i used to be a really good christian woman. like one of the best. i said the right things, did the right things, played nice. the only problem was that what was on the outside & what was on the inside were two different things.
i believe evangelical christianity has created a lot of divided women.
women who are cut off from their desires. who are pulling it together on the outside but crumbling on the inside. who are constantly feeling like losers, always missing the good-christian-woman-wife-or-mother-mark. who are afraid to dream. or take care of ourselves. or want something more because it can be perceived as selfish. who love God but aren’t sure God really loves us just-as-we-are because we’ve been bombarded with teaching about our depravity & eve-nature & how we need to be more like proverbs 31.
i know these are generalizations, but in my experience a lot of “good-christian-women”:
- rarely engage in conflict
- are terrible at saying “no” because it feels selfish
- know how to say the right things, do the right things, to keep the peace
- continually strive–and i do mean strive–to be a better wife, better mother, better christian
- live with a feeling that God is disappointed with us somehow
- feel a lot of shame for who we are and who we aren’t (but rarely say it out loud)
- doubt our leadership, feelings, gifts, dreams
- dwell on the things we should be doing differently or better
- view anger as sin
- always seek permission
any of these sound familiar?
subtly or directly, they are embedded into the fabric of many of our faith & life experiences.
six+ years ago, when i took a stand against unhealthy church politics, i put the nail in my good-christian-woman-coffin for good (i had been on my way for a while). i am still shocked, really, at that turn of events but when i look back, it makes me smile. i said what needed to be said (not that anyone cared but it sure helped me), i discovered passion for justice & leadership & equality that i didn’t know i had. and i kept meeting more & more women who somehow found themselves on the outs of good-christian-woman-ness, too.
not everyone can relate. some were never “good” in the first place and wonder what all the fuss is about (that kind of freedom is a gift). others are just fine with way things are and don’t need anything different at the moment.
but there are an awful lot of us who know what i’m talking about here.
over time, we have been sold a bill of goods on what it means to be a christian woman. we’ve been domesticated, tamed, caged, and limited. we haven’t been properly valued or empowered or nurtured. we have been taught codependence and given the company kool-aid to drink.
but it’s changing. slowly, surely.
thankfully more and more women are joining the ranks of what i call “ex-good-christian-women.” it’s lonely at first but in the end, so freeing. many of the women in my life are ex’s. some played the good game for a long time (or the younger ones figured it out more quickly, yeah!) and gained the courage to step out of the box. others did something the system didn’t like and found themselves on the outs. all my “xgcw’s” (that’s my little acronym) give me hope & courage & help me never look back, except to come alongside others who are trying to find their way toward greater freedom, too.
here are some characteristics of those of us with the “ex” added. “ex-good-christian-women”:
- are learning to show up in relationship instead of hiding
- engage in conflict instead of avoid it
- say “no” with less-and-less guilt and say “yes” more freely, more honestly
- tell the truth
- respect anger
- are honest about shame
- live in the present
- are beginning to believe we are “enough”–here, now
- open ourselves up to dreams & passions & living out what God is stirring up in us
- lead & love & live in all kinds of new ways, with or without permission
- are discovering that God is much bigger than we were ever taught & loves us more than we ever knew
Jesus wasn’t a “good christian” in the ways it has come to be defined. he wasn’t well-behaved. he didn’t play by the system’s rules. he didn’t pretend to be nice. he didn’t play it safe or try to conform.
he called us to God’s wild & brave & beautiful ways of Love, not to being “good.”
* * * * *
ps: i know many men have been boxed, too, by false ideas of what it means to be a christian man. i have some ideas of what they might be, but i obviously can’t speak into it. i’d love if if some of you guys can share what your “good-christian-men” and “ex-good-christian-men” lists might have on them. the circumstances may be different, but we share the collateral damage.
also, while i’m on this thought i found a couple of 5 year old posts that i wrote about ex-good-christian-women called do you identify? and disapproval. they’re old & i’d probably write them differently today, but they kind of sum it up. if you want to read even more, i’ve got a whole blog category called “ex good christian women”.
check out a few really good posts i recently read related to this:
- pam hogeweide – unladylike manifesto
- jo hilder – in defense of being an unladylike christian woman
- michelle krabill – the closest friends i’ve never met and the unladylike manifesto
- sophia saved by grace – excuse me, gentleman
- harriet congdon – on the eve of evangelical women
now, i’m off to the UK for a fun graduation trip with my daughter for a week. very excited & thankful for an awesome husband who works for the airlines & rocks as a teammate and will keep everything moving around here while we are gone. happy first week of summer!