The Jesus Job - Part 2

I start April 15th.

Well, let me rephrase that: I start getting paid April 15th.  I’ve already been doing the work for months.  Volunteering was a good way to get my feet wet, to test the waters before I dove right in.  I find it’s a smart approach to church.

Church is full of problems and hypocrisies and I haven’t been immune.  

Like when I asked the Florida pastor’s wife for advice in my young marriage, and she told me I should just be thankful I had a man who loved me and get over everything else.  Or the time when several women in my small group in Las Vegas gathered around me with their Bible commentaries and rehearsed statements to silence my questions concerning women’s roles in the church.  Or when the pastor in Guntersville told my new husband he didn’t allow the internet in his home because there was so much evil in it.  

But none of these people really mattered to me, so their opinion mattered even less.  The nature of my reporting jobs never had us living in one place for too long, so I never felt like any of these churches were my home.  I knew I was always leaving soon and we'd find a different church, hopefully with as few whack jobs as possible.

Then we moved to San Diego and the people and their opinions began to really matter.

Roots started to grow.

We went to the church Jason attended during his summer breaks in college.  We joined a small group.  I started volunteering at the Thrift Store and then leading a small group of middle school aged girls.

My roots found dirt.  

The Teaching Pastor wears t-shirts and flip-flops on Sunday mornings.  He won’t preach on politics.  He says this is the greatest time in history to be a Christ follower and doesn’t feel threatened by changing culture or ideas.  

During the church marriage retreat, I enjoyed mojitos with our Executive Pastor and a few days ago, overheard the Youth Pastor yell “dammit!” after he learned a teen had died in a car accident on the way to school.  It was the appropriate response in my opinion.

Over time, I started thinking that maybe I wouldn’t have to hide who I am, what I believe, or even how I vote.  

My roots found water.

But one issue was still keeping me from fully embracing this new church: The issue of women.

What did my church believe about women?  Do they think I should be silent?  Do these pastors think my prayers are somehow less than theirs?  That my leadership skills are clouded in femininity?

Then along came Bill.

He was our new Connection and Formation Pastor.  Basically that means he heads up all classes and smaller groups for adults...anything that feels like church, but isn’t happening on Sunday morning.

I’d gone to a “learn about what we believe” kind of lunch after church.  There was a question and answer portion at the end.  Most lined up to talk to our teaching pastor.  No one really knew Bill yet.  He was in a corner of the room with no line and no waiting.

I’ve never been one to line up to speak to anyone.  Sorry.  None of us are that important.

So I walked straight to Bill.

“I’m really loving being a part of this church,” I told him. “But I need to know what you think about women in church.  I don’t know if I can be a part of something that tells me I don’t have the same value as the men in here.”

He smiled at me, almost knowingly, and then answered.

“There’s two schools of thought on women and the church right now.  One is complementarianism.  It basically states that women are there to compliment men.  They can do certain things, like lead kids ministry and host events, but they can’t be pastors, or hold top leadership positions.” He explained.

I nodded as I’d heard this line of thinking for years, and he kept going.

“The second is what is called egalitarianism.  Egalitarians believe women can do whatever men can do in the church.  They can go as far as Jesus takes them,” he continued.

Then he said the four words to forever change my view of church, the apostle Paul, and God himself.

“We believe in egalitarianism.”

Suddenly my roots found sunshine.

He recommended a book by Scot McKnight called The Blue Parakeet.  It is a game changer.  

Soon, I’ll be writing a series of posts on my beliefs on feminism, Jesus and women, and what it all means for the girls and church.  But for now, this was the moment I found home.  

The moment a pastor told me my gender would never be used to keep me small.  To keep me quiet.  To keep me from moving up.

Soon after, I started volunteering for Pastor Bill, and he would eventually fight with the powers that be to create a paid position just for me. 

It’s part-time.  Doesn’t pay much.  But it feels right.  It leaves room for my writing (being an author is still the goal), and doesn’t require I swear to a list of theological ideas as God mandated beliefs.  

I like it.  I’m excited about it.  Let’s see where it goes...

The Jesus Job - Part 1

I never thought I would do it.  

Yet, here I am, filling out W4 and direct deposit forms and signing a receipt of the employee handbook.  

I now officially work for a church.

And not as someone who answers phones, or handles childcare, but someone encouraged to have vision and create new ways of thinking and doing.  I even have a title: Connections Coordinator.

