How I Became an Egalitarian: Finally

This is Part 12 of a series that began here.

At this point, to call ourselves egalitarians seemed like a big step, and we were not ready.

It was not until Sam and I attended an international conference put on by Christians for Biblical Equality that everything really changed.  We had come across this organization as we were researching various Bible passages (they have some great articles, available for free!), and, through various God-maneuverings, found ourselves attendees at the CBE conference.

During the conference, we heard from many scholars from the podium and had opportunities to talk to them during mealtimes.  It was affirming to see men and women, who had dedicated their lives to being pastors and theologians, interpreting the Scriptures the way that we had finally concluded.  I remember feeling such an amazement that this was real!   All I had been suspecting all along because of the way God called and blessed my obedience in ministry — it was really true, after all.   It wasn’t all in my head.  It wasn’t wishful thinking.  It wasn’t heretical teaching.  I felt like a caged bird that was finally set free.

Through CBE, we made many wonderful, real-life connections with those who were walking with Jesus with egalitarian convictions.  One such egalitarian couple, who have been married for a few decades, were the proof in the pudding that we needed to live out an egalitarian marriage.   It helped, too, that Pastor Dora as well as one of my best friends (Pam) were there and had been walking the journey with us simultaneously.  We walked away from that conference declaring, finally, that we are egalitarians.

And in life, when you find something wonderful, you want to share it with the world.  I shared with my world by blogging some of our journey.  Rather than being a declarative testimony or celebration, this resulted in some debates and heated discussions among long-time friends and mere acquaintances.  The end result was discovering who was in agreement with us and who were not.  I was so appreciative and encouraged by friends who held similar stances and convictions.  However, with those who were not in agreement, wounds were made that ran so deep, friendships were lost in those days.  Some of these friends stopped talking to me.  Some withdrew their respect for me and my ministry.  It is hard for me to capture how devastating these losses have been for me, except to say that it still impacts me to this day.  I found myself withdrawing from authenticity in my blogging and shielding my true heart and self in real life.  Being an egalitarian had meant gaining freedom, but it had also meant a great deal of loss for me.

In many ways, writing this series has been my way of coming out of hiding — of accepting the losses with the gains, of standing with the truth that I believe in, and of embracing all that has happened in my life up to now and all that God is leading me towards.

Click here to read the final entry in the series.


How I Became an Egalitarian: Marital Strife

This is Part 11 in a series that began here.

The Bible study on 1 Timothy 2 and its sequel on Genesis 2 and 1 Corinthians 11 pretty much blew everything out of the water for Sam and me.  After the first study, we came home and had a long discussion about it.  At first, we were united in how we marveled over the way Pastor Dora had opened God’s word to us.  We asked evaluative questions like, “Could this be true?  How come we never saw these passages like this before?”  But because it had really felt like she opened God’s word to us — the conclusions were so logical and clear — those questions sprung more out of awe than disbelief.  We knew, though, that accepting it meant facing the “now what?” question.  Sam and I both knew that “now what” meant restructuring everything we had believed and understood about gender roles.  We were on the precipice of a great upheaval.

As we discussed the Bible study, Sam shared that from his earlier experience on the mission field, he could agree with women teaching, but to have full authority as pastor — that was another story.  When he articulated that thought, I got angry.  I felt personally offended, though I did not understand why fully at that time (since my understanding of my calling was still clouded).

Our conflicted opinions propelled me to get to the bottom of it all.  I got out of bed that night and started studying the passage again.  Sure, this is what Pastor Dora had helped us realize, but is there really support for all of this?  Did other Christian scholars come to the same conclusion?  Somehow, he and I both knew that our whole gender role paradigm hinged on this passage.  If it was true that Paul was not prohibiting women from teaching and having authority, then it could also mean that God made men and women to be image-bearers of equal value and worth.  The implication would be that males were not superior or more spiritual than females and nor were they to be at the top of a hierarchical pyramid.

So we began to dig into this passage as well as others.  Every day, I would read scholarly journal articles about these passages, and every night, Sam and I would hash it all out.  The conversations were sometimes calm and rational and sometimes heated with high emotions.   It was hard work to keep pushing to come to an agreement on these passages — a little like rolling out dough or scrubbing out the burn marks in a pot — but we knew we had to resolve this issue.   And so we talked and debated over the issue for days and weeks and months.

