I have spent the morning reading the blogging posts of women. It hit me that at this moment in time when the news is full of #MeToo and women’s marches, that I have been amazed to read so many blogs of women encouraging other women (and men who read them) with their stories of God’s love in their lives. Having been born in the 1950s, and not accustomed to women as speakers of God’s words, I am so enjoying learning from other women.
I have bought recommended books and came to look at the Christian walk from a whole different perspective. This is so important, mainly because when I first felt called to preach nearly thirty years ago, one criticism that stopped me from pursuing my calling was the constant reminder of people that women should be quiet in church and never teach a man anything pertaining to God’s words.
It was important to me to follow the will of God, and because men and women felt so strongly about women as preachers, I feared becoming a stumbling block that could cause people to lose their faith. Admittedly, I was non-traditional in other ways. For example, I was one of the first black women hired by the telephone company in a traditionally male job, due to the Affirmative Action Act.
And those men hated us, tried to constantly put us in our place by calling us “honey” or “baby.” They would ask us to do things like get their papers from the printer or make coffee, duties that were not a part of our job description. But, making the same salary as the guys, I refused to be intimidated and made to feel as though I was somehow destroying the world because I was performing what had been characterized as a man’s job. But, I also understood that the men felt that they were losing something precious that they needed to hold onto with all their might: their definition of their masculinity through their work.
Once, running very late leaving for work, I had to call a taxi to take me to work, and the guy asked me what I did at work. When I told him that I climbed ladders and connected wires, using pliers, wrenches, and other of what he thought of as “male” tools, he went into a soliloquy on women trying to be men. He even told me that I needed to quit my job and let a man have it!
I told him that I had five children and one grandchild at home to support, and I would gladly give up me job if he knew a man willing to take care of us and let me stay at home. The conversation ended with him calling me a few choice names, and, let me tell you, they were not good Christian names, and my pretending that I did not hear him. Needless to say, he did not get a tip that day!
So, when people got upset with my preaching in a pulpit where God intended only men to do so, I chose to not continue my calling. I kept going to church, and when I heard women preach on Women’s Day, always it seemed about the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, I was elated. I remember one lady thanking her husband for “allowing” her to speak that Sunday, and that really touched me. But, I just enjoyed hearing my sister in Christ speak, for women have stories to share that illustrate God’s qualities that are so different from men’s stories.
Over the years, I would read the Scriptures and think, “What a great sermon that would make.” But, for nearly twenty years, I stayed on the sidelines, even as I felt my Father in Heaven nudging me to tell the new pastor that I had been licensed to preach years ago. I just could not get past people’s anger at the violation of Paul’s admonition for women to stay quiet in church, ask questions of their husbands once at home, and never allow women to teach men.
For me, while it was one thing to be called what sounded like such a nasty word, a “feminist,” at work, it was all together different to be called ugly names in church, and, boy, those sisters and brothers in Christ did not hesitate to let you know their opinions and make you feel as low as a roach with Real Kill on it. I heard of women being denied access to the pulpit during funerals, because the other male preachers were so set on keeping the traditions of the Church, similar to the Pharisees of Jesus’s time.
Then one day, I had a vision or a dream, not sure whether I was asleep or not, of my being in the pulpit preaching. I said something like, “Father, I don’t want to cause people to go to Hell if I say the wrong things or if people stop going to church because I insist on preaching or teaching.” But, the desire would not leave me. Then, as I made myself read the Scripture so often quoted to me for why I was not called to preach, I saw something that shook me to my core.
In 1 Timothy 2:12-14 it states, “Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result.” Two things caught my attention.
First, Paul says “I do not allow,” not “God does not allow.” This is what Paul does not allow. Second, his reasoning for not permitting women to speak is that Eve was deceived, not Adam, but he does not address the fact that Adam was with her and ate of the fruit or whatever it was, and that he did not intervene in the matter, making Adam as guilty in God’s eyes as Eve. I admit that I may be overthinking this passage to justify my actions, and I really hope to God that that is not what I am doing.
So, I started to look at instances of women speaking or teaching in the Bible, and I read of Huldah in 2 Chronicles 34:14-33, where she spoke for the Lord to King Josiah’s representatives about the authenticity of the scroll found in the Temple, and then of Deborah as a judge in Judges, chapters 4-5, and, lastly, in the New Testament, of Priscilla helping her husband Aquila teach Apollos the way of the Lord more accurately, with Paul’s blessing. I started to rethink my refusal to teach and preach. When God has a calling on your life, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
I found myself in a church with a wonderful evangelist named Bettye Holland, who had founded a ministry to teach women the word of God called The Women’s Institute of Ministry in Atlanta (that now includes men). I took a course from her for Preachers of the Gospel, and I loved hearing her preach with strength and conviction. I listened to the other women as they preached and saw their tears when their pastors would not allow them to be ordained or licensed because of his personal belief that women should not preach or teach.
But, I have been blessed to be at churches since I accepted the call on my life where the pastors and congregations believed in women as preachers. I have felt that I was finally in the will of God, and I thank God for the opportunities. Recently, I preached for the first time at the church where Douglas and I have served for over a year. Some people knew me from teaching the New Members Class and one of the Sunday School classes, but, because it is a church with two services each Sunday and one service on the third Saturday, most people did not know me personally.
But after I preached at both services. some of the women came to me to say that they were so glad to hear a woman preach and were encouraged by the sermon. Mostly guest pastors are men, except for women’s activities, even in a church as enlightened as ours. So, reading the blogs of women today just lifted my soul. I linked to one at the beginning of this post, because I found myself this morning spending hours reading these women’s stories and looking at how they brought God’s words to life for me.
Thank God that blogging is an equal-opportunity action, one in which men and women, people of all races and nations, and folks from all over the social class spectrum can come together and write stories and other communications that help others see the love of God and understand the similarities among us rather than the differences. I am encouraged by the boldness, compassion, caring, and desire to teach, inspire, and help that I read in blogs by women and men. I have learned more from reading blogs of Bible studies and spiritual poems than all the books and commentaries in my spiritual library!
We have all had so many varied experiences, and how people live through and react to the trials, triumphs, and the tediousness of life differs according to the boxes we insist on placing people in. As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important that the blogging world remains one in which there is a place for everyone’s stories and cries for help and hope. Thank you to my fellow bloggers for your courage and obedience to the will of God, but, most importantly, thank you for demonstrating in the best way possible a servant’s heart committed to sharing the love of God with people all over the world.