A Place at the Table
Written by Amanda Handley // Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire
As a former English teacher, I spend a good deal of time reading with my daughters. They have wonderful, vivid imaginations and devour all kinds of books. They love Room on the Broom, Olivia, and Octopus Alone. I also use books to teach the girls. We read Dog and Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever and for more serious topics, Feet Are Not for Kicking and Your Body Belongs to You.
During Holy Week this year, I chose to read from the storybook Bible stories that lead up to the crucifixion. While crucifixion is a pretty heavy topic, it is the very foundation of my Christian faith. And as I am raising my daughters to know God and to be grateful for the many blessings we have, covering the reason for Easter seemed appropriate. On that Monday night, I read the story of The Last Supper to the girls.
Before I began, I explained that we were going to read about The Last Supper and learn about why we eat bread and drink juice at church on Sundays. I was excited that Juliet seemed to make the connection between the story we were about to read and an aspect of church she really enjoys. It was a major Mom Win for me.
[Side note: we’ve been attending a Methodist church where children are offered communion because “God’s grace is for everyone.” I was raised in the Episcopal Church, so this is something I was not really comfortable with at first. However, the more I sat in the pews and listened to the pastor talk about prevenient grace, the more I began to understand why this church chooses to leave the sacrament open to all. So my daughters now take communion with the rest of the congregation.]
I was probably a third of the way through the story when Juliet interrupted me and asked, “Where are the girls?” To underscore her question, she pointed at the illustration of Christ and His disciples and asked again, “Mommy, where are all the girls?”
My four-year-old daughter was looking at a picture of The Last Supper and was aware that no women were present. I answered her by saying, “This story is about Jesus and his boy friends. He has girl friends, too, but they are not in this story. We’ll read other stories about Jesus and his girl friends another night.” She accepted this, and we moved on to finish the story.
But as I left the room after tucking them in, I was bothered by Juliet’s question because I couldn’t provide her with a good answer. I reached out to the associate pastor at the church we attend, who happens to be a woman. I asked her for women that I could use to show Juliet that Jesus did have girl friends. She had a lot of great suggestions, but also encouraged me to discuss some of the deeper issues with Juliet, noting that women have not always been treated equally. I love her for this. I love that she holds true to her Methodist principles of seeking social justice, and I love that she reinforced my belief that when kids ask honest questions, they deserve honest answers.
Over the rest of the week, I continued to reflect on Juliet’s question and try to work through the questions it raised for me. I wondered where Jesus’ female disciples were and why they were omitted from the story. I wondered what more I could do to demonstrate to my girls that Jesus loves them just as much as He loves boys. I wondered if they worry that Jesus loves them less or if I was reading too much into Juliet’s question because I’m a crazy mother.
I never really got to a place of satisfaction with all of it; I have more research to do for sure. But when we walked into John Wesley United Methodist Church on Easter Sunday, all of the worry and wondering just melted away. Juliet high-fived and hugged the pastors who, as they do every Sunday, greeted congregants by name in the narthex, and literally skipped into the sanctuary, excited to be there and filled with a carefree happiness that only children seem to possess.
While it might have made me sad that Juliet had to ask where "the girls" were, it also makes me incredibly proud. I am, with the help of a like-minded husband, raising our daughters to know that they are just as valued, just as important, just as capable, as boys. Together, we choose to attend a church where women are held in equal esteem with men, and my girls can confidently walk through the doors because they know they are welcomed and loved in God’s house. I’m proud that at four-years-old, my daughter knows that women deserve a place at the table.
Amanda is a graduate of Florida State University and the Public Relations Director at BowStern Marketing Communications. She is passionate about college football, good grammar, and Duke’s mayonnaise. As the wife of a soldier and the mother of two strong-willed girls, she believes the most valuable assets you can have are education and work ethic.