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Broken Crayons

October 2, 2015

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“We’re all a little broken.  But, broken crayons can still color.”  (Trent Shelton)

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As a lover of art and a lover of color, there are few experiences in this world that I find to be more delightful than opening a brand new box of Crayola crayons.

(Why Crayola, you ask?  Because choosing to use any other brand is just downright blasphemous, y’all.)

How I love looking at that brightly-pigmented arrangement of freshly-sharpened paraffin wax!  And how I love putting those new, untouched treasures to work.  With precision and accuracy, they are able to add beauty, character, and life to a sheet of paper, or a page from a coloring book.  It makes me smile.  Always has.

Opening and enjoying a new box of crayons is one of those simple joys in life that I’m certain I will never outgrow.

But, as we all know, over time, something inevitably begins to happen to the crayons.  After several uses, their pointed tips start to become worn down.  Slowly, the wax that forms their bodies begins to erode.  Precision and accuracy become more difficult.  The paper that wraps around the crayon becomes torn.  And, over time, they become susceptible to breaking in half.

The once-perfect box of Crayola crayons eventually becomes broken, torn, and worn-down.

But, the cool thing about those broken, torn, worn-down crayons is that they haven’t been rendered useless.  They still work.  Though broken, they can still color a sheet of paper.

If I could compare the Church – the body of Christ – to anything, it would be a box of broken crayons.

I know that might sound silly.  But, just hear me out on this.

Though we, as believers, are a group of broken and torn individuals…lacking precision and accuracy in our thinking and our actions…aren’t we still able to color the world?

Absolutely.

Though we are broken, we are still called to carry out His work – each and every day.  Despite our brokenness, we are able to accomplish much good…by the power of Christ that lives in us.  How thankful I am that He delights in using imperfect vessels to do His work.

Across the centuries, I can think of no other institution that has poured out more love into the world and colored it more beautifully than the body of Christ.

Has there been much good accomplished by institutions other than the Church?  Of course.  No question.

But, I truly believe that if you take a long look at what has transpired in years past, there is no institution that has collectively fed more starving mouths, saved more unborn babies, forgiven more unforgivable acts, loved more unlovable individuals, visited more imprisoned criminals, sponsored more needy children, remembered more forgotten people, comforted more grieving hearts, cared for more sick and/or dying souls, and protected more orphans and widows than the body of Christ.

Sure, you have radical groups of “Christians” that claim to be a part of the body of Christ who pride themselves on spewing words of hatred and bigotry into the world around them…and, therefore, not coloring the world as He intended them to color it.  It should be noted that these are not the folks I am referring to here.

When I refer to the body of Christ, I’m talking about the folks who have surrendered their lives to Christ and His teachings…the ones who have chosen to speak the truth in love, because that’s how Christ shared the truth when he walked this earth.  I’m talking about the folks who simply yearn to be the hands and feet of Christ in their daily lives, even though they are well aware of the fact that they won’t always get it right.  Though they recognize their sinfulness and their flaws, they take great delight in the fact that they are saved by grace, covered in the blood of Christ, and able to walk through life joyfully – knowing that they are fully forgiven and fully free.  They make it their life’s mission to love God and love others to the best of their ability.  They seek to love…because He first loved us.

The Church is made up of broken, imperfect people who have come together – united in Christ – in an attempt to color the world as He intended it to be colored.  When those broken, imperfect people come together, they create broken, imperfect congregations.  But, these broken, imperfect congregations are able to accomplish some incredibly amazing things, thanks to the power of He who is living within them.

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“We’re all a little broken.  But, broken crayons can still color.”

Not long ago, I read that simple quote for the first time.  Ever since then, it has continued to regularly resurface in my mind.  Over and over again, it continues to pop into my head.  Over and over again, it continues to remind me of the Church.  Over and over again, it encourages me to keep pressing on in an effort to color the world around me – not only as an individual follower of Christ, but also as a member of the global body of Christ.  Over and over, it continues to remind me that just because something is broken doesn’t mean that it has automatically been rendered useless.  Praise God for that.

It’s a quote that brings a very simple – but poignant – image to mind.

It’s an image of broken crayons being gripped tightly by the hand of the Great Artist…moving masterfully across a piece of paper to create a colorful work of art.  Despite their flaws, their imperfections, and their lack of precision, the crayons are still able to produce beauty when planted firmly in the Great Artist’s hand.

It’s an image of the body of Christ.

It’s an image of the Church.

Yes, broken crayons are still incredibly useful.  And so are broken people.