The more we read and the more we talked about it, the more it became clear what the Bible was really saying.  The Spirit gives gifts according to how he chooses.  God calls people based on who he has gifted, and that giftedness is not based on gender.  Both men and women can be called to be pastors, teachers, preachers, and evangelists.

We also explored the Ephesians 5 passage on marriage, in depth (Here is the series I wrote on this passage).  Our conclusion there was that marriage is a partnership between two equals.  Submission is not a command for just the wife but the husband as well.  We submit to one another as we are submitted to Christ.  We realized as we studied the passage that we had been under the misguided belief that the husband was to be the spiritual leader.  The Bible never teaches this.  The Bible never teaches that I had to bury vision that God had revealed, just because he had revealed it to me and not Sam.  Instead, the Bible teaches that the Spirit has been poured out to both men and women.  As Christians, both men and women have the ability to hear from God and to lead out what they have heard.  In  marriage, wives don’t need to take the backseat.

Where there is Truth, there is freedom.  Where there is the Spirit, there is freedom.  And Sam and I felt, for the first time in our marriage, true freedom.  Gone was any strife that we had been feeling because we had been trying to fit a prescribed mold of marital roles.  And gone, at last, was the strife from needing to hash out these passages.

But were we ready to call ourselves egalitarians?  And what would be the implications?

Click here for the next part in the series.

a break from the series

I’m taking a break from my series this week, as my grandfather passed away this past weekend.

Below are just some thoughts I’ve gathered during this time.

Another Grief Observed

When someone dies,
they leave an empty space forever.
When someone dies,
they leave a hole that can never be filled.

Grief ebbs and flows like the ocean’s tides.
It peaks and wanes like the ocean’s waves.

If you keep busy,
you sometimes forget that you’ve lost
something irrecoverable.

Grief feels like someone pumped your heart
with a sack of cement —
why does it feel so heavy?

Grief feels like your heart
detached itself from your body
and is running miles away opposite from you.
On and on it runs.

But grief feels lighter in the light of God.
Grief feels cradled when brought before God.
Grief has a chance to heal when observed before God.

Observed —
not neglected,
not ignored,
not glossed over,
not moved on from it.

But observed,
felt deeply in the heart.

So let the tide come in
and the oceans rise.
Be still, oh busy world!
and wait for me, my heart.

Let grief come in
that it may flow out.

How I Became an Egalitarian: Third Encounter with 1 Tim 2:12

This is Part 10 in a series that started here.

One evening, a small group of friends gathered together at the home of Pastor Dora Wang.  The idea for the study came about from Pam’s conversations with her about the debate over women in ministry.  That night, Pastor Dora led us through a study of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, based on her six years of doctoral research at Westminster Seminary.  Below you will find my write-up from the notes I took from that Bible study.  Feel free to skip to the conclusion first if you don’t have time to read everything right now.

1 Timothy 2:12 says, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

The WOMAN – What do we know about the women who are being referred to in these verses? To understand the background, we need to examine the literary context, i.e. use the surrounding Scripture to help us. We can learn more about these women and the men of this time in Ephesus by looking at the rest of 1 Timothy.

  • 1 Ti 2:9, “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.”
  • 1 Ti 5:11, “As for younger widows…when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry…”
  • 1 Ti 5:13, “Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.”
  • 1 Ti 5:14-15, “So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.”
  • 2 Ti 3:6-7, “They (they = false teachers) are the kind who worm their way into the homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”

OBSERVATIONS: From these verses, we can make observations that the women were rich (because they wore expensive clothes), they cared about their looks, and some of their actions were not decent or proper (and that is why Paul needs to exhort them to be decent). Some of them were young widows. Most of them were idle and had nothing to do; they went from house to house to spread gossip, slander, and false teaching. These women were “loaded down with sins” “swayed by all kinds of evil desires.”  They had influence on others as they went from house to house spreading false teaching.

FALSE TEACHERS: The issue at hand is the false teaching.  Let’s take a look at more of the false teaching in this book.

  • 1 Ti 1:3-4, “As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.”
  • 1 Ti 1:6-7, “Some have…turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”
  • 1 Ti 4:1-3, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons… They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods.”
  • 1 Ti 6:3-5, “If anyone teaches false doctrines…he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malcicious talk…and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”
  • 2 Ti 3:6,8, “They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women…these men oppose the truth — men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned are rejected.”

