July 2011


The Kingdom of God is:

– not feeling in competition with other women or as if I’m only a potential mate for men

– seeing women (younger and older) comfortable with their gifts of speaking and preaching

– hearing prayers in many languages and global perspectives

– being inspired and convicted by men and women who have traveled the journey of gender equality ahead of me

– being hugged by a professor who’s class was integral in building my foundation of gender equality

– listening to the pain of people of color who were deeply wounded by racism on a campus like Biola

– being affirmed as a White woman in the job I hold

– being asked by a much older, and much more well-educated man what books I would recommend

– much discussion and relating with a passionate, intelligent woman my age

– watching memorial slideshows of competent women who dedicated their lives to go where God called them, regardless of what society would allow

– elevators rides that aren’t awkward

– the grace for being late to a workshop on creating safe spaces

– the process of recognizing the extent to which I have been socialized

– combating the racism, sexism and myths of superiority, inferiority, and meritocracy in my own heart

– having someone I just met share a poem they wrote out with me

– conversations with people of all different races and ethnic backgrounds, in their 20’s and in their 70’s, first-time attendees and founders and board members, experts and beginners, those who paid their own way and those on scholarships…

…this is the Kingdom.

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I was determined to make this trip my “vacation” even though I would be having a lot of intellectual stimulation, emotional expression, and very little time to relax. After I arrived at the hotel and explored my room, it hit me.

I’m an adult. I’m a woman. I’m an adult woman.

During life group a few weeks ago I had a conversation with a Sister about why the small group for the high school girls is called “Women’s Group”. Are these teenage girls women? What does it mean if we call them that? It made me realize that I have very specific (and different) ideas about what it means to be a woman. In the adult, “grown-up” sense, “woman” carries a strong connotation of responsibility to me. In fact, I don’t think of much else… Growing up I went from a “child” to a “young woman”. While I was in high school, my parents didn’t like to call us “teenagers” because of rebelliousness, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do-ness, and out-of-control-ness that is generally associated with the teenage years. Instead, we were “young women” or “young men” who took responsibility for our actions, controlled our impulses, and were respectful to authority. Lack of “teen years” does create issues but it did make us responsible.

So while I imagine that calling teenagers “women” will inspire them to responsibility and healthy adult life, my Sister pointed out that she doesn’t want her young daughter to think she has the advantages of being an adult woman. An excellent and very valid point! But it really made me think about what those advantages are. I’m still thinking, to be honest. Not because there is a lack of advantages, but because I have such a heavily ingrained mentality that “adult woman” = “responsibility” that it’s harder for me to acknowledge them.

Today as I was sitting in a conference room waiting for the first plenary session to start of the Christians for Biblical Equality Conference, I closed my eyes and took a quick spirit assessment. I immediately became choked up. Being the atypical, unemotional woman that I am, it really surprised me.

There was something powerful going on that I’m still not sure I have an understanding of. But I think it has something to do with feeling safe, feeling relief, feeling seen, valued and affirmed as a woman, and feeling the process of my soul healing from internalized inferiority*.

I felt safe because I was in the presence of like-minded community.
I felt relief because I could be real and honest about my beliefs without being told it’s “unbiblical” or “sinful”.
I felt seen, valued and affirmed as a woman not because of what I do or do not do as a living but because others in the room believe that women are full partners in the Kingdom of God – and not just in a spiritual sense.
I felt my soul healing from the damage I have perpetrated against myself that keeps me from believing life-giving truths about myself and from using the gifts God gave me to their full extent.
I felt more alive.

I told myself that on this trip I want to be present. Present with myself, present with others, present with God. No tuning out, no checking out, no skipping out. Fully present. Relaxing, yes. Mind-numbing, no. Fully present.

So far, so good. I realized that while I had been looking forward to the cable, this means that I won’t be turning on the TV while I’m here. And there are TWO of them in my room (??). I intentionally brought only one book with me, a novel. Purposed to be opened in long periods of transition (aka on flights). I thought my computer might be a distraction, but I hope to use it for times of process, like this one.

I praise God that his Kingdom is so wholly other. It’s so outside of what I can comprehend. There is so much freedom and so much affirmation and so much purpose and so much grace. The boundaries that he does give us provide us with health, life, and ironically, even more freedom.

I love being a part of creation that is being reconciled back to the Creator. Back to the way things were intended. Back to being fully woman, fully human.

——

*internalized inferiority: a deep psychological belief that one is inferior to a privileged group; subscribing to the value system created by those in power who deem themselves superior and others (you) inferior. This can happen to people of color because of the system of racism, as with women because of the system of sexism (and so forth). As I struggle with internalized inferiority as a woman, I also struggle with internalized superiority as a White woman.

