It started the Monday after the election. My oldest daughter, Tessa, and I were lying in her bed, talking and listening to music before she went to sleep. What had started as normal chit-chat about her fourth-grade dramas quickly turned to adult topics. She’d been absorbing the comments of her peers on the school bus in the aftermath of the election. Kids hold nothing back. Tess had questions that needed answers.
“Mom, can you believe that some men think they are better than women? I mean, why would they think that? Women are just as good as men! I mean, they can have babies and men can’t do that!”
I had to smile because she didn’t understand the far-reaching controversy of this question. Her innocence was so endearing. I explained that, ironically, the fact that women can have babies is a huge reason they struggle to be “as good as” men. I told her that in some cultures, women are expected to remain solely in the roles of mother and a wife, but some women want more than that. They want to work outside the home, too, yet their ability to bear children can be seen more as a liability than an asset in the business world. Babies don’t boost productivity. I also told her that many women have to work to provide for their families. They are jugglers of many roles and many worlds. Bearing children is a great gift, and often a great struggle.
This election, more than any other in my lifetime, has exposed the issues we are dealing with in our present culture. I have not been particularly interested in politics until now. My mind naturally exists in the gray areas of life. I repel black and white thinking. I’d rather write a poem than join a debate. I have friends who voted both right and left, and I have watched the discourse unfold over the past several weeks both online and in person. Issues of equality, race, and gender are at stake, as well as the overall relevancy of the evangelical church.
Underlying the protests, the media posts, and the many discussions I’ve had with coworkers and friends, I feel like a massive shift is occurring in the country and the institutional church. Is it revival or revolution?
Perhaps both. Something needs to be reframed.
My mind is on my daughters now. I want to raise them to follow their passions. I want them to learn tangible skills that will allow them to be independent and to help other people. I want to tell them that whatever they want to achieve, whatever they feel God has called them to do, they can do it. But I also know that as a Christian woman, many churches have their own beliefs about women’s roles. There are still positions within the evangelical church, such as the roles of pastor or teacher, where despite education, training, or talent, my daughters would never be considered because they are women. In this context, gender trumps calling.
Right now I am struggling with the vast divide between the way I feel in secular culture versus church culture. If I’m really honest, I would say that I’m embarrassed by it. The other day at work, I looked around our operating room. Seven out of the eight staff members required to conduct an open heart surgery were women of different backgrounds and ethnicities, many of whom are mothers as well. We are good at what we do because of our passion, commitment, and training. I work for one of the biggest healthcare companies in the state and employee pay is determined by education and work experience. Gender is not a limiting factor.
This past week I’ve been spending time in the gospel of Luke, particularly the story of Mary–a lowly teenage girl, hand-picked by God to physically bring forth the most important message the world has ever known. God didn’t view Mary’s ability to give birth as a liability. Her life brought forth Jesus, the Savior of the world, in whom “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,” for we are all one in Him. The first people Jesus appeared to after His resurrection were also women. They clasped His feet and worshipped Him and He said, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell…” In reading through the Gospels, it is apparent that Jesus valued women. He continually invited them beyond the defined roles their culture had placed around them, and He got a lot of flack for it. What if Jesus is now inviting us out of the roles the church has placed around us?
I have never gone to a church where women were allowed to preach from the pulpit. I agree with Christian philosopher and author Dallas Willard in that “women and men are indeed very different, and those differences are essential to how God empowers each.” But I have also known women deeply gifted in teaching and pastoring, who have had to leave the church to use their God-given gifts. This seems incredibly sad to me. Both Adam and Eve were created in His image–equal but different. God has as many feminine qualities as He does masculine qualities, and when we restrict the female voice from church leadership, it impacts both men and women. Willard says, “What we lose by excluding the distinctively female from “official” ministries of teaching and preaching is of incalculable value. That loss is one of a few fundamental factors that account for the astonishing weakness of ‘the church’ in the contemporary context. It restricts the resources for blessing upon an appallingly needy world.”
As I think about the word “Present” this month, I am thinking about what it means to be a woman engaged in today’s present culture. I am struggling with the relationship that women have with the church. How is it that sometimes I feel more freedom to be who I am in the secular world than I do in the church? I’m staying present for the “can of worms” questions that my daughters are asking me. I have to admit, I don’t have it figured out. What I do know is that we are way past the point of avoidance. Will you join in this discussion with me?
In the midst of tough issues that have our churches and country divided, I am holding onto something that the angel Gabriel told Mary after he’d dropped the bomb of divine conception on her. He said: “For nothing is impossible with God.” For me, this is what advent is about: the dull wait, the messy struggle, the uncomfortable questions, and overall, the undying hope.
Elizabeth (Libby) Kurz holds a BS in Nursing and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in The Poet’s Billow and Relief Journal. After years of moving cross-country with the US Air Force, she now resides on the coast of Virginia with her family. When she’s not reading, writing, and keeping tabs on her three kids, she works as a registered nurse in the cardiac operating room. She is a self-proclaimed coffee snob, wino, and beach bum, who appreciates finding meaning in the ordinary moments of life. She occasionally writes at www.libbykurz.com.