While this may not be at all surprising to the CBE community, I loved discussing the question of women in leadership with my friends in college. We would stay up too late, sitting in the halls of our dorm, whispering reflections and arguments for our particular position on the matter while trying not to disturb our sleeping (and clearly far more responsible) roommates. The most frequent response I would hear during these sessions was, “Well, I think that God is probably okay with women in ministry, but I’m just not comfortable with it.” For many of my friends, this wasn’t a question if the Holy Spirit gifts women for leadership—it was simply a question if we could step outside of our comfort zone to recognize and utilize those women.
My college conversations gave me great insight into human nature: as fallen creatures, we are resistant to change. We prefer the familiar, the safe, the known. And because of this, I think we can be at risk for missing how the Holy Spirit is moving in our midst.
In a recent email, a good friend and CBE member, Emily Hennager, shared with me an insight on this very problem. She writes,
Even Samuel needed a little nudge from God to get over what his expectations were (1 Sam. 16:1). After God rejects Saul as king, we see God saying to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” Can't you hear just a little exasperation in God's voice here? “Hey, Samuel, get over it, I'm doing something new here. Stop focusing on what you thought I was going to do because I'm trying to tell you what I'm doing now!”
Samuel was fixated on what was familiar, but God, in his incredible wisdom and grace, was ready with a new and better plan. Doesn’t this happen all too often today? We can get so caught up in traditions — in the status quo, in “keeping the peace,” in pursuing what is easy or comfortable — that we miss the work of God right in front of us. We miss the Holy Spirit moving in powerful and unexpected ways! Perhaps, as the Lord said to Ezekiel about the people of Israel, we too often “have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear” (Ezek. 12:2).
We know from the passage in 1 Samuel that God’s new plan for Israel was the anointing of David, the youngest (and therefore, in that culture, the lowliest) shepherd son of Jesse. But Samuel still did not understand what God was doing. When he saw the appearance and height of Jesse’s son Eliab, Samuel was convinced that Eliab was the anointed one. God, however, had different plans: “The Lord does not look at the things human beings look at,” he told Samuel. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). What encouraging words for the many women who feel a call from the Holy Spirit and meet only opposition from their brothers and other sisters in Christ.
So how do women “walk in the Spirit” when they face such resistance from the church? I love what one of our authors, Christa McKirland, shares in her article that follows: “When I have faced the common ‘that can’t be your calling because you’re a woman’ mentality, I pursue my calling rather than an argument.” For Christa and her husband, Matt, faithfulness to the Holy Spirit’s call mattered most, even when they were required to step bravely into the unfamiliar. Walking in the Spirit takes enormous faith, courage, and perseverance, as each of our authors thoughtfully demonstrates. But the fruit of our work, and the God who is glorified because of our work, is what matters. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear that this work is commissioned, blessed, and enabled by our Advocate, the Holy Spirit. And may we truly understand and be encouraged that our God does not look at what people see but instead sees our hearts.
We hope this issue of Mutuality will be a great inspiration to you, as we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit through brave and faithful women and men who understand that what matters is the God we serve and not our own comforts. Blessings to you as you read and reflect!