If you read the GFL e-newsletter, you may recall my mention of a certain giddiness when I saw an ad for a one-day conference about "Women and Christian History" being held right in my neighborhood. Well, this past weekend, I went.
Some highlights for me included seeing archaeological evidence of women priests, deacons and elders in the early church, and that Notre Dame in Paris had women priests as recently as the Middle Ages. And I enjoyed learning about ancient Jewish and Roman marriage and divorce practices and how those related to the apparently mis-read and misunderstood story of the Samaritan woman at the well.
But my favorite moment of the day, the one that lingered and has made me smile whenever I replay it, came when Dr. Mimi Haddad talked about the women of the early Evangelical movement. In the 19th and early 20th Century, Dr. Haddad told us, Bible colleges and "institutes" sent out women to preach the gospel in big numbers. Incidentally, many of these Bible colleges she mentioned no longer send women out to preach. At least, not intentionally.
But once upon a time, Dr. Haddad said, women who were "wild-hearted" about following God's call on their lives and "captivated" by the gospel, were trained and sent out by these institutions that "were proud of their wild-hearted daughters."
If you don't catch the reference, of course Dr. Haddad was good-naturedly jabbing the wildly (pun intended) popular books, Wild at Heart and Captivating. These books contend that a woman wants "to be romanced, to play a role in her own adventures, and to display beauty," while a man wants "to be a hero, to be a warrior, to live a life of adventure and risk."
I need to tread lightly here, as I mean no disrespect to the authors of these books. Obviously what they wrote about must seem true in their own lives and in the people around them. I suspect that many of you will read those characterizations of women and say, "Yes, right. I sure do!"
However, many of us read the premises of the books and wonder what we're supposed to do if we don't exactly fit their ideas of what women (and men) want. Especially as it seems more and more church programs for women (and men) take these characterizations as a guiding truths.
When Dr. Haddad made her comment about "wild-hearted daughters," I smiled and cheered a little, along with many women in the room, because it always feels good to realize you're not alone. In this case, that we weren't the only ones who believe that our longings for adventures—of our own or alongside spouses or friends—and for battles worth fighting are placed there by God. And that while beauty and romance may have some place somewhere in our lives, what we really long for is a life of following God's callings, wild-heartedly.