Staci Friedel

Staci Friedel

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine told me that the Bible was written by a bunch of drunk Egyptians. This unfounded, ridiculous theological statement contributed to my theory that the Bible was irrelevant to my life. Sadly, that misrepresentation was less painful and more easily corrected than what I was actually taught over a period of 15 years at an evangelical mega-church. It may sound like I regret the years I spent at this church, but that’s not true. My love for Jesus, myself, and others grew, but there was also a twisted truth—a lie—that invaded my heart, mind, and soul. I learned about a hierarchy the Bible seemingly taught, and I couldn’t reconcile that a loving God would want half of His image-bearers to be limited in the ways they serve Him despite weekly reassurances of "equal in dignity but different in roles”. Add an exposure to too many stories of men using Scripture to hurt women, and I started to wonder which was true: was God unloving or was the Bible wrong? I didn’t realize there was a 3rd choice, that maybe my church was wrong.

When I attended a Marcella Bible Study, I heard Jackie teach about acquired learning and my first thought was “that isn’t me!” Throughout decades of Bible studies, I was always the one picking apart the curriculum. I didn’t accept a statement just because our pastor said it. I made a habit of searching through several translations of a verse as I tried to understand its meaning, and I had no problem peppering any group I was in—large or small—with questions. When our head pastor asked me when I was going to put down the red flag, I felt ashamed of my questioning nature and constantly tried to have more faith with less thinking. I might as well have tried to reorder my genetic makeup. When I discovered there was a whole other “library” of theological thought out there that I was unaware of, I felt like I had been living in the Matrix. I didn’t realize that all the sermons, books, and studies on which I based my beliefs were not the only ones available from Jesus-loving and Bible-honoring authors.

This awakening jarred me and shook up my relationships in a most unsettling way, while it also revealed Jesus’ heart of grace and freedom. Although my husband would have been just fine if I hadn’t rocked the boat so much, he too has been released from subtle but powerful chains. Both Kyle and I were suffocating under the expectations that “a servant-leader (man) is supposed to look like XYZ”  and “a godly wife is supposed to be 1,2,3.”  Now, without limiting gender rules and roles,  our marriage is growing in grace and appreciation. It’s still a struggle, though – the gray space of grace is messier than the black and white thinking of legalism.

The Marcella Project has been instrumental in my transition from feeling “less than” to knowing that God has uniquely equipped me in ways that cannot be bound by gender. Marcella has helped me see Jesus as a radical, equal-opportunity lover of all and that He went out of His way to lift up the oppressed. Marcella has helped me shift from feeling condemnation to experiencing relief as I read God’s Word. My heart wells with gratitude for this Jesus who was previously hidden from me. I’m still in the midst of figuring it all out. Finding a new church home, losing my friends, and realigning my marriage has been hard. Thanks to God for the women of Marcella who listen, understand, and encourage me to not grow weary.