My church has anywhere from 1,500-2,000 people attending any given weekend.  With a church this size, it’s not hard to meet people, but it is hard to actually know people.  My job is to help people be known.  I do this, by getting them into a smaller group, or a class, that meets outside of just Sunday morning services.  

I’m perfectly comfortable with my job description.  It’s the church part that’s terrifying.

Let’s be honest, church is not always a nice place and here I am saying yes, please, control my paycheck and make a pastor my official boss.

I’ve certainly had more than my fair share of hurts from churches and their broken pastors.  From the southern Assembly of God pastor who ignored me after my aunt died - he came by the house the night she died and specifically prayed for everyone there but me, and then later at the funeral left me out as one of those “surviving her” in the eulogy - even though he knew she was like a mother to me.  To the pastor who told my husband I was “crazy-town” when we called for marital help, and then spread an untrue and adulterous type rumor to some friends of mine.

Brutal to say the least.

Then there’s that whole woman’s role in church thing.  For two thousand years, a few verses have been used to keep women in “supportive” type positions in church.  Not preaching, rarely teaching, and never leading.  I could work to be CEO of a fortune 500 company, but the church’s glass ceiling is made of solid steel.  That’s probably the greatest reason of all I never would've dreamed I’d take a job at a church.

Yet, here I am.

The fact I never gave up on church is in and of itself a small miracle.  The fact that God showed me his goodness despite the representation of some of his very screwed up people, is an even bigger one.

 

 

Stay tuned for The Jesus Job Part 2 - where I’ll explain how this healing happened and why I feel not just safe in my new job, but excited for what it will bring.

The Power Suit

I miss my suits.  The feel of dry-cleaned fabric tailored just so.  The sound of my heels clicking against the floor as I navigated my way around cubicles and edit bays.  

I felt accomplished.  Significant.  

This is a power suit color only to be worn on TV and never past the 2008 election. 

This is a power suit color only to be worn on TV and never past the 2008 election. 

As a little girl I never wanted the princess costume - I wanted the power suit.  To be like the women with thick costume jewelry, gold watches and manicured hands carrying leather briefcases and designer bags, all bought with their own paychecks.

I’ll never forget my first one.  It was black.  My aunt was there and encouraged me forward as I dropped $159 on a simple skirt and jacket from The Limited clothing store.  A few months later, I bought a tan one with pants and jacket.  I had baby blue and pale pink long sleeve button downs that matched perfectly with either one.  

Over the years I budgeted carefully for select power pieces, updating with each new raise and job.  I knew I had made it when my station in Vegas offered me $1,000 a year for hair, clothes, and makeup.  Power suits were hung next to power dresses, power boots, and half a dozen power coats, including a navy blue beauty from Banana Republic.

Such powerful hair extensions this Nascar driver only has answers for my questions. (Not really, but saying so makes a reporter feel special.)

Such powerful hair extensions this Nascar driver only has answers for my questions. (Not really, but saying so makes a reporter feel special.)

Before leaving Las Vegas I took more than a dozen of those suits to Goodwill.  I no longer needed them.  

My days are now a mix of comfortable cotton, flip-flops, and maybe a tinted moisturizer if I have to leave the house.  I haven’t seen the dry-cleaners in almost two years.

Then last night I was in Target.  TARGET of all places!  I perused through the women’s racks and was hit with a desire to dress up in the nearest Merona and Mossimo dress so hard that I immediately wanted to go apply for a job as a bank teller, or office assistant -  just so I could feel that power outfit one more time.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it was right to leave my news career.  I love writing.  I feel so blessed to have been able to write a book free from the demands of a 40 hour work week.  

So why am I longing for career wear?

Maybe it’s just that I grew up poor, and a power suit means a paycheck and a paycheck meant freedom.

Maybe it’s that the power suit means I’m powerful, and I have the deluded idea that feeling powerful means I’m important.  And even more deluded, if I’m important...I matter more.

Maybe it's that even though I love my new life of writing, until I get published, I'm self-conscious that people think I found a new hobby and not a new career.

Or maybe I just look my best in a pair of Elie Tahari pumps.

During our Extreme Makeover Home Edition coverage in Vegas.  I'd had this jacket since my first job in Guntersville.  A Target special and probably my favorite.  I'm upset I put it in the Goodwill pile and suffer from severe donator's remorse.

During our Extreme Makeover Home Edition coverage in Vegas.  I'd had this jacket since my first job in Guntersville.  A Target special and probably my favorite.  I'm upset I put it in the Goodwill pile and suffer from severe donator's remorse.