Leave Her Alone

Leave Her Alone

I’m a southern girl. I grew up in a small, modest house in the mountains of North Carolina; a house equipped with one bathroom for a family of five, four of us girls.  I have clear memories of my Daddy, his 6’2” frame rising above ours as he jostled for a spot in the mirror to get ready.  He never complained. He never showed any annoyance or frustration, even when we’d spray our hair, oblivious to his presence behind us, leaving him gasping for air as the cloud of fumes surrounded his face.

Raising girls was no easy task for my Daddy. He helped produce three, strong-willed young women, frequently reminding us to never let people walk all over us, to stand up for ourselves because we mattered.

He weathered the storms of our teenage years, persevering in teaching us to assert ourselves because he knew the long term benefits of giving us a voice would far outweigh the initial struggles of adolescence.

Certain smells trigger memories of times past. For me, the smell of Old Spice and leather conjure up memories of my childhood, my dad and me in his pick-up truck, his two hands on the steering wheel, me cuddled close to him, my head resting near his shoulder. I felt such security with my Daddy. His love for my sisters and me was tangible, evident in his tone, his smile, and his embrace. I always felt special; I never experienced the longing some children feel when a parent is absent, distant, or gone for long periods of time. I never wondered if my dad missed out on having a boy. I knew with everything in me I was enough.

I admired my daddy, I longed for his approval, and there was never a moment during my childhood, adolescence, or adulthood when I didn’t receive it. He introduced my sisters and me to others with the pride of an Olympian, placing his arm around our shoulders and smiling down at us, his three gold medals.

I thank God each day for a father who looked beyond my gender to my soul. He gave his all as he raced me around the track in our go-carts, never taking it easy on me because I was a girl. He pushed me when I wanted to quit, exhausted by the physical conditioning for basketball and volleyball.  He cheered me on during every game and practice. He reminded me of my tenacious spirit during one of the worst heartaches of my life.  He never missed an opportunity to tell me how pretty I was, how smart I was, or how capable I was.  He sent me out into the world with the belief I could do anything and be anything, and I bought it all hook-line-and-sinker.

Looking back, I think Daddy knew the challenges I would encounter as a woman, and he worked to build my endurance in preparation for the fights I would face to claim what is rightfully mine in this patriarchal world.

Although my dad sent me out into the world ready for battle, he never spoke specifically of the heartaches I might endure by simply being the person God has called me to be. I can honestly say I’ve floated through a good bit of my life completely unaware of how others perceive me.

I can also attest to how painful the slap was which awakened me to the realization that the qualities of my personality which made my Daddy so proud are the same character traits which fuel others’ perceptions of me as not fitting the model of a Biblical woman, of not participating in a Biblical model of marriage.

I’m too bold, too assertive, too opinionated, too transparent, too authoritative, too out-spoken. I walk with my husband, not behind him.  My spiritual leadership in my family is equitable to my husband’s. I engage in philosophical and theological and intellectual conversations using the personal pronoun “I” instead of “we”, speaking for myself, instead of including myself in my husband’s opinions which naturally should be mine, as well.  I do not obey my husband or ask for his permission, but partner with him in every nuance of our marriage and parenting, each of us submitting to Christ’s will, losing ourselves, not for each other, but for Him only and always.

My relationship with Christ has always been very similar to my relationship with my dad; a relationship in which I participated fully. I was never excluded from anything because I am a girl. I never had to temper my strengths or silence my voice. I enjoyed complete access to my dad and his love because I was his daughter.

I have complete access to my husband and his love because I am his wife, his equal.  It’s always been that simple.

I’ve subconsciously applied the same relational expectations to God. He knew me before He formed me.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made. He calls me chosen.  He calls me daughter.  I have direct access to Him because I am His. I do not have to shrink or climb down a few notches on a patriarchal spiritual ladder to prove to others I am engaging with God “the right way.” God doesn’t call for women to be martyrs, to kill off our genuine selves, who He created us to be, in some misguided attempt to fulfill a man-made model of what a Biblical woman looks like and acts like.

God also doesn’t order men to babysit a woman’s spiritual gifts, deciding for her when and where and how she is able to exercise her God-ordained talents.

Jesus died to set us free, to liberate each of us from the legalistic chains of bondage created by patriarchal hierarchies: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28  

God demands, “Give them up…Do not hold them back. Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—“ Isaiah 43:6

God longs for his children, all of his children, to be liberated back to Him. Liberated from what?  Anything or anyone who prevents His sons and daughters from having full access to their Father, to their Creator, to the great I Am.

“Do not hold them back,” but that’s exactly what we’re doing to women and young girls in the church today. When a woman’s efforts to participate fully in a relationship with Christ are hindered, she is being held back from God. Many prescribe to theological rules which build walls between God and his daughters.  Silencing women in the house of God is a wall.  Barring women from leadership in the church is a wall.  Positioning women beneath the spiritual headship of men in marriage is a wall.  In each of the aforementioned situations, the barricade between God and his daughters is a man.  God wants his daughters brought TO Him, not pushed further AWAY FROM Him.  He demands the right for his daughters to have direct, unlimited, unsupervised, unguarded, uncensored access to Him.

Jesus echoes the verse from Isaiah during his interactions with Mary. When Mary breaks many traditions and customs by letting her hair down and anointing Jesus with rare and expensive oil, the men chide her. Their disapproving murmurings upset Jesus, who commands them to “leave her alone” (Mark 14:6).  Many believe Jesus’ reprimand was fueled by the disciples’ focus on the wastefulness of the expensive oil, as Mary applied it abundantly, without concern for the monetary loss.  I feel his command goes beyond the superficiality of the oil.

I believe Jesus admonishes his disciples because they were attempting to get in between Jesus and Mary; their indignation would have stopped Mary from doing “a good work” in the name of Jesus (Mark 14:6).

If Jesus looked beyond the many customary practices broken by Mary in her strivings to honor Him and show her faith in Him, we should be doing the same in every church today. Women who long to use their gifts and share their testimonies in an effort to glorify God should be commended, not censured.  Mary did not ask permission, she did not pass the oil off to one of the many men present in the room, and she did not shrink into the shadows, observing from a culturally acceptable distance. She sat with Him, she conversed with Him, she touched Him, she anointed Him, and He welcomed her worship.

How then would Jesus respond today to women who exalt Him and demonstrate their love for Him outside of some churches’ traditional patriarchal hierarchies? I think it’s abundantly clear.

A woman preaches the Word of God……leave her alone.

A woman assumes an equal role as spiritual leader in her home…….leave her alone.

A woman leads with her gifts of the spirit in the church…….leave her alone.

Stop hindering the daughters of Christ who work “a beautiful deed” in the name of their Father (Mark 14:6).

Leave us alone.

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