I think we can all agree on that.

Now that we’ve firmly established that truth, I would like to move on to discussing an issue that has been weighing heavily on my heart lately.  It is something that has been nagging at me for quite some time.  And I’ve come to learn that when the nagging begins, the best way for me to stop it is to sit down at my desk and start typing away so that my thoughts can finally erupt.

So, here I am today.  And here are my thoughts….laid bare for all to see.

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I am no stranger to broken crayons.

And my five young children aren’t strangers to them either.

When they discover a pile of broken crayons, I’ve seen them do one of three things in response.  1) They simply throw them away.  2)  They continue to use them, as-is, so that they can continue to color with them…even though the tips may be badly worn down, and not working nearly as efficiently as they should.  3)  They grab a crayon sharpener from my desk drawer and go through the pile.  They sift through it to find which tips are in decent shape, and which ones are badly in need of some help.  Then, they begin to sharpen the broken and/or worn-down tips in an attempt to gain optimum results out of them….and, over time, they continue to sharpen and re-sharpen the tips as best they can so that the crayons can be as precise and effective as possible, despite being broken, overused, and diminished in size.

In recent months, I’ve come to realize that we, as the Church, simply choose option #2 way too often.  And we do so because we’ve become way too comfortable with it.

We know that it’s okay to be broken, and we will never be able to get everything right.  No congregation of Christ-followers is perfect.  No denomination has it all figured out.  No group of believers has it all together.  We know that Christ loves us unconditionally and can use us in any state that we are in, so we just keep coloring away in the world around us…with flattened tips.

Why?  Because we can.

Why?  Because it’s what we’ve done for so long.

Why?  Because it’s comfortable.

Why?  Because it’s easy.

Why?  Because reaching for the sharpener requires effort and initiative.

Why?  Because (dare I say it) sometimes we don’t want to be sharpened.

Shouldn’t we, as a Church, be looking to choose option #3 as much as possible?  Shouldn’t we constantly be sifting through our pile of broken crayons….looking for the ones that are badly in need of repair?  Shouldn’t we always be willing to reach for the sharpener in an effort to optimize the performance of our broken pile of crayons?

I think so.

I’m sure that each of you reading this right now could come up with at least one area in which the Church could use a little sharpening these days.  But, the one area I would like to touch on today is an issue that has become very important to me over the past decade.

The role of women in the Church.

So, what happened in my life almost a decade ago that made the importance of this issue skyrocket?

Well, I became a mom.  I gave birth to a daughter.  A future woman.

Ten years ago, I was able to overlook a lot of the Church’s guidelines and standards – in regard to women – for the sake of unity and peace.  And, make no mistake, today I am still able to overlook them to a certain extent.  But, not nearly as much as I was before giving birth to a precious daughter.  A soon-to-be woman.

Today, I am the mother of three future women.  Sidney, Grace, and Morganne.  My oldest, Sidney, gave her life to Christ a couple of years ago.  Since that time, I have seen her love for Him continue to grow.  And it’s a beautiful thing.  She is compassionate.  She is kind.  She is thoughtful.  She is caring.  She is intelligent.  She is creative.  She is artistic.  She is insightful.  She is on her way to becoming an excellent writer.  She is someone who has so much to offer this world.  And we just know that she will accomplish some amazing things to further the kingdom in the years ahead.  That being said, when I look at her I can’t help but think about how her options (in comparison to her two younger brothers’ options), may someday be limited when it comes to what roles she can step into within the Church.  This has nothing to do with whether or not she is more or less capable than they are to fulfill certain roles.  It has everything to do with her gender.  And it has everything to do with the fact that there are several verses found in the bible that, when taken out of their proper context, have led many within the Church to believe that women should not be allowed to teach men.  Instead, they should let the men step into the leadership, shepherding, and teaching roles within the Church….UNLESS those roles happen to involve leading, shepherding, and teaching other women and children.

Women teaching children and other women?  Cool.

Women teaching men?  Not cool.

So, which bible verses am I referring to, you ask?  For the sake of this post, I will share two of them.

In one of Paul’s letters to Timothy, he writes these words:  “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” (I Timothy 2:11-12)

We also find these words in one of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth:  Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”  (I Corinthians 14:34,35)

Taken out of context, these commands seem rather blunt.  Rather straightforward.  Rather harsh.  Rather chauvinistic.  But, when you take the time to consider the context in which Paul’s words were spoken on this particular topic, it’s clear that they were meant for another time and another place…when circumstances and cultural expectations/beliefs were much, much different than they are today.

