“What do I need to hear from my sisters in Christ?” This is the question Mandy Smith asked me to answer as we gear up for ChurchTogether: A SheLeads Summit. You should read her recent piece: What I Long to Say to My Brothers in Christ.
Answering this question has been surprisingly disruptive for me. Thinking up what I could say to (rather than hear from) my sisters in Christ comes much easier, of course. That’s not a surprise.
The surprise is that I didn’t realize how much my impulse to fix and hide my brokenness isolates me from restorative dialogue with my sisters, to the degree that it didn’t occur to me (until prompted) to consider how hearing and receiving from my sisters was necessary for healing. And that’s exactly why this disruption is so important.
Here are four things I need to hear my sisters in Christ say to me that can lead to mutual healing and restoration between us.
#1 “I notice when you see me, probably more than you realize I do.”
I need to here my sisters say “I notice” because it exposes a core cause of broken gender dynamics and also a poignant source of shame: how men see women.
When I see women, I can turn women into objects to use or to analyze. Women become objects under my male gaze. The objectifying male gaze creates and reinforces destructive power dynamics and sexual habits. And part of the problem with objectification is that I am often oblivious about how that gaze is noticed and received by the women around me.
Thus, hearing my sisters in Christ say “I notice” is first an act of agency on my sister’s part. It also disrupts broken patterns of seeing that keep both of us in bondage by bringing it into the light. In the light, I can begin to repent of how and when the way I see women turns into an objectifying gaze (this doesn’t have to be a shaming move).
At the same time, hearing “I notice” makes space for new patterns of seeing. The point is not that we stop looking at each other, but that God is redeeming how we see each other. This is an invitation to consider how it is actually right and good for us to see each other as persons—fully embodied, beloved by God, co-bearers of the divine image.
#2 “I notice when you don’t see me.”
On the flip-side, I also need to hear my sisters name when I don’t see them. In environments shaped by patriarchy (i.e. where priority, preference, language, and even aesthetics are shaped for and by males), I am often unaware how often my sisters in Christ feel ignored and sidelined.
This is important because it’s easy for me to congratulate myself for promoting egalitarian ideals by having my sisters in the room, but it is another thing to advocate for the reshaping of structures infected by the sin of patriarchy. I need to be reminded that I generally benefit from those infected structures, which means I’m often blind to the insidious effects. I need to continually hear from my sisters how and when they feel ignored and overlooked. As a male, I benefit from patriarchy-infected structures, which means I’m often blind to the insidious effects. I need to continually hear from my sisters how and when they feel ignored and overlooked. Click To Tweet
#3 “This is the gospel, the good news of God’s new creation in Christ.”
Simply, I need to hear you proclaim the gospel to me. This is important for two reasons.
- My sisters in Christ have a voice shaped within the experiences of embodied femininity, a voice distinct from speech and thought patterns indicative of a world shaped by (white) male discourse. Because the gospel is good news for all humanity, it is lopsided and flat without expression in and through my sisters’ voice, especially in how the gospel gets real amidst complex and diverse contexts. Hearing my sisters proclaim the gospel can open new space for repentance and spiritual transformation that I might miss within male-centered echo chambers.
- Hearing my sisters proclaim the Gospel is another way for me to be in a posture of reception, rather than control. I need to receive the bad news of when and how, intentionally and unintentionally, I’ve perpetuated broken gender dynamics, but I also need to receive a word of hope about how God is restoring all that is broken. In a world marked by hostility and antagonism, this is the kind of discourse that can bring restoration.
#4 “We need each other.”
Hearing “we need each other” reminds me that the restoration of our sexuality and the healing of gender dynamics does not come by fear and avoidance, by multiplying shame or guilt. We really were meant to flourish together and need each other to cultivate love, respect, and mutuality.
Hearing my sisters in Christ name that “we need each other” thus opens space for learning to grow in love, not just getting better at sinning less.
Those words remind me that the agenda for our interaction need not be dominated by the threat of inherent danger.
Those words remind me that my broken sexuality is not the truest story about me and that ongoing transformation is possible and desirable.
Those words remind me the blessing of God is stronger than the curse of sin. In Christ, we are meant to be a gift, one to another.
For more conversations like this, join us on Nov 10 for Church Together, a She Leads Summit in Pasadena. Regional venues also available across the nation.