well-behaved women won’t change the church
* most all of you have already read this post. it was part of ed cyzewski’s women in ministry series and got a lot of love. there are some really great comments over there. i had so much fun writing it and had no idea it would strike such a chord. it’s so encouraging! i am just posting it here now for my blog archives. here’s to all kinds of mis-behaving…
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Years ago, if you looked up the definition of “Christian Good Girl”, I swear my picture would be right next to it. I was so good at being good! I knew how to keep the peace. I knew how to give people what they want. I know how to put my needs last. I knew how to say all the right things at the right time to sound really spiritual. I knew how to be nice.
Although I was not raised in a Christian home, when I turned my life over to Christ and joined his team, I found that all of the people-pleasing, peace-making, good-girl skills I had learned as a child of an alcoholic raised in chaos worked perfectly in the spiritual realm as well.
I earned all kinds of praise in the churches I was in for my good-girl-ness. Kathy’s so nice. Kathy’s such a team player. Kathy’s so easy to get along with.
None of these things were hard for me to do. They were like reflexes, a natural and immediate instinct to assess the situation, and then adjust to keep the peace and maintain whatever status quo needed to be maintained.
Over the years, though, as I started to do some personal healing work and begin to look at the unhealthy patterns in my life, something profound began to shift. I started to tell the truth about my own story. I started to not worry so much about what people thought. I started to advocate for others who couldn’t use their voices yet. I started to disagree. I started to use my voice and stir the pot about change in the church.
I started to worry more about pleasing God than pleasing man.
And guess what happened? Leaders didn’t like it. They liked me a lot better when I was following the rules, playing the good-girl game. A weird and subversive shift occurred when I started showing up more honestly, more passionately as a leader. The best words I can use to describe it are: “painful silence.”
In my situation, the painful silence lead to me losing a pastoral ministry job that I loved. The reality was that I was just not “good” enough, submissive enough, to be part of that system anymore. Honestly, if I could have switched back to the Good-Girl fast enough, I might have been able to save my job. Temporarily.
But I was too far gone. My soul and passion had started to come alive and I couldn’t turn back.
As difficult as that season was for me personally, professionally, and spiritually, I am so grateful for it because I learned the most important lesson of my life as a leader:
Well-behaved women won’t change the church.
We just won’t.
Well-behaved women will keep the wheels spinning on systems that keep working, keep growing, keep moving. We will do good and honorable work that matters and helps people and makes a difference in their communities.
But we won’t change the church.
Some people think the church doesn’t need changing; they’re fine with the way things are because it works for them. But I think there a lot more of us out here than even we ourselves know–passionate women who believe the body of Christ needs much more than a face-lift to become all it’s meant to be.
Yeah, well-behaved women will not change the church.
Instead, change in the church will come from not-so-well-behaved women who are willing to risk their pride, reputations, and “being liked” to stand for what God is stirring up in their hearts.
Change in the church will come when women who are called to lead, lead, even when others don’t think they can or should.
Change in the church will come when women refuse to squelch their gifts and begin to unleash them without asking for permission first.
Change in the church will come when women passionately follow Jesus, not systems-made-in-his-name-that-do-not-reflect-his-image.
Change in the church will come when women bravely use their voices, power, and any influence they have to inspire others to be brave, too.
I admit, it’s still sometimes hard for me to not be the good-girl. I miss the safety. I miss the praise. I miss the security, even if it was false. Some days I wish I could make nice like I used to because it was so much easier then.
But the Kingdom of God was never about easy. It was never about comfort. It was never about maintaining the status-quo. It was never about playing nice.
The Kingdom of God Jesus called us to participate in creating–here, now–isn’t well-behaved.
That’s reason enough for us not to be, either.