The Road Isn’t Always Easy

Be prepared for the not-so-nice side of advocating for equality.

I think this particular post may resonate with some more than others, and that all depends on where we each find ourselves in this journey towards equality. Where ever you find yourself, I hope that you find this helpful and eye opening.

I’m here to be honest with you and to let you know that the road to gender equality isn’t always an easy one. From my experience, this has been the rockiest journey that I’ve ever embarked on. Some of you come from traditions where gender equality in the church, home, and society was the norm. You have a difficult time imagining the set-up to be any different, because this has always been your normal. Some of you come from, or are currently in, backgrounds similar to mine. For my entire life, my church membership has been at a Southern Baptist church with a very complementarian leaning. At almost 24 years old, I still have never seen or heard a woman speak or preach from the church pulpit. I have only ever heard women speak and teach the Bible in conference settings or something similar.

Whether you have come out of a complementarian background and embraced gender equality, are still in the complementarian tradition and are here to engage and learn more about egalitarianism and biblical gender equality, or have been in the tradition of equality for quite some time; I hope that you find the following to be beneficial in understanding that this road will almost certainly not be an easy one. It may be easier for some than others, but I want you all to be prepared for the not-so-nice side of advocating for equality.

I came out of the complementarian tradition. The more I studied Scripture and examined the life of Jesus, I was led to embrace the theology of egalitarianism—the belief that men and women are equal in authority and leadership in the church, home, and society. When I became a vocal advocate for gender equality, the backlash began to come in full force.

  • I’ve been called a heretic.
  • I’ve been called a Jezebel.
  • I’ve been called a Satanist and a promoter of Satanism.
  • I’ve had strangers tell me that I’m not following the true God, rather, a false god inside of myself.
  • I’ve have strangers tell me that I haven’t actually experienced true salvation.
  • I’ve had a (now former) church friend tell me that I need to focus more on “finding a real relationship with Jesus” and less on “advocating my own agenda.”
  • I’ve been told that my ministry is not God ordained because it is “outright condemned in Scripture.”
  • I’ve been told that I need to set aside my “ego” and “humbly re-read the Bible for God’s instruction.”
  • I’ve been told that I’m “misguided and need to turn my eyes to the Lord’s Word; because my tradition is blinding me from the Bible, and I am in rebellion to the order God has placed on me. I am directly violating His Word.”
  • I’ve been told to “actually read the Bible for myself,” and that my stance is “not to further the Gospel but my own self-interest.”
  • I’ve been told that I’m only about promoting “my equality agenda” over promoting the Gospel.
  • I have an undergraduate degree in theology and some seminary schooling, yet my education is constantly attacked and degraded.
    • I have too much education.
    • I don’t have enough education.
    • I need to invest in a “real education.”
    • “Degrees don’t matter,” and just because I have a degree in the field doesn’t mean I have more knowledge on the subject than those who don’t.
  • I was told by a stranger that she would “love to be at my judgment day so that she could watch me argue with God.”
  • My home church (complementarian) of 23 years, asked me to leave due to my vocalization of gender equality.

Everything I have just listed was either said to or written to me in response to my advocating for gender equality. I want you all to see this because, depending on the type of people you encounter who disagree with you, I want you to be prepared to encounter these kinds of situations. This is real.

I spend much of my life thinking about the gender equality issue, and sometimes I wonder if it is all just a waste of time and energy. Maybe it is, but I can’t seem to stop; because there are few things on earth which offend me more than the name of God being used to silence and oppress half of His human creation. I see too many women hurt, insulted, abused, and disrespected by complementarian theology to be able to turn away completely. So, instead, I pray that God will use me to help create change wherever I can. At times it can be frustrating to see how slowly things move forward, but for me, it is comforting and energizing to know there are other people fighting for women and their spiritual freedom.

—Anonymous

Advocating isn’t always easy. Some people will try to hurt you and knock you down. Get back up and keep going. That’s what we have to do. If I knew this would be the result of my choice to become an egalitarian and advocate for gender equality, would I still choose to put myself in this battle? Yes. Yes, I would; because justice is not an issue with room for compromise.

Beyond an Agenda

I’m not a huge fan of the term “intersectional.” Instead, I prefer to think of the gospel and social justice as being so intertwined and interwoven that they become inseparable. We see this in the life of Jesus as He broke racial, gender, and socioeconomic barriers on a regular basis. Jesus made Himself available to minister to everyone and considered everyone worthy of possessing and sharing His gospel.

