It happens without fail. Every.Single.Time. When casual conversation with old friends or new acquaintances turns to the fact that I am going to seminary, the next question out of the other person’s mouth is always what are you wanting to do with your degree? As in, what are your post-graduation plans? Why are you spending all this money? What is the job you are hoping to go after?
And every time I smile, slightly shrug my shoulders, and admit I don’t really know. I tell them that going to seminary was the fulfillment of a dream, the opportunity of a lifetime, and the next step on my adventure of being obedient to God’s call in my life.
That was my answer.
But now, five and a half semesters into this journey I’m starting to get an inkling of what might be post-seminary for me. I don’t know how it will bring the income I will need in order to pay back all these student loans, but I do know that my personality, experiences, knowledge and interests are starting to coalesce in ways that are thoroughly exhilarating and not entirely unexpected. God has been paving a path for me for a long time and I can’t wait to see what is around the next corner.
About a year ago God showed up to answer my desperate desire to know who my people are. I’ll come back here soon and share that story, but in the meantime I know with certainty that my call is to serve women, particularly by empowering women to serve in bold and brave ways. So last semester I chose a research project that had me sitting in story after story of women longing to use their gifts to serve and love and teach and maybe even pastor. And in story after story these women were told that the roles in which they could use their gifts were limited, ordained by God and obvious because of Scripture. And my heart broke time and time again.
I wept for the woman who had introduced a dying man to Jesus and was forbidden to offer him the sacrament of communion when he asked for it.
I wept for the woman who had 18-year-old boys turn their backs to her each time she came to teach at her Evangelical University’s chapel.
I wept for the women who admit to feeling limited, discounted, and redirected when they expressed a sense of calling. I wept for the women who persisted, yet were regularly confronted with fatigue, despair, cynicism, and emotional distress that many times reached the level of clinical depression.
I wept for the women who endured what in the secular world would be called sexism, where legal recourses are available for those who experience it, but in the church is often accepted and promoted as God-ordained.
And I wept for the all-to-familiar question should I stay or should I go? For many of us living with misogyny and oppressive institutional structures is torture, but the thought of leaving the home and community and family that is our Church of origin is equally terrifying.
These were dark days for me and I do not use the word wept metaphorically to describe my reaction to my research. On many occasions I put my books down or set aside the article and cried out to God. This was too much. This culture too impenetrable. The wounds too deep. The theology too entrenched. What in the world could little ‘ole me do? How could one lone woman fight against evangelical culture and Biblical interpretation, especially when women who have tried have been so thoroughly trounced?
But the other thing my research taught me was this: woman after woman pursuing a ministry call persisted because she had support. Because her calling was affirmed instead of questioned. Because she had mentors and role models. Because she had a woman in her life serving in ways that gave her imagination to dream she could do the same.
And it turns our I’m not really alone. The voices for women’s equality in the Church are out there. And they are growing. They are getting louder. The faithful witness of men and women who believe in a blessed alliance are doing the hard work and are changing hearts and minds. So I’m going to add my voice, and I’m going to return to this topic in this little space on the internet with more frequency.
In case you need this today:
You are not alone.
You are called by God who created you and knows your every part.
You are loved by Christ who gave up his life to show us what real love looks like.
You are gifted by Holy Spirit who is at work in this crazy world of ours, drawing us to the heart of God.
Persist dear sisters.
I am on your side and in your corner. You are not alone.