I recently turned 43, and the 40s bring a sense of clarity that eludes us in our 20s and 30s (I’ll probably say something like this in my 50s as well).
Lately, I’m realizing the impact of the debate about the full inclusion of women in the church on my own journey.
Growing up as a pastor’s kid (PK), I was taught the importance of the church and the authority it held. I worked hard to “get it right”, take theology classes, and submit to church culture. And I waited for the church to ‘designate me and qualify me’ in areas that aligned with my leadership strengths.
A defining moment came when I interviewed for a youth pastor’s position in my 20s and was told that I was perfect for the job, but would never be hired because I was a woman.
Unfortunately, I allowed this to shape my career path as I held myself responsible for overreaching my appropriate gender role, and I carried the shame of this experience into vocational choices for the next couple of decades.
I turned to ‘women-friendly’ vocations where I could advance and receive the permission I craved to be who I was created to be. However, I was still waiting to be allowed to lead and teach in the church. As I waited, I struggled with intense emotions of frustration, depression, and anger.
Was this a cruel joke? Did I have the gifts of leadership and teaching just to keep being told I couldn’t use them? Why did I have to keep waiting as my male peers were given opportunities to advance?
And then it hit me…I was giving my destiny away. I was handing my power over to others to define who I was and who I could be.
The real issue shifted from something external to something internal. From theological constructs of churches opposed to equity, to my no longer allowing others to define my destiny. Owning my sense of destiny and developing the courage required to move more fully into my life became my new focus.
My paradigm shifted from trying to convince people I was equipped and capable to lead, to realizing that I had already been divinely designated and qualified by God. Ultimately, I realized that we are all free to explore our strengths without apology and without human permission, but with a posture of confidence, clarity, hope, and optimism.
What I realized in the process was that the church is still asking questions about women that I’ve already asked and answered.
I’ve observed that because the church is still discussing the question of “Should women lead?”, many women are ‘stuck’ in their developmental journeys. Although I now live and work in circles that focus on healthy inspiring questions about the development of women, out of love for the church and the important role it plays in our world, my gaze continues to wander back.
I long for the church to become more relevant to a woman’s journey…and to ask better questions. Questions like “How can we empower all believers with leadership strengths?”
In my coaching practice, I ask men and women:
- Who are you created to be?
- How are you exploring your voice to offer it well?
- What has been holding you back from moving fully into your destiny?
- How do you want to enter into your story?
- What story are you offering?
- How do you want to build on your strengths?
These inspirational conversations offer hope not only to our personal journeys, but also to our world. Ultimately, with better questions come better answers.
I hold an optimism that the church can be more relevant to the development of women…with a better understanding of scripture and an increased focus on addressing humanity’s need to be valued, recognized, challenged, empowered, and encouraged, regardless of gender.
And isn’t this what we all want?
With this hope, I anticipate women moving forward with clarity and confidence as they begin to understand the importance of nobly taking their place in this world with the unique strengths and sensitivities women can offer.
We all have experiences that influence whether or not we feel welcome in the Church; what’s your story? Is there anything holding you back from moving fully into God’s calling on your life?