Sweating my way up another hill at triathlon practice, I look for some words to encourage me through another 100 degree weather workout. Hebrews 12:1-3 did it for me last week. But for some reason this week, all I can think about is my beef with Paul. As sweat pours down my face, stride lengthening, face gritting in commitment to make it around the course one more time, pace faster now, I hear the words of Paul (while eschewing many voices of Christian guys saying, “Yeah! Paul was the man!” To which I want to respond, “Actually, I kinda think Jesus was.”) reminding me that I “should” be quiet and submissive, of a gentle spirit, a minion of propriety. Clearly, Paul, it’s hard to be gentle when I’m attacking a sprint track workout or attending Wednesday night kickboxing classes. I was reminded of the times he’d said that I need to “ask men for permission to speak in the church” and “that I cannot teach another man.” Paul’s haunting voice leaks into my brain, telling me that I “am the weaker vessel” (1 Peter) and that I should “have a gentle and quiet spirit” (hardly the huffing and puffing being exerted by the breath in my lungs). I hear his voice telling me to call my husband “master” (1 Peter 6). And finally, as I make it up my final hill, legs sprinting, sweat dripping from every oriface of my body, haven taken enough of this oppressive, hurtful, demeaning “man of God” echo repugnant remarks in my head any longer that who I am is less than a male, I echoed a deep, guttural, grit-your-teeth, “SUCK IT!” to Paul.
No one watching me could hear any of this, but I’m sure they could tell something inside of me was growing because I was running faster now, and I clinched my teeth and I gritted by face as if to say no one will make me believe I am less, believe I am somehow living “out of God’s will” by believing that I can be a STRONG vessel for GOOD in this world. For being able to encourage someone, be it a man, woman, or transgender. That I am “wrong” for learning karate and muay thai at the gym last night, where instructors gave us unspoken permission, in fact, encouragement to make our kicks a little more forceful, make our uppercuts that much more powerful. Aggressive? Heck yeah! There’s a time and place for that, be in gym, track, water or field…
It felt soooo good to address the innocuous childhood Melissa, too afraid to actually tell a character in the Bible to “suck it.”
And then, Jesus, the voice of reason, pops in my head.
“You know, Melissa, I understand that you find Paul’s words to be oppressive, and hateful. [Maybe because they actually are!?] but writing “SUCK IT, Paul!” in your Bible is not exactly the idea of ‘loving your neighbor’ I had in mind…”
I felt like a little kid, moping his head, much like when a parent catches a child doing something wrong, like picking on his little sister, and going, “ok fiiiiine, I shouldn’t have said that.”
I don’t think it’s fair that a woman should have to read about all the ways in which she should comport herself to fit a passive, gentle, dare I say WIMPY modus operandi, while a man can read anything he wants in the Bible and not feel one bit averse to anything he’s being instructed on how to live his life.
At the end of the day, I realize it’s a bit childish to tell people to “suck it!” but when you’re running up a hill hearing “holy” voices of “respected” “hall of faith Saints” trying to minimize you, I’m ok with bellowing my disapproval. In fact, I’m becoming fearless in confronting the parts of scripture that directly interfere with who Jesus has shown I am. And who does Jesus say I am?
I am a a conquerer, a co-heir with Christ.
In Him, I am strong and can do all things.
In him, I am loved, irrespective of gender.
In Him, I am equal at the foot of the cross.
And in him, I am madly, ardently, profusely forgiven.
…Even when I say “suck it.”