Stronger Together


claire colvin -stronger together-3

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I am convinced that it also takes a village to raise a grownup. We need each other desperately.  

I’m usually pretty good at sorting things out but a while back I had a conundrum I couldn’t work out. I was torn between what I wanted, what I thought was necessary, what my faith calls me to, and what was kind. I had no clue what to do. I turned to the wisest group of women I knew and laid out the situation. It was not particularly comfortable but I really wanted to hear their opinions.

They came back with such grace, such wisdom, such affirmation. Within the hour I knew exactly what the next step was and how to go about it. I went to them feeling weak and I came away feeling so strong. They showed up for me in a big way and it was such a gift. This is the way church is supposed to function. Far too often, it’s not the way the church functions at all. (Andy Savage, I’m looking at you.)

There’s a story in the Bible where the Israelites are battling the Amalekites. Moses stands on the hilltop overlooking the battlefield with his hands raised and he prays and prays. As long as his hands were raised, the Israelites were winning, but when his hands dropped the Amalekites started winning. Moses was pretty experienced at that point, but he was human and his strength failed him. His closest friends came and stood on either side of him and held his arms up for him. And the Israelites won the day.

I’ve always loved that picture. God didn’t discount what Moses was doing because he needed some help to stay the course. I wonder if God never expected him to do it alone in the first place.

I am so thankful to be in a community with women who will hold my arms up. I’m learning that real community is out there but the price of authentic connection is honesty. And it’s non-negotiable. Sometimes getting real can be really, really scary. But when you’re in a good community, a strong and healthy community, there’s nothing to fear in showing your whole self.

One of my nieces is in Bible school and she told me about the group of women she’s gathered to talk about women in biblical studies. Her face lit up as described the group’s first meeting and the particular joy of not having to explain herself. In this group they don’t have to explain the challenges of combining feminism with faith, or differing opinions on female preachers or a whole host of other things. They could skip the part where they had to make their case and just dive straight into the conversation . She marveled that it made the conversation so much easier. I, 15 years her senior, marveled that the conversation could happen at all.  

I never once saw a woman preach in all my growing up years. There were a few women Bible teachers, but they were relegated to printed workbooks and Tuesday morning ladies’ bible studies. Women were not a part of the church, they were treated as if they were there only as guests of their husbands, the real members. Women dealt with children and filled the tables at potlucks and church picnics. Occasionally they provided the Special Music. Beyond that their role was silence. How incredible to think that a generation later there are women preachers and women theologians and young women training to be preachers and Bible college professors. It gives me hope.

As I write today there are women’s marches happening across my country and across the US and around the world. The signs have been fantastic. I’m torn between being so proud at the sight of so many women standing together and being so sad that there are still so many reasons we need to march. But mostly I’m hopeful. There are so many of us we cannot be ignored. The march in Austin, Texas broke the record for being the largest march in Texas history. People on the news seem surprised that the marches are so big.

I’m not surprised. Women show up.

There’s a line in The Last Jedi where Rose Tico says to Finn, “We’re going to win this war, not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.” I partially agree. I do think we need to put serious effort into saving the things we love, but we’re going to have to fight the things we hate too.  

I hate that a pastor can stand in front of his congregation admit to sexually assaulting a teen under his care decades earlier and get a standing ovation for his “honesty”.

I hate that 140 women were abused by former USA Gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar — so many that their victim impact statements took four days to hear in court—and that for years those in power turned away and let him do it.

I hate the first question the vast majority of rape victims are asked is not, “Are you okay?” but rather, “What were you wearing?”

It’s easy to get lost in the darkness when we still have such a long way to go but I am trying to keep my face turned toward the light, wherever I see it. The problems are big, but we are strong. We’re even stronger together.