A “Nasty Woman” and the Enneagram

“What a Nasty Woman!”

This is what we get called when our need for truth-telling outweighs our need for approval.  When the anger, passion and injustice flood over the dam of societal convention that dictates women are to be small, quiet, uncomplicated and, above all, pleasant.

Why is that the first insult leveled at a woman who dares to step out in front and call a spade a spade, or, as in the case of a Mayor Cruz of San Juan, Puerto Rico, a disaster a disaster?   If the Mayor of San Juan were a man, you know the narrative would be different. Just that one word, nasty, has the power to denigrate both a woman’s character and physicality. It is a uniquely misogynistic insult and an unlikely feminist rallying cry.

But a rallying cry it has become.  Embracing your inner “Nasty woman” has been for a while the preserve of the third-wave feminist. Worn with a pink knitted hat, the nasty woman T-shirt is practically a 21st century feminist uniform, declaring opposition to the patriarchal put down in the most elemental way. But what if we, women who don’t fully identify with all the causes of a secular feminist movement, and yet full of vim and vinegar as many of us are, embrace it too?  What does it mean to let the world fully see us? How much better will the world, and yes, even the church, be served when we use our voices and our gifts to full effect.

This is part of my journey in rediscovering my identity. The inner work of shaking off outer conformity requires me to look full into the face of the nasty woman inside. The woman who is loud, opinionated, and often angry in a culture that idolizes the quiet, submissive and gentle woman.  The woman who comes out as a 7 and 8 on the Enneagram; Types exclusively reserved for my Brothers in Christ.  The woman who is ENTJ on Myers Briggs, and DI on the DISC test.

For almost a decade, I have lived in the heart of Bible Belt society, I have learned the ways, tried to conform (mostly unsuccessfully), have thrown myself into “approved” activities and groups, but at every turn, I find that nasty woman rising up and challenging. Not challenging Jesus, but challenging a culture that many small ways (and some large ways) seems to say;

” A good woman would be quiet. An excellent woman would prefer caring for her family over speaking out over injustice. A woman is for the home, for the family, for her husband.  The men don’t need your voice.  Quiet, dear, the men are talking! Isn’t it enough for you to raise Godly children? Be satisfied with your lot. Don’t complicate it, the system is for your good. Be pleasant, that is how you win influence”

And herein lies the rub, most of those things aren’t inherently bad… and if you are reading this, you don’t need me to point out the egregiously misogynistic ones.  But what those voices say, over and over to me is that I am not good, or excellent, or satisfied!

These voices declare that the very nature of me, which, to quote the Enneagram “exemplifies the desire for freedom and variety and for exploring the many rich experiences that life offers. Thus, they are probably the most enthusiastic, extroverted, and outgoing type of the Enneagram….Eights are assertive and passionate about life, meeting it head on with self-confidence and strength. They have learned to stand up for themselves and have a resourceful, “can-do” attitude. They are determined to be self-reliant and free to pursue their own destiny. ” … is unacceptable, is nasty.

I know I am not alone in this.  I also know that this is not everyone’s experience, but in the interest of being a truth-teller, I will risk the inevitable censure of my peers to offer a hand of solidarity to the younger ones coming after me and to say, “Here I am.”

To you, my sweet younger sisters, I say,

“Come, let’s be whole together. Let’s battle and explore and fight injustice. Let’s discover and share and teach, because the world needs you. The world needs your voice, your passion, your creativity and your compassion.  The world is not served by your shrinking but by your blooming into the fullness of the fierce warrior you are created to be!”

Join me

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Stepping into the Certain “Yes”. (A Story in Stages cont’d)

(Let’s start at the beginning)

It is 22 years, 1 month and 25 days since I met my Redeemer, my Certain “Yes” among all the maybes, my Home, my Treasure, the One who gives my life purpose. 22 years is a long time, and all together no time at all.

I am, at my core, still that wild, independent, passionate girl who first encountered her Life in an ancient worship-drenched building on a rainy Sunday in Oxford.  I still long for the same things. I yearn for significance, for a life well lived that matters, a life that serves greatly and leaves this beautiful place better than I found it.

From that first day of redemption, walking along with Jesus has revealed over and over how He has crafted us for lives of service. The long, low, slow work of living Kingdom soaked lives that transforms us and the world around us. The low way of Jesus is a paradox of power under control, of love in the face of indifference, of presence in an age of distraction.

Following Jesus will lead you into places where you are ill-equipped, where dependence on Him is your only resource. When you let His desire to let Light shine in the darkest of places, He will join you to the shadows for you to dispel darkness in His Name.

I can almost hear you saying, “Yeah, yeah, but seriously, what does that look like?  How much darkness does he expect us to take? I mean, aren’t we promised life abundant? Where does that part come in?”

I can only respond with my story.

As those insatiable first days of heady gorging began to wane, a restlessness grew in my soul.  A deep knowledge that there were those for whom the banquet was no more than a myth, a fairy story at best, a weapon used to shame and humiliate at worst.  As I was filled up, I began to search for a way to release that which I had been so lavishly given.  For me, a born nomad, this meant the first of many moves, the beginning of a wandering life spanning almost a decade and three continents, 11 homes and uncounted plane rides.

Southampton, the first port of call for this wandering girl, drew me to her. Looking back I can’t really remember how I got there, the city just kind of seeped into my soul as the next step.  Initially without a clear direction, I enrolled in university, as much to keep the parental freak-out to a minimum as anything. There I made great, lifelong friends, played lacrosse, sometimes, and learned to walk in my newfound life.  I joined Southampton Community Church, and showed up, a lot.  Known as Sublime, the student group packed out the church weekly, spilling out of the ancient Central Hall into the city bars, pubs and clubs to invite, to gather, to show Love to a city lost to itself. Monthly we gathered for worship led by Martin Smith and his Cutting Edge Band. We learned how to lean in to the Presence in worship. We danced. We prayed for hours. We longed for depth and Presence.

