Going to Church Despite the Church: Jesus and Women

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Jesus routinely elevated, honored, and welcomed those society pushed to the fringe or rejected outright. Can you imagine the emotional healing He must’ve brought to those individuals? The message of love and grace that He sent them?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched one young woman in particular experience a similar journey. For years, most of her church experience, actually, she was told that she was too much—too loud and intimidating, too intense, too dominant.  

That no man would want to marry a woman “smarter” than him. These were the messages sent by those in her faith community.  

“I felt like they were talking about all of me,” she said, “instead of a particular character trait. So, I tried to be quieter and tone myself down when I met new people and was in group settings. But that wasn’t who I was and I always ended up being ‘loud and opinionated,’ and so I left the interactions feeing like I’d failed and that everyone probably thought I was annoying.”

The place designed to help her thrive as a confident daughter of Christ became a stifling, lonely environment that led to increased insecurity. She quickly realized, she didn’t fit into people’s preconceived ideas of biblical womanhood. To her, this meant she didn’t fit in the church.

To put it simply, she attends church despite the church.

Praise God she’s now in a safe place where she’s learning to heal. And perhaps most importantly, where she can voice her thoughts, her doubts, and even her pain without fear. A place where she’s beginning to come alive, as God intended—to live fully as the strong yet loving, determined yet teachable woman He created her to be. It’s such a beautiful thing to see.

I thought of her journey, and the stories I’ve heard from numerous women over the years, as I read Luke 8:1-3. Scripture tells us, shortly after a “sinful woman” anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50), “Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (NIV).

These once sick and sinful ladies joined Jesus and His male disciples. This would’ve been unheard of during that time. To travel with, and therefore learn from, a Rabbi? That was something women didn’t do. And yet, Jesus welcomed them close and invited them to play a vital—and public—role in His ministry.

I imagine a lot of people misunderstood their actions. Shouldn’t they be home raising children, or helping someone else raise children? What could they possibly need religious teaching for? Why would Jesus even allow such a thing? Or waste His time on them for that matter?

And yet, God recorded their devotion in Scripture, I believe to tell all women everywhere: you’re invited.

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When others push us out, God says we’re invited.

When others misjudge and discount us, God says we’re invited.

When others tell us we don’t fit, we’re not enough or too much, God says we. Are. Invited.

For those, like my friend, who walked into church despite the church—you are invited. And loved. Valued, and in Christ, empowered, and called. God has a plan for you. He didn’t place that spark in your soul, that passion and unique insight, simply to bench you. He’s chosen you to play a unique and vitally important role in advancing His kingdom.

I’m sure for some of you this post stirred up something. Honestly, that’s precisely why I didn’t want to write on this passage. In fact, I sat and stared at it for some time this morning, thinking of all the ways I could avoid it. But again, my husband’s words of wisdom propelled me forward: “If that’s the passage you’re on,” and it is, as we’ve been following Scripture chronologically, “then I’d say you need to write on it.”

And so I did. Knowing some of my readers might not like what I have to say. But also knowing for others, this post might help initiate healing. I’d love to know your thoughts. When have you “gone to church despite the church” and how did Jesus meet you there?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

Additional Resources:

How to Heal When You’ve been Hurt by the Church by Cortni Marrazzo

For those following our chronological reading plan through the New Testament, today’s post kicked off day one’s reading.

If you’re not wanting to follow our chronological plan but are still interested in a Bible plan, you may enjoy reading through Ephesians. Find that plan HERE.

You might also enjoy listening to the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on having the courage to be vulnerable.

The Courage to Share Your Story – Ep. 58 Faith Over Fear

The parts of our story that feel the most devastating or shameful can become those stories God uses to lead others to freedom. Many times, they directly related to our calling as well. But to share them, we might need to risk vulnerability and rejection. Yet, God’s focus isn’t only on whoever might hear about our struggles and our pasts. He’s focused on bringing us to a place of increased healing and deeper relational connection as well. Shame leads to hiding which leads to more shame and increased isolation. There’s joy and peace in living totally free. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Suggested Resources: Becoming His Princess Bible Study by Wholly Loved Ministries Group Discussion Questions: 1. Why do you think hiding our pasts tends to increase our shame? 2. In what ways can hiding our pasts lead to increased isolation? 3. In what ways can sharing our past with safe people help bring healing? 4. How can a person determine who is safe to share their story with? 5. Think of testimonies shared by others that deeply impacted you. What was it about their story you found most touching, thought-provoking, or inspirational? 6. In what ways does or can our story reveal the power of the gospel? 7. In today’s episode, Jennifer shared how one person’s casual statement regarding children with alcoholic fathers hindered a woman’s willingness to share her story. When has a similar situation affected you in a similar manner? 8. What are some reasons why God might not want us to share certain parts of our story? 9. What are some ways you can create safe spaces for others to share their stories? 10. What is God calling you to do after listening to today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: getty/MargaretW
  1. The Courage to Share Your Story – Ep. 58
  2. Overcoming Agoraphobia: Jodie Bailey’s Story
  3. The Courage to Pursue Relational Healing – Ep. 56
  4. Fighting Anxiety by Fighting Stress – Ep. 55
  5. The Faith-Bolstering Power of the Lord’s Prayer – Ep. 54

2 Comments

  1. This goes past church to every day life as well. I have often jokingly referred to myself as ‘defective’ because I am so unlike other women, and its become a type of defense mechanism that I’m seeing as not helpful Only recently have I begun to consider that the uniqueness not appreciated by some is to be reconsidered. That if He made me with different qualities, there is a purpose I may have not seen or looked at as of yet.

    1. I’m so sorry for the pain you must’ve experienced. I hate that we (the church as a whole) so often tend to categorize people as either like us or not like us, and then draw lines, when our very differences are what can add such richness and beauty to our circles and our ministries. I love how God is helping you appreciate the beauty He created within you!

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