Recently I was talking with a friend and this question came up. She was in a small group at church and very excited about taking the small group through some of the books and Bible studies that had been pivotal in her spiritual growth. The small group was a mix of men and women, and she wanted to lead/teach/facilitate the group. However as she prayed about it, the Lord graciously and gently took her to scripture to understand that she was not the one who should lead this small group through the material. (see I Timothy 2:11-14)
At first, she was frustrated because she felt like she had the same gifts in leadership and teaching as the male leadership in the group. The only difference was that she was a woman. This was where I could definitely identify with her story. I too have often wondered why God put the spiritual gifts of a pastor into my body and then limited the use of those gifts in the church. It’s enough to make the feminist within kick and scream and blow a gasket.
My spiritual gifts are teaching and shepherding. As a pastor’s daughter, I have an innate understanding of how the church works. I have vision and can see where a ministry needs to go or how things should be organized. I’m outgoing and can talk to a wide variety of people. I have a deep love of God’s Word, and I love speaking to large groups to help them understand His Word. These are all things that God has put into me. If I had been born as my father’s son, I probably would be pastoring or planting a church. But alas, God also put a uterus into me and so (according to my personal understanding of scripture and convictions) the offices of pastor and elder are not open to me.
So what is a woman with the gifts of a pastor to do? In my conversation with my friend, part of the reason she was angry about not being able to lead was because it seemed to reinforce what she was taught as a child, that women are not as good as men. That God favors men over women and values them more. This subtle lie creeps into our thinking and adds to our resentment. The truth is that God values men and women equally. In the eyes of God, there is no difference between men and women, Greek and Jew, slave nor free. (Galatians 3:28) Paul also says that “God shows no partiality.” (Galatians 2:6) I consider Jesus the first feminist because of the counter-cultural way he treated women. He talked to the woman at the well and refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery. After his resurrection, he appeared to women first. Obviously he valued both genders equally.
So the fact that God made me a woman does not mean that he considers me second-class or less than. Rather I have come to see that God has intentionally knit me together to accomplish His purposes in the kingdom. It was no mistake that he made me a woman. It was no mistake that he gave me the gifts and experiences he did. The truth I must choose to believe is that he created me exactly the way he intended.
Does it mean I can’t use the gifts he has given me? No, it simply means that I can’t use them the way I want to, the way that satisfies my flesh, the way that seems right to the culture. It means I must trust him to show me how he wants me to use my gifts. The light was not made to be hidden under a basket. He put the light within me so that it would shine to the glory of the Father. (Matthew 5:14-16)
Personally I have realized that God has made me for teaching women the Bible. Rather than seeing women’s ministry as a consolation prize for a second-class citizen, I choose to believe the truth, that it is the first prize. When God changes a woman’s heart, it is the key to changing everything in her world. I have seen that when a woman believes the gospel and understands how it affects her daily life, it changes the way she relates to everyone in her world: her husband, her children, her co-workers, her friends. As she lives the gospel, she can’t help but share the good news with every person her life touches. The world changes, and God’s kingdom grows.
For me, this is my “place in the wall,” my “battlefield.” My friend reminded me of a scene in the final movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A woman had disguised herself as a man in order to have a place on the battlefield. When her uncle was mortally wounded, she came to his defense and revealed her true identity with her long hair flowing from her helmet. The wraith, a horrible, ghost-like creature, turned to attack her and claim the life of her uncle. The creature reminded her that no man could kill him. She stood between the wraith and her uncle with her weapon drawn. As she plunged her sword into his face, she said, “I am no man.” Her unique nature allowed her to claim a unique victory.
If Satan can get us women to believe his lies that we are not a valuable as men in the war or if he can get us to fight the battles for position and power, then he can claim the victory. If he can get us to pout in the corner and refuse to use our gifts because we can’t do it the way we want, then he wins. We become paralyzed and ineffective in God’s kingdom. But when we reject the lies and embrace the unique ways that God has knit us together, we can step into our unique place on the battlefield. God’s light in us cannot be hidden, he is glorified, his kingdom advances and the enemy is defeated.
What is your unique place on the battlefield?