Is this a place to be completely frank and honest?
I’ve never been eloquent with words, and it seems each day I find new faults or different areas which I feel are lacking. Though, I understand that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, designed by God precisely for the the job He’s given me, so I can’t complain too much! It’s just that so often I can try to be so strong, but at times I have moments of weakness and I imagine I’m not alone.
Today’s particular moment has to do with recognition. Now, I know very well that I shouldn’t rely on the recognition of people. As a matter of fact, God is kind of funny, as I read what I was “scheduled” to read in my Bible today I landed on 1 Thessalonians 2:6 where Paul says in reference to their labor that “we were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.”
BUT, though I know in my head and my heart that God appreciates the work that I do, and that I do everything for him, I still have those moments of weakness when I see how tiny my paycheck is, how I don’t get benefits, am restricted from meetings and prayer, etc. unlike my male co workers. Today was just particularly hard because it hurt when they were all recognized for clergy appreciation month with a card and bonus from the church, and as usual, I’m left out.
I know this seems like a bit of a pity party, and I guess it is. I just wonder if anyone else struggles with this? I know it’s a lesson in humility and such, and that ultimately it’s good for me to build in character, but that doesn’t make it not REALLY hard in the meantime!
A friend directed me to this entry as he was pretty sure I’d be interested in engaging with this discussion, and he was right! I’m sorry that now one responded sooner. I imagine the immediacy that led to the post has passed, although I imagine you will wrestle with this again.
Let me start by saying that I so empathize with this struggle of yours. I’ve been leading worship and pastoring on and off staff for the past 20 + years. My heart sank when I read your update and found that you are undergoing some of the same things that I faced 20 years ago. I know that the Church is growing in understanding of the necessary role that women play as we also reflect the image and heart of God when we serve and use our gifts and grow in grace, wisdom and knowledge. But it sure feels like it goes slowly.
I know there is not much I can say that will change your day to day reality. But I’d like to encourage you today in whatever way I’m able.
First of all I’d like to say, I hear your heart to find your affirmation from God alone. Well done! But we are created to be in unity with one another and it is not wrong to long for the recognition that we receive from others. We are told to encourage each other each day so that “sin” won’t deceive us and make us hard. Some think this refer to exhortation, but I know that a word of encouragement from an earth-bound mortal can also keep the enemy’s (or sometimes my own) lying voice at bay. There is a difference between “working for praise” and just plain being human and needing encouragement. So go easy on yourself on this one. Find the people…even if it’s only one or two…who understand and with whom you don’t need to qualify the intentions of your heart all the time. I have had friends like this over the years, who listened when I needed it and on the occasion when my real need for encouragement turned into a pity party, they could lovingly kick my butt back onto the right track.
I have also, over the years, been blessed with men who saw the inconsistencies of the church as it related to their treatment of women and specifically me! I did a far bit of itinerant worship leading a number of years ago, and one speaker friend of mine, who was often at the same events as I was, would pool his honorarium with mine so that we could split them evenly as most often he was paid significantly more and had significantly less to do. That could have been a speaker/worship leader thing rather than a male/female thing, but one way or the other, it built my strength to know that someone would so believe in me that they would take a loss in order to recognize my value.
Over the years, God has also been very gracious to direct me to people who care to move forward in the valuing of women in our various gifts and capacities in the church. I still often feel like I’m the one saying “where are the women” but I know at least that the intention of these good people is to grow in the practical reflection of what I know is their philosophical desire to express our equality.
But in the meantime, dear girl, do not let your heart become hardened. As one friend said to me, remember that people are journeying as well. I assume that the people you are referring to all love God and probably really love and value you. So ask God to show them their inconsistencies and to give you love for them to be able to serve with an open heart, even when hurt. But also pray that God would show you if there are openings for you to be able to help them understand the reality of being a woman in your role. What helped me from feeling that maybe this was “just me” was to think of all the young women coming after me who I was hopefully paving a smoother way for.
In the end, God IS your advocate. He may call you to serve for a time in a place where you feel like you are not seen, but it sounds like he’s given you tons of character and a great heart, so believe he will also put you in places where you will be able to reflect his heart to honor women and where you, in your lovely way, will help to convict others of the changes that still need to occur in the church. And in the end, he may move you to a place where the struggle has already been fought.
Ok…I have to go for now, but know that I’m on your cheering squad. I am standing with you today, that you find what you need to make it for the long haul of your life. Well done, good, faithful, beautiful, female servant!!
Oh yeah…and in case I missed the point and didn’t make it clear in all that verbage above, I HAVE DEFINITELY struggled with this! At times I have found myself shocked and amazed that God doesn’t strike me down for wanting to be praised in how I bring him glory (!!) and yet instead of judgement I’d find grace and understanding.
Not sure what else I can add to this other than cheering you on. Monique has given many great pearly pearls of wisdom . . . . she’s good at that!!
I can identify with what you are expressing however often see these kinds of circumstances that you are expressing as matters of inequality and injustice. As women we have been often taught to spiritualise these feelings and so feel guilty believing that they indicate that we are not being humble loving, rather than recognising that perhaps its God’s heart of justice stirring in us.
