If you’re not part of the evangelical Christian community (I’m a survivor of it), then no doubt you look at the title and think, “Aggressive Christian woman? They’re all aggressive, male and female. Look at the tea partiers.”
I’m sorry. This post won’t make sense to you.
But if you do live within the cultural boundaries of evangelical Christianity, and you’re a woman, then you’ve probably heard the term “gentle spirit.”
If you’re like me – outspoken, analytical, a little pushy, ambitious, dreaming dreams that you want to see come true – then you’ve battled with that term because, deep down, you know that you’re not submissive, meek, gentle, self-deprecating, and fully “under the authority of your husband” – all vague mandates that, despite it being the 21st century and not the 17th, contemporary evangelical Christian women labor under the burden of fulfilling.
Everyone, male and female, harbors a natural sense of aggression – in even the meekest of the gentle spirit meek it comes out when someone pushes your three-year-old into the sand box – and it’s time to admit that it’s okay, as a Christian woman, to be aggressive. Wanting something, asserting yourself, standing up to a male, any male and including your husband, doesn’t make you a bad Christian.
I bring this up because I have transitioned from being my generation’s idea of the proper Christian homemaker – wife at home, full time; husband at work, full time – dinner on the table by five, house tidy, kids scrubbed clean – to running a business with my partner in life.
In order for this situation to work, I had to alter my notions about what it meant to be the “wife” part of the Christian marriage, and it helps that I never bought into the system in the first place. Although for years I felt sadly lacking as an official Christian wife, I never did defer to my Norwegian Artist’s every judgment (nor did he expect me to) or wait for his every pronouncement before echoing and embracing it.
We always ran our marriage as equals, which goes far in explaining why we never fit in to the conventional evangelical paradigm. My ambitions exceeded being named deaconess of baby showers and table centerpieces. I was too forward, too outspoken, too questioning, too unwilling to accept any one’s word – other than God’s – as law.
Does this sound harsh?
It is actually gentler, kinder than the unseen strictures placed upon many women of faith, many of whom, like me, are intelligent, articulate, aggressive. We have strong ideas of places we want to go and things we want to do, with our husbands and with our children, and without the unseen, unspoken, undefined but very real fetters placed upon us by breathy-voiced women’s seminar speakers, shepherds from the pulpit, and the nebulous community itself.
A gentle spirit is not the unique province of woman alone – and I speak as an outsider, who was formerly an insider, of the evangelical Christian lifestyle. We are all – male and female – called to be servants of one another, loving our neighbor as ourselves, putting the needs of others before our own.
And we all – male and female – have an assertiveness, confidence, aggression, and boldness that is not evil, but natural. Like any natural tendency, it can go too far, but not going far enough is just as bad.