OBSERVATIONS: These false teachers influenced both men and women.  However, it was the Ephesian women who were propagating and passing along the the false teaching.

The MEN: How do we know the men were also influenced?

  • 1 Ti 2:8, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.”
  • 1 Ti 6:20-21, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.”
  • 2 Ti 4:3, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

OBSERVATIONS: The men were every bit as influenced and swayed by false teaching as the women were. They were angry and engaged in a lot of heated debating and disputing, and godless chatter about the false knowledge that had come to them. Some wandered from the faith already.

FALSE TEACHING: Just what exactly was the false teaching about? We need to look at the historical context by studying more about how Ephesus is described at that time in the book of Acts.

  • Acts 19:23-32, “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: ‘Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. …see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia…There is danger…that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.’ When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’” Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized…Paul’s traveling companions…and rushed…into the theater…. The assembly was in confusion…”

OBSERVATIONS: The city of Ephesus was known for its worship of the goddess Artemis. From these verses, we know that the people did not want this new teaching about the Christ. The mob who rejected Paul and his companions were spurred on by Demetrius and other businessmen who feared losing their businesses in making shrines of Artemis. These verses depicting the angry mob, the fury, the uproar, and the chaos demonstrate how much so the worship of Artemis was saturated and interwoven into the culture and prosperity of Ephesus. The false teaching of the time was, therefore, most likely influenced by beliefs about Artemis. A Jewish scholar, Philo, said, “Without Eve, Adam would’ve never attained knowledge. She was the originator of life and light.” This distortion of the truth, influenced by ideas of Artemis, may be a good summary of the false teaching that the Christian men & women of Ephesus were being misled to believe at that time. This is the background to which Paul wrote, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

LEARN – a woman should learn. This is the key to this passage.  He wants them to learn, because they are not learned. They did not know or understand the correct biblical teaching and doctrines. In the context of the day, this is truly radical.  Culturally, women were not allowed to learn in the synagogues.  It was a privilege to learn, and Paul is saying “a woman should learn.” This is the only command in these verses (1 Ti 2:11-12).  (When Paul says later, “I do not permit a woman to teach,” this was not a command.)  In addition, Paul is saying that women should be allowed to study and learn and not be restrained from doing so.

QUIETNESS – in the Greek text (which was the language that the book was originally written in), the word for ‘quietness’ in verse 11 is the same word used for ‘silent’ in verse 12. We know that Paul does not mean that women ought to be completely silent because in 1 Cor. 11, Paul gives instructions to women for appropriate attire for prophesying, and prophesying means to speak and teach during worship in public.  Paul would not contradict himself. The word ‘quietness’ here refers to respect and not challenging or overturning doctrines.  This exhortation is mainly given due to fact that these women were not learned.

SUBMISSION – This submission is not a reference to the men or to their husbands but it is a reference to submitting to God.  Paul is referring to the women’s attitudes as learners — they should be humble, yielded and submitted to God as they learn (which ought to be true of men as well).

I DO NOT PERMIT – (This is not a command from Paul.) This phrase would be better translated, “I’m not permitting.” or “I’m not permitting at this time.” It is circumstantial and not meant to be for long-term. It is the same word used in Mt 19:8, “Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.’” When the situation changed, it could change. The situation at Moses’ time was ‘hardened hearts’. The situation during Paul’s time was women who were uneducated. Change of time results in change of permission. Divorce was not meant to be the rule for all time, nor was it for women to not teach.

TEACH OR TO HAVE AUTHORITY – The word “or” here in the Greek is not indicative of one-OR-the-other but rather it links the two words closely together, so it is more like “teach and have authority” – a conjunction.

AUTHORITY – The Greek word that Paul used here is a different type of “authority” than the one he uses repeatedly in his epistles (or in other words, letters). The Greek word here which has been translated “authority” in the English is only used once in the entire Bible, and that one time is here in this verse. In other words, the Greek word here was never used anywhere else in the Bible. It does not mean ‘authority’ in the way that we would normally think. In that day, in that culture, in that time, this word was used to mean “instigating crime/sin” “instigator of evil” and even “instigator of murder.”  Paul is therefore not permitting women to exert the kind of authority that is divisive or that leads others to sin (such as false teaching).

So here is a paraphrase of 1 Ti 2:11-12 in accordance with the above exegesis of these verses, “A woman should learn respectfully and in submission to God, not overturning the correct teachings and doctrines. I’m not permitting a woman to teach at this time (because she is not learned/does not have the right understanding of biblical and scriptural matters) or instigate evil over men (by spreading false doctrine).”

