Robin Lake is a pastor, worship leader and writer from New Hampshire. She also works full time as an executive administrator, runs a healing discipleship ministry and is studying to become a Spiritual Director. She is fiercely devoted to seeing the marginalized find the hope and healing she has found in Jesus. She loves her family, friends, the church, photography and football. Laughter is imperative, books are necessary and beauty compels her. Find her blog at muddybride.wordpress.com. “We are called to be MEN of God!”
The young preaching student bellowed those words throughout his sermon. They reverberated off the walls of the seminary classroom and blasted into my soul, dropping deep into the chasm of self-doubt and hatred I’d spent years trying to climb out of.
A second year student at a conservative seminary, I chose this particular course, Expository Preaching, partly as an act of rebellion. My truer motivation was the fact that I love to break open and teach God’s word, a passion I have known since I was a child.
A child raised to believe in God, to believe in Jesus, but also to believe that within the church, women could only teach music, children and other women, or be a missionary (if there were no men to go). A child who had suffered years of sexual abuse and confusion. A child who, safely tucked within a grown woman, wondered if she ever could be who she felt compelled to be.
Signing up for this class felt scandalous. There were only three women in the entire class of over fifty students. I wondered what the other two were thinking. Did they even notice the call to “be men?”
The time came for us to critique our fellow student. I listened as various men in the class gave good, constructive input, their words accepted with nods of quiet affirmation. The orator thanked them. I found myself concerned for this gifted student beginning in ministry not knowing he would offend. As I raised my hand, decades of my own silence mocked me, luring me back into the safety of my not-yet-healed, but familiar, broken sexuality. The professor acknowledged my trembling limb as I took the plunge.
“I know this may seem a small thing. Your sermon was well delivered and scripturally solid. Yet, I wonder if you’re aware that your words discount more than half of any given congregation? When you call me, a woman, to be a man of God, I disconnect a little. A part of me shuts down and I cannot hear what God might say through you.”
There was immediate murmuring around the room as the student stated that he meant nothing personal. I was about to reply when my professor spoke up.
“Robin is right. What if she preached the same sermon, but called everyone to be women of God? How would you feel? I know some of you take issue with women in the pulpit. I don’t. My wife is an ordained minister. She would feel exactly the same way. Robin, thank you for taking the risk to share your thoughts.”
A small trickle of water began to pour into the chasm of my soul. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a very long time, perhaps for the first time ever. Maybe it was OK to be me, full of words, full of God, full of teaching. When my turn came to preach, five male students purposefully chose not to attend.
I believe God allowed this painful memory to surface as I was reading the book Reclaiming Eve to remind me of my purpose. He was reassuring me that inherent within my created being was a desire to be a strong helper and power for the men I walked beside.
“The full force of the original meaning of this verse [Gen. 2:18] might come out something like this: to end the loneliness of the single human, I will make another strong power, corresponding to it, facing it, equal to it. And the humans will be both male and female.” (p. 29)
This desire to be a strong helper had always been there, even when I was at my most confused and broken. I feel that my heavenly Father was reinforcing what the authors of Reclaiming Eve came to understand: “So when women don’t show up—when they can’t or won’t show up—everyone loses.” (p. 37)
Twenty years ago, I remember being met with anger, fear and dismissal—but the professor’s response began a shift inside of me. Now, as an associate pastor who preaches a third of the sermons for my church, I am ever-grateful for his words.
God continues to show me more of this beautiful alliance between the ezer and the adam. Recently, after preaching a sermon, I received the following response from a male theologian: “Now THAT was practical theology.” He followed with this email: “Your sermon continues to REVERBERATE with me . . . You hit on some very insightful points that I have continued to ruminate over. That is always a hallmark of good preaching. Thanks for being faithful to your calling.”
As I more deeply accept the truth of who I am as a daughter of God, I defend less and simply try to do what I am gifted to do. And today I own this truth: we are called to be men and women of God. Embracing my responsibility as a full partner in God’s kingdom has enabled me to embrace the men walking next to me. Together, we represent the fullness of God’s intention for his Creation—a beautiful alliance, indeed.