I feel as if I was born saved. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want or didn’t have Jesus. I was born into a Christian home. My parents were Sunday school teachers; we were at church on Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, and sometimes on Saturday for fellowships. With all the time that my family and I spent at church, I never once resented it. I was exactly where I wanted to be. I LOVED God! I loved God’s people! I wanted to be where God was.
I was thirsty for God.
I was a young, shy introvert, with a bright smile and a bubbling spirit. My mind was open and ready to receive. I loved learning about creation, the flood, David and Goliath, and all other biblical accounts. I wanted to know everything about the Christian faith.
I longed to connect with this awesome Being who painted sunsets, whose very breath created souls, and whose power and love were unmatched. I was in awe of God. The thought of living for Jesus and loving Him my whole life excited me.
I was thirsty for God.
As a young adolescent girl, while others were excited about the latest social trends and stepping into the dating scene, I was studying the gifts of the Spirit and eschatology (the study of the end times). I would spend hours studying Bible concordances and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. I wasn’t sure if marriage was for me. I was happy to live for Jesus unattached to anyone.
I was drinking from the well that would never run dry; only it did, for many years.
I would say that my crisis of faith had been slowly building over the years, but came to its breaking point when I was in high school. My church leaders decided to do a full-scale church-wide indoctrination of complementarian theology. Complementarianism is the belief that although men and women are equally valued and loved by God, they have different roles and responsibilities. Men are said to be the called leaders, whereas women are said to be the submissive helpers.
Although complementarianism had always been practiced at my church, this was the first time my eyes were opened to what it truly meant to be lived out in the life of a Christian. I remember the exuberance exhibited by the male teachers and teenage boys in my Sunday school class over the fact that God had created them male. After all, it did come with undeniable perks and privileges.
A man could fulfill any office in the church, pursue any dream or career, and when he got married, he would always have the final say.
I remember one of my male teachers would frequently burst out with phrases such as, “I’m the MAN!” On the other hand, I remember the angry shock and trepidation displayed by the teenage girls in my Sunday school class over the fact that God had created them female. We were taught that a woman usurping authority caused the Fall of Humanity. We were taught that we were easily deceived and naturally controlling. Obviously, we would be resistant to God’s mandate of submission and helping.
The advice given to us was to learn to have a submissive spirit and marry someone who was trustworthy enough to obey. Perhaps the most valuable advice was to know before marrying how many children our fiance wanted, because once married, we would have to be obedient even in that.
I was devastated by complementarian theology and thirstier for God than I had ever been. Though I would have a subdued lot in life as a woman, there was something more excruciating than that: I was in love with God, but God was not in love with me. Jesus was so beautiful in my eyes, but my essence wasn’t beautiful to Him. Though I desired Him, something about me was undesirable. Being a daughter of Eve meant that I had characteristics that not even God could redeem.
God couldn’t trust me with secrets or most important things. God’s Word had to come down to me from a trust worthy source – a man. Like a game of telephone on the playground, I had to receive God’s messages second hand, and even once I received a Word, I could never proclaim it in a crowd.
COMPLEMENTARIAN THEOLOGY AND PRACTICE LEFT ME THIRSTY FOR GOD. It left me thirsty for life, for joy, for peace, for acceptance, for love, and for God. It was like drinking salt water.
Please understand that complementarianism was taught along with the Gospel, as if it were part of the Gospel. Therefore, if I wanted to experience the goodness of God and to stay true to God, I had to swallow this doctrine along with the pure water of God’s Word. The more I drank it, the thirstier I became. The “equal in value, unequal in roles” mantra did nothing to quench my parched spirit.
I couldn’t bring my full self to God. My gifts, ideas, questions, and revelations went unacknowledged. Worse of all, this doctrine destroyed my connection with God. I never lost my love for God, but our relationship was like the end of an old western film, destined for unrequited love. I could no longer read large sections of the Bible because I thought the message meant that I was unimportant to God. My soul dried out in many places.
Thankfully, after many painful years of searching and crying out to God, I was introduced to Christian egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is the belief that both men and women are created in the image of God and have equal value and importance. It goes further to declare that in Christ Jesus, there is no “spiritual authority” hierarchy.
Every Christian is called to serve out of their spiritual gifts. God speaks to all of God’s children without prejudice. When I first embraced this truth, I was like a kid running into the house on a hot summer day, putting my mouth directly over the faucet! I began studying the Bible the way I did when I was in my youth. I realized that egalitarianism is biblical.
I was studying the Bible in its original languages, not from sexist translations scripted to keep women oppressed.
My soul was being satisfied. I was no longer thirsty. I loved God. God loved me. I wasn’t cursed because of Eve. I was blessed after all. I was redeemed – every part of me! There was actually only one intercessor between me and God, and that was Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). He says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again (John 4:14).” And so now daily, I drink.
Leah Ross, wife and mother of 4, loves volunteering and everything health related. You can find her running in a race or in the organic section. Before she was an outspoken women’s rights advocate, Leah was a little girl whose only dream was to hear Jesus say, “Well done!” That hasn’t changed.
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