1 Timothy 2:13-15 “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing…”

FORMED – Because Adam was formed first, it is reasonable to assume that he had more time and experience relating with God and heard at least one more time (if not half a dozen more times) God’s command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, he had the advantage in being the one who was more taught and educated, so he was not as easily deceived. Eve, on the other hand, came second, so she had a little less ‘education’. This may be a reason that the serpent preyed on her first and the reason she got deceived and passed on the deception to Adam (who, by the way, was there during the deception but didn’t stop her! Gen 3:6).  The situation in Ephesus was similar. The women were less educated, so the false teachers preyed on the women, and used them to pass on the deception and propagate their lies. (Note, women did not come up with the false teaching. They only spread them.) This is what Paul was talking about here.

Challenges: This verse in conjuction with Gen 2:16-17 is often used to argue about the hierarchy of man over women based upon the order of creation (i.e. Adam was formed first).

  • The argument goes as follows: “God formed man first, then He spoke directly to man to command him not to eat of the tree, but it appears that he did not speak directly or tell the woman, and so therefore, ‘we’ are led to believe that man was to teach woman God’s ways.”
  • The counter-argument goes as follows: In Gen 3:2-3 after the serpent challenges Eve about what God did or did not say, she quotes what she heard God say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” In the Hebrew language, the “You” here is actually “You plural.” In other words, she is quoting God as saying, “You guys” or ”Y’all” or “You all” or “You both” (similar to the word “Ustedes” in Spanish) — the plural has been lost in the English translation. What is the implication? This possibly means that God spoke to the both of them and told both of them directly what his commands and rules are. Therefore, though man may have been formed before woman, God had direct relationship with both man and woman. He taught both directly. The argument that the man needs to teach the woman based on this verse is null or that he is above her in hierarchy based on this verse is also null.

SAVED – the word for ‘saved’ here in the Greek was also used in 2 Tim 4:18 in reference to ‘rescue’ from evil attack. The word here is used similarly to mean rescue and deliverance from false teaching and evil attack. In other words, Paul is saying that if the women live productive lives (by childrearing in their case – because childrearing at that time is equivalent to ‘have a successful job’ and ‘living a productive life’), then they will not be idle and will not go from house to house to spread false teaching. They will be saved and delivered from evil attack (from the false teachers).

Challenges: There are three possible arguments for Paul’s meaning in this verse about being saved through childbearing.

  1. Argument: Safety through childbirth. Unlikely because many godly women have hard labor.
  2. Argument: Saved (as in salvation) through Christ’s birth. Unlikely because the women addressed are already believers. Why would he tell them they could be saved through Christ’s birth if they continue in faith, love, etc.?
  3. Argument: Saved from sin and evil through accepting role of mom. This is likely the best option.  Childbearing and childrearing takes up all your time. Surely, this will rescue these women from being idle and from propagating evil and false teaching.

FINAL CONCLUSION and SUMMARY of 1 Timothy 2:11-15: Based on the above investigation, these verses are not a command from Paul that women must be silent in the churches and not-teach. It does not validate arguments that women cannot teach-and-have-authority over a man. Women were not permitted to teach at that time because they did not have the knowledge of correct doctrine. The implication is that Paul wanted them to learn it first, and then later, when they have learned, they could teach. Women can teach-and-have-authority over men (as we define it in the 21st century) because when Paul did not permit teaching-and-authority in the 1st century, his use of the word meant “do not be an instigator of evil”, not “do not exhort men to follow the Scriptures”. Thus, he did not mean that women cannot preach with authority over men in the way that we define authority in the twenty-first century.

Both women and men were created, in the beginning, to be equal image-bearers of God.  God spoke to and related with and taught and loved both of them equally. There was no hierarchy until after the fall of humanity to sin. In 1 Timothy, Paul was not telling women that they could not teach because they were second-rate in comparison to men.  Rather, he was telling women that they should take up their rightful place as disciples of Christ and learn the correct doctrines of the faith.  He was encouraging women to live productive lives and cease the propagation of evil that came from false teaching.  And at this particular time and on this particular occasion, Paul suggested that the way these first century Ephesian women could be saved and delivered from the evil of idleness and propagation of lies was through childbirth and childrearing.

