i wrote this post last week but in all of the hubub of jose & i’s crazy trip to kuwait & bahrain never posted it. sometimes that happens–the moment comes and goes and now as i go to hit “publish” i wonder if i should. but after my quick trip to the middle east i was reminded yet again of how important freedom is. following Jesus was originally about setting people free–like really free. freedom is really, really pretty. and far too rare. let’s change that.
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four years ago, when i was up to my eyeballs in a messy exit from mega-church staff, someone i worked with “went off” on me when it was clear that i was no longer willing to submit to the unhealthy system i was a part of. he was yelling at me, pointing his finger saying “just so you know, the grass is NOT greener outside of here when it comes to women. you will never find a place that will value your voice like we do (that was after a decision was made that somehow biblically it was okay for me to teach to the male addicts & outcasts in the recovery ministry, but maybe just not to men who came on sundays). if you leave, you can kiss all of this goodbye because no one will treat you as good as we will as a woman in ministry.” while i appreciate that it was a tense and crazy moment for all of us & none of us should be held to the nutty things we did and said during those months, i had a friend who was there and reminded me of the abusive, controlling nature of those words. and it’s true; these words did spark fear, confusion, doubt, and intense insecurity. they made me question “what if he’s right, what if this is as good as it gets and i leave it behind and end up with nothing. maybe i should just be thankful.” i kept thinking “maybe this is normal and i just need to accept it.”
controlling relationships keep people in fear, confusion, and doubt. they oppress personal power and make people feel insecure. they control by manipulating people’s emotions. they have this funny way of sometimes making people feel valuable on one hand and then treat them in ways that are completely invalidating and contrary to the words that are being said.
i think that “the church” can be very abusive. it is a powerful system that can intentionally & also uninintentionally hook people in and make them feel stuck, disempowered, and insecure.
Jesus came to set people free not to keep them stuck in abusive relationships that rob them of personal dignity and hope.
the church, in my opinion, should be one of the most free, generous, open, inviting, empowering, supporting, encouraging, challenging, strengthening places on earth. it should hold people loosely and allow them to freely choose if they want to be part or not. it should inspire a culture of security and trust. it should respect people’s individual power and dignity and help foster it for the greater good of all, not just for the church’s own needs. it should be a training ground for practicing equality, peace, diversity, and the ways of love.
to be honest, i had forgotten the words that were said to me over 4 years ago about the brown grass i was about to step on back then. the more i focus on the future, the less i need to look back. however, my friend reminded me this past weekend after i spoke at transFORM of that horrible moment and how not true my co-worker’s prophecy turned out to be. yeah, thinking about these words again was a gift because it made me realize how far i’ve come in the past 4 years after entering into the wild unknown of not being “underneath” a patriarchal system anymore.
and i have discovered that for me, yes, actually, the grass is greener:
i can use my voice however i choose and don’t have to worry about someone silencing it or telling me that i need to say this or that instead.
i am connecting with a far wider conversation than i ever would have been connected to if i was stuck in the grind of a system that was focused on feeding itself and not the wider networks.
i have discovered that i’ve learned far more about my faith, about the kingdom of God, about people, about myself, as part of the “losing” team than i ever did when i was on the “winning” one.
i now have seen and tasted and experience gender-equality-in-the-church up close and personal and it’s oh so beautiful.
i no longer have to have ad nauseum conversations about “those messy broken people” and how to get them healed up and serving properly.
i work alongside true friends-and-family-sans-blood who aren’t here for the job or the money or the power or the perks (um, because there aren’t any). they are here because they are learning how to love and be loved just like i am.
i feel safe. not comfortable, but safe. protected. honored. treasured. valued.
best of all, i am free.
free to use my voice. free to use my leadership. free to be me. free to let others be them.
if any of you out there are stuck in an abusive system doubting that grass is greener, i can’t make any promises, but i can remind you of this: you are supposed to be free. not stuck in fear. not silenced. not excluded. not laced with insecurity and self-doubt. no, you are supposed to be nurtured and filled with God’s freedom & hope & purpose. some how, some way, i believe that’s possible. you might have to look outside of “the system”. you might find it in places that don’t identify with faith. you might have to intentionally look in really odd, weird places in order to find it. but please don’t think that you have to stay stuck where you are because it’s the only green you’re going to find.
yeah, for me, the grass out here is definitely greener.
thank you, God, for freedom. please, keep setting more and more of your people free to jump the fence, to graze, to roam and find all kinds of greener grass.