If you drop in here often at all, you must have picked up that I think my wife Miska is the most stunning, mysterious, rich, earthy, wise, drop-dead gorgeous woman I know. She’s amazing. Really. Recently, a friend of ours emailed both of us about our views of gender roles (the egalitarian/complementarian debate – interesting that conservative evangelicals and catholics are the prime communities where these sorts of debates happen. Strange bedfellows, huh?). Miska’s answer was way better than mine. She is a spiritual director who has a particular love for issues of gender. She’s spent much of her work in the early pages of Genesis, and these questions get her mind and her heart fully engaged. I wanted to share with you some of her response because I found it to be so wise and full of life, so full of Good News:
Itâ€™s a little disheartening to me to look at the mountain of â€œevidenceâ€ each side of the issue has, to know that many, many people have thought through this and not come to any real conclusion that feels satisfactory to me.
But here are my random thoughts when I step away from the dividing lines of the argument: I believe that God created male and female both in His image and that each gender reflects His heart and image uniquely and meaningfully.  Jesusâ€™ response to women in the Gospels was always one that invited women to speak, to act, to be. (A great book on this is The Feminine Soul by Janet Davis.)  Whenever the Church or a church teaches something about women that makes women feel less than or devalued, whatever that church is saying is anti-Gospel.  However, when we as women are asserting ourselves out of a posture of greediness, out of trying to prove ourselves, out of plain and simple rebellionâ€”grasping–this is not the Gospel way either. Among other things, when we live out of this posture, we are getting in the way of who the men in our lives are called to be, and we let them off the hook, so to speak. In other words, we make it easy for them to back down, to avoid (their tendency since the Fall), instead of calling them to move into their worlds with strength and power. I wonder if this is what Paul was talking about when he said the women needed to be silent in the church. . .  Since masculine and feminine are inter-dependent on one another and created in the image of the Trinity, we are to submit to one another (just as each member of the Trinity submits to the other members). I think this would be an easier concept for us as women if we hadnâ€™t been beaten down by men throughout history, donâ€™t you? Weâ€™re afraid of getting lost again, of being dominated and silenced and trampled over. And in our fear, we say with fists raised high, â€œNever again.â€ Oh dear. We need to listen to Jesus say, â€œThe way youâ€™ve been treated is wrong and evil and was never my intention. You are deeply loved and valued. What you offer this world through your femininity is profound.â€ Etc. And then we can settle down into who we areâ€”different but equally valuable as men. (C.S. Lewis has some interesting things to say in That Hideous Strength about this in the context of marriage. Itâ€™s not at all the focus of the book, but he throws out some great tidbits.)  I think churches should be open-handed in the way they deal with this issue (is that wishful thinking?), deeply valuing what both men and women have to offer, what they both have to say, mindful that each gender is necessary to provide a fuller picture of Godâ€™s heart. I also think it comes down to each individual man and woman and what God is truly calling them to and how He is truly calling them to serve in His body.
Well, I know these are a little jumbled (sorry about that). I guess the bottom line for me is that I donâ€™t think this issue can simply be divided into either complementarian or egalitarian. I wonder if it can be both. . .