Seeking Eve Monday: On gender roles, quiet times and making art, not war

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Welcome to the first Seeking Eve Monday.

By Christina Crook

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Like you, my faith is strengthened by the confession of others.

The breath of release that comes when honesty flows and you exhale with the truth that I am not alone.

The truth shall set you free, Jesus said. And it is for this reason I have been gathering women’s stories for the past three years. I have been seeking other Eves. Women like you and me who are beat up and bedraggled, as Brennan Manning describes in his Ragamuffin GospelWild and courageous and deeply-flawed and beautiful women whose stories embrace the life and mess and thrill and heartbreak of faith, and live it every day.

Modern-day Eves are artists who have thrown out their commercial brushes to create on canvas. Tattooed mamas who design clothes as their babies nap. Emmy award-winning journalists who got their start in a rural backwater. Parole officers, nurses, curators, occupational therapists, baristas, graffiti artists.

And urban-gardening doulas. Like Avital.   

My name is Avital.

Faith to me means living in tension.

What I mean by that is this: I have been a Christian my entire life, but my faith is very different now than when I was younger. Raised in a loving Christian home, I was homeschooled and grew up in church. I believed in femininity, not feminism, courtship not dating, complementary gender roles, not egalitarianism. I had a “personal relationship with Jesus” and it was emotional and experiential.

Today, as a stay at home mother of two small children, I am knee deep in laundry and dirty diapers and there isn’t a lot of time for me to get too personal with Jesus. Sometime after having my first child, my opinions and politics took a drastic turn towards the left. I believe it’s wrong to spank children, I am a feminist and I think women can be pastors and speak in church. My husband and I joyfully purged complentarianism from our marriage in favour of mutual submission, I rarely have time for “quiet times” or even reading the Bible at all. I am pro-choice, I breastfeed in public without a modesty cover, I have gay friends and I will go to their weddings.

I am not the poster child for conservative Christianity.  I live in the tension of this. My opinions and my faith do not always coexist peacefully inside me, and they definitely have a tendency to spark controversy in more traditional Christian circles. In spite of the fact that I often have more questions than answers and my opinions are not always popular, my faith stays strong. It’s a choice that I make—to keep my faith in spite of my questions, to remind myself that just because at this moment I don’t feel some sort of ethereal emotional connection to God doesn’t mean I don’t have faith.

I know that I don’t know everything, and sometimes my faith feels really complicated when it gets tangled up in my frustrations with the church, my left-wing politics, my feminism, and my skepticism. But when I remember that Jesus said the greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbours—then my faith crystalizes into something simple. I may not have answers, but I have love: I am certain of Christ’s sacrifice and love for me and I am sure of my commitment to love those around me.

When I was younger, I was certain that God was calling me to work in a high-powered career.  I was going to take my conservative faith and values and change the world via corporate success. My life today is so far from that that I have to laugh just thinking about it.  I am a stay-at-home mother with no job prospects and I live in a First Nations community where more than half the people on my street are on social assistance. My life is messy, it’s busy, it’s ridiculous. My life is far from successful in the financial or career sense.  But it is full. Some weeks my life is so busy with people and service and caring for my children and my garden and my church and trying to do laundry, I don’t even have time to grocery shop. My husband and I shake our heads. “Our life is ridiculous” we say to each other.

We frequently get overwhelmed by our hectic schedule and we try to figure out what we should eliminate–what we should stop doing–so we’ll have more time.  Then I think of Isaiah 54 where God tells Israel to “Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left.” I think of those words and I feel the tension of the stretching, and inevitably, we don’t stop doing anything; everything just fits in because all the things we are doing are things we choose to do because they are loving and we try to do them in faith—trusting God will use our simple actions; that the things we do will be a reflection of His light and love.

In spite of my claim that my faith is steady, I wish I still had a bit of the emotional, experiential faith of my youth. When I can, I attend Catholic Mass at the little mission church in my community. As someone who was raised in the evangelical Protestant tradition, the liturgy is new and refreshing for me. I love the practice of worship, the focus on the communal faith, the weekly reminders that my faith is a part of something much bigger than me and my little personal or impersonal relationship with Jesus.

I think my faith these days is a lot like playing the piano. You have to spend a lot of time doing scales and practicing simple songs before you tackle Chopin. The practice can feel dry and pointless. What do scales up and down the keys have to do with a performance in the concert hall? In the same way, I feel like I spend a lot of time doing mundane things, and I don’t have this gloriously emotionally intimate relationship with Jesus. And yet, when I choose to do the tasks in front of me with gratitude and generosity, my days are transformed into something beautiful and satisfying.

The thing is I try really hard to follow Jesus. I am a wife and I am a mother of two sons. I am a friend, I am an artist, a gardener, a sister, a daughter, a doula, a neighbour. In all those roles, I try really hard to love like Jesus did.  It is easy and it is hard. It gets complicated and I try to remember to keep it simple. Faith is living in the tension of simplicity and complication. I am not a theologian; I am just a woman who loves Jesus and I don’t know how all the pieces fit together. I just hold them in my open hands and trust that God knows the bigger picture and will show me what I need to see as I go along.

One night, while discussing my feeling of great lack in the emotional faith department, I told my husband even though I didn’t feel like I had faith that was really tangible, I knew I loved Jesus and this fact impacted every single aspect of my life–how I parent my children, the art I make, the friends I spend time with, where we live, what our priorities are in how we spend our money and pass our time. Even though I don’t feel some sort of emotional connection–I strive to live by the commands Jesus said were the greatest: “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour.”

My husband looked at me blankly as I expressed this. “Isn’t that what having faith is?” he asked. “The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen?”

Today I give myself permission to be at peace with the fact that I have not figured it all out. I am certain my faith will continue to change and grow and I will continue to live in the tension, the stretching, the conviction and the assurance. I know I love Jesus and He has given me a purpose in life. I do my imperfect best at being a reflection of His love and truth. There will be joy in the journey.

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I’d love to hear your story. Please share it by emailing me at seekingeve[@]gmail.com.

To find words for your story, try following these lines, as Avital did:

Faith to me means [community / hope / food / sacrifice / art / etc] …

What I mean by that is …

When I was little I …

My days are filled with …

I wish …

The thing is …

Today I give myself permission …

Photo credits: Avital

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About Christina:

Christina recently traded the seaside views of Bowen Island, BC for the banks of Toronto’s Humber River where she, her husband and two young children attend Grace Toronto Church. Her work has appeared in MUSE and Vancouver magazine, and is forthcoming in UPPERCASE, Geez and the Literary Review of Canada. She is the founder of SeekingEve.ca and blogs at www.christinacrook.com.

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Christina Crook
Christina is a Toronto-based writer whose articles on culture, religion and technology have appeared in Vancouver, UPPERCASE and Geez magazine. She, her husband and two young children attend Grace Toronto Church. Christina Crook is founder of SeekingEve.ca and author of Letters from a Luddite: What I learned in 31 days off-line, now available at Blurb.com.
Christina Crook