You are capable. You are worthy. You are lovely. You are special. Perhaps these words sound foreign to you, but they are true. God still whispers them to you in the middle of the night. Can you hear Him? God still affirms your worth and your identity that is solely rooted in Him. You used to believe it. You really did. When you were a child, you used to think “yes, I’m someone extra special. I’m someone who is going big places. I’m someone important.” Perhaps you even thought about this too much. Perhaps you liked to be the centre of attention. Perhaps you are still craving to be at the centre, but your craving is no longer innocent. What happened? What happened to that sweet-faced, goal oriented youngster who no one could bring down? What happened to that energetic child who thought anything was possible as long as one remained focused on the end result? LIFE. Life happened. Life threw you some curve balls. Somehow, someone along the way, spoke lies into your heart and soul that took root and never left. Somehow, years later you look in the mirror and no longer see who God sees – you see what the Enemy – that big bad bully, wanted you to see. You no longer see a white wedding dress symbolizing purity and delight, you see a tattered, dirty, worn-out, holey shirt. And you’ve come to accept it. You’ve come to internalize all the blame you’ve received. You’ve begun to think that others around you are more worthy and more loveable than you are. And you’ve never quite been able to find your way back. In fact, you’re probably still out there searching…searching for who knows what. Searching for identity. Searching for peace. Searching for purpose. Searching to come home. But you’ve never found the right path. Sure, you’ve tried all sorts of things: empty friendships, meaningless relationships, money, power, and fame. Perhaps you’ve even tried religion – a passive acceptance of a set of rigidly held beliefs, but in the end of the day, all seemed vain. And now you’ve come to this place: devastated, disillusioned, distracted. Completely drained, exhausted, spent. But it really doesn’t matter how you got here, or why you are here now. I’m just happy you came. I’m ecstatic because I want to share a special secret with you: a secret that will unlock the prison of bitterness and anxiety at who you need to be and will open up a gateway of boundless possibilities. I’m happy because in these next few minutes, I’m going to give you the opportunity to move past a false perception of yourself and into the loving embrace of a Wounded Saviour. If you’re willing to embark on this journey, please come right in. Let me make you a cup of tea, give you some scones (or zwiebach – whichever you prefer), and let me tell you what you may not have heard for a very long time…and perhaps have never been aware of.
You Don’t Have to Be a Good Little Church Girl.
I’d like to step aside and speak only to the women for a minute. Being a woman, and more specifically, being a woman in full-time vocational ministry is TOUGH. Oftentimes, guys just don’t understand that. Along with some proof-texting conservatives, we also have to contend with society (and old-school Christianity’s) beliefs about women. You see, women are taught from a young age to be “lady-like” but what exactly does that mean? Oftentimes it means being submissive rather than argumentative, looking pretty rather than plain, and carrying on a conversation with grace and eloquence. Of course, I believe that as Christians, we should strive to be kind, compassionate, and considerate. But I also know that there will definitely be times when we are called to be anything BUT that stereotypical ideal of a “good little church girl.” In fact, there will be plenty of times when we are called upon to be rebels, to be rough, to ride motorcycles, and to wear leathers.
I just got back from spending a day with a group of young children at a nearby church’s Vacation Bible School. I’ve been in children’s ministry for the majority of my life and along with the enjoyment of reliving my own childhood, there is one thing in particular I love about kids. They are real. They have faith. They believe. They have not let the world knock them down yet. When you ask a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up, they say the most outrageous things: a pilot, an astronaut, a ballerina, a pop star, a cowboy (or cowgirl). They have not yet learned to internalize criticism and doubt. In the majority of cases, most of these young people will never accomplish their first dream, but that doesn’t matter to a five year old. All that matters is that the dream is there and even if there’s a 1% possibility of it occurring, they are willing to fight to keep that dream alive.
Yet as we get older, we start to make excuses for why we aren’t following our dreams and usually those voices come from cultural expectations – not God’s… not even our own. When I was 4, I informed my rather conservative church that I wanted to be a pastor and I was shot down. I was told women can’t do that. That’s a boy’s job. But I didn’t take it. I ploughed right ahead. If that was God’s calling on my life, I was willing to do anything to get there. Now, 20 years later, I find myself easily falling prey to those same ideas. I find myself rationalizing not putting forth a better effort to find a pastorate because “being a woman makes it harder.” I find myself willing to settle for less than what God has called me to do because I don’t think I can fit into the mould of an obedient and submissive female pastor under the strong leadership of a male dominated structure.
What is causing me (and possibly you) from going back to our first love? To our precious early goals? Usually fear. Or apathy. Or… I hate to say this: laziness. If we truly knew how much God has in store for us, how much God has planned for us, and how that mission is not going to be seen to full completion until we’re willing to take our part…I think it might change our underlying disobedience. But unfortunately for many of us, unless someone is willing to shake us up and make that happen, we stay stuck in the rut we find ourselves in. We don’t move.
