Why Me

I feel like there are a few things I need to clarify about myself and about why, of all the subjects a Christian could write about, I have chosen the topic of God and women.

Most of the writing I’ve done up to this point has been autobiographical. My old blog was a combination of anecdotes from my life and good-natured kvetching. I wanted this blog to be less of me talking about me and more of me talking about God, but I’ve noticed that sometimes the best way to make a difference is to let your audience know you’re a human being with a history and a journey and a specific reason for being passionate about the things you talk about incessantly.

So here you go:

I was raised in a Christian home. I asked Christ to save me when I was seven. The Bible has been a huge part of my life since I was very, very small. Our family consisted of my, my parents, and God.

My mother is a professor at the college I attended. She got her doctorate after she married my dad, and at my father’s prompting. He told her she could do it, that she should do it, that she was brilliant enough and hard working enough to earn a doctoral degree in education. So she did. And Dad did everything within his power–including babysitting me so she could sleep after long nights of working on her dissertation–to help her complete her goal.

My father loves the Bible. He’s studied it cover to cover several times over the course of the last thirty+ years. Scripture pours out of his mouth in everyday conversation. He has a masters degree in English and loves language and the power of words. He wanted to be in an occupational ministry of some kind, but the Lord directed him through a series of corporate jobs. He teaches Sunday school at our church and he’s brilliant at it.

My father raised me with the expectation that one day I would enter the professional world. One day I would have a boss and a full-time job. One day I would pay my own bills and live my own life. My parents always stressed to me the importance of a college education. They always equipped me–within their means–with all the tools I needed to develop my interest in whatever my childish brain latched onto: science, history, language, acting, art, writing. Whether or not I would eventually marry was rarely discussed in our home. My parents always told me I could get married if I found the right person, but that I should focus on getting a good education and having a solid relationship with God over finding a husband. Of course, they always quietly wished I would find someone to make me as happy as they made each other, but marriage was not stressed as something that should be a priority in my life. They certainly didn’t want me to get married for the sake of getting married.

What they wanted more than anything else was for me to A) love God and B) follow His calling for my life, whether that was being a stay-at-home mom with ten kids or being president of the United States.

Imagine my surprise when I got to college and discovered that not all girls from Christian, Bible-believing, God-fearing homes had been raised the way my parents raised me. Imagine my surprise when I learned there were Christian families that used scripture to justify keeping their daughters out of college. I met girls who came to college just to meet a nice boy and marry him and weren’t too serious about what they studied because they took for granted that they’d walk out of college married and financially supported. I met guys who said disparaging things about women and girls who said disparaging things about men. There was an attitude among my peers that oozed of “well, if only the guys/girls would act like they’re supposed to act, then everything would be great.” All of this behind a sometimes thin veil of spirituality. How could other believers read the same Bible I did and come to such different conclusions about the importance of women and men?

The turning point in my life walked in with a boy. A boy who seemed to be everything I was supposed to want: supposedly godly, supposedly kind, supposedly strong, supposedly humble, supposedly a leader. I bought the veneer–to this day, I’m not sure why. I wanted to trust him. I wanted to believe him when he said he loved me, that he wanted the best for me.

But his actions were not loving. His words were rarely loving either. His hold on me lasted for two years, not because our relationship was fun and easy and loving but because he had me convinced, by words, coercion, and mind games, that I was worthless, that I was wretched, that I didn’t deserve someone like him, that I was lucky to have someone as kind and good and sacrificial as he was to love me. He chipped away at the things about me–my love for acting, music, singing–by convincing me I was awful at all of those things, that people only cast me in plays or asked me to sing in church because they felt sorry for me. He claimed he was the only one who really knew me, really understood me. Yet he used the things he knew hurt me the most to control me, to get me to lower my voice, lower my head, to smile when he wanted me to smile and frown when he wanted me to frown.

He was studying to be a pastor. He would often use–or misuse–scripture to get me to bend my will to his. Anything about me that he thought wouldn’t be useful to his future ministry had to be eliminated. My identity and my mind were coming unwound. There were days I was so tormented by my dissolving world that I could not sleep or eat or, some days, manage to walk up stairs. He said he loved me, yet he hated who I was, and I wanted desperately to know if there was something wrong with me that indeed couldn’t be fixed.

