I tried to quit Instagram again. I love seeing people quit Instagram and every single time I think, “Yes, I will quit Instagram! What a lovely idea.” But this time I started praying about it and conversation after conversation after conversation with other wise people in my life said, “Nope. This is not the move for you right now.” So I’m arranging a plan and boundaries, and today I hopped on to talk about women in seminary. When I asked if anyone had questions, here was one I got. How do you care less when people theologically disagree with you on women? I was going to simply respond with an IG post but my answer was too long.
This is a constant work in progress. It’s not easy. I’m constantly talking to God about this. I have grown in this area though and here are a few thoughts and some guidelines that I have for myself.
~Some people I never engage. For example, the (Baptist) pastor who said on Twitter that women pastors were demonic. I do not have time for that. That would be wasted effort.
~I do not “correct” people or argue with them on their social media posts. If it is someone I know, I might talk to them privately, but that space belongs to them. I’m not sabotaging it. I’m not clearing room in my life to argue. If I want to say something, I will use my own space for that. I do pray for people when I see their posts though! (I also think this is very different from asking pointed, clarifying questions in real-life conversations.)
~I do often respond to ideas. Ideas are persuasive and we need to know that there are other valid ideas. I try to always debate an idea and not the person.
~I am not responsible for changing people’s minds. That’s not my job. That is not a marker of my faithfulness or effectiveness.
~Most people need someone to not freak out at their disagreement. I grew up with a different position on women and I know how difficult it is to look at it in another light. Those people need a calm presence and patience. I want to be able to offer that.
~It’s not my job to convince people. (Did I say that already? Yes, but it’s really important for me to remember that.) While it’s not my job to convince people, I do hope that my life is persuasive. I want others to see the Spirit of God at work in me.
~My aim is to do the work God has given me, not argue with people. Arguing is not the work of the kingdom and I don’t want to give it my time and effort.
~I answer to God, not other people. God is never going to ask me why I did not fall in line with other people. He will want to know why I didn’t follow Him.
I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t hurt to listen to some people talk about women. It does. I get angry at the things that I see said and done in the name of Jesus. I carry these emotions over and over to God and wait until I can respond in a way that looks like Him. I want to do constructive work and not just rage into the internet. That’s why I want to have conversations about women and the Bible. That’s why I cofounded a cohort for women in seminary. It’s why I’ve put so much time and research into this topic. I want to contribute to the conversation and make space for people’s questions. I want to build something, not just tear something down (though sometimes building involves demo).
Being on the receiving end of this conversation has changed how I engage with other topics. Some discussions aren’t discussions about issues; they are conversations about people and their embodied experiences. We can talk about atonement theories all day and it’s just that, theory. We agree that Jesus atones for our sins, though there is some debate about how we understand that to happen. But they are theories. A conversation about women in ministry is only theory for men. It’s experience for women and honestly, I think a lot of men don’t understand that. And there are things I might want to talk about that are theory for me, but are reality and experience for other people. I engage those differently because I am called to ministry and have navigated this side of the conversation. I’m grateful for that.
I care less about other people’s differing opinions by remembering what I do care about. In this case, it’s being responsible to God for my life and the work He has asked me to participate in. It’s not my job to change people. It is the work of my life to be changed.