“What if you discovered the door to the pastor’s study standing wide open and all you had to do was walk right in?”
The question was asked me, a woman, by a trusted friend and well-meaning counselor, a man. Bill asks hard, thoughtful questions that stretch and bust out me of the corners I create. This time the corner had to do with the resistance women still face in ministry––more specifically, me. If I discovered the pastor’s study door standing wide open… “Would the challenge then be gone, and therefore the zeal too?” he asked.
It was an honest question. Maybe not the right one, but honest and difficult all the same. I sat stunned that my friend questioned not just my emotions around vocation, but my motive. Picturing the “sacred space” I memorized at the age of five, I tried to imagine that door standing wide open––to a circle of clergy and elders, men I’ve peered at through the metaphorical keyhole from the other side of a closed door most of my life. The room I vacuumed and dusted, changed the trash, after their exit.
Tears sprung to my eyes. “Bill,” I whispered, “the door isn’t the issue; the men sitting around the table are. If that door stood open, I would walk right in; and fall at the feet of Jesus and worship him, just like I do anywhere else. And the men––some angry at my trespass, others troubled by the possible spread of disease––would avert their eyes, awkwardly stand, and back out that very same door.
My question is not what did Jesus think of the woman weeping at his feet, but how the hell did she get in a room of men who remained long enough to witness the story?”
But why that room? Why not meet Jesus in a room filled with women and children? Why indeed? Why do we have the story of Jesus being on trial with religious leaders and a woman through in the middle of that scene? My evangelical friend, a lover of grace and freedom, cleared his throat and looked uncomfortable.
I celebrate with women who have been granted the gift of a faith tradition that allows them entrance and voice at the table. I was not so fortunate. My passion is to know God and to serve in a pastoral role. All my life I’ve wanted to join the men at the table in stimulating theological discussions, in the discerning of God’s presence and plan. The question is why the discomfort and shunning? I have never come with the ambition of knocking a man out of his pulpit or a desire to run the show. Is there a more subtle, insidious threat?
I tried being a secretary, an at-home mom, a teacher. After a long drawn out kicking and screaming, “Yes!” to God’s call on my life, I became a licensed minister… one who looked a lot like Elijah, hiding out by a brook feeling destitute and alone. I said yes, but went incognito, only speaking in small circles and teaching at the university level, secretly reveling in the fact that though I was not allowed to “fellowship with them,” I was training young male ministers.
I counseled ministers. I wrote with ministers; became the voice behind the voice. It was the best I knew to do, while dodging invitations to lead and stand behind pulpits. Finally, I went to George Fox Seminary with its Spirit-led Quaker tradition woven with men and women serving together.
O, what a delight it’s been.
I have been given another, “Yes.” Affirmation to being all that I am, all that we are designed and dreamed to be as the Bride of Christ––God’s glory together––and to the process of creating and being created. A new wind is blowing; latter rain is falling. I’ve found a door that is open, and men who invite me in.