To say that this Bible study was eye-opening is a gross understatement!

Click here to go to the next part in the series.

How I Became an Egalitarian: Married Life

This is Part 9 in a series that started here.

Married life was wonderful.  But it was also hard.  We loved being married to each other.  But there was also a lot to work out in terms of roles and responsibilities.

In those first few months as we hammered out how we wanted to do things in our marriage, we tried to remember our premarital counseling.  There were certain roles that we were taught.  I remember particularly that one day during our engagement period, the wife of our mentoring couple took me to Panera to address the fact that I am a strong leader.  She sympathized with me because she is a strong leader too, but she explained to me how wonderful it will be to yield to my husband and to allow him to lead me.  I wanted this kind of wonderful that she was painting for me, so I tried to emulate their marriage in our marriage.

Much of what our mentoring couple taught us corroborated with the message we heard from a marriage conference we had attended during our engagement period.  At this conference, they described the wife’s domain as the home and that her biblical calling in life is to take care of the home and the family.  This was her great gift.  A wife’s job is to make the home into a refuge for her husband, so that when he comes home from work, he could find restoration and refreshment from the battles that he faced in the world.

They gave some tips on how to create this haven for husbands when he comes home from work:

1.  Before your husband comes home, pick up around the house so that it is neat and orderly.
2.  Make sure to change out of your house-clothes into something presentable when your husband comes home (i.e. You don’t need him to see the spit-up from the baby on your clothes.  This would not be sexy or appealing to him).  Also, it won’t hurt to check the mirror and touch up your make-up as well.
3.  Make sure your children are tidy and clean.
4.  Be sure to make it a special event that your husband has arrived home.  Run to the door to welcome him with a hug and kiss.  Prompt the kids to welcome daddy home with great enthusiasm as well.

When we attended this conference, we came with a humble posture, eager to learn the secret to a healthy and successful Christian marriage.  Hearing their tips, I could see, on one hand, how it would be nice for my husband to be welcomed enthusiastically when he arrives home.  But on the other hand, I was memorably surprised that the speakers were presuming that women would be staying at home with the children, first of all.  And, second, I couldn’t help but wonder whether they were getting their “tips” from the Bible or from 1950s TV shows.  In the end, it was a weekend I actually wanted to forget, not remember.

For us, trying to figure out how to fit our marriage with our particular personalities into what we were taught about marriage felt like attempting to fit wrong pieces together in a jigsaw puzzle.  We kept on trying because we thought, eventually, we’d find the match.  However, it was in the midst of trying over and over again to turn the same wrong pieces round and round that we were invited to a Bible study.  This Bible study would start us on a journey that changed our marriage and our lives forever.

Click here for the next part in the series.

How I Became an Egalitarian: Falling in Love

This is Part 8 in a series that started here.

By this time, I had gone overseas twice for short term missions – the first time, to a large city and the second time, to a rural area in Asia.

As an avid writer, of course, I was actively engaged in blogging about my experiences overseas, my journey with God, lessons he was teaching me, and everything in between.  Every now and then, I received emails from readers who were encouraged by my entries.

And so it was at this time that I received an email from someone who was serving in a similar rural area of Asia as I had served.  His name was Sam and he wrote because he wanted to inquire what city I had gone to and to tell me that he had been blessed by what I had written.  I wrote him back, and from there, we began an email correspondence.

From the start, I knew in my heart that there was something different about Sam.  The more we wrote each other, the more we found that we had more to write.  And God began to show me that this was a significant new friendship that he was giving me — through the uncanny coincidences that we had, through the similar ways that he had shaped our hearts for loving the lost, and then through specific ways that he answered my prayers for Sam’s ministry.

Eventually, we had our first phone conversation.  Though I had not met him yet, by then, I already knew that I was falling in love with him.  Of course, I didn’t dare say it out loud to myself — much less to him.  In that first conversation, we talked about the fact that we had a mutual desire to be more intentional about our friendship as well as many other important topics.

Among the issues that we discussed that day, the topic of women in ministry came up.  I asked him what he thought about women teaching the Bible or being pastors.  He told me that, on the missionary field, he had seen first-hand women teaching and leading and been blessed by it.  He did not think it was unbiblical for women to teach.  He was not sure about women as pastors though.  But he would be supportive of me in my gifts.  Walking away from this conversation, I felt hopeful that we were on the same page about one of the most important issues of my life.

