Wednesday, December 28, 2016

half, whole, made one

I am having trouble finding a starting place. But here is one: last night, after dinner, my sisters and their husbands and me sitting around the table, empty dessert plates, surrendered forks, pie crumbs. Phone in hand, I look for a photo to show one of them. I see one of me at a fancy event wearing a dress that stopped well above my knees. I hold it up for my mom, who moved around us to clear the table of dessert, and who, when I was young, always lectured me for wearing dresses and skirts that were too short. Now, it's a joke I perpetuate. I can't believe you called me a hussy! I say, remembering our fights.

I'd have a hard time bending over in that dress, my sister says.

I tell her you don't bend over, you bend down. And anyway, men should do things for you when you where that kind of dress.

That starts it -- a short, heated exchange between my brother-in-law and me about what I meant by that comment. Double standard, we both accuse the other of holding. Way to advance the feminist agenda, he says to me. I never claimed to be trying, I shoot back.

We both let it go, both go back to our phones or the other conversations happening around the table. I try to understand why I feel so frustrated and why I had a hard time communicating what it was I actually did mean. I also wonder why he responded so strongly, and how he's felt hurt or deceived or let down by women in his life. (Or, it's completely possible I read too deeply into his reaction.)

Earlier in the day, I had tried to start writing this post, so I was thinking a lot about to my response the book I'd just read. From a writerly perspective, Half the Church was just ok. The author is clear enough, but not necessarily very skilled or artful as a writer. She draws largely on her emotional response to reading another book, Half the Sky, which leads me to think she didn't do extensive research on the themes she attempts to address. My hunch is that the book is mostly ideas recycled from her past books and studies, compiled as a response to some global issues she is just beginning to think about.

But that aside, I deeply appreciated this book. Much of it is an exposition of the creation stories in Genesis -- her starting point for much of what she has to say about women and their relationship to men and to our world. I love thinking about those original intentions God had for man and woman when he created us, and reading this book now -- during a season when I've had many new questions and doubts about how our relationships can be redeemed in a very practical way -- gave me a newly grounded desire and hope.

I'm also grateful for the author's ability to see in scripture the dignity, love and purpose God gives to His people, so that more than commands to obey, the Word is read as messages and stories that are meant to empower and expand. She draws largely on Jesus's command to love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strengths, and suggests it's an invitation to live more expansively than we'd previously imagined. It's also a call to all of us to make it possible for women all over the world to respond to the invitation.

She doesn't stop in Genesis. She writes that throughout, the Bible stretches our imaginations and calls for a complete paradigm shift. New Testament teachings expose the fact that the way of relating as male and female that we lost back in Eden looks nothing like anything we see in our world today. To help us see this, Jesus resurrects a form of higher math that originated in Eden. In Jesus, she writes, we see a new kind of relational one-ness (in the trinity) in action. In him, we also see God's original intentions for us as image-bearers. This reminder of Jesus also felt incredibly hope-giving to me.

(photo: just because i like it)

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