Consider the woman at the well. She not only was a woman, but a Samaritan woman. Jesus broke with traditional social etiquette by sharing the news of the Living Water with someone who was a gender and a race that He should have avoided. Because Jesus broke with tradition, the Samaritan woman went on to proclaim the Good News to her village; making her one of the first Christian evangelists. *GASP* So, that means that a woman was preaching the gospel to the women, children, and men of her village? Yes, Scripture would certainly make it seem that way.

Think also about the woman with the issue of blood. Through a crowd of people, she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. Jesus should have been angry. By Jewish Law, being touched by an unclean person should have made Jesus unclean as well. Instead, Jesus turns around, asks who touched Him, and heals the woman out of her audacious faith. How awesome is it that the unclean came flocking to the One who was able to clean them up, unafraid that they could defile the Holy God in whom there was healing and cleansing!

To Jesus, equality was not an “agenda.” Equality is simply the way humanity is supposed to function. Thus, I take issue when someone accuses me of “promoting an agenda” over promoting the gospel; as if the two were mutually exclusive. It irks my nerves when people, particularly Christians, put the gospel on one end of a spectrum and social justice on the opposite end—ignoring the fact that the two were never meant to be separated, as evidenced by how Jesus lived out His life prior to going to the cross.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. –Micah 6:8

Should anyone ever accuse you, or the next time someone does accuse you, of promoting your feminist, women’s equality “agenda” over the gospel, I would advise you to ask that person if they would accuse Jesus of promoting an “agenda.” Jesus was in the business of raising women to the status and position that they were created to have—one of equality with their male counterparts. That’s no agenda. It’s a beautiful calling of restoration and redemption. Jesus has always been in the business of restoring and redeeming, and Christians should be first in line to emulate Jesus’ practices.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. –Proverbs 31:8-9

An open letter to the church

If the church is supposed to reflect Christ, then shouldn’t that translate into the church demonstrating unconditional love just as Christ does?

People wonder why I have issues with the church in general, and here’s something that has come to mind today: After 23 years belonging to the same local body of Christ, one would think that I would have their support in my endeavors; especially ones involving what I’m doing in ministry. One would think these people would be the first to support, encourage, and lift me up.

Instead, I get a group of people, who I thought actually loved and cared about me, turn their noses up at me and treat me like I’m invisible and disposable. This isn’t about me, but you’re commitment to me–as mine is to you–is to spur one another on to good works. Your silent treatment to me has spoken louder than words ever could. I don’t exist to you anymore. Your silence has made that loud and clear. What’s also clear is how conditional your love and support actually is. As soon as I no longer fit into your nice, neat little box of who and what you thought I should be, the love and support ceased.

I won’t try to reach out to you anymore. Not for friendship, encouragement, advice, or anything else that I should be able to get from a church community. I reach out, and no one’s there. I can’t keep processing through the rejection shown to me by those who are supposed to be the representatives of the God of unconditional love and a million second chances. If God doesn’t reject any of His children, where did His church learn to do such a thing?

I didn’t know it was abuse…

Abuse is a word that shouldn’t be flippantly thrown around, so I’ve never considered myself an abuse victim. That is, until I became more aware of spiritual abuse. It was when I finally stepped out of and away from the church that I was able to see things from the outside looking in, and I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t like having to face the way I was made to feel. I didn’t like having to admit that I was a victim of spiritual abuse.

My gifts and talents of teaching and leading were never utilized in the church, no matter how much I begged to be used; because I’m a female, and females must stay in their places and set roles.
I didn’t know that was abuse.

My voice was silenced every time I tried to speak up about the issue of the inequality and oppression of women in the church.
I didn’t know that was abuse.

I was told that it was “my fault” that the other church members didn’t like me and didn’t want to be around me, because I dared to challenge the views of the church leadership.
I didn’t know that was abuse.

I was told that I was the cause of disunity, division, and strife in the church; because I was constantly trying to hold discussions about the inequality present in the church.
I didn’t know that was abuse.

The church hated me when I dared to correct the pastor when he used his pulpit as a platform to misrepresent and trash egalitarian theology. One male individual from the church even sent me nasty messages on Facebook that called me names, insulted me in every way, and even threatened to “find me” the next time I showed up for service.
I didn’t know that was abuse.

