Wineskins Archive

March 6, 2017

A Place for Me (Image Vol 12 No 1 – Jan/Feb 1996)

Filed under: — @ 5:04 pm and

By Tom Alexander

My coworker could see that I was dragging my heels as I prepared for another night of work. My mind was other places, my concerns on other people, and my emotions invested elsewhere.

“What’s wrong,” Shelly asked.

We were nurses who had worked closely together for the last five years in the same ICU. We had literally gone through life and death together many times – so hiding the problems brought to work from the outside was almost impossible.

“Oh, just things, you know.” I hoped she would let it go at that – but not Shelly. She was my friend, and so she waited for me to get whatever was bothering me off my chest.

“Well, it’s a ‘church thing,’ so you probably wouldn’t understand.” Boy, for someone who was trying to connect their non-churched friends with Jesus, that was a lousy line! “But okay,” I recanted (Besides, I thought, this could be interesting).

So, I proceeded to describe a church meeting I had just come from, in which we discussed whether or not some of our women could have a more public role in an upcoming special worship service. While some were very positive about the idea, others were indignant at even the suggestion.

It wasn’t long till you could cut the tension in the room with a knife. Feelings and viewpoints were expressed with great emotion. Some of the brothers (and sisters) even got kind of testy. While some challenged the traditions of our past, other questioned this new agenda for the future.

In the end, however, enough of the members were willing, for at least this one Sunday, to give it a try. But it was not a unanimous decision. When the meeting was adjourned, some left without even saying good-bye.

“Shelly,” I concluded, “that’s not what I wanted to happen. I initiated the idea of this special service because I wanted to bring us all together – not to tear us apart! I had simply hoped we could all experience a special Sunday morning worship, in which anyone who had a song, a prayer, or maybe a word of encouragement – whether a man or woman – could share it with the group.”

It had really seemed like a great idea and very much in keeping with the spirit and  tone of the early Christian assemblies.

Shelly now paused and had a very reflective look on her face. I could tell she was uncertain how to say what she obviously wanted to say. Finally, my unchurched friend spoke.

“Tom, if at your church, a woman can’t even read the Bible or say a prayer out loud with other Christians in worship to God, well…I don’t think I would want to go to your church. There’s no place for me, and I need a place for me.”

I had no response. I was speechless. Seriously, what do you say to that? Do you throw 1 Corinthians 14 or 1 Timothy 2 back at her? Come on – I wasn’t talking to a theologian or a Sunday School teacher or even an average Sunday morning churchgoer. I was talking to a tough, yet caring ICU nurse, who needed God in her life, and I had constantly sought ways to build a spiritual bridge to her.

Yet, she won’t even approach that bridge, because as she sees it, it’s a bridge that has a great big sign on it that says, “Men Only!” and there’s just no place for her on it.

We went to work and tried to give tender care to the patients entrusted to us. We quietly watched on person pass into eternity and managed to delay that trip for another. We talked about other things and got through the long hours of the night. But I have not forgotten Shelly’s words, and I doubt I ever will.

You see, I want very much to be biblical in my church, and I refuse to compromise that foundation. Yet, as I read the Scriptures, I see worship as not only a place for Tom, Bill and Steve, but for Shelly, Pam, and Theresa as well.

One day, maybe just one day, there will finally be a place for my friend Shelly, even in my church. I sure hope so.

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