Today, we’re continuing with our guest bloggers and our discussion about gender roles in faith and the home. I’m super glad to have Addie Zierman on the blog today. Addie writes one of my favorite blogs ‘How to Talk Evangelical.’ Having attended a Christian college and seminary, I can relate (from afar) to her experience as a woman at a Christian institution.
It’s Christian college, so naturally your “hall theme” is something like In the Son – pun intended – and the wall is taped over with yellow and orange construction paper rays and pink beach umbrellas and sunglasses.
At your orientation meeting, your introduction to life at this college includes a long section on modesty and exactly what you can and cannot wear. It’s nothing you haven’t heard all of your life. In your shared closet, you have modest sweaters and one piece bathing suits and dresses that go at least to your fingertips.
But the whole thing has a new air about it now, and the hall is cloudy with the smell of gardenia body lotion and competition. There are many more women than men walking this campus, and there is this unspoken expectation that whatever else you leave here with in four years, you should at least have managed to get yourself an MRS degree.
This Little Light
The modesty talk of the orientation meeting segues into dreamy college engagement stories, and everyone gets a little starry-eyed and swoony.
You chose this college mostly because you were aware of a light burning inside of you. You came to find twelve hundred other people glowing like candles and to be warmed by their faith. You chose the required daily chapel and that automatic Biblical studies double major, because you loved Jesus and because you wanted this.
But somewhere at the back of your excited, 18-year-old heart, you understood that they would not let you lead here. Maybe you partially chose this college because of that. Because you were tired of being the one in front. Tired of picking up the slack, keeping things running, preparing Bible studies to speak to the bleary-eyed faithful who showed up Wednesday mornings for your measly little group.
God’s Calling or God’s Word
At first you love it, all those beautiful boys, standing up front, leading everything. Their voices are deep and strong, and you love the sound. You are thankful for their bravery and you feel yourself warmed by the bigness of their fire for Jesus.
But then one day, you sit at your hall Bible study, a small spanning circle on the floor of your RA’s room. You are eating milk and cookies and talking about your “callings”, and one girl stays quiet until she’s asked point blank. “What about you?”
She shrugs. “Well, I always felt called to be a pastor,” she admits. “But I guess that’s against the Bible.”
And suddenly, you feel it like a sudden change in the weather: the shift from the public school mantra that you’ve believed all your life (you can be whatever you want to be) to a special Christian-college version tempered down for women.
Here, you can be whatever you want to be except…pastor, theologian, Bible professor, deacon. The list of what is unavailable to you is a little blurry; its boundaries shift depending on who you’re talking to.
And you look at that beautiful, 18-year-old girl with her serious eyes and her pastor heart, and you begin to see it. And once you see it, you can’t stop seeing it.
Once you notice that only one chapel speaker that entire year was a woman, you can’t stop feeling the absence. You can’t help notice that though the faculty is full of brilliant, educated women, the Biblical studies department is all white men with male-pattern baldness and a certain way of looking at things.
We All Have the Same Calling
That’s the year you’re working as a Teaching Assistant for a smart, driven female professor. When you tell her you’re engaged, she leaves print-outs about birth control in a neat pile on your desk. And, of course, you’re a little mortified.
But listen. What she’s really trying to tell you is that there are so many beautiful lit-up women who have disappeared from this place. Dimmed. Burned out. And at a Christian college where the men stand behind the podiums and the women stand behind the men, she’s trying to tell you that you don’t have to have babies or stay home or do a particular kind of work to get closer to the Light. You’re already there.
You’re already made new, lit from within.
Go. Light up the world.
Go subscribe to Addie’s blog, but first, tell us about your experience at Christian college (if you attended one). Tell us about the pressures for men to lead and the women to get married. Did you prosper like many students, or falter like others (including me)?