I thought I had an opportunity to discuss gender theology with the pastor one day, but about 15 minutes into the conversation, I was yelled at and commanded to get out of his office.
I didn’t know that was abuse.

After sending the pastor an email with the intention of trying to understand a theological point about marriage and gender roles that was said in his sermon, the reply I received back simply said, “I’m not going to discuss this with you,” but that was followed by several paragraphs of personal attacks against my character and explanations as to why I wasn’t liked in the church.
I didn’t know that was abuse.

Even after going to college for an undergraduate degree in Theology and continuing on to the Master of Divinity program, I was not allowed to openly voice my theological views and opinions; especially if they were contradictory to that of the church leaders. If I did, both church leadership and lay people were ready to rip my head off. When I would explain that I had the knowledge and credentials to adequately speak to an issue, the males with the higher education degrees were the first to tell me that “degrees don’t matter.”
I didn’t know that was abuse.

After quite a few comments “suggesting” to me that I leave the church, I finally left–and I left church altogether. Lately I’ve been on the outside looking in, and what I see is theology and practices and attitudes that are harming real people–people like me. I’ve had to take a good look in my spiritual mirror. What I see are bruises, wounds, and scars. There’s a lot of hurt and bitterness. This is all going to take some time to heal. Why did I let all of this spiritual abuse go on for so long? Because I didn’t know that it was abuse. I didn’t realize that I was being abused, but abuse is exactly what it was.

I May be Sinking, but I’m Not Drowning

Originally published by Kaylyn Reneé on October 13, 2014.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

-From “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail),” Hillsong UNITED

artworks-000052984336-0exgoc-original

I think we all get to a point in our lives, at some time or another, when we simply feel like we are drowning beneath the weight of life. One wave after another, of life’s trials, slam us over and over again until we are left feeling battered, bruised, defeated, and not knowing what to do with ourselves. I think the worst part of it, for me, is that I thought I was doing life for Jesus the best I knew how; yet, even in the midst of trying to fulfill my calling, I have not been spared the pounding waves of life. Not by any stretch of the imagination. As of this semester of school–my senior year of college, the year that was supposed to be the best yet–I have been hit with what literally seems like one disaster after another.

I could swear, I have been drowning beneath the weight of life and life’s circumstances. Then I remembered, there’s a Bible guy who thought he was drowning too; literally. His name’s Peter. Remember him? Here’s some of his story:

Jesus Walks on the Water (Matt. 14:22-33; NIV)

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

jesusandpeter

When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he started sinking, but I think there is one thing worth noting before even getting to Peter walking on the water. How many disciples were in the boat? All of them; so twelve. Pastor Steven Furtick, of Elevation Church, preached a fantastic sermon about this story from Peter’s life, and he preached from a perspective that I had never heard before, but it forever changed the way I now read the story. Furtick pointed out that, typically, the point made about this story is that Peter doubted Jesus, and we should never doubt Jesus. End of sermon. However, maybe we are not exegeting (pulling meaning out of the text) the main point. What if the main point is not that we should never doubt Jesus? After all, we are only human, and humans tend to doubt quite a bit; even if our goal should be to trust in our God. What if the main point of this text is that, out of all twelve disciples, Peter was the only one who exercised the necessary faith to get out of the boat to begin with!

  Now, back to Peter actually on the water: Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water. He seems to be doing just fine…until he takes his focus off of Jesus. He took his eyes off of Jesus and began to focus on the wind and storm, and he became afraid; as the Scripture tells us. Is that not exactly what happens to us? In life, we begin to sink beneath our circumstances when we take our focus off of Jesus, the One who is our sustainer, and begin to focus on the storms in our lives. What is promising about this passage is that it never says that Peter is drowning; it says he was “beginning to sink.” Verse 31 begins with, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” Immediately. Do not miss that. Jesus took no time at all to reach down, grab Peter, and pull him back to the safety of Himself. I can’t help but wonder if that is why the verse says “sink” and not “drown.” Jesus seems to have acted so fast to save Peter, who was in distress, that my guess is Peter’s head never even grazed beneath the surface of the water; because the Bible never says he started to drown.

