A couple weeks ago, Rachel and Atsuko sat at our dining room table; we feasted on quiche and a kale salad and an afternoon glass of wine, while Cancan messily gobbled up a meal of flaming orange sweet potato puree. Self-declared “old-timers,” we know this set of best friends from our church community, a place that, to me, envelops what a church should look like: admittedly messy and diverse humans who practice, again and again, loving and forgiving and walking with each other and with the Incarnation.
At one point, the room got quiet but for the baby banging his fists into the orange, while Lebanese Blonde sang in the background:
Now I can hear the sun
The clouds drifting through the blinds
A half a million thoughts
Are flowing through my mind
I suppose there’s power in letting our million thoughts rest – in letting quiet be, in not filling the space with senseless clamor.
“Cara, can I ask you a question?”
I snapped out of my reverie.
“Have you ever received, uh, feedback when you’ve preached?”
This again. I put on my brave face, ready to face whatever criticism Atsuko had to throw my way.
I’ve been speaking professionally for the past 10 years or so, at camps and on weekend retreats and on Sunday mornings alike. I’ve communicated clearly and received accolades for it, and I’ve been at a total loss of words, wondering why my brain is processing in Italian while a garbled Japanese seems to spout forth from my mouth. I’ve captured the audience’s attention and I’ve fought back tears, neither of which has made me any more or less of a speaker. But regardless of the stage or the audience, the same common denominator exists: my gender.
My words have been scrutinized not for the time and effort and prayer involved in preparing a message, but by the descriptor “female” that is put in front of “speaker.”
My effectiveness has been judged not by the Spirit’s working, but by my breasts, by my sex.
And truth be told, I’m tired of fighting.
I enter the arena, none the less:
“Ugh, yes. I’ve received feedback from the people, uh, whose opinion really, uh, matters.” Stammer, stammer, did that come out right?
Her eyes glisten. She too is not here to pummel her fists, but to instead encourage and cheer me on, while also giving voice to her generation.
She proceeds to tell me about going out to lunch with some “young kids” (who were, for all intents and purposes, in their twenties), the Sunday after I last preached. As we were right then, they shared a meal and a slice of life’s pie together, and she proceeded to ask them what they thought of the message.
“Oh, it was great.”
“Well, what did you think about the fact that it was delivered by a …woman?”
“Oh… I didn’t really notice.”
She was flabbergasted but eager to hear more. For her, hearing a woman preach is still a new phenomenon, and because it’s not been her experience, to hear that my sex didn’t affect their reaction, either positively or negatively, blew her away.
I want the same for the Church today. I’m not arguing for a genderless, amorphous God, but for equality to set its grasp in whatever set of blessed feet grace the pulpits and stages, thus proclaiming the gospel.
Vera Wang heels and low-rise Dockers and scruffed-up, hipster Converse alike, all these blessed feet matter.
And so I’ll keep fighting the good Jesus-feminist fight until it doesn’t need to be fought anymore. I guess I’m still in the ring.
I’m linking up with Danielle over at From Two to One for a three-day Femfest affair – check out all the writings!0