“Your Life Story is not your testimony, it is the story of formative experiences that God has brought into your life. It is not just the facts of your story, but, a record of experiences that God used to form you. “Formative experiences” are experiences that impacted you strongly. As a result of such an experience, you were changed in some way.”
There have been a “record of experiences that God has used” to form my passion for the Blessed Alliance. Here’s just one …
Housing for my second year residency was a continued reminder that my female body was “a problem.” As the only woman in our doctoral program I would have to be housed in a separate place from the other pastors (26 male pastors). I stayed in a big, old, musty smelling inn with dark hallways just outside of the Boston city limits – alone, all by my self. The rest of the students stayed together in the yellow house adjacent from the inn. To attend class we would have to drive about fifteen minutes into the city to a building located in an area of town deemed not “all that safe.” At least that was the warning given by the seminary, which turned out to be warranted – a man was murdered outside our building during our residency.
The night I arrived at the inn I made up my mind I was going to catch a ride with one of the guys, at least the first day or until I felt secure driving by myself. The next morning I walked into the breakfast area where all the guys were eating and immediately noticed Lou (not his real name), one of my cohorts, sitting a few tables back to my right. The fear of feeling unsafe must have been building because while standing at the entrance I blurted, “Lou can you give me a ride to class?” Suddenly the room was like a movie where everyone stops mid motion. Guys with spoons and coffee cups just suspended in mid air. I stood there thinking, “Oh brother you’ve got to be kidding me?” Once again I was facing down that damn romantic –danger narrative. You know that narrative that says, “Women tempt men, whether they intend it or not, and men by nature are lascivious.”
I had it. I wasn’t going to let it dominant the landscape anymore. I wanted more for me – and them. So I did what I learned to do growing up – I called it out. Isn’t that what we teach, communication is key to relationships. I decided it was time to communicate a new narrative. Hopefully my narrative would put them at ease and we could get to learning homiletics (the art of preaching) together. Standing there, overlooking the room I loudly proclaimed, “I don’t want to have sex with you. I just want a ride. As your sister in Christ I want a ride because I’m afraid. I don’t want to get raped.” There was this nervous chuckle but also an awkward relief. We finished eating breakfast and I caught a ride to class with Lou.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Jackie aren’t we playing with fire” by insisting on a different narrative? There is caution here but I would argue, along with many scholars, that the brother – sister narrative is a biblical narrative that has gotten lost and is long over due in our oversexed culture. Scot McKnight reminds us, “Contemporary Christian thinkers are beginning a new conversation about what eschatological union can look like in the here –and –now.” Theologians and ministers alike are asking questions from passages in Scripture like John 17: 11, 20-23 where Jesus prays for “oneness” (the same word that’s used in Genesis 2:24) of the community, brothers and sisters. (Something Paul spoke of way more than he spoke of marriage.) They are taking into account that brother sister relationship is the one that carried into the new heavens and new earth. Brother sisterhood narrative forces us to reckon that the garden story is about marriage – but it’s about more than marriage, it’s about man and woman in community, male and female acting as a royal priesthood, ruling and subduing the whole earth on God’s behalf – together.
With this in mind now try to hear anew God’s words in Genesis 1:26-28.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth (this is not unique to humans Genesis 1:20-22) and subdue it. Rule (this is unique to humans) over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Italic’s mine)
Male and female – humans – in the image and likeness of God – with a royal-priestly mission to flourish and fill the earth. Scot McKnight explained like this, “The creation of the world as God’s temple, the placing of two little Eikons – Adam and Eve as divine image- bearers – in the garden temple of God (called Eden) to represent God, to govern for God, and to relate to God, self, others and the world in a redemptive way
Carolyn Custis James echoes, “God designed the world to stand on two load-bearing walls. The first load- bearing wall is God’s relationship with his image bearers. Without this vital relationship, we are cut off from our life supply – homeless, stranded souls in the universe, left to guess at who we are and why we are here. The second load- bearing wall is the Blessed Alliance between male and female. According to Genesis, male/female relationships aren’t simply necessary to perpetuate the human race and make life pleasurable and interesting.
Male/female relationships are strategic. God laid out his game plan in Genesis, and the team he assembled to do the job was male and female. Men and women working together actually predates men working with men and women working with women. It would be one thing if God confined this male/female team to home and family and then mapped out the remaining territory into separate spheres for men and for women. But he didn’t do that. Their mission – together– is to rule and subdue the whole earth on his behalf. Men and women together. Our relationship with God and with each other are the load-bearing walls of God’s original design.” (James, 40.)
The point I’m trying to make is we (I) need a narrative that more accurately depicts God’s original plan and purpose for male and female. A romantic – danger narrative splinters and divides and perhaps more importantly misrepresents God’s oneness. “When men are called to full- fledged kingdom living but the other half of the church is asked to sit on the sidelines, there is no Blessed Alliance, the bride of Christ limps, and we misrepresent God’s oneness.” (James, 140)
We need a story that reminds people what God is like when they see both of us, as individuals and together. We need a story where we rediscover our need for one another in order to bring out the best in each other. We need a story where God’s people, male and female, are advancing the kingdom in full strength. That’s what I was fighting for that morning at breakfast – a different biblical narrative graciously my brothers accepted the challenge.
Perhaps you are ready for a new narrative. Or maybe you have lingering questions about how men and women serve Jesus together. Or maybe you need a place to be inspired or encouraged by your sisters or brothers. May 1-3, 2015 men and women of faith will convene to learn from one another and engage in candid conversation about what it means to be the Blessed Alliance.
If you desire to gather, learn together, engage in healthy dialogue, and leave better equipped to live in blessed alliance – come join us.