I was going through one of the most painful experiences a mama could ever encounter. It had been a week of bad news that hit closer to home than any mom would ever want. But, that night I was supposed to meet with our church family to hear an announcement about a new team member.
I walked in and immediately felt the distance in this house. I realized by the awkward hugs and distance people kept from me when they sat down, that they were aware of what our family was going through and didn't know how to respond. I steeled myself to be there, to be present and to celebrate the new church staff member.
What I wasn't prepared for was the way this new team member was announced. The room went quiet, the lights went out and the video screen warmed up.
The well known (to the church) character came on the screen. He's often used in a parody and embodies the antithesis of a Jesus follower. I immediately wondered what this character (we'll call him 'Tom' for the sake of this post) had to do with this night. The scene is set. It's a dark room and Tom is sitting in a chair and begins to introduce the new team member, a woman. The video is set up as an interview, but instead of the woman's chair being across from his, it is behind him. Tom's back is facing the woman. The woman is escorted out with a bag over her head, a black bag.
I begin to shake on the inside.
The bag is removed and the interview begins.
"So, what qualifies you for this job anyway?" Tom asks. "Changing diapers?"
I sit on my hands, my blood begins to boil.
The interview went on in the same vein. She's eventually moved closer to the camera only for Tom to continue, "What nationality are you anyway?" he flippantly asks.
"Filipino, I'm part Filipino," she awkwardly answers, shifting in her seat.
I can't believe what I'm hearing or seeing.
"God, I'm seriously about to flip over some tables, but this room is obviously aware of what our family is going through and if I do, I will be seen as an "emotional" woman. I will discredit the injustice for the sheer fact I'm a woman."
I have a bit of an out of body experience as I watch the room roaring with laughter. Both men and women are doubled over laughing at the skit on the screen. I can't believe...the women are laughing. They don't even look uncomfortable. "God, they've bought into the narrative. They don't see a problem with this."
The lights come back on and the pastor announces the young woman's name and invites her to come up.
I have never been more ashamed of my family as I was at that moment.
We had just participated in an outright mockery of who this woman was and was made to be...a woman, created in the image of the Almighty.
I wanted to run up and cover her, apologize to her, whisk her out of that room. Instead, I sat frozen on my hands, shaking with rage and knowing, because of the week we had faced, I could do nothing.
Home is typically a place where a family resides together, a safe place, a place where you are known.
House is typically used to reference the "House of God", a place where His people come together to be a family. A place where we should acknowledge that we are all created in the image of God, both male and female. A place where honoring one another should be a given, the norm.
Dwelling is a term used in the Bible for a place where His Presence resides. Yahweh longed to be with creation, He fashioned the ultimate dwelling place, Eden, a place of beauty where both man and woman could walk with Him in the cool of the evening, fully seen, enjoying the company of one another. In that space, banishment wasn't even a thought in His mind, communion was everything.
I was raised in the Church. My earliest memories are of baptismals, tambourines and sitting in hard, wooden pews, drawing on the weekly program. My dad was a preacher man and so we were often at church more than at home and our community was found in its four walls. This was our family and our activities and schedules were crafted around them. I'm sure many of you have found your church home becomes your family as well, your place where you feel seen and known.
But, what happens when your House no longer feels like a Home. When the place where He longs to Dwell has lost its beauty, its kindness, its innocence and has replaced those with utilitarian spaces filled with mockery and power plays?
The video going around with John MacArthur calling for Beth Moore to "Go Home!" gave space for my own experiences with churches to come rushing to the forefront of my mind. I understand his command was one meant to belittle Beth and send her back to her "place" as a woman, in a domesticated surrounding, baking bread, barefoot, pregnant in the kitchen, trust me, I see it! But, this idea of Home, House, Dwelling goes so much deeper for me and honestly, hits home.
When God came on the scene, before anything, He was I AM. Then in Genesis 1, the curtain pulled back and He introduced Himself as Creator. He spent five days setting the scene, building the foundations, tweaking the lights, adding sound and rhythm and layers, upon layers of textures and fragrances to be both seen and felt. Can you imagine as an artist, having every resource at your disposal to imagine a world and then have the ability to create it? Our Creator didn't erect concrete walls, install fluorescent lights dangling from chains, with Kuerig coffee and well-branded signs to greet us in Eden. He didn't dress Gabriel and his army in orange Home Depot like aprons with the word "greeter" in bold, black letters at the entrance to the garden. Nor did He have the animals and angels rehearse their song by putting earbuds in their ears to follow His prearranged track. And when He created Adam, He didn't leave him to his own devices but recognized right away his need for a partner. Eve was fashioned out of the same God-breathed dust as her husband.
So, God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
Our Dad, spent time and attention to detail to create a Home in which we would dwell with Him. He designed us for transparent, honest, relationship.
When I meditate on this, my heart beats faster and I find myself longing to be in that place with Him.
But, when I look back at the trail of tears in my own life, with my own family, I grieve. I grieve for my losses. I've lost countless friends who I called family. I've lost places where I found healing and restoration. I've, at times, lost hope. I've had to say goodbye to memories with firm doors shut at my back. I've lost house after house, as often these losses require a move to different places.
And yet...I love my family! This family that God has given me, His bride, His Church, it's in my DNA, she's in my blood.
And yet...I grieve for all of those the Church as rejected or abandoned. I hurt for those who have been mocked, shunned, belittled and betrayed.
I've heard the excuse made, "The Church is imperfect, for it's full of human beings." True. But, does this have to be the excuse we make for bad behavior? What happened to basic characteristics like honor and kindness?