what women want: to know your box stifles me.

On Fridays, I have opened my space to feature short essays by women about what they want from the Church. The guidelines are wide, purposefully, inviting either an answer to the question itself or to argue for a better question altogether. These essays have been curated for quality, not for content, and not all views expressed are necessarily my own. It is my hope that these posts are beginning places, that you will be sent on to spend time with the words of these women in their own spaces and houses of expression, and they have been asked to interact with you in the comments. (I'll be less active there, accordingly.) Many thanks to my good friend Preston Yancey for beginning this series.

I want you to know that I fit into your traditional box.

I am a traditionally feminine woman, a fact of which I am proud. I like dresses and pearl necklaces and “girly” things. I love to bake and be in the kitchen. I love small children and many other things generally related to motherhood and traditional femininity. I want to be a wife and I want to be a mother more than I want a career and I have no problem letting men do most of the leading. Not much about my natural personality breaks the traditional gender roles.

So I want you to know that I fit into your traditional box, but I am so much more than that.

I love the kitchen, but that is not my only place. That is not the only place you will see me come alive with my gifts and talents. 

You will see me come alive at the screen of a computer or a desk with paper in hand, as I pour out words that share the heart of our Father with this broken world. You will see me come alive at the front of a congregation, as I lead them in worship through song or dance. You will see me come alive at the table of a coffee shop, as I dig deep into the nitty gritty of real life in real relationships. You will see me come alive on a sandy beach, as I dig my toes in the sand and behold the splendor of our majestic God. You will see me come alive in broken places with broken people, as I wrestle with the tension between the goodness of God and the pain of our present circumstance. You will see me come alive in places you think I should be and in places you don’t want me to go.

We like to compartmentalize things. It makes them easier to deal with -- less complicated, less unruly. 

You want to find the box I fit in and keep me there, because life with boxes isn’t as messy. You want to put me into a traditionally feminine box and tie me up with a bow, because much of my personality fits your idea of a “good Christian woman.” You want to put some of my sisters into another box, labeled “defiant” or “different” or “dangerous.” You want to put some of my brothers into a box like mine, one where you keep the men who fit your idea of “Biblical masculinity.” You want to put some of my other brothers into another box, pushed back on a shelf with my “different” sisters, hidden away because they don’t fit the mold you made for them and different is uncomfortable and intimidating.

I want you to know that part of me will fit into your box, but when you put me in that box, another part of me feels stifled. The part of me that is loud, boisterous, and opinionated, that is stubborn and sometimes defiant, that is passionate and exuberant, that refuses to only stand behind you, that wants to stand with you -- the part of me that isn’t a “gentle and quiet spirit” will not fit in the box you wanted to put me in.

You can put me in a box if you want, but know that I’ll be there by myself, because no one else fits into my box unless you stifle part of them.

I want you to let me breathe and let my sisters breathe, too.

Do not put us into a box, no matter how well you think we fit. Do not resign us to one place, because that’s where we’re “supposed” to be. Do not ignore our opinion or our contribution or our heart because it doesn’t fit your prescription for what women should do in the Church.

Let me be me as I let you be you. Let me be who I am outside of your box, for any box will stifle me, no matter how well you think it’s tailored to who I am. Let me love and serve and teach and preach and share and worship and be exactly who God has called me to be, whether it fits into a box or not.    

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Sarah is a storyteller and bookworm with a deep affection for classic literature, big sunglasses, and Coke slurpees. She is passionate about digging deep and living life in community. She smiles big, laughs loud, and loves having dance parties in the middle of the kitchen. She hails from the DC metro area and writes about faith, life, and relationships over at sarahannehayes.com. You can also find her on Twitter @sarahannehayes.

Posted on April 4, 2014 .