A Woman’s Place

We’ve come a long way since the days of discouraging women from achieving executive level positions or barring them from setting their sights on higher education. It’s been a trying and tedious road at times, yet the journey is far from finished. I still wrestle with the idea of what a “woman’s place” is and what is considered an acceptable role for a woman to adopt.

Perhaps its due to being raised in a patriarchal centered home, or being exposed at a young age to church teachings where women ought to submit in all areas of life: home, work and ministry. So it comes to no surprise then that in my sophomore year of high school, when I felt my first pull towards studying the word of God and possibly even teach it that it was snuffed out like ash hurriedly kicked upon a fire. Passion and feeling, I told myself, was not enough to disobey the clear commands of the Lord (1 Timothy 2: 11-14, ESV). They were false passions and unworthy of my time and senseless meanderings.

Still as the years went by, I would research books on apologetics, dive into systematic theology, save articles that discussed the biblical perspective on counseling, marriage, homosexuality and countless others as well as download podcasts of lectures/panels regarding Old and New Testament scripture. In my zeal to learn, I would ask the seminarians in my life for insightful books, intriguing theologians to learn from and recommendations by their professors on Hebrew culture and ancient cultures. In short, like a household pet hungry for scraps, I lapped up what information I could, believing that this is what it meant to “learn quietly with all submissiveness” (1 Timothy 2: 11, ESV).

I confess a majority of my views are shaped by my own interpretation of the world, my glass is half full personality and the paranoid environment that built me. But the church must also take a stand to see the gaps that have left fellow sisters dangling to find a place. Gaps that have carelessly and thoughtlessly dropped women to cling to the tiny crevices of possibility in the world of church, constricting them to a role that is more often need based than merit based.

How often are God fearing, Bible loving women in the congregation sought out to fill a Women’s or Children’s Ministry Director role simply because there was a need? Most step up and try their best to coordinate these enriching events, make sure lessons are planned, younger women are discipled to and older women are encouraged. But like any job, no one should be flung into the deep waters and expected to swim. This is not to say every women ought to have a Masters in Divinity or Biblical Studies in order to serve, but it does expose that we as a church have seriously neglected teaching and building up women leaders.

I recently attended a women’s conference that fortunately held a seminar for Furthering Your Theological Education. Up until the last minute, I was bouncing between attending or not attending…there was this internal battle within me of not wanting to finalize my graduate school dreams in biblical studies simply because it felt, in lack of a better word, stupid. I had no real desire to ever become a children’s ministry director or Youth Group leader – kids were fine in small doses, but my fondness for them never exceeded past a few hours. Women’s ministry was great, but I grew up with ones that hosted parties, and small get together’s and it always seemed to just graze the surface of freshly brewed coffee and store bought cookies. For whatever reason, I found myself walking into the seminar like it was the first day of ninth grade all over again. I timidly found a seat and to my surprise, the classroom ended up being packed to the brim…the professor walked in with a look of shock on her face and admittedly joked that she was not suspecting anyone to come.

Gaps that have carelessly and thoughtlessly dropped women to cling to the tiny crevices of possibility in the world of church, constricting them to a role that is more often need based than merit based.

After an hour of hearing these women express their concerns, their fears and convictions, I have this to say:

Women – we are the wives, the mothers, the spiritual mothers to many and the first gospel speaking/ faithful living human that our children will first witness. Further theological training should not be a remote possibility; the lives we touch and the ones we create start with us. Studying and wanting to pursue more of God’s Word should always be encouraged. Those that crave for more and are dissatisfied with a 45 minute Sunday sermon should never feel condemned for being hungry.

Yet, the words shame, arrogance, impractical, condemnation, and selfish appeared again and again throughout the seminar. Women ranging from early twenties to late seventies all held a common pain: who do I think I am trying to learn more? Studying for a certificate, let alone a masters, will simply be a waste of time, energy and money. I must have a selfish heart for wanting to learn, invest in schooling that may not reap a profitable job. I have no passion at becoming a women’s or children’s ministry leader and if those are the only two roles that await me post grad, then what’s the point?

The point, dear sister, is this: we need congregations of men and women who are bible literate. Again, not everyone ought to go to school, but for those who have been given the itch to learn and are able to, go.

Do not be misguided into thinking that desiring further education and finding joy in digging deeper into the text is your typical bookworm ‘high’. No – it is the Spirit working within you, moving you to love the Word of God and calling you to want more of Him. No one actively longs to read the Bible unless the Spirit is compelling them to.

You may not know what will happen after you get that degree. Sometimes, in order to follow the call God has placed on you, you simply have to do just that – follow. Will you get a job in ministry or teach after receiving further education? No, there is no guarantee – after all, what guarantee is there in life? But go and be surprised to see how that passion to learn is all you have to go off of and later, stand in awe by how God opens doors and leads you in unexpected ways once you follow that call.

To condemn ourselves and say that we are overly privileged for the means to go to bible college (whether through financial, familial support, or timing) is to heavily undermine God’s radical mercy and relentless provision. It is God’s mercy should you be able to go, and unfortunately, many women (myself included) have spun the narrative and twisted this blessing into a condemning factor.

The point, dear sister, is this: we need congregations of men and women who are bible literate. Again, not everyone ought to go to school, but for those who have been given the itch to learn and are able to, go.

We don’t just need more female leaders, we need female leaders who are theologically trained because a women’s hands, voice and life form our children, guide our husbands, grow our peers and influence our society. Gospel rooted women who can speak in love and in truth is a blessing and something that our workplaces, churches and homes need more of.

9 thoughts on “A Woman’s Place

  1. This is a beautiful piece, very thoughtful and vulnerable. It reminds me of a book I read called “How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership.” If you haven’t read it, I think you would find it interesting. I’ll put a link. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

    How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals https://www.amazon.com/dp/0310293154/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_Uvw6CbM8JV0NX

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your sweet comment. I greatly appreciate it. No I have not heard of this book before but will definitely look into it now! Thank you so much. I need to read more on women leadership so this is much needed.

      Like

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