But if you find yourself in that position, let me speak a word of encouragement to you. The majority of the women in the Bible were BAD GIRLS. And you know what? God loved them because of it. Esther was a BAD GIRL – she was scared silly, but when the time came, she spoke with authority and became assertive. Because of that, the Jewish race was preserved and God was pleased. Ruth was a BAD GIRL – she wasn’t willing to take the easy path of finding a husband, she wanted to play by the rules, so (non-feminists might want to close their ears) she PURSUED a man. That’s right – pursued him in a culture where that just wasn’t done. Deborah was a BAD GIRL – she basically called a man out for not having the courage to do what he needed to do and she shamed him until he took action. So if you’re not the stereotypical “good little church girl” take heart. You’re in good company. And God will still use you, as long as you are willing for that to happen!
You Can Do Anything (As Long As Christ is In It).
Another incident that I found refreshing during my time with the kids today was reading one of the younger girl’s t-shirts. This eight year old was sporting a shirt that had a variety of different adjectives describing what a girl is like. Some of the words were not only surprising to me, but refreshing. Here are a few examples: Girls are healthy, assertive, know what they want, fun, confident, dream-chasers. You don’t need to sit on the sidelines and let the boys play rugby and football – you also have the opportunity to go out and do the same things. It’s an unfortunate reality that young girls are told there are certain activities for “boys and others for “girls.” Really, either gender should be permitted to participate in whatever game, sport, or club they want if they enjoy it and especially if they have the ability to excel.
Being healthy doesn’t just refer to physical health – but also to emotional and mental stamina and spiritual favour. Being healthy means accepting (and loving) being in one’s own skin. Keeping healthy means that if you’re a woman in full-time ministry you have that support network that enables you to find camaraderie in what can so often be considered a “boy’s world.” It means having other women mentors who are also in full-time leadership and it means not losing your cool when proof-texters try to convince you that you are somehow sinning for following God’s call on your life. That’s really what being a woman is about. It’s what makes a female pastor come alive.
God Remembers Pain.
If you ever feel left-out and lonely, take a piece of advice from my good Edinburgh friend who recently talked some sense into me. If you were overlooked or if someone failed to invite you to something, know this: Jesus was also deserted. When He needed His disciples the most, they fled. They were nowhere to be seen. He was in Florida and they were in California. He was in Nevada and they were in New Mexico. He was in Edinburgh and they were in Inverness. He was in the Maritimes they were in the Rockies. Well, not quite, but you get the picture. He was absolutely betrayed by His closest companies, His confidants. So Christ knows all about getting the boot… but that didn’t stop Him from knowing what God thought about Him or how God saw His mission. It didn’t put a moratorium on His life-given calling that only He was capable of achieving. If anything, it made Him want it even more. It motivated Him to pursue God’s dream and plan for His life… and even when He periodically lost the strength to keep going, He prayed that God might renew that vision – sustain Him with the presence of love. And guess what? God came through.
So next time, you’re tempted to berate yourself or to tarnish your own self-worth for something as trivial as not getting an invitation here’s a tip: Why not ask Jesus how He felt when He was rejected? Why not ask Christ how He feels right now when we still choose to disobey and walk the other way on a daily basis? Our Heavenly Father longs to be part of every single aspect of our lives – even the parts we would never consider. He wants us to seek His input about financial decisions, family matters, career changes, and geographical moves…yet so often we don’t do that. We’d rather just go to our friends or family and ask them for their opinions. I bet it makes God very sad that when He’s edging to get invited to our parties, we keep Him on the sidelines and only mention something in passing once the pictures are already posted up on Facebook. When my friend put it to me this way: WOW! It totally changed my perception. Don’t get me wrong, I still have insecurity issues. I still feel sad about not getting invited to things (and I’ve written other blog posts about that) BUT I have never felt the same way again. Even though I’m sad, I just remember how sad Christ is about all the times I’ve done the same to Him, then He and I usually have quite an interesting chat about it and generally that perks me right back up again.
Well, thank you for coming to my little cozy nook for a nice cup of tea. I hope you have enjoyed your stay. I hope it has provided you with grace and strength – a new outlook. You are capable. You are worthy. You are loveable. You are holy. You are whole. Somewhere along the way, you might have ceased believing this. Perhaps you don’t believe it now. But I hope and pray that one day you will. And in the dead of night when all is quiet and all seems lost. When you feel abandoned, when you feel you can no longer fit into society’s pressures of you, when you feel that you’re not a “good little church girl” He is whispering to you. Can you hear it? He is saying: you are my precious daughter. You are my beloved. Come away with Me, My darling, My dove. I will rejoice over you with singing. You are perfect in my eyes.