I was at seminary – being equipped to lead and serve. I studied, I searched, was stretched and learned. Yet I also cried. I cried for myself; I cried for other women. We endeavored to follow God’s will in our lives, but found instead rebuffs, questionings, and disdain. One night in the midst of this time, I wrote the following piece. It shares my personal experiences yet is actually a composite of several women’s struggles.
February 23, 1987
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me. If I say, ‘Let only darkness cover over me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee.” Psalm 139:7-12 (RSV)
But where do I go?
I was scared. I had never been part of a larger Christian community for a long period of time. I had just recommitted my life to Christ a year ago after having spent many years avoiding other Christians. Now I was excited: I was going to seminary, a Christian graduate school, to learn and prepare for the ministry.
I arrived eager to experience the love of the church and the accepting arms of the Christian community. I came to fine-tune my skills and to gain knowledge for the work that God had set before me. I came to see the fullness of the Christian community and church, but was I surprised.
I found instead disdain for my impending leadership as a female. I found lack of acceptance for my ministry and my leadership. I heard so many masculine pronouns used and masculine leaders speak that I wondered if there was a place for me at all. I began to wonder if God really meant to create us male and female, or to only create two males in different outer clothing.
I learned that I was not really a part of the community. That was made clear to me. I found professors who did not want me in class, but tried to camouflage it by calling on me, a woman, during every class to show how much my presence was “accepted.” I was confronted by male students who “wanted to set me straight” about the correct meaning of the women and leadership passages, that I might not sin. I had tensions with various other women students who did not think that what I was doing was biblical. Didn’t I know that the Bible said that women should not assume leadership in the church? Perhaps they thought that eventually I would go away after I saw the error of my ways.
Oh, another mistake I made: I was single. Marriage and children are not high on my personal agenda because God has not called me to that state. So why did I come? Didn’t I know that the highest calling for a woman was to be a wife and mother and to support her man in the work to which God had called him? Lord, what do I do?
Perhaps I will go out and get a husband tomorrow. Then he will create validity for my ministry because he will say, “It is okay. I have let her. She knows, however, that my work and the children will always come first.”
But, God, you have not called me to that state. What do I do? Do I just forget that I, a child of God, have been called to carry out a portion of the ministry of the church and to be a leader, or do I forget the non-acceptance and just push on?
Well, God, someone has to be wrong here. They always say that the majority rules and thus may be right. Well, God, if that is the case, then this minority must be wrong. But then, God, if I am wrong doesn’t that mean that You must be wrong too? Didn’t You call me and send me on my way?
Well, where do I go? I came to seminary having succeeded “in the world.” All I could imagine was that life in the church would be even better than that with those who did not know Christ. How wrong I was.
I guess I’ll go back to my secular work. God, they must be right and You and I must be wrong. The work of the Christian ministry must not be for me.
Tomorrow I’ll send out my resume.