As I soaked in the Presence of God the pull of my old life began to fade and I began to discover the purpose of a life poured out at the feet of my Beloved. The erstwhile values of “usefulness” and “qualifications” began to fade as I looked deep into the eyes of the One who loved me, wholly, knowing all and declaring More over me. The more I looked deep, the more I meditated on the Words of Life, the less the BA in Marketing I was ostensibly pursuing seemed to be on my path.  My path, once again deviating from the expected, seemed to lead through the deep dark woods, out of the sunshine of societal approval and normalcy and into a dangerous land of uncertainty.

Uncertainty in the eyes of a results driven world is dangerous. We are foolish to squander opportunity. Childish naïveté will lead to destruction, the voices tell us.  Tow the line. Do the expected, be secure, be safe, be normal.

Uncertainty reflected in the eyes of the Certain “Yes” is joyous adventure.   We are wise to drop everything and follow the way of our Servant Saviour. Childish joy leads to discovery, the Living Word tells us. Follow Him. Challenge the expected, be redeemed, be brave, be abnormal.

The Certain “Yes” became my path.  His proclamation over me that he has called me to “preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives” became my identity.   A community of the brave, redeemed and expectant formed in a Year of Training program. We dug in with mentors whose wisdom and words were deeply watered into the dry soil of our souls. Mentors whose words became my roots, my foundation, and ultimately, my wings.   A dozen young men and women from all over Europe were gathered, drenched in Jesus and then sent out; a rag-tag group of no-count servants, with the Certain “Yes” blazing in our souls.

I still remember the fiery passion with which we embarked on our Journeys. The sent-out ones, the ones for whom the Word was enough. The ones with the Certain “Yes” blazing in our souls.

20 years is a long time, and all together no time at all.

… To be continued…

 

 

A Symphony of Worship.

Is there a “right” way to “do church”?  What are the non-negotiable elements of Christo-centric worship? There are thousands upon thousands of pages of erudition directed at these questions and I shall not try to duplicate them here.  Instead I want to challenge the assumption that there can even be “right” way.  I want to draw our conversation away from theory and ask ourselves if we should even be placing ourselves in that seat of judgment?

We have all heard accusations leveled at churches that express themselves differently than us;

“They are entrenched in cultural practices that are not reproducible.”

“Liturgical services are bound in traditions that oppress and stifle worship…”

“The X church is just an institution propping up a dead religion that hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.”

“Worship by rote isn’t authentic, it is lifeless and cold…”

“They are too loud, too relevant, not solemn enough …”

“They are idolatrous, with all that gold and tapestry and incense…”

Most of us, if we are honest, have said things like this. I know I have.

It grieved the Holy Spirit when I besmirched His beloved Bride with words full of spite in the name of “objectivity”, when I participated in the evisceration of His Church to further an ideology or preference. It grieves me to recall my words, words flowing from a judgmental heart and critical spirit.

Because, Beloved, we are created One in Him. He has made us holy. He has declared us righteous, not by our own acts of observance but by His beautiful Sacrifice, and when we lose sight of that, when we decry our differences as divisions, we lose a part of ourselves.

I have belonged to, grown in and loved many different expressions of this wondrous Bride of Christ. I have been blessed by the richness this has afforded me in my walk with the Lord.  The ability to worship him in many streams has kept me alive in some of the deepest valleys of life. But, in my reflecting over these past years, I have found myself distressed by one commonality across all streams; that we, the body of Christ, seem to be unable to love the way we do things without denigrating other preferences. We default to the position that the way we express our adoration to our King, is the way, the best, the most Godly, the most theologically correct.

 “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Galatians 5: 14-15

The problem this presents, for a unified, beloved Bride of Christ, is that, rather than celebrating the beautiful symphony that God is creating and perfecting in us, we insist that the section in which we sit is the most important.  Insisting that only woodwind is worshipful, and that the oboe is obsolete, the trumpet is too traditional, the triangle is superfluous at best, downright ridiculous at worst, may reflect our passion in our pursuit but, ultimately, it causes us to lose sight of our greater purpose.  Our problem is one of perspective, for we cannot hear the fullness of the sound to which we are contributing. We are perfecting our part and will not experience the full symphony until we are around the throne of Heaven, and yet, each instrument, under the direction of a master conductor, contributes to the full expression of the sound the Composer has intended from the very beginning.

Perhaps we should not take another’s endorsement of a particular style or stream so personally?  What if it isn’t about us? What if, instead, we ask our King for His vision, for His desire for our communities? Would we then be more willing to experience the breadth of the body without feeling threatened?

You see, I adore loud congregational worship, hundreds of people singing their loudest and most ardent praises to God fills my soul with fire and joy. Yet, paradoxically, I choose to worship in a liturgical setting. I choose to still my soul to the rhythm of sacred words, to recite aloud the goodness of God, to pray in the communion and bring my sin to the cross before I approach the banqueting table. Life is loud, clamoring for attention and my soul cries out for stillness, for space to listen to the still small voice of God. I need the rhythm and stillness that a liturgy provides.  I need to be reminded to come to the table with a heart refreshed by repentance.  I need very little encouragement to jump and shout and sing!

In this season, he is leading me into still waters, rooted in a liturgy that runs deep and nourishes my soul.  Where is he leading you and how can we play our parts together as fellow members of the beautiful symphony which only Jesus could conduct?