Last year I kicked being a good Christian girl to the curb. I said goodbye to proving, striving, earning in the form of praying, Bible reading, tithing and church attendance. My assumed approval by God was contingent on these four pillars and it was time to let them go. While I did not intentionally set out to obliterate all four in one year, it just happened that way. Circumstances arose, I couldn’t do it anymore.
I couldn’t sit in church and not be pissed off.
I couldn’t read my Bible without wanting to lob it across the room.
I couldn’t pray without feeling like I was trying to earn some favor or seek God’s approval.
I couldn’t give money to a church I didn’t trust.
These four acts were my salvation. These four acts were the determining factors of my faith. These four acts were my currency with God.
I wanted a church that included everyone, where fear was checked at the door, where people could come as they were.
I wanted to read my Bible with the lens of freedom and grace, without fear of condemnation, without fear of misunderstanding. I wanted to read the Scripture from the perspective of infinite love and mercy.
I wanted to pray, not so I could proclaim my righteousness or be in a constant mode of requesting. I wanted to pray with the knowledge that perfect language did not matter, that resting in God’s presence was plenty without having to come up with a bunch of words. I needed to just be, to lay my head upon God’s formidable breast, and hear Her speak mercy, I got this, baby. You’re good. I love you.
I wanted to give money to a place I believed in, that reflected my heart, my values, the work I needed to see done in the world. Maybe this is selfish. I don’t know. I do know I was not giving with the prescribed cheerful heart.
Last year was important. Last year was necessary. Last year has ushered in this year.
We attended Easter service at our new church – the place that now receives my tithe, the place that informs my reading of the Scripture, the place where I know I can pray in a way that is honest and hopeful, filled with rest and renewal.
I attend church at a place, where on Easter Sunday the music and the meditation were led by a woman, where the message was delivered by a woman. The news of the beautiful, restorative, life-saving work of the Resurrection – relayed by terrified women, generous women who were on their way to tending the dead body of their Lord. According to the Gospel of Mark, Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary the mother of James reacted maybe not quite as we would expect.
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:8)
I can be those ladies. I can be a woman that receives precious information and freaks out, running as far and as fast as she can. I can be her. I can be the woman who washes the feet of Jesus with her hair, foolishly wasting her savings on perfume. I can be her. I can be terrified and insecure, in a stable, screaming alongside farm animals while giving birth. I can be her.
I want to be the woman who screws up but still receives grace. I want to be the woman who asks for forgiveness. I want to be the woman who stands firm and trembling in her story, who knows her mind and who may or may not apologize profusely at the slightest of perceived wrongs. I want to be the woman who lives in freedom sometimes, and other times is bound by the obligations of her life. I want be the woman who loves others well because I love myself well.
I want to be safe AND fierce.
I want to mess up but return with hope in the beauty of forgiveness.
I want to piss people off – oh wait, not really, I like being liked.
I want to raise my children to love the unlovable, to champion the rights of the least of these.
I want to drive a nice car and not feel like I have to apologize.
I want to recognize my beauty and not feel shame.
I want to embrace my extra ten pounds without feeling obligated to eat produce for every meal because I don’t believe I have the right to take up space.
I want to claim armrests on airplanes.
I want to drink a beer and eat ice cream just because.
I want to run and not care how fast I go, or what I look like.
God, in Her infinite wisdom, revealed the person of Jesus to women, ordinary, common, normal women – both young and old. Our work in the world, our work of love and nurture and leading happens because we are loved, we are enough, we are holy. Let us kick the preconceived expectations to the curb, let us stop trying to be good and small and cute and choose strength and might and ferocity in our own unique and powerful ways. Let us set aside comparing and envy and work together to accomplish our beautiful, created work.
Let us love well, the people in our lives, revealing the hope and heart of God through Jesus Christ.