I’ve been challenged a couple of times in the last few months to consider whether I was letting my mind/heart/blog be shaped by things I was against rather than for (the most recent was this post). Both times I felt a pang, a hard-to-describe twinge which felt a little like guilt but more like the need to chew on the idea for a while. After hours of unrelated (I think!) sleeplessness, I’m fairly confident - only now that I’ve forced myself to shake the words out of my head - that I’ve found the cause. Here’s a drawing to explain:
I hope that clears things up.
As I’ve mentioned before, I‘ve spent many years struggling under the weight of teaching about women that didn’t line up with what I believed to be true about God from my experience of Him and from what I understood of the Bible. It was a long time before I realised that not all evangelical Christians agreed with this view of women, and slightly longer before I dived in to investigate the debate for myself. As those of you who’ve been around for a while know, this blog has been my forum – a much-appreciated forum! – for spewing out my discoveries and responses as I’ve worked to understand God’s purpose for all of us – women and men – revealed in Jesus and the Bible.
My initial diagnosis of the pangs was that they were convictions over writing on aspects of this teaching about women that I disagreed with; some of my posts on this topic may have come across as very ‘against’-y as I’ve taken down and confronted particular issues before casting them aside. But I wrestled and I prayed and I lay awake a couple of nights ago and knew that my pangs weren’t guilt to be repented of. My posts may have seemed ‘against’-y, but the direction in which I’m heading is undoubtedly ‘for’. I’m on the bright side of this journey, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, [as] I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (as Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14). I’m not bitter, and my intentions are as pure as my this-side-of-heaven heart can get. My posts have been as much my processing as me wanting you to come along for the ride, and I unabashedly admit my desire to spark a debate and to get you thinking afresh about this issue.
I’m still not entirely sure of how best to sum up the pangs I’ve felt when I’ve heard the exhortation to be “defined by what we’re for rather than what we’re against”. Ickiness? Worry tinged with discomfort? And here’s the cause: While I understand the positive purpose of the exhortation, and while I’ve appreciated the prods to examine my attitudes and motivations, I feel uncomfortable about the way this idea could be (and probably is) interpreted and used. I worry that it will silence some who need to process their journey out loud, and that it will quench hard (but respectful) debates that really need to be had. I feel icky about some people having yet another tool they can use to make passionate people feel as though they should be quiet and doubters feel as though they’re alone with their questions.
I don’t mind being defined by what I’m against because the things I’m against necessarily highlight the things I’m for. I hope I’m known as someone who is against reading the Bible as if it were a dusty old rulebook rather than a living guide to point us in the right direction as we live out its story today. I hope I’m known as someone who is against injustice, including the teaching that women are equal-but-actually-not-really-equal to men. And I hope I’m known as someone who’s against the suppression of Spirit-given gifts and the silencing of many who should be speaking, to name just a few (don't even get me started on bad punctuation or The Biggest Loser).
I pray that God will keep me always moving forward even as I examine and cast aside each ’against’ I find weighing me down. And I pray that He will keep me always aware of my pangs and give me wisdom to diagnose them as I continue to work out my faith, struggling up mountains and skipping down the other side, fors, againsts, and all, for many debates and God-filled years to come.