Ours was, in short, an emotionally abusive relationship.

After I broke off all ties with him (thanks to my parent’s intervention), I looked everywhere for people with stories like mine. There were shattered hearts and minds everywhere, both inside and outside the church. I found solace among friends, with kind counselors at church and school, and of course with my parents. I had survived what I hope will be the darkest days of my life.

Was I ever angry at God for letting me walk through that dark place in my life? No. While I was miserable, I was never alone. I never, ever felt completely alone. I knew God hurt with me. But still I asked Him, why?

Why do men use God’s words to hurt women? How can this kind of abuse fly so easily under people’s spiritual radar? Why, dear God, did that happen to me? Why did I believe that boy when he said he loved me? Why did I have to go through all that pain?

When you ask questions of God, answers come. It wasn’t long before I realized there were other girls of my acquaintance who had been through similar situations, but worse–mercifully, I was never called names or threatened with violence, but these girls had. Suddenly, I was no longer alone in my struggle, and neither were they. My scars and my pain have enabled me to help other girls in or immediately freed from abusive relationships. I would not have known what to do for them otherwise.

Second, ending my relationship with this young man made me question everything I had previously assumed about the roles of men and women–in the church and out of it. My ex operated under a certain set of assumptions about women that he must have picked up somewhere, but now I wanted to know where. My father had studied the Bible far longer than my ex had, yet his treatment and thinking about women was vastly different. I learned that there were too many different schools of thinking within the church (and without) about the roles of men and women in the world than I could count. I dug into the Bible with a new hunger, wanting answers. I asked questions I never had before. I prayed prayers I never had prayed. I dug and I dug, and my hands never came up empty.

Had I never met this boy, I would never known the meaning of what it means to be enslaved by something–and then set free.

I believe, with gratitude in my heart, that I went through an abusive relationship so that I could help others out of theirs, and so that for the first time, I would start asking questions. I haven’t stopped.

I know so many Christians who have solid, loving marriages. I know so many Christians who respect the opposite gender and treat them with Christlike love. I know so many Christian parents who raise their daughters to be warriors. My parents are only two such people. There are hundreds more.

We all read the same Bible. We all love the same God. We are all sinners who make mistakes. But we all know that we’re supposed to love each other more than we love ourselves.

Why am I writing this book?

Because I believe God wants me to. I believe I was raised the way I was and hurt the way I was so that I could reach out to my fellow believing women. I want to reach out to girls who love God like I do and let them know just how much God loves them back and about the fantastic, earth-shattering, awe-inspiring things He designed them to accomplish. I want them to know the God I have always known hasn’t made them for mediocrity. That they weren’t designed to be used my men, but to walk with the God in Whose image they were handmade.

I am writing this book because Christ has set me free.

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14 comments

  1. Timothy Pemberton · October 8, 2015

    Hello again!

    I feel like I have been just a total contrarian on this site, so to buck that trend I’ll start with something different; maybe a sort of adding to your story with my own.

    I was raised an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB). In this culture, I would be considered one of those strange people you met when you went to college who had messed up beliefs about women–they were temptresses, weaker than men, have more pressure to be “pure”, etc.). I am pretty sure I attached myself to these beliefs because, well, what choice did I have as the child of the religious? In this manner I proceeded into my teen years. That all changed though once I met this amazing girl (the very same one in my profile picture).

    Now, in my strict culture, she was something of a rebel. She listened to CCM (the horror!), she hung out with people who questioned, and she was wicked brilliant. [Also, from what you have said, she has gone through almost the exact same situation in an abusive relationship.] I, on the other hand, gave the appearance of a perfect IFB kid. I dressed correctly (most of the time), I obeyed the rules, and I believed all of it lock, stock, and barrel. We quickly realized, though, that we are a perfect match.

