I was in high school when I started hating women's ministry. Not hating - I should say "getting annoyed by." I never cared for girls nights, and teas sounded downright dreadful, like being made to sit at the grown-up table after you were finished eating to "listen to us talk."
In college I started ministering to women, but I still didn't like women's ministry. When I confessed that I didn't like it, as I sometimes did, I was met with confused or offended looks. Wait, you're an RA for 70 girls at Liberty University and you don't like women's ministry? Well, yeah. I like hanging out and praying/teaching/learning. I like organizing events, and writing curriculum, and discipling girls who really end up discipling me because that's how it works - but I don't like...teas. Or doilies. Or the book of Ruth, if we're being honest.
I didn't have words to express the rub. Any time I attended a women's event, it wasn't BAD, it just wasn't...something. Ten years later, I found some words.
This isn't a commentary on all women's ministries, or even the ones I was a part of growing up. It's very likely that the problem was me. But I know that I know that I know I'm not alone here. So if you like Jesus but don't like church, or you like ministering to women, but you don't like women's ministry, maybe I can help put some words to the rub, maybe wipe the fog off of the glass so we can see what's really bugging us.
Here are the things that bored and irritated me about women's ministry:
- The book of Ruth (she was loyal and diligent and she got her prince!)
- Proverbs 31 (She got up early! Taking care of a family and a home is hard and noble! And look, she handled finances and worked outside of the home, too! Equality!)
- Deborah (See? God uses women, too!)
- Teas (Jesus loves you! Pink! Doilies! Warm fuzzies!)
- Self-esteem seminars (You are beautiful just the way you are! God loves you and that is all that matters!)
Here are the things I love about women's ministry:
- The book of Ruth (An allegory of Jesus Christ, who redeems us and comes for us who are abandoned and hopeless.)
- Proverbs 31 ("Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.")
- Deborah (God calls us to radical courage, radical trust, radical purpose and obedience. The battle, victory, and glory are His.)
- Teas (And by teas I mean barbeques. This is a personal preference influenced by my distaste for cucumber sandwiches. If you want to pamper me, do it with burgers. Or smoothies. I could get on board with a smoothie-tea.)
- Missions seminars (There is a great love burning inside of us. There is a great task at hand. Let's get to work.)
When I take a step back and look, the problem is clear:
I don't like women's ministries that are about Christian womanhood. I like women's ministries that are about The Gospel.
And not The Gospel*
Just The Gospel.
I was tired of looking at myself through a Jesus lens. I just wanted to look at Jesus.
My freshman year of college (in a discussion with my Dad re: my new Bible Study book) I said, "I don't mind Esther, but... can we read ROMANS?" I felt the tension way back then, I just couldn't articulate it. I didn't have those words then, but I have them now.
I am tired of hearing about Christian womanhood. I want to hear about God.
There are of course issues that are women's issues. Womanhood is a sisterhood, and I don't need my femininity to be ignored; I need it to be seen and addressed and esteemed. But women's issues are so, so secondary to gospel issues, because womanhood is so, so secondary to PERSONHOOD. To child-of-God-hood.
To harp on my "women's issues" at the cost of ever having time to harp on the glory of God and the gospel of Jesus is to miss the whole darn thing.
So, if you think you don't like women's ministry, or church or whatever, maybe you're just tired of looking at yourself.
If you're OVER hearing how to be a better person and you wonder what's wrong with you because hearing that "you are a child of God" doesn't really move or impress you very much - you're not alone. I was there too. I suspect that we are all just starving for The Main Thing.
If that's you, be encouraged. You're not missing it, you're getting it. Just look up. Find a community that looks, and talks, and points UP.
I love this, from Norman Douty (as quoted in The Complete Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford - a book that changed my life, given to me by a women's ministry leader that helped me look up)
"If I am to be like Him, then God in his grace must do it, and the sooner I come to recognize it the sooner I will be delivered from another form of bondage. Throw down every endeavor and say, I cannot do it, the more I try the farther I get from his likeness. What shall I do? Ah, the Holy Spirit says, you cannot do it; just withdraw; come out of it. You have been in the arena, you have been endeavoring, you are a failure, come out and sit down, and as you sit there behold Him, look at Him. Don't try to be like Him, just look at Him. Just be occupied with Him. Forget about trying to be like Him. Instead of letting that fill our mind and heart, let Him fill it. Just behold Him, look upon Him through the Word. Come to the Word for one purpose and that is to meet the Lord. Not to get your mind crammed full of things about the sacred Word, but come to it to meet the Lord. Make it to be a medium, not to Biblical scholarship, but of fellowship with Christ."
I still struggle. It's so easy to forget. This is a reminder to myself and to my own bored, distracted, divided heart. Look up. Stop looking at yourself and your life and your habits through Jesus-lens - and just look at glorious, radical King Jesus.