The first time I stood up to speak in front of a group of my peers where I knew that I had something special when it comes to communicating, was when I was 16. I was in a speech class that I took to fill a hole in my schedule.
One of the speeches we had to write and present was a persuasive speech. I was a junior in highschool at a time when Saturday morning T.V. was still a thing and commercials were something to be sat through. One of the commercials that was on repeat was one where a man with a white beard would walk around a place halfway across the world and show us children who were dying because of starvation and – aids. He would make a plea, a dollar a day, to help aids orphans, or something like that. It was a long time ago. Well for my persuasive speech I thought of that commercial and decided that I would try and convince my speech class that they should care.
I researched, I prepared, I wrote cues for myself on white note cards. When it was my turn, I stood up and started to give my speech. Halfway through the 5 minute presentation I had a revelation. These people were listening to me. Like really listening. I had captivated them. My teacher, Mr. Hermann, when I finished decided we would have a jar to put money in to help aids orphans. He affirmed what I realized during that speech. This talking in front of people, I am good at it.
I really am not good at many things. I was always an A/B student. I played soccer and enjoyed it but was never amazing. I am not a great singer. I played clarinet but also, not amazing. Just kind of average. When people would ask me my talent I would say that I am a good friend. I learned how to be a good friend, it has been a coping mechanism for me for most of my life.
As I grew into adulthood I realized that not only am I good communicator, I am able to look at something that might stump other people, pull the truth out and explain it in a way that makes sense. I love doing this, it is where I feel most alive. Maybe how someone who loves math and gets to be an engineer or who loves the body and finds themselves as a doctor or nurse may feel. Communicating is my thing. I am really good at it.
The other thing that has also unashamedly characterized me since I was 10 years old is my love and passion for Jesus. I have kept a prayer journal and sought out Bible study since I could write, read and understand. Seeing God in this world, in the pages of the Bible, in my own life, this has always come easy for me.
I have also known from a young age that for some reason women aren’t meant to lead. Although the parameters have always been fuzzy. No one can really explain why we can’t lead, or what “lead” actually means. Even as an adult it has been a taboo subject. I have thought for most of my adult life that women just weren’t allowed to lead churches, again the why is fuzzy but the feelings communicated to me about women leaders have been strong.
This message was sent through words and actions to me but I consider myself fortunate because even while I knew women couldn’t lead, I had the opportunity to serve in leadership, at a very young age with my husband on the missions field. At the end of every missions trip we led the summer I was 20 and at the beginning of each one the year I was 21, I took my little worn Bible and gave a 5-10 minute persuasive speech. Some may call it a sermon or message. It was definitely from Jesus and I know that He spoke through me as I made myself available to him. When we came home from the mission field and I was a new, young mom I was privileged to serve under my dad’s leadership in youth ministry. He would often ask me to give the message taking over on a Sunday morning youth Sunday school or Wednesday night. I would sit at the kitchen table with my Bible and journal preparing to share while supper was on the stove and two sweet girls were playing in the living room or sit in prayer over what to say during naptime.
I am not 20 anymore and the opportunities have grown. MOPS groups and MOMSnext, no one argued about me preaching there, women are allowed to share with women. Teenagers have long been my favorite audience, once again, somehow a woman can teach someone under the age of 18 and it’s ok. Or at least ignored? I am not sure. But in the last few years, with the growth of Stories Foundation, I have been asked to speak to more and more adults. And since I call myself a Christ follower and believe that the message of freedom has spiritual applications as well as physical I have found myself on church stages with a Bible. Even a few times on a Sunday morning.
A few years ago, around the time that I started to speak more frequently, I told Jesus that I wasn’t going to self promote, but that I would say yes to whatever he brought me. I knew that if someone asked me to speak that God would equip me for that calling, and he has been faithful in this. Before I step up on a stage I am humbled knowing that it isn’t me that the listeners need to see and hear, but Jesus. I know that nothing good will come out of me if he doesn’t do the work. Speaking is one of the most refining and humbling things I do in my life.
I don’t have all the answers, I am still studying and seeking about the truth behind the passages in the Bible that talk about men and women, submission, and headship. And what I am finding is the people with strong feelings about women not taking a stage or microphone don’t have a lot of answers. It is odd to me that those who I have gone to for years for commentary on the Bible seem to contradict themselves when it comes to these passages. And furthermore, there are root word interpretations of these passages that paint a very different picture than the one I grew up having presented to me. It isn’t as cut and dry an issue as some would have us think.
This week a Pastor and man that I have long respected, his Study Bible was the one I dragged all over Europe right out of high school a gift from my Mom and GG. Which, sidenote, I don’t know two people who love the Bible as much as these women. His leadership books I read as a missionary training student, maybe I wasn’t meant to as a female? I don’t know, it wasn’t clear. This week he made very clear what he thinks of women like me. Women who want to use their gift of voice to point others to Jesus. Not to hauck jewelry, although funny, I do that too. Jewelry that provides jobs for men and women in vulnerable situations around the world, and not on the home shopping network but in homes where women gather and make a powerful difference. Because women are powerful when we choose to be, but I digress.
It isn’t so much what he said that surprised me I know all about the conservative doctrine about women. I don’t completely understand how it applies to someone like me but I understand how it looks with women who are naturally quiet and administrative. Or women who are gifted to be doctors or higher ups in corporations. I think that has been OK in the past with religious leaders, but after hearing these Elder church leaders I wonder if they have been gossiping about women behind closed doors for a long time and this time, for whatever reason, decided to say it in a microphone on a stage to be recorded.
No it wasn’t what was said as much as how. And the response. People who claim Jesus Christ chose to make fun of a specific person who also claims Jesus. And then everyone laughed and clapped. It was the epitome of bullying and the exact opposite of what we are called as Christ followers to be. It was disappointing, heartbreaking and revealed a lot about the hearts of the men on that stage and the men and women in the seats.
It is said that we are allowing culture to now change how we interpret scripture. All of a sudden women are power hungry and must rise. Maybe that is true for some, I don’t know, I try not to judge people as it isn’t my place. But I can’t help but wonder if all along when it comes to this issue of women if we haven’t allowed a culture that elevated men above women influence how we read the few verses on this topic. And maybe that is why no one can really give an explanation or a real answer for how this is supposed to be lived out other than “go home”.
I was sitting in church a few weeks ago. The song for the offering started, I didn’t know the song, it was new to me so I couldn’t tell you what the words were other than it was a song of surrender and worship to Jesus. It had barely started so the music wasn’t at the point yet to elicit an emotional response, if you do the church corporate worship thing, you know what I mean. And it was then that I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and I turned to look. In the middle of hundreds of sitting church attenders there was one lone girl in her early 20’s, standing with hands raised and eyes closed worshipping her Savior. It makes me tear up weeks later just thinking about it. So in love with Jesus. Not seconds after she stood with abandon there was another woman, this one older, right in front of her, who raised her hands high. She stayed seated, her eyes were also closed, and she had no idea that the younger one behind her was doing the same.
And I thought, women are leaders. They just are. And what are we missing when instead of listening to these voices we make them the butt of a joke and laugh.