From Mel: I related to Julie's story. I am a former pastors kid and recovering evangelical and much of why I left organized religion is because I haven't experienced it to be safe for the struggling. That being said, I am a feminist because of Jesus, not in spite of him.
During my time with Julie the thing that kept hitting me in the chest was her deep compassion FOR the Christian church...the very ground that has caused her deep suffering is the ground she most wants to see alive and transformed. Her pursuit to see femininity valued in Christian churches is a testament of deep faith and character.
I am open to telling my story. I believe keeping our secrets makes all of us feel more alone.
I tell the rest of this story understanding that in the grand scheme of the world and even the United States, I live a greatly privileged life.
But my seven year old self didn't know that. I grew up in a conservative Christian school, and in conservative Christian church. I had to wear a dress every day. It was made very clear to me that I was not as good as the boys. It was also made clear that God did not want my female voice in his church.
When I was 7, Jesse Owens was my hero. I loved his story of proving Hitler wrong in front of the watching world. I read the story of Jesse's Olympic success, over and over and over again. I was so inspired. I wanted to be him. I wanted to show my teachers they were wrong. I wanted to show my teachers that girls were just as good as boys. In elementary school I was fascinated by injustice and read books about slavery and was shocked at the evil and blindness of humanity.
Puberty was traumatic for me, because it was a time of losing power and strength and the start of my period. I was incredulous at the injustice of bleeding every month while the boys got to grow strong muscles and (I assumed) feel better about themselves. I was devastated and defeated and angry at God. Before puberty, I could prove sexism wrong by running faster, by doing more pull ups, by doing more push ups. But when testosterone kicked in for them, and estrogen kicked in for me, I began to hate myself. I was absolutely devastated. I judged myself by the world's standards. My body was female and inferior. Depression kicked in.
I spent my high school years on my parents' couch reading books and feeling absolutely worthless. I had few friends. My teachers had been right all along. I was worthless and weak. I was second-class and less-than. My theology classes and my theology teachers confirmed that even God believed this to be true.
But even then a spark of rebellion was there. During my senior year of high school, when Bill Gothard's rules for marriage were taught as a Bible study, I raised my hand and challenged them and asked where these rules could be found in the Bible. When my respected theology teacher told me women couldn't be pastors or elders, I wrote a snarky response and attached an article by Alvera Mickelson on the order of creation. My fight with the conservative church has continued to this day. Part of me is just unwilling to accept their rejection of women.
I have come to understand that femininity is beautiful and strong. And that masculinity and physical strength are not the standards of value and worth. But it took a while for me to get there. I believed the lie I was told, even while rejecting it.
I would say that my fear of rejection, highly sensitive personality, and shyness have been the biggest obstacles in my life. I have always wondered why God gave me such a passion for women in leadership and then made me such a shy, quiet introvert. I have no desire to be a pastor or elder, or to speak in front of crowds, but I will fight for every woman's right to be one. I despise talking to people I don't know, but I have found myself in the offices of multiple pastors arguing against sexism in the church.
I think and pray about injustice in the church every day, almost all day. I don't know what to do to help create change, but my mind is constantly plagued with incredulity. How can good, kind, Christian men believe it is okay to exclude women and prevent them from using their God-given gifts? I am absolutely flabbergasted by this issue.
I feel misunderstood in my own silence. I am a quiet person and I need a lot of alone time. But this does not mean I do not care deeply for others. I am easily stimulated so I need to keep my distance in order to cope with this overwhelming life.
(If I wasn't afraid) I would care less about what other people think of me. I would care less about what men in the church think of me. I would care less about perfection and rejection. I would just be me. I have greatly improved in this area, but I know I still care, and I still want to prove those freaking sexist men wrong. I still want to show them up. How dare they underestimate me? How dare they look at me and see "female" and want nothing more from me? It disgusts me. I struggle to get over that insult.
My name is Julie and I want to be used by God to make create change for women in the church. I am a writer and I want to write in ways which make others feel less alone in their insecurities. I want to love and bless my friends AND enemies, and I pray every day for the strength to do so.