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Subservience of the “Fairer Sex”

25 November 2008

I must tell you, friends, that sleep is a blessing not to be taken for granted.  I thank God for every moment of peaceful rest I experience for those moments are few and far between, especially in the cold and/or damp weather of the late-fall and winter.  Chronic illness is no kind friend of mine, but in the final analysis, it appears as though it’s a fact of my life.  God has given me this test and challenge and I must seek the good that can come from it.  Certainly empathy is one of my gifts – and perhaps that is the reason I was “blessed” with these ailments that all at once can seem like such a burden and curse.  Again, I hearken back to that difficult idea that all things happen for a reason and that we must pray and ask for guidance from God that He will light the way and give us the grace to confront such horrors in our daily lives (as, I assure you, not a moment goes by when my mind and body are NOT taxed by the symptoms of chronic illness).

So, in this way, I suppose that is part of what has led me to realize that in my own experience with chronic illness, I can certainly be a source of strength for others who may be sick and suffering.  I can absolutely listen and empathize.  Regardless of the disease, chronic illness can be and often is devastating but by the grace of God, we get through it.  The road is long and the climb is steep, but keep going we must.

So it is in this spirit that I write to you tonight.  It’s 3:22am as I lay here in bed propped up by pillows to support a painful body and spasming back.  It’s interesting that since I have felt God’s call to serve, I often spend my most difficult and painful moments with these illnesses in prayer and in reading God’s word and searching for meaning and answers.  Tonight, I went in to look at this whole issue of fasting in the Methodist church and found that it is still a practice that many Christians engage in.  It varies from those fasting for long periods of time (no food, only water), to those who have maybe only one meal a day, to those who just cut out meat for a time, and then even to those who just cut out certain types of food.  Again, I see the work of God here in me as I’ve recently (over the last month of so) felt this urging to cut out a lot of food products that are not either all natural (fairly liberal guidelines in that, though) or organic in nature.  In a way, I’ve been on a fast of my own in cutting out all soda and other drinks other than tea and water (and a glass of milk per day).  I did this all before I even came across this “fasting” practice or even considered the word “fast.”  All this time I’ve been feeling the need to cleanse, and it turns out that may have been a subtle way of God working in me to say, “Get those chemicals out and come closer to God.”  Pretty awesome how things seem to work.

The purpose of my writing here tonight, though, isn’t to discuss this fasting deal – no, it’s much more crucial to my journey than even that message.  As I was rummaging through the topics on UMC.org, I came across some information about John Wesley, founder of the United Methodist Church.  I read a bit about him in my religion class and was recently asked by a new-found friend and minister whether I considered myself Calvinist or Wesleyan, and I wasn’t entirely sure how to answer that at the time.  I can assure you that now I know I am a Wesleyan.  I don’t want to digress here, but rather get directly to the point: why do some churches believe in women as ministers while others are against it.  Now, of course, there are many arguments against mysoginy in any form and while I understand that, I’m not an A-typical feminist and I don’t want to get into some “men are evil” rant when I wholeheartedly believe that men are wonderful and so I’ll side-step that whole issue.  What I have been told is that some churches look at certain passages in the Bible and pluck them out as reason why certain practices should or should not be done.  But a person who judges anything based on a few scant pieces of “evidence” does himself a great disservice.  You must look at the whole story, not just pick and choose what you wish to follow and set as “law.”

In a sermon 98 delivered by John Wesley on visiting the sick, he states the following:

“But may not women, as well as men, bear a part in this honourable service?” Undoubtedly they may; nay, they ought; it is meet, right, and their bounden duty. Herein there is no difference; “there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus.” Indeed it has long passed for a maxim with many, that “women are only to be seen, not heard.” And accordingly many of them are brought up in such a manner as if they were only designed for agreeable playthings! But is this doing honour to the sex? Or is it a real kindness to them? No; it is the deepest unkindness; it is horrid cruelty; it is mere Turkish barbarity. And I know not how any woman of sense and spirit can submit to it. Let all you that have it in your power assert the right which the God of nature has given you. Yield not to that vile bondage any longer. You, as well as men, are rational creatures. You, like them, were made in the image of God; you are equally candidates for immortality; you too are called of God, as you have time, to “do good unto all men.” Be “not disobedient to the heavenly calling.” Whenever you have opportunity, do all the good you can, particularly to your poor, sick neighbour. And every one of you likewise “shall receive your own reward, according to your own labour.”

I see logic and wisdom in those words.  How could any man–or church!–argue against that, I ask you?  Well, I suppose some can and do argue against women in the ministry and keep women in subservient roles to lord their power over the “fairer sex.”  So that’s that.

I must return to my thoughts and prayers and try, yet again, to sleep this night.

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