Paul wrote those words at a time and a place in which women weren’t allowed to LEARN.  The thought of teaching women in the same way that men were taught would have been considered repulsive to many men during that time.  The thought of giving women the same opportunities to learn as men during that time period, and within that culture, would have been revolutionary.  (Whereas today, of course, women are given the same opportunities to learn as men.  Women are taught in the same manner that men are taught, for the most part, and people think nothing of it.)  Cultural expectations of women during that time kept them confined to their homes.  Most of them were uneducated and illiterate.  Sad, isn’t it?  I know.  But, that was the world in which they lived.  In Greco-Roman society, women were given authority in the household, but rarely had opportunity for public speaking. Could it be that, in these verses, Paul was instructing women to teach and remain silent during worship services in those crucial early days of the Church because (whether he agreed with it or not) women during that time weren’t permitted to learn?  Could it be that he was discouraging women from speaking publicly in worship assemblies because they didn’t have much experience in public speaking?  Yes, I think so.  Expecting those who weren’t even allowed to learn to go out and teach simply wouldn’t be a wise move at all.  Expecting those who had no public speaking experience to get up and preach simply wouldn’t be wise either.

It’s also worth noting that some of the newly-birthed Christian churches to whom Paul was writing at this particular time had fallen into a variety of serious moral errors.  Pagan culture had begun to creep into some of the congregations – to the point where there was very little that distinguished the Christians from the communities in which they lived.  The worship gatherings had become disorderly…with many disruptive questions arising regularly. And most of those questions were coming from the women.  Paul knew that appropriateness and order were crucial during those early, formative days of the Church.  At that time, it was widely believed that it was morally indiscreet for any woman to say anything on any subject in public. So, to me, it is clear that when Paul wrote instructions regarding the role of women in the early Church, he was taking the cultural climate of the time into consideration.  He was also addressing some very specific situations that had arisen among the churches. I don’t think we can conclude that Paul was making a general prohibition on women speaking and teaching in the Church…meant for all times and all places until the end of time.  No.  I think it is safe…it is right…and it is crucial for us to understand that Paul’s words regarding women’s roles in the Church were meant for a specific time and place.  And it is crucial that we always take the time to consider the context in which his words (and all of the biblical authors’ words) were spoken.

Context is everything.

It’s everything.

If you don’t believe that it is….and you happen to believe that context doesn’t really matter when it comes to the Word of God, I would highly encourage you to read through the book of Leviticus, if you haven’t already done so.  If context doesn’t matter, and you believe that we should be strictly adhering to every rule set forth in the bible – without regard to who was writing the words, when they wrote it, why they wrote it, and to whom they were writing – then you might want to take a quick refresher course on Levitical law. Pronto!  The book of Leviticus is FULL of guidelines for holiness that were meant for a very specific time and place in history.  And, yet, we don’t see Christians today following all of those guidelines.  Why is that?  Because we have recognized that context is everything when it comes to reading through the sacred texts that God has given to us.  Considering context isn’t crucial just while reading through the book of Leviticus.  It’s crucial while reading through ANY book of the bible. Any of them.  Including the books that Paul wrote to Timothy and the Corinthian church.

Another important point to consider is that Paul – the same man who penned the two verses I listed above – also penned this verse:

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.”  (Galatians 3:28)

Isn’t that beautiful?

In Christ, there is no male or female.

We are all equal.  We are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.  Males, by nature, are not one step closer to Him than females.  Females, by nature, are not one step further away from Him than males.  Do males have different strengths than females?  Different tendencies?  Different weaknesses?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Of course.  But, in Him, we are all equal.

However, in many Christian churches today, women are not being given equal opportunities to serve in the same capacity as men.

And that saddens me.

It saddens me on a number of levels.  But, mostly because I have three daughters who I know have great potential to teach, lead, and serve in ways that could greatly further the kingdom.  I have every reason to believe that, someday, they will have so much to offer.  Not just to their sisters in Christ, but also to their brothers in Christ.  Not just to the women and children surrounding them, but also the men.  But, unless the Church’s viewpoint changes in regard to women’s roles, I fear that they may not have the opportunity to tap into their full potential as Christ-followers.

My hope and my prayer is that the Church will soon collectively recognize that some sharpening needs to take place when it comes to women and their roles within the body of Christ.

