If no one is telling their stories about the secret things that have happened to them, where then are we to hear the stories that really, truly matter?
Listening, of course, is nothing new for Christians. The word “listen” is found 352 times in Scripture. Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded not only to shema, but also to obey. When the Lord came to Samuel in the night and called out his name, what was Samuel’s response? “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:10). Samuel’s response to God was attentive and action-oriented; through active listening, the prophet helped shape the trajectory of the story of God’s people.
Likewise, “listen” (or akroatérion in Greek) is found 29 times in the Gospels, its definition meaning “a place of audience, or listening.” One cannot read the first four books of the New Testament without noticing how Jesus listened to strangers, friends, and foes. He listened to perspectives different from his own, as evidenced by his interaction with the woman at the well. He listened to the Father, in silence, without interruption, and, as a boy, he listened and asked questions of his teachers.
Then, he encouraged those who had ears to hear to do the same―he encouraged them to simply listen. Just as Christ reminded his followers then to partake in the act of listening, he directs us to do the same.
By listening, we are changed. By listening, we gain empathy. By listening, the stories of minimization, sexism, and the like, are not only revealed but also given permission to bravely face the light of day, even changing the trajectory of the world around us. When women leaders in the church simultaneously begin to listen and tell their stories, we will begin to see threads of change ushered into the kingdom.
Therefore, we listen to the stories of other women leaders who have been minimized based on gender―and together, we stand by one another to bring gender equality to the Christian workplace, too.
We listen to the stories of other women leaders who have chuckled and brushed off sexist commentary, in an effort to fit in with the boys―and together, we devise new ways to make conversation inclusive for everyone.
We listen to the stories of other women leaders who have experienced abuse, rape, and assault―and together, we seek to change the experience of women both in the church and in the public sphere.