How you untangle the heart and recognise and respond to echos of justice within is the big question, and we need to see them through the lense of love. However love doesn’t always mean denying who we are and not calling people to account. I echo what Monique said about praying for God to give you openings to help hash this out with those you work with, and also your ‘cheerleaders’.
Don’t give up . . .. cheering you on!
Thank you very much ladies, I appreciate the encouragement and wisdom more than you know! It’s been a while since reading your comments, I’ve been battling a lot of these thoughts and feelings within. I have to say that I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with a Senior Minister who values me and is on my side. He’s also pretty wise for his age, even when his wisdom can seem frustrating to me because it doesn’t make sense…at first 😉
One of the things he has encouraged me to do is to try to define what it is I “want” from ministry. If I had a dream job description what would it be. And then ultimately, would I need to be ordained to do it? Here’s where I find my battle between wanting to do the work God has called me to, and then getting the recognition, etc. for doing it.
Quite honestly, when I think about my ideal job description, a Director or Worship and Music actually seems more fitting than a Minister or Pastor of it (in a way). My ideal job would not have me leading all the time, but equipping those within the church to be worship leaders (or ministers). So that title isn’t a big deal. I guess where my hang ups occur tend to be the more “earthly” things? Such as, my pay being significantly less, not having the tax benefits of an ordained minister, bonuses, health benefits, retirement, blah blah blah… Then there are also the little things like when having a conversation and you can sense people wanting to pat me on the head and say, “this is man talk dear, run along now”. I know in that regard I need to just be firm in who I am in Christ, regardless of how people feel. I certainly can’t change that easily!
Wow, I totally feel like I’m rambling here, I apologize. Like I said earlier, I’ve had a lot on my mind trying to sort through all of this stuff. Part of my problem is that I’ve allowed it to bottle up for quite a while (years) and now I have to work through all of these emotions I’ve stored up.
Ultimately, I cannot lose sight of what I feel I’ve been called to do, regardless of what the package looks like on the outside. I graduate in a year and a half and my Youth Minister, knowing all that’s going on and discussing the possibility of me leaving then asked me, “but, if you knew that it was your intention to leave in a year and a half, wouldn’t it be hard to invest in the ministry here?” The question kind of sounded crazy to me at first, but I understood where he was coming from. I mean, I would imagine that KNOWING I was leaving would make my work more urgent. I would only have that much time to influence people, to invest in people’s lives, to help them along in their journey and to make stronger disciples in Christ. To train, equip, etc. so that the body there at that church would be built up. It’s not as if I’m investing in MY ministry and it would be a waste to leave it, I would be investing in God’s Kingdom and it will last FOREVER.
So, in a strange sense that’s helped me to work some of this out.
I know I have more thoughts on this but not a whole lot of time. So that will have to be all for now I suppose. Thank you all for your encouraging words and support. It’s always great to know that you’re not alone!
Jennifer, please don’t apologize for your honesty. If you can’t “work it out” here among friends, where else?
Naomi and I are from a denomination with less traditional definitions of “pastor” or “minister” so the question that your pastor asked seems a bit like semantics to me, although I’m sure it’s not. How is Worship Director different from Worship Minister? Are the responsibilities less?
Jennifer, you can be sure that if the same things were occurring for a young man, the conversation would still need to be had. I would say where your Senior Minister is wise is in taking it away from the male/female discussion (if that is indeed not the reason you are not getting the same pay/benefits, etc) and making it one of job and gifting and calling. It seems to me that a pastor is an equipper so to me, you are a pastor. If there is benefit to you to get ordained, and you are able to get ordained in your denomination as a woman, go for it! I think Naomi’s words are right when she identified the call to justice that wages within you. If this were another woman other than yourself, you would likely feel the same way and find it easier to support her than it is to speak on your own behalf.
If your denomination does not allow the ordination or equal pay and recognition to women, then we have a different matter. Earlier on, I valiantly slogged through the bureaucracy (as well as my own study on the theological issues) of the denomination I was part of. In the end they chose equality. I have since moved on the Vineyard, which, in Canada, also considers women to be limited only by skill or gifting, not gender. Honestly, unless the Lord spoke CLEARLY I would not be able to go back to a denomination that is unsure, or is working it out. I see it as supremely damaging to the young women who have to rise up struggling with that understanding, especially when their gift mix is very obviously that of pastor/leader. If only for the phenomenon that you speak of “this is man talk dear, run along now” as I more often than not was more interested in the “man talk” than in discussions about what sales were on at the mall, how I’d decorated my house or how my kids were doing (not married, no kids!) or whatever other conversations the women were relegated to.
I guess the reality for you is if you are called to this denomination and they have limits on what you are able to do because of your gender, God will give you all the grace and patience that you need to serve with a good heart, the occasional wrestling match not withstanding. The reality is, it is likely good God-loving people that you are serving and serving with. And they are on a journey too. So patience will be a fabulous virtue for God to develop in you!!
Keep on serving with your whole heart! I agree that you can spend this next year and a half fully engaging. The reality is you don’t know what will happen in that time anyway. You have your ideas, but it could all change and God could keep you there longer. So as you say, your investment, for no matter how long you stay, will indeed last forever. I personally LOVE that you are investing in others and calling out of them the gifts God has placed in their hands. Well done!!