I’ve been frustrated with myself that I haven’t been blogging as much as I want to be. The slow-down is partially due to the fact that I’m in a sort of reading/thinking/researching detox. (Okay, I ‘cheated’ this evening and read all of Rachel Held Evan‘s posts on her womanhood project.) I realized recently that my desire to learn is kind of consuming my life. This reality came into focus as I related to a friend who described her thought life as overwhelming. It became more clear as I packed up my belongings and I saw how many boxes of books I own – and how many I hadn’t started or finished. But what made it crystal clear to me was when I began to reflect on my emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a concept I was introduced to in the context of the co-curricular dimension of higher education. EI is an essential component of my growth as a facilitator. I have to be in tune with what is going on in group settings – where each individual is at as well as where the group is as a whole. But I also have to be in tune with where I am at emotionally to recognize how that will affect the group.

Various definitions:
Emotional intelligence: “the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions”
Emotional intelligence: “an ability, skill or, in the case of the trait EI model, a self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups”
Emotional intelligence: “the innate potential to feel, use, communicate, recognize, remember, describe, identify, learn from, manage, understand and explain emotions”

I googled "emotional intelligence" and found this insightful model. =)

 

Needless to say, as I reflected, I didn’t fare well. This is definitely something I need to work on in my life. Hence, the detox. I’ve realized that my ferver to pursue learning is blocking the ability of other parts of myself to grow. I busy myself in exploring new ideas and forget about exploring myself as a human.

I’ll be continuing the detox for a few more weeks but I also want to add proactive means of exploring myself and my emotional responses. I’m starting with incorporating contemplative/centering prayer into my face-to-Face time, and my goal is to start counseling by the end of the summer.

So that’s that. I’m realizing how much of my life is still driven by fear – of stillness, of what I don’t know, of traveling to the deep. But as a friend reminded me during Life Group, Jesus travels to the deep with me.

This morning began well because I started reading John and concurrently, my notes from Johanian Lit, one of my fav classes at Biola. The way John was taught had sunk deep into my being and pulling out my notes was like rediscovering a treasure box from my childhood. It was a portion of Scripture that has truly become living and active to me; my heart had responded to the Word just as the Word had responded to the desperation of humankind and become flesh.

This week I’ve also been meditating on worship as a response. I wish I could remember who, but at one point in time, someone told me that worshiping with the Body is in part a response from your relationship with God on your own. Coming together with brothers and sisters to worship becomes an outpouring from what you have experienced as an individual. So we don’t just come to the local Church to be filled but to give to God the offerings of our heart, individually and collectively. This is one of my current favorite songs we sing (forgive my rough translation).

“Cansado del camino, (tired of the road)
sediento de Ti, (thirsting for You)
un desierto he cruzado, (I’ve crossed a dessert)
sin fuerzas he quedado, (I have no strength left)
vengo a Ti. (I come to You)

Luché como un soldado, (I fought as a soldier)
y a veces sufrí, (at times I suffered)
y aunque la lucha he ganado, (although I won the fight)
mi armadura he desgastado, (my armor is worn)
vengo a Ti. (I come to you)

Sumérgeme, (submerge me)
en el rio de tu Espíritu, (in the river of Your Spirit)
necesito refrescar este seco corazón, (my heart needs to be refreshed)
sediento de Ti. (thirsting for You)

Sumérgeme (submerge me)”

I am on my 6th week of training for a 5K I plan on running in September. I am amazed at the faithfulness of God that I’ve seen through my body responding to what I ask of it. I haven’t run a full mile since 6th grade. I’ve always had issues with running, partly because I have a form of asthma, but I’ve never enjoyed it – in fact, I’ve hated it. One of my favorite books as a kid was called Cat Running and I adored the protagonist who loved running (and was determined to do so wearing pants, not a skirt). I’ve always wished I could run and would occasionally psych myself up to try to do so, but there’s only so many times you can almost pass out before you give up. Most recently I decided to attempt this 5K because of a friend and her amazing journey of weight loss, pursuit of a healthy lifestyle and her running goal of “1. Start 2. Finish”. As she rallied a community together to run, I found the necessary goal and accountability to try again.

I began with brisk walking around a track. I started to run the corners – and it would take me a whole lap to recover a regular breathing pattern. Less than 6 weeks later, I can run 3/4 of a mile straight, walk a lap, and run an additional 1/2 a mile. This is unfathomable. I did not think I would see this sort of change with my body. I’ve also start weight lifting to try to encourage my muscles to strengthen faster. While most are trying to lose weight during our 6 week BEAST MODE challenge, I’m attempting to pack on 5 pounds of muscle.

I used to dread working out. I was always out of breath. I didn’t feel any better afterwards. I derived no enjoyment from it. But now I look forward to it! It’s still HARD. I still have trouble breathing. But I have slowly watched my body respond. And I’m amazed. I praise God that my body is not static; that it changes and grows with me.

This 4th of July my heart is heavy as I thank God for the freedoms that I enjoy, knowing full well that I benefit from these freedoms because of the past and current oppression and exploitation of the marginalized, the poor, and people of color.

I hope to never forget what my (white, American, able-bodied, heterosexual, upper-middle class, English-speaking) privilege costs other people, and ultimately, myself.