the road to equality is paved with friendship.

kathyescobar co-pastoring, equality, friendship, leadership 21 Comments

the road to equality is paved with friendship
* this post is part of the february synchroblog.  this month’s topic is centered around cross-gender friendships, a topic i have written a lot about over the years. the link list for other bloggers writing on this topic this month are below so check them out. also, i am excited to be part of this year’s sacred friendship gathering at the end of april in chicago called bold boundaries: exploring friendship between men & women. my dear & fun friend and refuge partner karl wheeler and i will be sharing together and it would be so fun to see you there! 

* * * * *

if i could boil almost everything that i write down to just a couple of themes, friendship would rise near the top.  it’s one of the most underrated skills in our christian faith, and in fact, i am going to propose that it should be an actual spiritual discipline that we begin to intentionally practice!  friendship connects us to our heart, to others’ hearts, to God’s heart. the essence of friendship is learning to love & be loved, and love is one of the hardest & most important things to practice this side of heaven.

the other topic that’s also a front-runner is equality.  i am a nut case for equality, not only for women but for the marginalized in any-way-shape-or-form. part of our responsibility as Christ-followers, in my opinion, is to practice equality in radical, tangible ways. we should be the most equal, free and brave people in town instead of the most hierarchical, oppressive, and fearful.

and if you know me in real life, well, you know i also like the word “practice.” (see, i’ve already used it about three times in this post!).  this crazy life Jesus calls us to is risky and scary and hard and won’t drop out of the sky. we’ll have to risk our hearts to bravely try new ways to get to new places together.

yeah, friendship & equality & practice are all mixed up together.

“the church”, the wild & beautiful body of Christ, is supposed to be the best reflection of God’s image.

when i look around at relationships in church on the whole, i see very few real equal & meaningful friendships between men & women that are pure & free & true.  whether it’s conscious or unconscious, men and women tend to be segregated and mix mainly at a superficial or practical level.

i am so glad that there is some movement being made in the area of equality in the church, and i do think there’s a lot more attention being paid by some to ensure that women are included in leadership in new ways and important voices aren’t missing. that’s awesome. but the reality is that inclusion isn’t the same as friendship.

friendship means relationship.

real relationship where we know and love each other beyond just superficialities. where we connect at a human heart level. where we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. where we learn what it means to submit to one another. where we give and receive.

i am so grateful to be part of a team and a faith community that values cross-gender friendships. we don’t really talk about it a lot, but what we try to do is live it out as best we can. we practice being friends, men & women together, as a natural part of life together.  it’s messy. it’s bumpy.

it’s hard sometimes, not because we’re men & women, but because intimacy and connection and community and life together is hard no matter who is involved.

i don’t think we can ever dismiss how segregated we have become as people.  we’ve been taught to guard our hearts, focus on tasks, and put programs or goals over relationship. it’s easier & safer & more efficient.  it’s scary to engage in meaningful relationship, men & women together, especially when we’ve been taught that it’s not possible and too dangerous of territory to tread.

one of the things i am most grateful for are the brave men and women i know who recognize that we will never be equal one with another unless we can first be friends.  i think we can talk about equality and make room the table in new ways, but nothing will radically change until the rubber meets the road and we begin practicing true blue friendship with each other.

that is what will break down walls and build new bridges and pave the way for real equality.

it will reflect diffused power & mutual submission & a space for love to reign instead of fear.

the road to equality is paved with friendship.  

when men & women learn how to be friends, everything changes. power shifts. healing happens. the image of God is more deeply reflected. freedom comes. we taste a bit of heaven on earth, here and now.

God, help us boldly practice what it means to live in real & true & equal friendship with one another so that we can break down walls & reflect your beautiful ways.  

* * * * *

other bloggers writing about cross-gender friendships today, too: