If you read the GFL e-newsletter, you may recall my mention of a certain giddiness when I saw an ad for a one-day conference about “Women and Christian History” being held right in my neighborhood. Well, this past weekend, I went.
Some highlights for me included seeing archaeological evidence of women priests, deacons, and elders in the early church, and that Notre Dame in Paris had women priests as recently as the Middle Ages. And I enjoyed learning about ancient Jewish and Roman marriage and divorce practices and how those related to the apparently mis-read and misunderstood story of the Samaritan woman at the well.
But my favorite moment of the day, the one that lingered and has made me smile whenever I replay it, came when Dr. Mimi Haddad talked about the women of the early Evangelical movement. In the 19th and early 20th Century, Dr. Haddad told us, Bible colleges and “institutes” sent out women to preach the gospel in big numbers. Incidentally, many of these Bible colleges she mentioned no longer send women out to preach. At least, not intentionally.
But once upon a time, Dr. Haddad said, women who were “wild-hearted” about following God’s call on their lives and “captivated” by the gospel, were trained and sent out by these institutions that “were proud of their wild-hearted daughters.”
If you don’t catch the reference, of course Dr. Haddad was good-naturedly jabbing the wildly (pun intended) popular books, Wild at Heart and Captivating. These books contend that a woman wants “Romance, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to be the Beauty in the tale,” while a man wants “to be a hero, to be a warrior, to live a life of adventure and risk.”
I need to tread lightly here, as I mean no disrespect to the authors of these books. Obviously what they wrote about must seem true in their own lives and in the people around them. I suspect that many of you will read those characterizations of women and say, “Yes, right. I sure do!”
However, many of us read the premises of the books and wonder what we’re supposed to do if we don’t exactly fit their ideas of what women (and men) want. Especially as it seems more and more church programs for women (and men) take these characterizations as guiding truths.
When Dr. Haddad made her comment about “wild-hearted daughters,” I smiled and cheered a little, along with many women in the room, because it always feels good to realize you’re not alone. In this case, that we weren’t the only ones who believe that our longings for adventures—of our own or alongside spouses or friends—and for battles worth fighting are placed there by God. And that while beauty and romance may have some place somewhere in our lives, what we really long for is a life of following God’s callings, wild-heartedly.
So hearing the simple statement that places were proud of their wild-hearted daughters warmed my heart. Made me a little jealous even. Because it sure doesn’t feel like the broad Christian community or even our own churches are always proud of us wild-hearted women now.
Often, we are seen as pests, as wanting to be “like men,” of trying to cause trouble for trouble’s sake. Those of us who are wives and mothers and still feel wild calls from God are looked at with suspicion. As if God can’t give a woman a husband, children, and a crazy, counter-culture calling.
Rarely are we embraced—at least in broad circles—as worthy of cheering on and supporting as God’s called and willing warriors. Rarely do we ever sense that others are proud of us.
It’s much easier for our churches, for example, to cater to the women who only want “parts” in another’s adventure. Who care a lot about looking pretty. And who like a bit of romance.
Yet we miss out on so many women—who feel isolated and rejected. I think we miss out on the chance to join in on some of the great work God is doing with his wild-hearted daughters.
So I’m just wondering: First, how does your church “deal” with women who are a bit wild-hearted, seeking the adventure of a risky life following Jesus? Are they embraced? Are they supported? Encouraged? But also, what can we, as church leaders, do to foster a broad community once again that champions God’s wild-hearted daughters?
After all, these are women who seek lives of risk and adventure and fighting battles for Jesus. All because they have indeed been captivated by his love and grace.