note 7.25.08: this is from a blog i started last year in 2007 for a group of “ex good christian women” friends. it used to just be a private blog but when i started the carnival i shut it down & just put a few of the posts here.
okay, let’s just be honest, sometimes “the church” has messed with our heads. i am not saying all churches, all christians, all religious systems are screwed up because that would be too drastic (although, scale through all of the ones you know and notice how the statistics aren’t too good). there’s a subtle or sometimes direct message that the evangelical church in particular has passed on to us as women. i bought into it for many years. it did a number on my head and i am still recovering…i’ve come a long way but i have a long way to go.
here’s what the message said: good christian women stay home with their children. they cook, they clean, they take good care of themselves so that their husbands will love them properly. they submit to the “spiritual head of the family” no matter how bad their decisions are, they aren’t supposed to have strong opinions or be too loud. rocking the boat is never a good idea. meek and mild are the revered characteristics. if we’re married, our role is to take good care of our families and follow where our husbands lead. if he is unhappy, we need to pray harder, work harder, have more sex, pray for him, get our friends to pray for him, do something to make things better and make sure his needs are met. if we’re not married, our job is to work in the church nursery, go on a missions trip, and pray hard for a christian husband so that we can feel complete. if everyone in our house is doing well then we are doing our job properly. if they aren’t, then it’s up to us to make things right.
we are good at adjusting, covering, stuffing, protecting, hiding, pretending. but we’re not so good at healthy conflict, engaging, real intimacy, feeling, dreaming, and a variety of other things that might make us feel alive, free, or maybe even strong.
i come into contact with women all the time who are longing for something different. they are lonely. they are tired. they’ve tried praying and memorizing verses and going to Bible studies and volunteering in the nursery and at their kids schools. they’ve claimed scriptures for their husbands and read every book there is on the seven keys to an effective christian marriage. they did all the right things but somehow sensed that something was missing. they kept asking is this as good as it gets? others of my dear friends tried to be good wives, sacrificed their dreams and hearts and ended up divorced, left alone with little ones and wounded hearts and a church that doesn’t know quite what to do with them anymore. other single friends of mine just get tired of always being left out and “incomplete” because they don’t have a partner. some women i know don’t have as much christian baggage as me, they just are tired of living the status quo and are trying to learn to take some risks but often feel afraid. the secular world has way better examples of powerful, courageous women then the local church does.
and what happens when you are a good christian woman and you struggle… with an eating disorder no one knows about, a wayward child, a husband who has a porn addiction, an affair or abandons you, or with grief or loss, past sexual abuse and trauma that’s getting in the way of intimacy, an emotional affair or overspending or overeating or over-doing? here’s what we tend to do when we struggle: hide, pretend, spiritualize. why? because it’s too scary to be honest, too unsafe. people don’t know quite what to do with us when we’re not doing too well.
so here i am, in a place i never thought i’d be. an ex good christian woman. wreaking havoc on the norms that women are supposed to have in the church, encouraging women to get their voices, pursue their dreams, quit waiting for their husbands to lead them and live a passionate life for God no matter what other people tell them they can or can’t do. to seek change for their lives, quit doing the same old unhealthy thing in their relationships and learn a new way. to seek God’s love and approval instead of human’s. it’s been hard for me to make the shift. i still feel shame for feeling this way. even as i write this, i am wondering what person is going to say how unbiblical i am, how if i just knew my role and leaned into it i would have God’s perfect peace. you see, good christian women are filled with shame. shame for the things we do do, shame for the things we don’t do. and i was a great christian superwoman. i did it all, looked great on the outside, and was a wreck on the inside, full of shame, insecurities, and inadequate feelings. so here i am 13 years after i started realizing for the first time that this christian thing wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be and i feel less shame than i did last year for being me (although it’s still the thing i battle the most) i feel less alone than i ever have (i finally have real friends who never, ever tell me to just “pray harder and trust God more”), and less scared than yesterday to go for it because after all, life is short and i’m sick of living it stuck (even though it’s familiar).
all of the “ex good christian women” i know have one thing in common–a desire for something different and a willingness to take some kind of step on their own to rock the boat and raise their hand and say “this isn’t working anymore” OR they got pushed into it by a divorce or some shameful thing the church couldn’t deal with properly. either way, we’re all here, all in varying degrees, with a heart longing to experience Jesus’ real peace, real hope, real freedom in all it’s messiness, in all it’s beauty.
so my hope is that some of us can stay connected through this blog conversation, post your comments, your hearts, your story for others to be able to gather hope from. what part do you relate to about being an ex good christian woman? what do you long for? what is God showing you on your journey?
my dream for all of us for this new year is that we’ll somehow grow, move, change, look back on 2007 and say i lived a little more this year than i did the year before…