This blog post first appeared on Tara Beth Leach’s personal blog. Thank you for allowing us to share it with our community.
Dear Woman in Ministry,
Teaching, Preaching, leading, evangelizing, and ministering is hard enough. It’s even harder if it is as vocation. The daily ups and downs can be breathtaking in one moment, and gut-wrenching in the next. Any pastor or minister will tell you so.
Now, let’s layer on top of that your gender. In some contexts, you’re odd. It may not be uncommon for someone to look you up and down and say with a shocked tone, “You’re the pastor?!” There might be days you experience strange macroaggressions – like being told you are shrill, bossy, or pushy, while male colleagues who behave in the same manner are told they are strong and competent leaders.
You may find yourself now and then needing to defend your calling after hearing someone say, “There is no such thing as a female pastor.” Or, you’ve received letters taped to your office door with familiar bible verses on why the writer thinks you are sinning. Or maybe you’ve even witnessed people stand up and walk out of the sanctuary when you get up to preach, or maybe you’ve even experienced students protesting on campus because the University invited a female pastor to preach. Or maybe you are pastoring and leading a church of your dreams, but there has been a significant cost in attendance and giving, simply because of your presence.
Maybe you have experienced countless closed doors, and now you’re beginning to doubt your calling to begin with. You watch as many of your male seminary friends accept exciting new roles within the church, and perhaps you’re wondering why not you. You only want to use your gifts to see knees bow and tongues confess that Jesus is Lord, and you only want to preach, teach, lead, and minister for the glory of God. But you don’t know how or where or when it will happen.
And then you probably get a lot of comments about your appearance – when at the end of the day you just want to have a conversation about theology or life or anything but how you did your hair that day or how you dressed.
Perhaps as you read this, you’re exhausted. Pastoral ministry is hard enough, and it can be even harder when you’re a woman. So, dear woman in ministry, I want to say two things to you today, and I pray that as I feel led by the Spirit to say these words, that the Spirit would use these words to encourage you, edify you, and push you to keep going for just another day.
1. You are a Warrior
Oh, you are a warrior. You’ve come this far, and you’ve traversed rocky terrain, and you’ve walked the wilderness. You stand on the shoulders of Deborah, Esther, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene, Huldah, Jael – the woman with a lion heart, and Junia the bright apostle. These women were by no means weak, but they were “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
These women were wise, and listened to their gut instincts. They courageously led the people of Israel, and left everything to follow Jesus. They slayed giants, and boldly spoke on behalf of God’s people. They obeyed God when no one else seemingly was. They were witty, imaginative, and courageous.
Perhaps this post finds you in a space of exhaustion and discouragement, and you are wondering how much longer you can do this. Maybe you’ve given God ultimatums, or cried, screamed, and cried so hard in your pillow that you wondered if anyone else heard you.
“What if I fail?” “What if this all falls apart?” “I can’t do this anymore.” “I’m exhausted.” “I’m weary.” Are maybe even common thoughts for you.
Dear woman in ministry, I pray these words permeate your heart through the gift of the Holy Spirit…
You are a warrior in Christ.
Your heart for proclamation, evangelism, teaching, and leading isn’t merely a childhood fantasy; rather, it’s a holy chaotic stirring from the Spirit of the living God.
You have been given the gift of the Spirit of Pentecost – that is, the Spirit who shook the very grave open in which Jesus slept. You have been called by the same God who raised up warriors and leaders like Deborah. Your heart for proclamation, evangelism, teaching, and leading isn’t merely a childhood fantasy; rather, it’s a holy chaotic stirring from the Spirit of the living God. It’s a stirring that will propel, impel, empower, and embolden you to do things beyond your wildest imagination. So, dear woman in ministry, the night won’t last. I’ve seen resurrection in the middle of desolation, and I believe the God who continues to make all things new is presently calling woman to participate in a groundswell like we’ve never before seen. So rise up, warrior. God has moved. God is moving. And God will continue to move.
But before we end our conversation, I have just one more thing to say.
2. You are also clay.
At the end of the day, you are clay. Consider sweet Hagar (Gen. 16; 21), the seemingly forgotten and invisible one in the narrative of Israel. While the spotlight was on Abram and Sarai, Hagar was mistreated, abused, disenfranchised, and despised. No rights, no dignity, no freedom, no choice, she’s finally had enough and runs. As she’s at the well weeping, an angel of the Lord sees her and speaks tenderly to her, and she cries out vulnerably, “You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Dear warrior, you are also clay. Perhaps you find yourself running, vulnerable, or exhausted. The God who sees is a mere whisper away. In your frailty, vulnerability, and yes, weakness, you will fail if you do this without the God who sees.
You have nothing to prove, and you have nothing to give outside of the power of the Spirit. The courage, strength, and power you are looking for is a prayer away, and whatever you do, do pray. Do remember why you decided to do this to begin with. Do remember our first love, and do fall in love with Jesus more and more as each day passes. Return to the scriptures, fall on your knees, dance with your savior, and delight in his presence.
God sees you through the titles, without the degrees, and without the platform.
God does see you, dear woman in ministry. And God sees you through the titles, without the degrees, and without the platform. God sees into the depths of your heart and dreams, and God loves every bit of it.
Dear woman in ministry, you are clay. Choose to tune your heart to God’s in the morning when you rise, and in your moments, breaths, and steps – for without Jesus, all of this would be meaningless. Perhaps you need to be reminded that you need him more than acceptance, titles, and large congregations. Return to his love, and bask in the presence of the God who sees you, and delights in you.
Dear woman in ministry, you are a warrior, and you are also clay. Go now, and live into this calling that God has stirred in your soul, and do it as a warrior, but also do it as clay.