By Jill Riley
I am a woman. Occasionally I am even a lady. Unfortunately for some of my more conservative brothers and sisters in the faith, I am also called to be a Pastor. It is a struggle. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. I care about my career and I love God and desire with my whole heart to follow His calling. But in some circles my being a pastor and a women seems to cause heart wrenching, pit sweating, mind bending, stomach churching, nerve irritating angst.
If I were a man that poor pastor wouldn’t have had to caution me on how I enter into the room. “You need to be careful, Jill. You are beautiful and confident and you make all the pastors wives uncomfortable when you walk in, since you work with their husbands.” I feel bad for him really. It must have been so uncomfortable for him to talk to his own wife and reassure her that I wasn’t trying to seduce or tempt him. How difficult and embarrassing it must have been for him to have to direct me in how to dress and act appropriately.
What could I have done to make work more efficient for the staff that wouldn’t allow any one-on-one time EVER between genders? Really, since we couldn’t be trusted as adults and professionals, time and money were wasted. There had to be three in a room for every conversation, rather than just the two who were working! SO thankful that rule was in place since every time I am alone with a man I can hardly stop myself from flirting so the rule was absolutely needed.
And what about the man that I made so uncomfortable that he felt the need to physically intimidate me and bludgeon with his theology, using words such as “how dare you preach.” How frustrating it must have been for him to have to listen to the word of God from my inferior mouth.
Finally, to the unfortunate pastor that was concerned that I would get pregnant and disrupt the work flow on our multiple staff, I am so thrilled that I was able to spare him that inconvenience. It is fortunate for everybody that my fertility didn’t disrupt our plans to grow the church.
Ok, sarcasm is my only real second language. The sarcasm in the previous paragraphs is real as the scenarios are true.
The sad fact is, I spent years wishing I were a man. Not for any other reason than for my realization that a gender switch might give me the position and permission to speak about my Jesus with a lot less scrutiny and a lot more latitude to make mistakes. It took years for me to celebrate being a woman, wife and mama; all roles what I love.
Truthfully, I treasure the challenges I have received because they have served to solidify Gods call in me. There is little room for self doubt and certainly no room for pity parties. I serve willingly and joyfully because God called me and the scripture supports that call. The struggles are real but the joy of walking in obedience far outweighs the burden of any criticism I may receive or obstacle I may face.