For all my spunkiness and orneriness, for all my loud and proud declarations about being a female pastor, my encounter with the pulpit that late night was unsettling, like a sudden shaking that broke loose the unspoken insecurities, doubts, and fears. And yes, of course, some of those unpleasant and unexpected feelings arose from my youth (I was the ripe old age of 24 at the time) and from my inexperience in the pulpit. But, deep in my heart, I recognized at the root of it all lay my femaleness.
I grew up in a denomination that has always affirmed women preachers. Well, in word anyway. My dad was (and is) a pastor in this denomination, and when I was 11, he transitioned from being a youth pastor to a senior pastor. I distinctly remember walking into his new fancy office complete with its own bathroom, like a strange clerical master bedroom of sorts, to discover a urinal. My response was classic 11-year-old: “Well, what if he has to, ya know, not pee?”
If only that was the extent of the “bathroom issue.” What I did not realize at the time was that a declaration had been made: this office belongs to a man. And this office, that of preacher and proclaimer of the gospel, belongs to a man. And so was is it any wonder that when my heart began to sense a call to full-time vocational ministry a few years later that I subconsciously eliminated the office of preacher without hesitation? Missionary would be a better fit, right? Because there’s a urinal. And because I had never seen a woman preach, much less preach with authority and power from the pulpit.
A Message for My 14-Year-Old Self
I want to speak a truth to my 14-year-old that I didn’t hear at the time, did not know I needed to hear at the time. And maybe someone else might need to hear it, too—someone else who is called to proclaim the Word with power but has not been given the imagination to see herself behind “It,” that sacred pulpit.
What I want to say is this: you were made for this. I know you heard that Voice, that call. And I know that you silenced it, not out of rebellion or disobedience, but because you’re pretty sure you heard wrong. You didn’t. God is doing a work in you, shaping you into a proclaimer of the Word. Like Moses, overcome by his inadequacies in the presence of the burning bush, you are afraid. Afraid that you don’t have what it takes, don’t have the skill, the experience, the right timbre of voice, the strength to speak with authority. You don’t even have a lady suit. Beloved, there is no need to fear. Moses was afraid, too, but God did not abandon him to his terror. God is good like that. Instead, God called out his fear and dismantled it with the promise of his presence, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 11–12). Like Moses, God has called you and will go with you, teaching you what you are to speak. Like Moses, you were made for this and you are being made for this—God is continually forming and shaping you to do this all the more faithfully.