Wineskins Archive

December 3, 2013

Dreams (Feb 2013)

Filed under: — @ 4:00 pm and

By Rhesa Higgins

Les Miserables frames the tragically beautiful story of Fantine, who falls victim to harsh realities of broken dreams. This masterpiece of storytelling has moved generations to reconsider what grace lives like. Fantine’s voice haunts us with, “I dreamed a dream…”

Luke’s gospel tells of a woman who waited for a lifetime in the lesser court of the temple, fasting and praying for the messiah of Israel. Her life is remembered in 3 short sentences, “There was also a prophetess, Anna… she spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Anna dreamed a dream of redemption.

More recently, Rachel Held Evans lived a year following the ‘rules of womanhood’ as stated in scripture and joyfully concluded that scripture declared with awe that personhood, not just womanhood, is more complex that a set of rules. Her challenge to continue to honor women of valor, as illustrated in Proverbs 31, is a dream of hope.

Sara Barton’s book, A Woman Called: Piecing Together the Ministry Puzzle, is a warmly told struggle with calling while being female. She offers needed insight into an unspoken cultural paradigm of silent women. Sara courageously, and creatively, lives out the complicated world of ministry for women in the Restoration movement. Sara writes a dream of belonging.

I dreamed a dream of faithfulness. The deepest motivation, in the beginning, came from wanting to see my daddy who died when I was four years old. I knew that he was alive in heaven and I wanted to get there. To get there, you had to make God happy. So, I set out to dance through life for His pleasure.

Eventually, my dance led me to recognize that I wanted to live for God, not just die to live in heaven. At nine years old, I was baptized. I remember sitting in devotionals at sunset while attending camp and thinking that God was the warm wind that tangled my long, blonde hair.

Throughout high school, I received recognition and praise for my abilities as a speaker and debater. I was a strong student and a leader on campus. However, I remember being in youth group Bible class and waiting for an embarrassing eternity for one of the boys to finally volunteer to pray even though my hand had been raised all along. I wondered if girls were supposed to dance this path differently than boys.

I realized again at age 17 that my dance was not my own. While a freshman in college and planning to study law, God called me to ministry. My parents were concerned about my ability to make a living after graduating, and I was intimidated by the male dominated classrooms. The spotlight on this dance made me wish to sit in the audience but I steeled myself to dance the role I was given. I graduated with a degree in youth and family ministry and a husband who was also called to ministry. As every naïve couple does, we just assumed that there would be a place for us both to follow the dreams that we believed were from God.

Reality crashed in.

He was hired and the church considered themselves really lucky as they got a “two for one deal” in us. I wondered if I had misunderstood this calling or made a mistake. Babies and bills kept me busy enough for a season but I grew increasingly angry that God would call me to a path that didn’t exist. I don’t consider myself a pioneer in any way; conflict turns my stomach inside out and I would rather internally bleed than push an agenda. So I chose to live with the pain and smile every Sunday morning as the minister’s wife, pearls and heels firmly in place. I would be faithful to what was expected of me.

Fourteen years later, with a bread crumb trail through a book, a Google search, and a nun, God led me to a training program in spiritual direction. I saw it as a way of attending to the bitterness that had hardened around my broken dream. Through the ancient practices of silence and meditation, I found God to be weeping with me over my woundedness. Those gentle tears softened up the scar allowing God to name and begin to heal the pain. I discovered God all over again as warm wind in my hair.

While church leaderships argue about what duties are permissible for a woman, a little girl, like me, absorbs an unspoken parameter: little boys are loved more. Eventually, other little girls will face a crisis of faith to define for themselves how God feels about femaleness. Is it less than maleness? Is femaleness a curse in itself that God causes half of the population to be born under?

A dream of faithfulness guided me through the years of doubting my giftedness, my calling, and my worth as a human being born with this thing called femaleness. What dream will guide my daughters and their generation? What will the church do with those dreams?

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