    Skipping a lot of the story of how we became close, and got demerits in our Christian high school for touching elbows, she was the one that showed me how awful it was to be a woman in this culture. First off, she had a large problem with the legalism so prevalent all over. One time, she got in trouble for having a skirt that was literally an inch too short (again, legalism). There were also issues with doctrine where we were in disagreement with all of the leaders. All over, through empathy she brought out in me, she was able to show me how hurtful and the pain these teachings caused her and others like her.

    Finally, all of it culminated in a telephone call that her father took. It was the pastor of the church telling her father to tell her (he couldn’t even talk directly to her) that she was causing men in the church to lust/be tempted (???) by her attire. Now, it wasn’t anything odd that she was wearing, simply spring dresses that she liked, was comfortable, and looked good on her. But she was told that certain men felt so led as to sit on the opposite side of the auditorium from her in order to curb their sinful thoughts. That was when we decided we had had enough–we left that church immediately the same night and never looked back

    To be clear, we didn’t leave the religion altogether; we merely looked for a new church. After time, we discovered that our beliefs had changed too much, and we embraced agnosticism, then atheism.

    So there’s some context for my story. If I can get her on here, she is so much better with words than I am, and there are some details too that she could add, but suffice it to say, these teachings that you disagree with hurt people for certain.

    Before moving on, you are very lucky to be raised by your parents it sounds like. Having a worldview that seeks to love people over following rules is an incredible leg up when it comes to Humanism and equal treatment of the sexes. I wish I had been taught that earlier, but I believe I am finally coming closer to that ideal.

    To my questions I would like to ask now:

    First, you say that you want “this blog to be less of me talking about me and more of me talking about God.” Why do you not use the Descartes’ method of philosophy and set aside any god-belief while working through gender studies? Why do you accept the Bible fully while attempting to build a feminist theory? Why not build it first, then see how the Bible agrees or disagrees with it?

    Secondly, I have to question the reason why your abuse happened (apologies in advance if I offend, I wholeheartedly don’t mean to). Obviously, I believe things just happen because people cause them to happen (or they merely happen naturally), but saying that god caused/allowed it so that you can help other women abuse has happened to paints a somewhat sick picture of god (if you don’t mind me saying so). Saying this assumes that he allows it to happen in these other situations as well thereby making him into a Silence of the Lambs style abuser–he has caused/allowed many women into a bad situation so that they can all feel better about being in that situation together. It is like if I say I have locked 5 women in my pit together so that they can keep each other company rather than just keeping one down there all alone. Either way, it would be my fault people were in pain much like it would be god’s fault all abuse victims were abused. Saying that this experience has led to helping other women does not in any way negate the pain you felt or the pain those other women feel which, by your own admission, god caused/allowed. Does that make sense?

    My third inquiry is about the demographics of those who believe in patriarchal ideas as opposed to progressives such as yourself. I posit that a majority of Christians hold beliefs that limit women in their possibilities such as becoming a pastor or leader of a church. I must ask, does your religion now allow for a woman to be a pastor? To speak in church as I Cor. 14:34 opposes?

    Finally, while not really dealing with feminism, I ask how your boyfriend who “had me convinced, by words, coercion, and mind games, that I was worthless, that I was wretched, that I didn’t deserve someone like him, that I was lucky to have someone as kind and good and sacrificial as he was to love me.” is any different than the church itself. According to most Christian tenets, all humankind is worthless, wretched, and non-deserving of god’s love, but we are lucky that god is kind, good, and sacrificial in order to save and love us. You directly say these traits led to abuse, yet the exact same language can be used to describe our own plight and god’s own qualities. How do you justify this? Before you use an argument saying god does not use coercion and mind games to manipulate our thoughts, I would argue that this portrayal of him does, as hell is used as a coercive threat against us.

    If you made it through, thanks for reading, and I am looking forward to all your replies!

    PS. Don’t worry if it takes time to parse through all of this, I know there is a tonne here, so I am in no way expecting a fast reply!

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    • tpelle0808 · October 8, 2015

      > According to most Christian tenets, all humankind is worthless, wretched, and non-deserving of god’s love, but we are lucky that god is kind, good, and sacrificial in order to save and love us. You directly say these traits led to abuse, yet the exact same language can be used to describe our own plight and god’s own qualities. How do you justify this?

