This may look like a cute baby, but it’s really a baby representing all babies of the world, giving a face palm for the babies and children of the 1970’s and 1980’s for what I found yesterday and can’t get out of my head.
Oh y’all. I’m speechless.
But not so much that I can’t tell you about the little peek into the 1970’s/80’s that made me laugh and shake my head and sigh a little bit and feel sorry for myself and other little girls like me. And like you, too, maybe, even if you were a little boy. Looking back, what I saw tied us all down. And it’s still binding our world in some places. Maybe even in your neighborhood.
I’ll explain. So I spent yesterday doing something I’ve wanted to do for the last five years. No it wasn’t training for a marathon (you must have me mixed up with some other person.) No, I tackled the storage room hidden (thank the Lord) around the corner at the end of the children’s hall at church. Think this is no big deal? Picture a dozen children’s ministers hauling fifty years full of VBS and camp and Sunday school materials and costumes and games into a tiny room full of dust and dead bugs until there’s no room to move. Then imagine these people having a fight in which they throw these things at each other. Then imagine that a hurricane hit, and when the National Guard looked in the window, just to make sure there weren’t any survivors to rescue, they didn’t see any legs or arms sticking out of the rubble so they said to each other, “What do you think? Looks okay to me. Not worth the risk.”
I should say that the state of this room is no one’s fault but my own. Ever since I began my work as minister to children this has been my dumping site when camp or VBS or Missions Week or whatever is done and we’ve made it through and all the children are still alive and I’m just too exhausted to clean up afterwards. It’s also where I pile old stuff that threatened to overtake all our Sunday school rooms, but I didn’t want to throw it away before giving it a good scavenge.
So Thursday was the day.
I came. I saw. I scavenged.
And I found this. Ways to Worship God.
We’ll that looks interesting I thought, even though the Mary and Elizabeth on the box looked completely and utterly Caucasian, like they could have strolled out of Belks at the mall and then stopped at a bench to put on Bible costumes before heading to Starbucks for a latte and a cake pop.
Ways to Worship God. Hmm. According to the box, this was a Sunday school resource kit for teaching children about Bible people who worshiped God as well as ways that they themselves could become active worshipers. Sounds good, right? In addition to the Bible stories, maybe it would show children worshiping through singing and listening to beautiful music, children praying, children listening to sermons and sharing their own personal stories about how they’ve experienced God, and children enjoying and making art themselves to celebrate what God has done and still does.
I opened the box.
Look, kids! You can worship and serve God by becoming a Pastor!
Well, if you’re a boy, that is.
Or you can become a Music Director! Or an Usher!
Oh wait. You have to be a boy to do that too.
What about girls? How can girls actively serve God? If they’re feeling the tug towards making their service their vocation, what’s open to them?
I dug deeper in the box.
There are things girls can grow up to do! They’re allowed to teach Sunday school in tiny little chairs, with their legs crossed demurely, and they can stand and sing in the choir, directed I guess by a man who knows what he’s doing. And not just that. They can do it even if they’re black! Woo hoo!
Now I hear what some might say. These are just paper dolls. And anyway, do we have to picture both a man pastor and a woman pastor? Do we have to have both of everything? That’s just silly. ( Think of all the extra paper it will take!)
But I remember! I remember thinking it was normal to play boss and secretary. To play baptizer (GI Joe) and baptizee (Barbie or Skipper, depending on who was most heathenish that day.) What? Isn’t that what the bathroom sink is for?
I looked at these old paper dolls and shook my head. What we play with as children– and what we see from our place in the pew, squeezed in between our parents– those things tell us what we can do and who we can be! They’re so important! I’m so happy that my kids and the children I work with can look up on the sanctuary platform and see women and men preaching God’s word, leading music, ushering and singing and serving God in so many ways. So when they read Galatians 3:28, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, they know it’s not just something we say and then ignore. We believe it, and belief means that we take care to make it happen.
Don’t misunderstand. I LOVE teaching in tiny little chairs. And I cross my legs demurely because I want to be ladylike. And I CHOOSE to take a more traditionally female role of serving as Minister to Children because it’s what I love doing most and I think it’s super valuable and plus I get the chance to hang out with the most interesting, the most fun people at church- (I can’t help it if they are all under five feet tall.)
I’ve been on the other side of prejudice/sexism too, where I’ve heard men and women, too, discount the value of traditionally female roles like mine in the church. You know, I think I did the same as a little girl, thinking that since the whole menu of church vocations wasn’t open to me, I’d cross seminary off my list and stick with more open avenues. But my life journey circled me back to church, and I’m so glad it did.
So trash can, meet Ways to Worship God. Though I love the idea, it’s time for some new paper dolls.