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Personal Stories

Identity foreclosure is a psychological term for the phenomenon in which a person makes premature conclusions about his or her personal identity without a time of exploration and discovery. Identity foreclosure happens when a person adopts the identity of others around them or is forced to accept the identity expectations assumed or given to them. Identity foreclosure occurs for many reasons. But for me personally, patriarchy and complementarianism drove me to prematurely define myself. Early in my life, pastors, teachers, theologians, Christian books and movies, Bible studies, friends, and Western church culture in general painted a strong, confusing, and often conflicting image of “ideal” biblical womanhood. As a woman, I learned through spoken and unspoken rules that I am... Read more
How many of us have shaped our lives around the message that when we go out to proclaim the reign of God we must “take nothing for the journey” (Luke 9:3)? We are called to be free on our journey of discipleship. We aren’t meant be burdened by clutter or excess. Perhaps you, like I, have made peace with such simplicity. You feel as if your lifestyle is modest enough to be neither burden, nor distraction, and you are constantly reevaluating whether or not your possessions impede your discipleship. But perhaps, like me, you are still not free. What I have carried with me is not lucre, but worry and shame. As I grew into my relationships with God, others, and self, I shed some of the adolescent self-loathing that followed me through my twenties, while constantly battli... Read more
"No more dating, I'm just waiting/Like Sleeping Beauty, my prince will come for me/No more dating, I'm just waiting, 'cause God is writing my love story."  —Barlow Girl (Average Girl) In middle school, BarlowGirl was my jam. I bought all their CDs, of course. It was a simpler time—I could recite the lyrics to every one of their songs—easy. In fact, I'm embarrassed to say that those songs are still up there in my mind, taking up space that could otherwise be used for remembering the active years of British poets (life of an English major) or memorizing the simplest route to my favorite coffee shop. A Christian rock band consisting of three talented and passionate sisters, BarlowGirl was beloved by myself and many other Christian youn... Read more
“It’s not like she’s a radical feminist or anything.” My back stiffened at the graduate student’s description of his wife, and my eyes darted to the other side of the classroom, where my friend Rachel looked as stunned as I felt. Amir had been co-teaching our gender communication class for almost three months, and had approached every issue with a skillful blend of authoritativeness and openness. To hear him nervously give in to the common cliché was jarring. Only a few weeks before, we’d had a similar experience while sitting in a circle of lovely and wise women of valor, all sharing our stories. As more than one young woman in the circle hastily stressed that she was no “radical feminist,” I could see the passing look of frustr... Read more
This post is a testimony of a father’s experience with the pressures of male leadership as a Christian man, told through his daughter’s eyes. In light of the theme for this month, “Headship” and Father’s Day, this column provides a much-needed snapshot of the consequences of “headship” and masculinity expectations on Christian men whose gifts lie outside of leadership. Growing up, I watched both of my parents exercise their gifts, alternatively flourishing and struggling with the expectations of society and the church for husbands, wives, and parents. My mom would be considered the spiritual leader of the family—she is always quick to share what God is teaching her with the rest of us. My dad, on the other hand, is supportive, more incline... Read more
"Where are you headed," asked the man seated beside me on a plane to Philadelphia. I paused, debating whether or not to say that I was on the way to a conference on biblical equality. "Just a conference. What about you?" I felt relieved when the conversation turned to his business trip and he didn't ask anything further about the conference. Not knowing where he stood religiously, whether or not he had a relationship with Jesus, I hesitated to admit that gender equality is even an issue in Christian communities. If he didn't know God and I admitted the necessity of a conference devoted to biblical equality in the Christian community, I worried that he might think less of God. Considering the many struggles souls encounter in knowing God, I decide... Read more
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Beautiful blue skies peek into the upstairs window where we, a handful of church children, listen to our teacher. We’re eager for the story to end as we’ve been promised time on the playground afterwards. I’m six years old and wearing an utterly floral purple and green dress. There’s a little white collar that I love right where my chest is. I have black strap shoes on my feet, but no stockings on my legs. I wish I could wear stockings, but Mommy says that those are for winter and it’s almost summer now. Besides contemplating stockings, I am paying attention. The creation story is strangely intriguing with fantastic images of light and dark just suddenly being. Today the teacher talks... Read more
Jeannette Cook
[Editor's note: This is a post in a series on egalitarianism and autism. The first post, written by Jeannette's daughter, Katia, can be found here.] I grew up longing for fatherly acceptance and love. My dad was very creative in putting my sister Shari* and I down. Shari’s nickname was Big Pig, and mine was Little Pig. We soon learned that he didn’t think we were very smart. He often sang the following to the tune of a famous classical piece by Schubert: Nette is a gob of goo, And Shari is a gob of goo, too. If we made a childish mistake, he would say we were dumber than four hogs, among other things. We learned to stay out of his way because when he was home and spanked us, it was painful. Thankfully, his spankings were rare, but the verbal abuse was nonst... Read more
When I was growing up, I remember that my dad always tacked a three-by-five note card to a corkboard in his home office. Neatly, he had printed words with a black felt tip marker: "He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man." (Ps. 147:10 NASB) The card meant the world to him; it moved wherever our family moved, and we relocated a lot. Dad looked to it as a reminder that his identity wasn't in designing custom homes, skillful carpentry, or owning a successful construction company. God's words, transcending time, place, and personal circumstances, reassured him as a mysterious disease destroyed nerve fibers and interrupted impulses between his brain and spinal cord, slowly wrecking his muscles. I hated Mul... Read more
It is hard to understate the influence of childhood experience. In a very real sense, the past makes us who we are. Some of the most vivid recollections human beings have are from childhood. Psychologists, counselors, and other social researchers tell us that the first phases of a person’s life—whether from birth to toddler or birth to puberty—are the most formative. Few would disagree. While the brain remains somewhat elastic throughout life, the basic biological structures, neural and otherwise, are carved, shaped, and erected until a tipping point of around 18-25 years of age, where the brain begins to stop developing and the body physically begins processes of long-term decay, finally terminating at the last phase of life. Interestingly enough, I have not met a... Read more