrine what God has already freely given to you.
Because, darling, you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your calling or your marital status or your labels or your underlined books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the job description of Proverbs 31.
In Christ, you have value beyond all of that. You abide in love, you can rest in your God-breathed worth.
Let me remind you: you are loved. And you are free.
I say, let them bicker. Let them make up the rules, we don’t abide by them. Let them add and add and add to the millstone around their own poor neck. You, you are called to freedom, you are called to wholeness, you are called to love and mercy and justice, you are called to the better way, and it will not be taken from you. Gently loosen that millstone from their neck, if you can, whisper the rumours of freedom to the north, but don’t get so roped up in the entanglements of limits and the weight of apologetics that you forget that you are already free.
I imagine them around a fabled table, in suits, no doubt, pulling the chairs in tight and tighter, until they are the only ones left there, crowded around a tiny table in an airless room that feels small and smaller. Me? I stand outside, in the wilds, banging my pots and pans, singing loud and strong, into the wind and the cold and the heavens, there is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us! And then I’ll slide right up next to you, I’ll hook my arm through yours, I’ll lean in, I’ll whisper right into your ear, quiet, loud, it will sound like I’m singing or like I’m preaching, and I’ll say, there is room for you.
What is the cry of your heart? Pay attention to that. Listen to what makes you angry, honour what makes your blood pump faster, what makes you come fully alive. Now go. And do. You know Jesus, you have experienced the power and the grace with your own life, you have felt it in your own heart, now go, heal, disciple, minister, love, and do likewise. Speak, breathe, prophesy, preach, get behind a pulpit, mark exam papers, run a company or a non-profit, clean your kitchen, put paint on a canvas, organize, rabble-rouse, work the Love out and in and around you, however God has made you to do it, just do it. Don’t let them fence you in or hold you back.
Love your husband, love your babies, love the poor, love the orphans, love the widows, love the powerful, love the broken and the hurting, love your friends, love yourself, love your enemies, come to love the whole world in the fullness of God, in the full expression of the woman that he has created you to be, just that, no more, but certainly no less.
Choose freedom. Choose the freedom of living loved, far from their tables and debates and fence lines and name-callings, their belittling, divisive stereotypes. Extend the gift of freedom and grace, second chances, and more grace, just as you have received them. As e.e. cummings wrote, it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. You really are created, you really are chosen, you really are cherished, so you really can be who you are. Live counterculture when the culture does not affirm truth, love, faith, mercy, and justice.
It matters because you matter, because your daughters matter, because your sisters matter, because the people of God, and the entirety of his created world matters, because redemption matters. So we’ll keep up the holy work, however that looks, we’ll keep worshipping, keep loving, keep making space for God in the world, and in each other for holy grace to fill. The kingdom of God would be better with your voice, your hands, your experiences, your stories, your truth. You can go where I cannot go, and someone needs to hear you sing your song, you are someone’s invitation.
You are loved.
Rest in your God-breathed worth. Stop holding your breath, hiding your gifts, ducking your head, dulling your roar, distracting your soul, stilling your hands, quieting your voice, dulling your mind, satiating your hunger with the lesser things of this world.
Stand up, shake the dust from your feet if you need to, and look outside, it’s beautiful, isn’t it? There are a lot of us here, waiting for you, in the open air. We’ve been here all along, don’t you know? We’ve been ministering, preaching, praying, teaching, loving, mothering, caring, singing, walking each other home. It’s glorious and messy, far away from the rules and the limitations, the barriers and restrictive religion. But look, here, we, the people of God, we are here with you, we are a family, we’re your family, we’ve been waiting for you. We have a big, gorgeous tent and every one is welcome.
This is my messy contribution to Rachel Held Evans’ Week of Mutuality. The Church gives me hope, all of it.