A few months later, as Sam was coming home from his overseas term, we met face-to-face for the first time.  It had become more and more obvious that God was drawing our hearts together, so we decided then that we would pursue a relationship with one another.

And what did dating look like for us?

The only Christian model for dating that we had was a Complementarian pattern set forth by spiritual mentors in our lives as well as authors like Elisabeth Elliot and Joshua Harris.  We both subscribed to the idea that the man was supposed to pursue and lead and the woman was supposed to respond and follow.  We didn’t really question this way of dating, we just tried to fall in line with it, because we believed that it was the Christian way to have a relationship.

It didn’t take us long to experience frustration with this model.   I was often prompting Sam with questions like, “What should we do?  What are we moving towards?  How can we have a spiritual component in our relationship?” while feeling guilty that I was usurping his role.  I felt like I was constantly at odds with how I thought things ought to be and how things really were for us.  Why was it so easy for me to think about the big picture?  Why was it natural for me to lead us spiritually?  Was it okay for me to even prompt him?  Did I need to “hold back” so that I could give him the opportunity to lead us?  Concluding that I needed to try to follow what I thought was the Christian model of letting the man lead, I held back.  For long periods of our relationship, I remained silent and just prayed for him to think of things that I was already thinking about.  It was not easy — but I gave it my full effort — after all, this was the godly way of doing things, wasn’t it?

As time passed, we continued to try to fit this mold.  And despite the underlying sense that something was amiss in terms of the way we were doing things, we were in love and confident that God had led us together.  About six months after we started dating, Sam proposed, and six months after that, we were married!

[If you are interested in the full story of how God led us together, go here.]

Click here for the next part in the series.

How I Became an Egalitarian: Confusion, Doubt and Hope

This is Part 7 in a series that started here.

My confusion and doubt over my calling and God’s plans for me as a woman in ministry continued to cause considerable angst as I finished out my two years on staff with the Navigators, quit my research job and traded it in for another job, and then, at last, accepted an opportunity for a full time ministry position in the San Francisco bay area.

Working for a missions agency, my job was to advertise, mobilize, interview, train, send and lead short term missions volunteers.  The highlight of this season of ministry was the time spent counseling and encouraging the volunteers as well as the time spent with the students we met overseas.  I truly thrived on the opportunities of sharing about Jesus to those who had never really heard the true message of the gospel.

During this time, I functioned relatively well, day-to-day, but then I would have these moments of doubt creep up and immobilize me.  I can remember clearly one day when I had been asked to lead a devotional for short termers, which included men 20 or 30 years older than me.  While speaking, I became aware of their presence, and it made me stop in mid-sentence, as I wondered if they were wondering why in the world this “little girl” had the audacity to try to teach them something.

My confusion over my calling, my gifts, and the prevalent Bible interpretation was never far from my mind.  Even when I went on a road trip with my friends, we ended up having a discussion about this very topic.

On that trip, we ended up at a church in LA called Epicentre.  Kalam, Wendy, and I knew Pastor John and Evelyn Lo from the World Christian Conference, which is a missions conference.  We joined them for an evening service, and, as we were leaving, John and Evelyn asked if they could pray for us.  I was expecting a simple prayer of blessing for our journey, after all, we hadn’t actually had any conversation with them.  But that is not what we got.

They sensed a special message for each of us, all different, but all so uncannily accurate.

To me, John said, “MaryAnn, I feel that the Lord is telling me that you are a fire-starter.  You’re like a volcano about to erupt.  There are elders telling you, ‘no, no, no’, but you shouldn’t take their criticisms as a ‘no’ from God or to feel so discouraged that you shirk back.  That is not the answer.  The answer is intimacy with Jesus.  We rebuke back the words of harshness in Jesus’ name.”

I was stunned.  I had never experienced this kind of prayer before.  How did he know — ?

The three of us walked away in complete awe.  We talked back and forth about it for a good portion of the drive, concluding that it could not have been coincidental.  God must have given them insight into our hearts.  How else would he have known that there were elders in my life who had told me “no” or the passions and dreams in me that were welling up?  How would he have known of the spiritual fires God had used me to start or the ones that I felt destined to start?

I didn’t know what to do with the words of affirmation and prophecy except to put it in my back pocket, and then wait and see what would happen next.  Certainly, a tiny glimmer of hope was planted in my heart.  Maybe God wasn’t telling me “no” after all.

Click here for the next part in the series.