I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior on July 9, 1997. I was 13 years old. Two days later, on the top of a bunk bed at Falls Creek Baptist Encampment, during what was our designated “quiet time,” I felt the call to ministry. Quite simply, in response to His saving grace, I felt that the least I could do was serve Him with everything I had.
I never doubted what I felt in those two moments. I went from wondering aimlessly, a broken kid from a broken place, to finally feeling like I wasn’t a piece of wasted space. Those moments still burst into my mind with utmost clarity, but the path after has been considerably more muddled.
Since then, I have struggled to find what I feel is my calling in a denomination where women are only allowed to love Jesus as fully as is denominationally acceptable. Women can serve Jesus, but most appropriately in a support position as a wife, working with women, or with children. We can gladly “direct” the children’s ministry, but any ministering or shepherding we may do only comes under a male role. We could be overseas missionaries, although I believe that there are some restrictions on that. (I do not know, I haven’t looked in years.) We are to study and learn about the Lord, but to speak freely about what we know is met often with disregard or even distain. On most theological issues, I agree with my denomination; politically and socially, I find very little common ground.
I learned that I would often be called a director, but not a minister. I could fight for licensing, but never ordination, even though it was simply my desire to have my calling acknowledged and not to somehow usurp the traditional male role. I was once fired from a church because I wasn’t “willing to do what a man would do.” I learned to doubt my voice and doubt my intelligence, although I felt like a pariah in many of my female circles due to my education and passion. Even now, in my traditional role as a mother and wife, I feel like I’m still caught in-between two worlds. Longing for more while knowing I’m doing what is good and right for right now. I’m tired of feeling like I’m too much and not enough at the same time.
I ache. I ache for more.
Beth Moore’s “A Letter to my brothers” brought tears to my eyes yesterday. I wept over the years of conflict in my soul. I ached for my sisters and brothers in Christ who have walked away from the denomination and even the faith they once held because they saw the abuse we have given each other “in the name of Christ.” I have spent most of my life with my mouth shut because I knew my belief didn’t line up with what we teach in the church. Even now, I know men who I have spent years with who would likely tear me apart and write me off as a heretic. We’ve walked away from a church we attended for a year because of their views on women. We’re currently attending a very nice place although I suspect that their views are similar. I’m just worn out trying to find a place in this denomination that openly recognizes that both men and women can be called to ministry and be equipped by God. I know I’m not alone in my conclusions towards women in ministry. I’ve had professors and other ministers encourage me to find a more welcoming place. They’ve all come to the conclusion that what I’m looking for cannot be found here. Perhaps they are right.
Until I feel the call to leave, the call for my entire family to find our place, here I must remain. I’m bruised, I’m weary, but I have hope. Beth Moore has helped show me where to look for hope all these years, and although she’s been vocally discredited in even my own circles, she’s been one to show me that you can love Jesus, study hard, preach the Word, and still be a woman. You’ll likely never read this, Beth, but thank you. Thank you for your letter.