Does this happen in the church? Of course it does. This monster rears its ugly head in the guise of comparison and envy. In a shallow attempt to feel better about ourselves, women play games of one-upmanship. This intragender division referenced in Dr. Cleveland’s research reveals that we lack confidence in our own skills, abilities, and choices, and our identity in Christ is not secure. As a result, we add to the mounting list of things our sisters in Christ “should” be doing to gain our approval and acceptance.
Young, single girls should go to college or to the mission field. Married women should have children (and the more they can have, the better). Mothers tend to get an extra wink for staying at home or choosing to homeschool. And what about the multitudes of women—some lost, some barren, some college students, some single, some old, some divorced, some widows, some single mothers—who come to church and sit on the sidelines waiting for someone to notice them and invite them in? These women are no different from me in that they want embracing and they need encouragement and direction concerning their role in God’s kingdom.
The more I learn, the better I understand that God reveals his will for each of our lives in very specific ways at opportune times. In my own life, I find he often clarifies direction within the context of Christian community. In other words, my spiritual gift of leadership was not given to me so I can have a long title behind my name or earn a great paycheck. Don’t get me wrong: those can be nice benefits. The gifts of God, however, are given for serving the people of God, and it is for this reason and purpose that I labor.
There is a significant difference between living my life on purpose and aimlessly moving through life without direction. I am able to do the former because I have been embraced and nurtured within Christian communities where God was clearly at work. First, I committed to the primary calling of being a disciple and follower of Christ, and only then did I get clarity about my purpose or role in God’s kingdom.
The Word Made Plain
The biblical narrative makes it clear that God does not call all women to the same choices or life paths; however, he does call us all to follow him. He does call us all to a united Christian community. Our spiritual journeys are really about serving a God who is good, and about knowing without a shadow of a doubt that through Christ’s finished work on the cross, we are made righteous before that same God. Through salvation, God himself has done a great work in us. Our faith tells us he has great plans for us. Because of our faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are equipped to persevere and to work. In spite of our challenges and our suffering, we can live with power, hope, and joy as he intends. Mentoring can be a catalyst God uses to deepen our relational commitment to other women and to his church. Mentoring as intentional discipleship affirms our true identity in Christ and reminds us of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in community through us.