      Come now, by this comparison the father who tells the sick child he needs medicine or who corrects his child’s wrongdoing is being as evil as an abusive spouse. To call God abusive you have to assume that:

      1. God does not love us and have our best in mind.
      2. God does not have the authority or knowledge to correct us when we are doing wrong.
      3. God is either lying or ignorant of the general human condition.

      If you assume any of these three things, you have ceased to talk about the Christian God. I also think you have overstated the Christian doctrine of man. Mankind may be wretched, but Christianity does not teach that they are worthless. There are multitudes of verses which highlight the importance of man to God. Psalm 139: 13-16, Eph 2:4-9, Matthew 6:25-34, Matthew 10:31, Jeremiah 29:11, and John 3:16 are just a few example.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Timothy Pemberton · October 8, 2015

        As I may have over-spoke when using “worthless,” I still stand by my statement as this god does not openly make sure all the children take the medicine (to use your analogy). In order to receive it, the children must ask him directly. He is the one holding the spoon full of the healing potion, and it is dependent upon us to want it instead of him making us drink it. To continue the analogy, what about the “children” who are separated from the message of the father to drink (eg. uncontacted peoples)? What about those who die before they can even accept the medicine? Why are they sick in the first place? Why did god create the virus/devil figure if he knew doing so would condemn millions to an eternal torture?

        To address your points:
        1. Does god have the best in mind for those who are in hell?
        2. Does god directly intervene in our lives in a supernatural way (so that we know it is him) in order to correct us?
        3. I cannot make a statement on this point.

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      • tpelle0808 · October 8, 2015

        Your reply makes some interesting points and asks some great questions but lets be clear: You have gone from complaining that God is too intrusive and coercive (like an abusive spouse) to complaining that he is not coercive enough and is actually too neglectful. My points were responding to the former objection. If we can at least agree that the abusive, controlling spouse analogy fails I would love to move on to the next questions you asked, but I would rather not bounce back and forth between objections without making any progress.

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      • Timothy Pemberton · October 8, 2015

        Ok, clarifications:

        My original statement of god being coercive through hell (like an abusive spouse) is different from your analogy. They operate off of two different assumptions. The assumption I used is that we as humans are not fundamentally evil, and therefore god (or his preachers) must coerce us into believing that we are wretched sinners that would go there when we die save for “god’s grace.” The assumption you used is that we *are* “sick” and need something to save us from that sickness (medicine). Now, in my analogy, because it starts with the assumption we are not sick, god must abuse us into a place where we think that we need him. In your analogy, because we start sick, it is not god’s fault and because of that he truly is redeeming us; but, the only way for redemption is through him (in a system he set up). And so, he should be a little more forceful if he truly did care about us as beings. If we really are children (like your analogy also assumes), he is the one who should be the caretaker of us. However, in mine, I assume we are fully adult, and can reasonably make decisions for ourselves.

        That said, because the two separate analogies come from completely different assumptions, I have a different opinion on the actions god should take based on those assumptions. Therefore, I wouldn’t say the abusive spouse analogy fails, it just comes to a different conclusion because of the different assumptions used.

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      • tpelle0808 · October 9, 2015

        >The assumption I used is that we as humans are not fundamentally evil, and therefore god (or his preachers) must coerce us into believing that we are wretched sinners that would go there when we die save for “god’s grace.”

        This makes the argument inherently circular. You have to assume that God is wrong about humanity(humans are not evil), then use that assumption to condemn God’s telling us that we are evil. You can logically argue about whether or not man is evil, but you can’t logically condemn God for telling us we are wicked until you have established that we are not wicked.

        As far as whether or not God is responsible for our being in this situation: all I want to say is that I don’t agree that God is responsible for our sin. If you create someone with free will, it does not follow that you are to blame for the choices they make. I realize that this debate could also go on for a while, but the point is you can’t just assume that God is responsible for man’s evil, then use that assumption to prove that God is evil. The assumption is what you need to prove.

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      • Timothy Pemberton · October 9, 2015

        Wow. So all this analogy stuff is becoming jumbled 😛 I will try to make a few more clarifications, and hopefully those will un-muddy the waters.

