Church Ladies

Women are fascinating and frustrating creatures.  I’ve spent most of my life knowing I’d grow into one if I didn’t die, but not necessarily looking forward to becoming one.  As a young girl, I recognized that the women around me were strong, faithful, funny, talented and smart.  They were also gossipy, prone to complaint and discontent, and wore as badges of honor all the “hard work” they did which far too often went unsolicited and consequently unappreciated.  Women.  churchlady-carveyOf all groups of women with which I have the most complicated relationship are church women – living through earthly sufferation to the promise of heaven through salvation.

No woman I’ve known in particular should take offense, though I can see how I’ve described both a servant of the Lord and a soldier for satan; both victor and victim, but I mean… hey.  That’s what it looks like to an extent sometimes.  OK.  The point is women are complicated (and that church is a unique space and place), and even for me – a woman (who goes to church) – I struggle with, resist and acknowledge the intricacies of my being especially when all I want is a simple life.

Yesterday was Women’s Day at my church.  I have decided to call all preparations for and implementation of this aforementioned occasion “the MOST (dot) com” because that’s exactly what this simplistic young lady thought everyone else involved was interested in.  The activities leading up to yesterday’s worship services included a fish fry and bake sale, a lunch and play and a prayer vigil.  From a religious point of view, the series of events were successful church events that brought a lot of people to the house of worship on several days for a common purpose.   Yay, church!  From a spiritual point of view, I know at least 3 women of various ages who said the theme of “forgiveness” for the activities really spoke to their current and past life experiences and would propel them to change.  Yay, transformational experience! From a world view, this was church fundraising at its best. Get the money, dollar dollar bills, y’all. Yay, cash collection!  I am just glad the entire ordeal is over – so glad.  The amount of time and energy I have spent over the past few weeks with smiling|conniving, fierce|fickle, say one thing|mean another women has zapped me of any other mental, emotional, physical resource previously available to me.

Events like “Women’s Day” at churches tend to attract church ladies in full force.  They get all dressed up.  They are given tasks and assignments that in the grand scheme of the Great Commission aren’t really that important, but woe be unto anyone who would remind them of that fact!  They have a bunch of meetings and calls.  Honestly, a lot of the church’s work wouldn’t get done without these women, who for years have served in this capacity without much pomp and circumstance – banned from pulpits or positions with titles, told by men how to dress and behave, treated as second class Christians even in the House of God!  It’s a deplorable hot mess, really, the oppressive nature of the church toward women throughout history.  They’ve got good reason to be manipulative, controlling, passive-aggressive vampires, but that doesn’t give them the right to behave as such.

But you know who my favorite people at churches are?  Spiritual mothers and sisters.  Spiritual people tend to avoid all the “hoopla” and hype and are concerned with the soul of the church.  They ask you how you’re doing, and when they do they pause, hold your hand and look you in the eye because they want to hear the answer, and they won’t tell anyone else your business.  They pray with and for you.  Their thoughts are right.  Their words are right.  Their countenance and temperament are right.  Their works are right.  They are discrete and full of discernment in their decision-making because they are wise.  I aspire to be a Spiritual Woman, regardless of which church I go to or if I go to a church at all, a recent consideration in my journey.  Now some Spiritual Women take on church lady roles – leading committees,  planning events, managing minutia… My well-meaning mother comes to mind.  But then again, I have the advantage of knowing her outside the church and knowing that while she does “busy” herself (almost to a fault) with church work, she is very spiritually grounded and minded, and that if she never went to church another day in her life, her soul’s been anchored in the Lord and she’d “have church” right on at home, at the park, in her car.  Church ladies get their energy from going to the church – the four walls wherein services and programs happen.  Spiritual women tap right into the Holy Spirit and go about being part of the church, that is the Body of Christ in the world.

Mr and I have had many conversations about our faith and church.  We did not grow up with the same denominational leaning and so many of our discussions about faith and worship choices have been profound ways to get to know one another.  Whereas some couples have the luxury of going on several dates and learning about careers and college days, Mr and I spent hours on the phone challenging and questioning one another on Biblical interpretation and church doctrines.  Finally a few months ago, we sent one another our “closing arguments” if you will – our own versions of our creeds.  What do we believe?  After we’d read each others’ beliefs, we discussed the similarities and differences in each.  As I’d thought at the onset, we had much more in common – enough to move forward together.  But we just had to get out of the “at my church…” and talk about “what my spirit needs…”

Mr’s goal in his faith was to be a Pioneer – to spend a significant amount of time evangelizing and teaching others. When I shared with him how unattractive that was in the marriage package, “So you’re just going to up and roll out x amount of hours per week knocking on doors and giving out tracks?  What am I supposed to be doing?  Waiting for your return and cleaning up after our kids? No sir!”  He told me that he’d hoped I’d join him on the Pioneer path, but that’s his path, not mine.  I was neither interested in his religion nor the door-to-door salesman approach that religion took to gospel-spreading.  On the flip side, I was getting quite busy with church affairs.  I love to dance, and I had taken on the task of organizing the dance ministry at my church.  It takes a lot of time, and just when I though I had a schedule that was manageable, the ministry grew!  I didn’t expect Mr to become a dancer and join in ministry with me.  How was I to account for all the time I was spending away from him and… at the church?  Mr doesn’t want a Church lady for a wife.  Thankfully, I don’t want to be one.  Aren’t we glad that works out for both of us!  But we do want to be Spiritual.  We will be looking for a church home when we’re together in NY, but we’re both committed to working on the ministry of our own marriage before diving into the myriad of activities available at a vibrant church.  I’m actually looking forward to finding such a place with him, and growing spiritually together, focusing more on our relationship to God than our position in the hierarchy of a church building.

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