I think it’s time that we, as congregations of believers, come together to take a good, hard look at this issue.  I would encourage each of you reading this right now to take a good, hard look around your congregation this Sunday.  Look around and see what roles the women are filling, and which roles the men are filling.  Look at the individuals who make up your church eldership. Look at those who have been appointed as deacons.  Look at who the adult bible study teachers are.  Look at who is serving communion each week.  Look who oversees the offering process.  Look at who goes up front to share communion devotionals.  Look at who falls into the leadership roles within your congregation.  Look and see how many women are represented in those roles.  Look to see if those fulfilling the various roles within your congregation are doing so because they are qualified and capable….or if they are fulfilling those roles simply because they are men.  Look around you this Sunday.  Look hard.  And, if needed, encourage those within your congregation to pull out the sharpener and start sharpening.

Yes, I am aware of the fact that there are some congregations that have sharpened (and continue to sharpen) themselves in this particular area.  And I am so encouraged by that.  But, there are many that have not….because they believe that no sharpening is needed.  I would like to lovingly encourage those congregations to take a step back and read through the Word – once again.  Read through the portions of the Word that have been the driving force behind their stance on women’s roles within the Church.  I would like to lovingly encourage them to read through those words with fresh eyes…and, as they read, to keep in mind that context.is.everything.  It’s everything.

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During my 37 years on this earth, I have attended countless Christian worship services.  I have worshiped alongside fellow believers from many different Christian denominations.  What a joy and a privilege it has been to do so!

But, in all of my 37 years, I have never had a woman serve communion to me.

Never.

Honestly, I get a bit choked up just typing that out.

Communion is the meal that we share on a regular basis, as believers, in remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross.  The bread and the juice that make up that simple meal serve as reminders of Christ’s body and blood…broken and shed for us on the cross in the greatest act of love mankind has ever known.

That sacred meal has only been presented to me across the years by the hands of men.  Why?  Why are congregations so hesitant to ask women to take part in serving communion?  Why shouldn’t women be able to play a role in the sacred ritual that reminds us of Christ’s death and resurrection?  Why are they denied that privilege?  Are they incapable of holding and passing around trays full of bread and juice to their fellow believers?  Are they incapable of serving food to others?  They do it all week – day in and day out – within their homes.  I’m quite certain that they could handle doing it within a worship service as well.

As Christ was dying on the cross, do you know who surrounded him…out of loyalty and love?  Women.  I know of at least four different women mentioned in the bible who stood at the foot of his cross on that day.  And I know of only one man.  As Christ drew his final, dying breaths here on earth, he was surrounded by more women supporting him than men.  Yet, today, women are oftentimes excluded from passing out the meal which commemorates his excruciating death.  That makes absolutely no sense to me.  It chokes me up.  Truly, it does.

Do you know who were the first people to see and speak to Jesus after He had risen from the dead?  Women.

Do you know who were the first people to share the Gospel?  Women.

Did you catch that?  The first people to ever PREACH the good news of Jesus Christ’s resurrection were women. This is recorded in all four of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).  And it is remarkable. Women had such little standing in that culture. They were oppressed.  They had no religious or legal authority as spokespersons. Yet Jesus chose to give two women the role – the privilege – of being the very first people to inform others of his resurrection.  Do you think that this was accidental?  I don’t think so.  I have every reason to believe that He purposefully chose women to be the first messengers – the first PREACHERS – as a way of saying that He had come to turn everything in the world upside-down.  For women and other oppressed people, Jesus flipped over the accepted wisdom of his day.  Jesus violated the customs and traditions of His time in almost every single encounter He had with women.  How thankful I am for that.  My heart swells with love for Him at the thought of it.

Jesus saw women and men as being equal.  And, yet, today, in many Christian congregations, women are forbidden from entering into certain roles within the Church.  In many congregations, they are forbidden from teaching and preaching to men.  They are forbidden from preaching.  They are forbidden from being elders.  They are forbidden from passing out the communion meal.  They are forbidden from assuming an authoritative position over men.

Jesus, who was both God and MAN, respected and elevated women.  Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, entrusted women with much.  So, shouldn’t we, as the Church, also be willing to entrust them with much?  Women FLOCKED to Jesus while he walked on this earth.  Why?  Why was that?  Because He empowered them, embraced them, loved them, and encouraged them.  The words that they heard Him speak were revolutionary.  They could sense that the words He was speaking could bring them the freedom for which they had been longing. I can’t think of one time that he marked women as being ineligible for any position in the kingdom that he was establishing. Rather, by His words and actions, His openness and willingness to share His purposes and plans with women, His stern rebukes to men who did them wrong, His chosen female companionships, His choice to appoint them as the first individuals to share the Gospel, and the tenor of His entire life and teaching, all lead us to conclude that Jesus was paving the way for women’s rights.

