Recently I read a blog post from my friend, Jen Wilkin. She bravely speaks up about the need for men in the church to “bestow (women) with validity.” I wholeheartedly agree with Jen.
I’m a minister and deacon at my church, and I often face the perils of feeling isolated because of my femaleness. It’s not because my co-workers and brothers in Christ leave me out of decisions or conversations. They are supportive and kind-hearted. I don’t experience sexism in my workplace. What I do experience is my own insecurity that comes from years of being told there are things I can’t do because I’m a woman. Even if no one is telling me I’m “less than” a man, I believe it because I can look at my history and my culture and hear it screaming my name.
My pastor is a beautiful example of a man who understands this plight. I’m not sure what brought him to understand, but I do know he’s not afraid. I think that’s the key. He’s not afraid to ask questions, and then he’s willing to listen to the answer and think critically about it. He doesn’t treat me as “less than.” Instead, he validates the baggage and seeks to compassionately carry my burden with me.
He’s not afraid to ask questions and listen to the answers, and he’s also not afraid of crossing some sort of imaginary line. I think many Christian men are so scared they’re going to tempt or be tempted toward a male/female relationship that’s too emotional. I get it, but fear can’t keep us from walking in love toward one another. The Bible doesn’t command men only to show compassion, gentleness, and kindness to other men. Nor does it tell women only to care for and nurture other women. It tells us all to love each other. And I feel loved by my brother and pastor when he looks at me and sits with me in my pain and encourages me with God’s Word. He shepherds me well.
My encouragement to my brothers in Christ will be to pray for wisdom, and then to step out in faith toward their sisters. We are eager to respond in kind. My encouragement to my sisters will be to engage our brothers with a desire to walk in love together. My experience has been that my brothers have responded well when I’ve asked questions graciously and sought to understand their hearts.