        In my assumption, I also left off that mine assumes that god is not real, but the concept is very real. It assumes that mankind has created this version of god, and in order to gain followers convinces the people that they are evil. Therefore, in a way, it is god (or more precisely the man-made construct of god) telling people they are evil when in fact they are not. I hope that clears up your first point.

        My response to calling god evil (again, I am arguing against the Christian construct of god) would have to be to ask the same questions I did above (I will use your analogy here because it is easier):

        1. Why did god create the virus/devil figure if he knew doing so would condemn millions to an eternal torture?
        2. What about the “children” who are separated from the message of the father to drink (eg. uncontacted peoples)?
        3. What about those who die before they can even accept the medicine?
        4. Why are they sick in the first place?
        5. Does god have the best in mind for those who are in hell?
        6. Does god directly intervene in our lives in a supernatural way (so that we know it is him) in order to correct us?
        7. (New point) Why is this sickness inherited at birth, when there is literally no time for us to actually commit any evil?

        The question that calling god evil would have to focus on is the first. God created the devil figure knowing full well that he would turn on him (a sin of its own right), and then go on to basically deceive millions into hell. It could easily be argued that by not creating this figure, god could have made it so humans would not go to hell. This creation (something god directly made according to a literal reading) is what is responsible for man’s eternal torment. Therefore, along this line of reasoning, god is responsible for all of those in hell. I hope that all makes sense.

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      • tpelle0808 · October 9, 2015

        Before replying, I want to thank you for your friendly attitude throughout this conversation, it really is refreshing.

        The questions you list are all valid and have all been extensively discussed by both secular and Christian writers. I hope we can agree that this blog is not the place to try to answer them all since each question would take an extensive discussion on its own. But once again, lets be clear: these are questions, not conclusions. Any argument against God which assumes a specific answer to these questions is jumping to a conclusion that has not been established. Thus my objection to your original analogy: the argument only works if you assume a specific attitude toward God from the start.

        I’m not going to keep responding since I feel like we are starting to go beyond anything related to the blog post. The last word is yours. 🙂

        Like

      • Timothy Pemberton · October 9, 2015

        Ok, yeah, no worries 🙂 Thanks to you too for keeping it light. I feel so many times people on both sides of the argument (one side especially–mine) tend to be far too aggressive and devolve into ad hominems and the sort in discussion.

        We are deviating (or I am, at least) from the blog topic. Would you maybe like to continue via email? I am interested to know what your answers to those questions are. If so, I believe my email should be linked to my profile for you to use.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. alicianewk10 · October 8, 2015

    “I believe, with gratitude in my heart, that I went through an abusive relationship so that I could help others out of theirs, and so that for the first time, I would start asking questions. I haven’t stopped.”

    I am thankful for your heart to help others by opening up about and by asking questions about these painful valleys that God sovereignty and lovingly brought you through. Thank you, Emma!

    Like

  3. Teacherlovesbooks · October 9, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your testimony in context of your subject. It’s an important backstory that provides context for your intense interest in pursuing this study. I will leave you to your other commenters without adding to their conversation. I certainly don’t want to complicate the issues! 🙂 Clearly, your topic is an important one that rises and falls on the truth of the gospel.

    Like

  4. TypewriterError · October 9, 2015

    “Had I never met this boy, I would never known the meaning of what it means to be enslaved by something–and then set free.

    I believe, with gratitude in my heart, that I went through an abusive relationship so that I could help others out of theirs, and so that for the first time, I would start asking questions. I haven’t stopped.”

    Here you’ve said something that’s been going through me ever since college. I believe God will (continue) to work through you to help not just youself, but others. You already know how God used you and a few other friends in my life ;u;. I never thank you enough for that.
    I know you’re motivated by love for your Christian family and for your Christ. I’ll keep praying for you as you continue this blog and eventually publish a book. I hope to help you if I can.

    Like

  5. yaelspeaks · October 16, 2015

    I relate to you in so many ways. Thank you for your post. I’m looking forward to reading others on your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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