During my 37 years, I can count on my hand the number of times that I have heard a woman get up in front of the congregation and share a communion devotional.  Why is that?  Is it because men are able to share more profound insights about the meaning of communion?  Is it because they are more educated?  More eloquent?  No.  It’s because many congregations are still clinging tightly to some verses in the bible that I believe were meant for a specific time and place in history.  How I wish that they would loosen their grip on them…and begin to realize that context is everything.

I suppose that all of this simply boils down to one simple question.

Are women capable of being as “fully Christian” as men?

Well, Jesus seemed to think so.

And we should, too.

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There will come a time when I will sit each of my three daughters down so that they can listen to these thoughts that I have written down today.  While sharing these thoughts, I will open my bible to the first chapter of Proverbs, and I will read these words to them:

“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks.” (Proverbs 1:20-21)

And I will follow that by reading those verses from another translation.

Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts. At the town center she makes her speech.  In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand.  At the busiest corner she calls out.”  (Proverbs 1:20-21)

I will encourage them to take note of the fact that Solomon chose to personify wisdom as a woman.  I will encourage them to commit those verses to memory.  I will encourage them to cling to those words throughout their lives, regardless of whether or not the climate within the Church changes in regard to women.  I will encourage them to never stop growing in wisdom.  I will encourage them to teach, lead, and preach whenever the opportunity arises.  I will encourage them to speak when they feel as though they have something to share that might edify others and/or further the kingdom.  I will encourage them to go out into the streets and deliver their speeches, when necessary.  In the middle of traffic, I will encourage them to take their stand.  At the busiest corners, on the noisiest streets, I will encourage them to call out.

But, above all, I will try to do for them what my mother did for me.  I will do everything in my power to give them a strong example to follow.  If I don’t do that, then my words become empty.

I suppose that the choice to become a blogger has been my way of going out in the streets and shouting.  It’s my way of heading to the town center to make a speech.  It’s my way of standing in the middle of traffic and calling out into the noise and busyness around me.  This is my way.  And I pray that, someday, each of my daughters will find their way, too.  One of the reasons that I have decided to continue blogging is because I want my daughters to know just how important it is to put our voices to use.  I want them to see that I have chosen to speak, to lead, and to teach through the written word.  I want them to know that I wouldn’t be writing if I didn’t believe that I had something of worth to share.  And I want them to know that they have something of worth to share as well.  I want them to grow up knowing that God has much to say through them.  I want them to grow up knowing that, even though they are broken, they can never be rendered useless.  And God is ready and willing to color the world through their broken lives just as much as he is ready and willing to color the world through their two brothers’ lives.  The Great Artist is ready and willing to use all of them – regardless of their gender – to create something beautiful.

Each of us within the body of Christ is a broken, worn-down crayon.

And each congregation within the body of Christ is a box full of them.

God – the Great Artist – uses a tattered box of crayons to color the world.  He will never stop coloring, and He will continue to do amazing things through His Church – no matter how flattened our tips become.

But, out of love for Him, can we simply commit to looking through the box to find any and all tips that are badly in need of repair?  Can we commit to re-evaluating what utensils we are placing into the hands of the Artist?  Can we commit to giving him the best possible utensils to work with?  Can we take a look at some of the things that we are doing within our churches…and why we are doing them?  Can we begin the sharpening process, once again?

Let’s sift through the box.  Let’s find the flattened, broken tips.  And let’s begin the sharpening process on them so that He can create beauty in this world with more precision and accuracy.

It’s true that no other institution has poured out more love into the world and colored it more beautifully than the body of Christ.  And it’s true that it will continue to do so, even if we don’t take the time to sharpen our thinking when it comes to women’s roles within the Church.  But, just think of the ways that He could color the world if we were to take this sharpening process seriously.  Just think of what we could accomplish and what kind of beauty we could create if ALL believers felt empowered to preach, to teach, and to fulfill ANY role within the church – based on their qualifications to do so, rather than their gender.

Yes, the Church will continue to color the world, just as it has from the moment that it was conceived.  It is an unstoppable beast.  Praise God for that!

But, it is my belief that we can do better.

We must do better.

Let’s grab our broken, flat-tipped crayons and start sharpening.

For my daughters’ sake.

For your daughters’ sake.

And for the kingdom’s sake.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 2, 2015 4:00 am

    Rachel held Evans wrote a book about some in the church that is fabulous. I can’t remember the name of it…
    I really enjoyed your post.

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