I have been working on a message for the Christmas season to preach at my church, and found myself focusing on the character of Mary, the teen-age mother of our Savior. After the angel announces to Mary her wondrous and scary divine assignment, Mary sings a beautiful song of worship found in Luke chapter 1. I especially love her comment at the beginning, …my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. Our God was mindful of this young girl – he truly SAW her and decided to bless her. From the very beginning of the life of Jesus, born in a smelly cave to that young mother, our Savior ushered in a revolutionary treatment of women. In ancient days, women were property, and expected to be hidden servants who never even came close to sharing a seat at the table of discourse or leadership. If you want to be incredibly inspired by how Jesus treated women, I highly recommend chapter 4 of John Ortberg’s book, Who Is This Man?
So much has changed in 2000 years…and yet it can still be challenging and discouraging to play a vital role as a woman leader in the church. This is true for most women leaders I have coached - even those who serve in churches with an egalitarian view. Women church leaders tell me stories of small ways, and larger ways, in which they have felt overlooked, excluded, diminished, unfairly compensated, and misunderstood. There are also many stories of churches where the opposite is true, where women feel valued and empowered. Yet most female leaders who cross my path feel somewhat alone in their journey, and are occasionally or often tempted to just give up, bury their gifts, and quiet their voice.
This is why all of us would do well to return again and again to the moments described in the gospels as Jesus ennobled and treasured the contributions of women. Jesus was a radical on many fronts, including his view of women. So as we approach Christmas, I urge women to be inspired by Mary. Know that our God SEES you, that He will not abandon you, that He has a vital role for you to play and will equip you with what you need. The road may be extremely difficult on many days, but please do not despair and do not give up! Take your seat at whatever table you are invited to join. Find your voice and speak up with that rare combination of grace and truth. Lean into other women (and men as well) for support and understanding – do not do this journey alone!
I leave you with the words of Dorothy Sayers, quoted in John’s book, the first woman to receive a degree from Oxford, and a devoted follower of our Savior:
Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle
and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man –
there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who
never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized;
who never made arch jokes about them; who never treated them
either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or “The ladies, God bless
them!”; who rebuked without demeaning and praised without
condescension; who took their questions and arguments
seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never
urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being
female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male
dignity to defend. (from Who Is This Man?)