Leaving the field deeply wounded the part of me that yearned to be a minister, to have a pastoral calling, and to love people. It also wounded my confidence that as a woman I could even be a pastor. At times, I was full of painful memories like glass shards. To this day, I sometimes stay up at night as those shards still prick and slice me.
Despite my wound, I wanted to finish seminary while my husband pursued engineering. He wanted nothing more to do with ministry. (Well, at least as a “professional” minister.) He was also broken, though his brokenness came from watching me being broken down and stomped on.
For a few months, we sat on the fringes until we took deep breaths and jumped back into life. I started classes, volunteered for our church, and made friends. But we didn’t talk about our experiences, and it’s taken me seven years to write this.
It took me years to accept that what happened wasn’t my fault. It was years before I could even think about rejoining a church in a professional capacity. And still more years before I could think of myself as something other than broken, something more than the different person who came home from Europe that December. I eventually began to appreciate that new woman and her new strengths; to know that despite the hell she had encountered, God was faithful in the small things and had never abandoned her.
And although it was hard, I learned a lot about leadership by being on the receiving end of insecurity, fear, anger, and lost trust. I learned what not to do with teams. I learned what characteristics I wanted to define me, both as a leader and as a follower. I committed to several things: I would support my team members; protect them; invest in them; and most of all, I would never believe their individual success was somehow harmful to mine. And slowly—slowly—I began to appreciate how my very female-ness could be an asset.
Ministry can be a battle. We fight ourselves, our temptations, our insecurities, and our world. It’s hard, and made harder by the fact there are no cease-fires or truces. And sometimes we’re hit by friendly fire. We can find ourselves lost, far from the original plan, stranded without resources, and terrified we’re doing the wrong thing. But there is hope.