Saturday, January 10, 2009

8.0 Happily Ever After (for the Time Being): Rewriting Internal Stories

Expressed as rings, or pith and rind, or stairways and floors in a house, each of my metaphors for understanding the evangelical Christian church focused on manmade obstructions between humans and God. Being a human individual alone with God is one way to bypass those boundaries but that path also applies a strict filter to what information about God and gospel reaches one. Faith in a community is more reckless in that regard. Who knows what people will say and how it will feel. A WSD lens and some practice in working with groups suggested that there is another way to address the obstacles from within the community. The added benefit to this approach is learning from other people’s stories and insights into faith and Christ.

I entered the WSD program with a particular understanding of the impact that patterns of behavior in the evangelical Christian church had on women’s lives. I had experienced negative effects from the community’s prevailing norms about women and related behaviors. I may have even called it a system. But I perceived it as one looming entity. I had no way of interacting with this mammoth. It had no ears to hear me. I anticipated that change would come only by erosion or explosion (or, to be snarky, it might implode). I didn’t want to wait for that or be so volatile as to set it off.

A WSD approach suggests that the church is not one solid piece. It is something more porous and internally fluid. The interaction of parts in dynamic relationships presents opportunities for adjusting how or what those parts communicate with each other. Now I see that there is room for me, and for women, in the gaps and flows of the evangelical Christian church. From within the system we can provide vital information about how it is progressing toward the embodiment of its values. Only with changes to my internal story (or mental models) about the church could I perceive the church differently and so grasp the possibility of change.

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