Thursday, 6 August 2015

Say what you mean and mean what you say

Yesterday we all headed out in the thickness of the evening heat to take part in our community worship time. Each week we gather, putting aside our studies, or ministries, or favourite TV programmes, to remember and to celebrate the Big Story we are part of.

It's a funky wee thing, you know? These times always are and that's what I love. The meal is late, the kids would prefer to be on their iPads, one of the instruments is slightly out of tune, and there's a trickle of sweat slowly making its way down your cleavage. But it's family, and it's truth and in our sweet, messed-up way we are proclaiming something so glorious we only grasp the very corner of it.

So there we all are, just going with the flow of this cool dialogue that's happening between us and God, made up of songs and prayers and bits of people's stories. And then we started singing this song that I didn't really know and, maybe because I didn't know it so well and had to really pay attention, the words struck me as just, well, wrong.

"You came to save every man."

I know, I know, you gonna think me churlish to take exception to this. And yes, I know we use 'man' as a generic term for men and women (you want to try suggesting that we switch things around for a change and include the guys when we say 'ladies?' Would love to see how that'd go down.)

And, I mean, it's true isn't it? He did come to save every man. But that does sort of leave out half the population. So what are we saying, here? If you're a guy, you might just want to take what I'm saying on trust 'cause you won't get it. Just like white people don't know in their guts what it feels like to be black and to watch commercials of happy white families, to watch films where the bad guy is more often black and to go to buy 'skin coloured' band-aids that can only be described as pink.

You see, the thing is we don't learn our beliefs by being told they're true. We sort of catch them.

You can tell a kid a million times that you love them, but they absorb the truth of it because you're present and reliable, and you make them feel 'felt.' And if the same government minister who expounds on the success of state education sends her own kid to a private school, it's hard to take her seriously. And, when you see the doctor who just gave you a health check and told you to look after yourself, standing in the parking lot smoking a cigarette you take his words with a pinch of salt.

It's not what we say we believe that counts, it's all the myriad details of our lives that either bear out the truth of our words or give them the lie.

Tim and I are raising two amazing girls. They are both bright, strong, courageous and kind. I believe in them and in their capacity to live in the fulness of who they were made to be. And I think - call me crazy - that when they see me singing along, with a roomful of other people they trust, to words that imply even slightly that their femaleness means they come to God obliquely, or as a second thought, it calls this into question.

I know that language fails us, that the English language in particular doesn't offer us a way of embracing both male and female in one noun or pronoun. But we can do better than this, can't we?

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