Pinch me. Is this real? I am in the midst of one of these months of glorious attunement to several female pastors over cross-gender friendship. I’ve had connections of various shapes and sizes with three female pastors in the month of May.
All three of these connections would have been unthinkable in a male pastor-dominated world just a mere twenty years ago. For me to experience them within the same month testifies to the upward spiral of female pastors, cross-gender friendship, and attunement.
There is the ongoing connection I have with my pastor Juliet Liu Waite. In our church this month during worship we’ve had stories of people within our community who are “staying” instead of “going” out from the church. The pastors welcomed me to give my story on why I am staying in our church with my particular calling to the cross-gender friendship conversation.
Juliet validated that calling (and other pastors, too)!
It was a simple thing but how many churches do you know where a pastor has warmly prayed for blessing over an individual’s calling to the cross-gender conversation during worship?
Not only that, but our own one-on-one connection is growing. We have shared some prayer requests and have prayed for one another. I am grateful for her leadership, her pastoral presence in our community, and her friendship.
Then there is pastor number two, Rebecca Rutter. She’s an ordained Methodist pastor who pastors a flourishing church in Green Bay Wisconsin area. We met several years ago after she had read my book. Ever since then our friendship has continued to grow.
Last week, Rebecca and I spent the day with each other. I used to call these “cross-gender friendship days.” It was just a day of shared solitude between two cross-gender friends with no other purpose than connection, attunement, and friendship. We spent the day at Harrington Beach State Park in Wisconsin. It was a gorgeous day. We had significant, trusting, vulnerable conversation and we prayed with and for each other. Then she posted pictures of our day on her Facebook wall.
My third encounter with a female pastor this month is the visit of Lynne Tait and her husband Alastair from Australia. They are staying in Chicago for nine days and a major part of the first visit ever to United States is to visit with Sheila and myself.
I have been an online friend with Lynne for seven years. She has warmly supported my book and I've watched her participate in several online communities like Biblical Christian Egalitarians. Lynne is a passionate egalitarian. In recent years, she has developed this close friendship with my wife, Sheila.
All four of us enjoyed a wonderful unhurried lunch after church on Sunday. We went deep into the cross-gender conversation and it was rich connection over God is doing in cross-gender friendships. To see Lynne tracking with me, attuning to me, and to see her own heart hungering for the psychological beauty of mutual attunement between male and female leaders was encouraging.
I haven’t had a lot of blogging energy recently because I am in the middle of writing another book on cross-gender friendship. Here I am smack dab in the heart of writing a chapter on attunement and I have these three wonderful connections with these female pastors this month over the psychological depth and beauty of cross-gender friendship.
Attunement is one of the those words that has acquired a lot of social capital in recent years. Relational science is a revolutionary new science that has exploded in the last twenty years with numerous studies pouring out mind-boggling research that paves the way for deep human connection in friendship between men and women.
The minute for example, when there is eye-to-eye contact and reciprocal smiles between a mother and her baby is a soul-to-soul, brain-to-brain connection. Science now tells us we all have this natural capacity for this kind of embodied knowing. Medical research has shown amazing things happen when infants experience this connection with the primary caregiver. It has this extraordinary calming effect on the infant. This knowing ushers the baby into a sense of peace and rest; when the baby and caregiver are attuned to one another, connection, reassurance, safety, delight, enjoyment, and love are present. There is an embodied shared experience of inner worlds. Attunement brings shalom-like moments to the baby.
The experts now are filled with enthusiasm for what it means for connection between adults.
Many of us Christians did not see that coming even thirty years ago. Relational words that are filled with spiritual-emotional meaning like empathy, attentiveness, delight, compassion, connection, felt exuberance, vulnerability, intimacy, mutuality, eye to eye, face to face, love, and so on are now firmly established in this rapidly developing science. As many who specialize in this field will tell you, we all did two-person attunement when we were infants.
For Christian men and women, attunement is this fully embodied openness and dance to the upward spiral of God’s presence in mutual connection. It’s all about men and women enjoying an openness to an upward spiral that has said no to objectification, no to lusts, no to unhealthy triangles, but yes to God’s nearness between men and women with attuned spiritual, emotional, embodied connection.
There is no domineering or coercive manipulation toward “submission” in attuned relationships between men and women. And, the staggering thing is that there is no plateau for a man and a woman in their attuned connection.
Think about it.
Twenty years ago, who could have imagined a married Asian American female pastor giving her blessing on a man in her congregation over the cross-gender friendship conversation? Who could have imagined a female Methodist pastor enjoying a friendship day with a married man, a day of shared solitude and rejoicing about it in her community? Who could have imagined a female pastor traveling from Australia to United States and passionately engaging in a positive cross-gender conversation with her spouse present?
There is no plateau for mutual attunement between men and women in spiritual friendship. Sacred attunement. Becoming aware of God's nearness between men and women. Be looking for attuned moments. Attuned connections. Attuned power between men and women in leadership. The upward spiral between men and women feeling safe and deeply connected is happening. Let us rejoice in what God is doing.