Spiritual Discipline // CONFESSION
By Isaac Hovet
I remember being 19 and at Bible College. Every week we had a chapel all together. We would worship in song and prayer and then hear a teaching.
That morning it was one of our beloved professors teaching. April Westbrook. She was a powerful, witty professor. Sparky. Sharp.
She talked about women in leadership. And she challenged the student body to support women in their leadership and ministry endeavors. Of course, this wasn’t a surprise or a change of direction as the Bible College that I went to was founded by a woman: Sister Aimee Semple McPherson.
There was a chance to respond in prayer at the end of the chapel. I needed to. I felt all twisted up inside. I felt anger and confusion.
I went forward and confessed to Professor Westbrook that I was angry and frustrated about this topic. I told her that I did not know why. I told her that my mom was a strong leader in our church at home. She prayed for me to be delivered from this anger and prejudice.
I needed it. After years of reflection I now know why I had so much anger and confusion around this issue. I grew up in a culture that demeaned women. Most of it was casual. But, this culture led me to be suspicious of women and prone to devalue their contribution to the world.
If a boy was not particularly adept at throwing a ball, he “threw like a girl.” Conversely, if a girl was an exceptional athlete, she was said to “be like a boy.” If a woman was complimented, it was often about her looks or appearance. These phrases were regularly uttered by Christian men that I looked up to.
When I began dating a girl in high school, these Christian men asked me if she was “good breeding stock?” They would laugh as they said it, but their point was made: Women were a means to an end.
This mindset is behind the adult film industry, human trafficking, child exploitation, and countless other injustices against women.
Last week, I reached out to a woman that I grew up with and asked her to describe some of her experiences growing up in this environment. I was saddened to hear my suspicions confirmed. Even though she is a lawyer now, the reflections she heard from much of the Christian community around her were that women were needed in the kitchen and at home. While the boys we grew up around were regularly supported and affirmed for their career choices, pursuit beyond the home for girls was dismissed.
She shared many other terrible details about the way that grown Christian men talked to her about her looks. And when she was sexually harassed, she did not feel as though she would be validated, listened to or believed. More recently, men of that Christian community we grew up in have been vocal in their dismissal of the #metoo movement; saying that there are a few bad apples, but most women just want to destroy the lives of a former lover.
The implicit message I received during my formative years: Men are trustworthy. Women are suspect.
No wonder I needed deliverance. Indiscernible toxins had infiltrated the water of my youth. And the water of my soul had become poisoned.
How about you? If you discern something amiss in your soul or if shame comes up about something in your past or in your heart, are you able to confess?
My confession all those years ago is still bringing life to me. I have enjoyed celebrating and affirming women in all forms of leadership and vocation. I am so glad that I didn’t allow those toxins to remain in me.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish muchJames 5:16 (NASB)