Wednesday, January 24, 2007

No entrance


At the rock-hewn churches of Lalibella, where history is so thick it seeps from the walls, I stood outside the holy of holies. By virtue of my gender, I was barred entrance to that most sacred of places.

The men at the door said "no women allowed." I heard "you are unclean. Unworthy."

With some measure of discomfort, the men in our party stepped inside. "We'll report back," they said. "We'll take pictures and show you." Their words hinted at the guilt they carried for being the chosen ones. They didn't want to leave us behind.

Waiting on the outside, we three women made light of the situation. "What if we storm the entrance?" we laughed. "Perhaps if we trip on the doorway and fall into the room..." Kebede, our Ethiopian companion, didn't take it so lightly. "They will stone you," he said, his face reflecting the seriousness of the offense. "Or beat you with their sticks." All of the priests in this place carried long staffs with silver or gold crosses on top. I imagined those crosses smashing down on our backs.

In this foreign country, it was not my place to challenge history. I stayed outside.

Twinges of memory poked at my consciousness - my own history ringing in my ears. "You cannot read the Bible in church. You are a woman." "You cannot be class president. You are a woman." Each time I heard the words flung like stones - "You are unclean. Unworthy."

I looked down at my bare feet on the stones worn smooth from centuries of worshippers. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that these feet could walk on holy ground. I knew that these feet were no less worthy than the feet of those inside the holiest of rooms. After years of stones, I had learned to hold my head up high and believe the truth of "neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female."

I am woman. I am worthy. I can only put my faith in a God who tore the veil of the holy of holies and welcomed me to step over the threshold. "You are worthy," he/she whispered in my waiting ear. "Come and be clean."


Anvilcloud said...

I forget that this nonsense exists. I don't miss church.

Gina said...

I cannot imagine exactly how that must have felt. May I ask what made the rooms so very sacred? Were there relics?

Pamela said...

I'm so glad you wrote the last paragraph.

Anonymous said...

I'm your beloved
Your creation
and you love me as I am
You have called me chosen
for your kingdom
Unashamed to call me your own
I'm your beloved


Linda said...

That is so very very sad. Thank you for your words which touched me so deeply.

Michele said...

I think of what those walls and floors have missed all these years...
And I'm thankful that there truly is another way.

Hope said...

Fortunately God remains unconfined by stones and walls and the rules of Man.
Beautiful post Heather.

Linda said...

...and thanks for the postcard. Got it today!

oshee said...

Hope said it...God cannot be confined by the rules of man.

As irritating as that must have been...I think of the 17 yr-old girl in Jordan who was shot in the head four times by her father because he believed she'd dishonored the family by having sex.

I have always had trouble wrapping my mind around oppression of women through history and still today. I thank my mother deeply for insuring I never felt this growing up.

Hmm..I feel a post of my own coming on. Thank you Heather. You write these things beautifully. You touched on so many of my own thoughts.

swampwitch said...

As soon as I finish all my projects for today, I will be back to read all your posts I've missed. This one especially struck a chord with me...in my childhood, I attended a church that did not allow the females to have any part of the worship service. H-m-m-m!

Lucia said...

Oh, yes, Lalibela...and women. Mostly what I remember is taking off my shoes a dozen times.

Vicki said...

What a powerful ending to a great post!

Liz said...

Heather, I got my postcard today. Thank you so much!!

BarnGoddess said...

wow heather! good post...I am so thankful to live where I do.

I loved the ending, and the picture of your sandal clad feets :)

Judy said...

Why would you want to go to their funny little men's club anyway?

But yet I understand.

You know you are clean, it really shouldn't matter what they think.

And, yet it does.

Whippersnapper said...

You are welcome to my little temple anytime. However, you may not want to come in. We ARE unclean.

(Well, very messy anyway.)

Love ya, Heather =>

Dale said...

I'm sorry, Heather. I really can't imagine how you must have felt.

Dwight and Lorna said...

We are none of us clean or worthy. Thank God he loved us enough to tear that veil. It seems that Jesus is the only God who welcomes us all in - how fortunate we are!

Karmyn said...

Happily - you know you are worthy.

Sadly - the women who live there do not know they are....makes me sad.