I know, I know . . . you're supposed to post every other day or so if you want people to keep up with your blog. But I was reading Rachel Held Evans' blog last week and it kinda started to be a full-time job.
Rachel's been posting every day about egalitarianism (also known as mutualism) and I got just a little obsessed. If you didn't grow up in church and you don't know about the controversy between egalitarianism and complementarianism (also known as "soft patriarchy"), consider yourself blessed and don't go over there to check it out. It will only make you cry.
But I grew up in a thick complementarian milieu, got called to ministry anyway, and have been firmly egalitarian all my adult life. There was a time that I truly would have been obsessed with what's going on over at Rachel's blog--all the arguments and stories and theological gymnastics. Even though it's really interesting, I'm really grateful that I don't feel compelled to do all that anymore.
Now, I just get to live the life God called me to and I rarely have to justify or defend what I'm doing. What Rachel's blog stirred up in me this time was something different: deep gratitude to various men in my life who have partnered with me in launching and sustaining my life in ministry.
At one point, Rachel's husband wrote in a guest blog, "I don't support Rachel like a piling supports a dock. I support her like Saturn V supported Apollo 11." That may be the best quote I have ever read about men and women together in ministry. (And yes, it's a very "masculine" image . . . something all the complementarians can appreciate.)
So, first of all, of course, there was my dad, who really did believe that I could be whatever God called me to be and at the same time encouraged me be well-prepared educationally and professionally. There were the guys at the Samaritan Counseling Center in Waco all those years ago who challenged me to embrace my pastoral identity even as a counselor. There was Don, my supervisor in chaplain's training, who put up with my youth and silliness and taught me to claim that identity in my own unique way.
There was a group of male deacons (is there any other kind?) at a certain Baptist church who made it clear that they were not supportive of women in ministry and then courageously and unanimously recommended me for ordination anyway. For that matter, there was Brother Billy, my pastor at the tiny church I served in college and who gave me total freedom in ministry and occasional pulpit experience, who insisted on licensing me to the ministry and then said, "Let's just go ahead and get you ordained," to which I foolishly and naively said, "No, thank you; I'll take that step after seminary." *smacks forehead with palm of hand*
These days, it's the wonderful staff at Mission Houston, from whom I learn so much about servanthood and leadership, who affirm and support me and bless my life so richly. And then, of course, there's C, who has been exactly what Rachel's husband described for 27 years now, even though it has often made his life more complicated.
All those years I was figuring it out, paying my dues, pushing frustratedly against the glass ceiling, he was listening and praying and wiping away tears and telling me that it would be okay. He never even questioned that we would have a mutually submissive marriage (Eph. 5:21), never played the gender card, never insisted that his vote would be the one to break some supposedly inevitable tie. Instead, he led the way as we cooperated instead of competing, listened instead of debating, compromised instead of coercing.