So instead of pariah or paragon, what about just being a person? Clean, simple, and as descriptive as needed for God’s in-breaking, in-dwelling kingdom where women no longer have to hide our talents because of disapproval or become frozen by the fear of failure. In God’s reign, we aren’t defined by past action but present love and acceptance. In this space of grace, there’s no more playing small or discounting our effort, our voices, our gifts, our mistakes, or our successes. When we’re all allowed to be the messy people we are, we open up more lives to freedom, the glory of a life fully lived for God.
But to step forward into our individual personhood requires that we throw out the old categories and the old ways, and step into the space we as women in ministry are given to inhabit, the space created by God’s grace. If you’ve felt like you were the only one held to impossible standards, take heart—you’re not alone.
When we step out into the space of grace, we embrace our calling as God-given and answerable to God only. This requires trust and perseverance because people criticize. So it might require gathering a group of like-minded women leaders around you to support and encourage each other. You could pick women who are already in leadership or women who would be effective in leadership if given the right support and love.
Truthfully, the glory of a life fully lived for God will draw criticism because while freedom is irresistible, it can also be irritating. But it will attract, and we know that both men and women need to hear and see examples of people living their best lives, dedicated to God. We, the people of God, are messy, beloved, hurried, unique, and yet we are God’s chosen voices and hands and feet in our world. God came to redeem the whole wide world and we get to help. That starts with embracing that we’re neither pariah nor paragon, but rather unique, integral, individual persons in the people of God.
Stefanie Coleman has a Master’s of Divinity from Emmanuel Christian Seminary. She has worked in various roles from youth ministry leader to international church planter to Christian college adjunct instructor to her current role as the Adult Ministry Director at Community Christian Church Lincoln Square. Having lived on three continents, she can now be found in coffee shops in Chicago.