Like the song “Oceans” says, God will call us to tread some deep waters. God never called us to an easy walk with Him, but He did promise to be there with us through every step of our journey. Sometimes, we will be out in these deep waters not knowing where we are being lead, and being constantly hit by waves will shake our faith and make us turn our focus off of the One leading us and on to our trials and circumstances. That’s when we will find ourselves beginning to sink; because we temporarily have lost sight of our Guide. However, like Peter, all we have to do is cry out, “Lord, save me!” and immediately He will grab us up and continue to lead us through the storm and onward to safety.

The last thing worth mentioning is how the story concludes. Peter had the initial faith to get out of the boat; however, because Peter was only human, his faith waivered while in the middle of the Sea. Thus, he started to sink. But Jesus reached out to save him. After Jesus saves Peter, Jesus asks, “Why did you doubt?” From there, Jesus guides Peter back to the safety of the boat. The story concludes with all the disciples in the boat worshipping Jesus saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Notice how, even in the midst of trials, storms, doubt, and circumstances; Jesus still saves the one who waivers, and, in the end, He gets all of the glory. Had the disciples not been in a storm, had Peter never exercised the faith to walk on the uncertainty of water, had Peter never doubted once he was in the middle of the Sea, and had Jesus not carried Peter back to the boat; Jesus never would have received the glory that He did in this moment. In this moment, the disciples acknowledged Him as the Son of God. This is, or should be, what happens in our lives. God promised us trials in our Christian walk; however, He also promised that He would be there every step of the way. We cannot save ourselves from drowning beneath the weight of the world, but if we are holding onto Jesus—or maybe it’s more accurate to say that He’s holding on to us—we will never have to worry about drowning. Christians do not drown; but, at times, we may begin to sink a bit. Jesus is there, hand in hand with us, making sure that our eyes stay above the waves; that way, we always have a clear view of Him leading us through the storm and into safety.

God never promised that our feet wouldn’t fail; He promised that His wouldn’t.

God never promised that we wouldn’t have moments of fear; He promised to be with us in those moments.

God never promised that we would never feel lost in our lives; He promised that He would guide us as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Him; not the things of this world.

We may sink a bit, but, with Jesus, we can never drown!

**Originally published by Kaylyn Reneé on October 13, 2014**

Are We Happy or Holy?

God doesn’t concern Himself with happy people; He concerns Himself with holy people.

The problem with culture today is that everyone is too concerned with happiness. Just be happy. Do whatever makes you happy. As long as you’re happy. But happiness really isn’t the problem. The problem is how we, as a culture, have elevated our happiness to our highest priority. We gage whether or not we should or shouldn’t do something or engage in something based on whether or not it will bring us happiness.

Where is our concern for holiness? When are we going to start striving for a standard of holiness? God doesn’t concern Himself with happy people; He concerns Himself with holy people. Does God want His children to be happy? Yes, I believe so. However, make no mistake, God will never elevate our happiness above our holiness; because it is our holiness that sets us apart as Christ-followers.

Holiness, not happiness, is the chief end of man. —Oswald Chambers

Happiness is an emotion. Like all emotions, it can easily change and it certainly doesn’t last. What may have made us happy at one point may now be the cause of great sadness and regret. Happiness is fleeting. Holiness, on the other hand, is a state of being. Translated from the Greek word hágios, holiness is defined as “set apart, holy, sacred.” As Christians, we are meant to be set apart for the purposes of God; different from those who belong to the world. We are not to compromise our holiness, our sacred purpose, for a taste of the fleeting happiness this world has to offer.

If you want to be popular, preach happiness. If you want to unpopular, preach holiness. —Vance Havner

Sure, sin is fun and you’re happy in it…until it takes you to a place where you don’t want to be, never thought you would be, and can’t get out of. Thankfully, there is a God who is able and willing to reach into the deepest and darkest of places and pull out anyone who is ready to leave and pursue a higher calling—a call to live holy. Living a holy life doesn’t guarantee a life of happiness, but God has promised His followers something better in return: Joy. Joy is just one fruit resulting from living a holy life (Gal. 5:22-23). Joy trumps happiness because joy is a state of mind and being; not a mere, ever-changing emotion.

As children of God, we are called to be conformed to His image. He is a holy God and tells us to “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 20:71 Pet. 1:16). We, in our justification as Christians, are to be sanctified into the holy image of God; striving to be blameless before Him. We, as believers are even told that our holiness will sometimes be at the expense of our happiness (Heb. 12:7-11), but we are also assured that it will be worth it in the end.

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. —1 Thess. 4:7

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” —1 Peter 1:14-16

holiness-is-mandatory