In the past year, I’ve thrown off many cashiers when they go to punch in a phone number, beginning with area code, to connect my purchase to their club card. Nope, the area code not 913 or 816. It’s 719.
“Where is that?” they frequently ask.
“Colorado Springs. We moved here recently.”
A common response was, “Why? Why would you leave Colorado to come live here?”
I may wonder this for the rest of my life. Though I have inklings, I don’t have the logical answers of why we came here for a year, only to return home. But I can say I learned a few lessons while living in the Sunflower State.
First of all, it’s important to note that Colorado Springs has a unique atmosphere. The city is home to over 100 Christian organizations. It is politically and religiously conservative. It is also saturated with churches. I grew up there and moved back shortly after college. By this time I was married, and we had a little girl.
Upon my return, I worked fulltime while my husband attended graduate school. I was quickly subjected to the reminder that good mothers don’t work. I had heard this growing up. But this time it was my reality. I received off-handed comments at baby showers, bridal showers, and other gatherings.
In addition, this mentality was discussed on a daily basis in my workplace, not specifically at me, but it was a regular topic nonetheless because of the atmosphere of the city. I only knew of one other working mother in my sphere of interaction. I felt alone and rejected for years.
Kansas, however, knows nothing of these divides. At least, I never ran across it this year. That fact has been incredibly freeing for me, and it was nice to have a bit of distance as I sort out more of who I am and how I’m gifted.
Along the way, I was blessed with a wonderful new friend who happens to be a stay-at-home mom. She and I helped one another in a myriad of ways and encouraged one another, not only in our roles as mothers, but pretty much just in life. I had never experienced this, and I am incredibly grateful for my friendship with Jessica. I have a feeling we will be friends for life, no matter where the years take us.
In addition, with regard to work, I got a taste of the freelancing life when I lost my job in December. I miss collaborating with a team and being a part of “something bigger” in a corporate sense. I have leadership skills that are going unused.
While in Kansas, our family was in leadership at a church. This is the first time in my life I’ve run across women who are considering ordination. It’s one thing to consider this kind of situation as an “issue” to debate. It’s another thing when you are sitting across from a woman in a coffee shop and you know, without any doubt, that they should be leading and ministering in a formal role in the local church.
My mind raced for months as I investigated women and equality—in the church, in the home, in the work place. You may recall this post on redemption.
I read a large document about Genesis 3, written by a Denver Seminary professor and read through a paper on 1 Peter 3 written by a seminary student I know (nope, not my husband…but that’s a good guess!). I read blogs. I read my Bible. I read commentaries. I discovered the household codes in the epistles are often taken out of cultural context. I couldn’t find any place where Jesus emphasized men as the only leaders, in the religious setting or in the family. Nor could I find any place where Jesus said parenting is our highest calling, as I had been told for so long. Think of all the singles and childless couples this mentality isolates! I shake my head.
In the Bible, there are only a few pages that specifically address women and their roles in society. But we have thousands of pages about what it looks like to follow God. Why are we ignoring this fact and churning out stacks of “Bible studies” that teach us how to be the Proverbs 31 women or the next Ruth? I am a follower of God first and foremost. That is my highest calling.
I try not to think of all the years that seem “wasted” by the legalism I subjected upon myself. The truth is, I have been uneasy about all of this for a long time. Really, for decades. And I never said anything. Why take the unnecessary risk of being labeled a feminist? That’s not going to go over well in youth group, no matter how much you want to ask the questions.
And then there was the belief at Bible college that women only get degrees in case their husband dies or just so they can homeschool their children effectively. Really?! Not so that they can steward the gifts God has given them in whatever capacity they feel God is leading them to pursue?
I suspect I would have come across these truths as some point in my life. But Kansas gave me the space and freedom to explore my questions without judgment and to form some conclusions too. Kansas put faces to my wonderings. And I will never be the same. I am grateful.
So, as I ponder my imminent return to Colorado, I feel more confident as a follower of God, as a writer, as a mother and wife, and as a leader in the church. I carry hope as I return to the Rocky Mountains.
Goodbye, Kansas. Hello, home.
“A Week of Mutuality” posts by Rachel Held Evans (Strangely, prior to these posts, similar phrases were ringing in my head. I thought Rachel provided a well-written, well-researched summary of necessary questions and thoughts with regard to women and equality.)
“Women in Ministry” series by Ed Cyzewski