Stand Back Up

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“If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through.” – Chinese Proverb
stand-back-up_800Years ago, when I was in graduate school dreaming about my future, the absolute last thing that would have crossed my mind was becoming a pastor. I was destined for business, certain I would make loads of money as a consultant, executive or some kind of big-wig. It never occurred to me that because I was a woman, I might be considered less-than in business. I felt I had as good as shot as anyone at making it pretty far in the corporate world.

Then I got married. I gave up my good job to follow my husband’s Navy career.
We plugged into a conservative church, and I started having babies. I decided to stay home for a lot of years before I got a stirring for leading healing and recovery ministry, went to seminary for spiritual direction, and through all kinds of crazy twists and turns ended up as a pastor. Everyone seemed to accept it pretty easily, because I was “under” the authority of a male lead pastor for several years, but when we planted The Refuge in 2006 and I was one of the co-lead pastors with my friend Karl, I began realizing how foreign it was in the evangelical world I came from.

It wasn’t just foreign, it was challenging.

As I was trying to stand up straight and step into what God was calling me to do, I kept feeling my legs get knocked out from under me.

At the beginning, some people weren’t sure they could be part of our church with me as a co-lead pastor. Others on the fringes of our life together questioned my theology and pointed out the scriptures that we’ve all heard many times to keep women from teaching and preaching. Some knew it felt right for me to pastor but quietly wondered if by supporting it they were committing some kind of heresy.

Over time, though, it wasn’t hard to stand tall inside of my community; it’s filled with incredible men and women who value equality and are learning to stand up straight and hold heads higher in so many of their own ways, too.

The hardest part has always been intersecting with the wider Christian community and feeling the subtle and overt discrimination that many women experience as pastors and leaders.

It’s hard to stand up against.

Over the years, many people have just automatically assumed I’m my fellow co-pastor’s assistant. A major Christian publisher refused to sell my book (even though it was written for women) because of their theology about female lead pastors. I’ve been uninvited to speak at a baccalaureate service after a group of evangelical pastors discovered I was the keynote speaker.

After each of these blows, it’s been hard to stand back up. My legs grow weary. My heart begins to hurt—and then wants to harden. I get another wave of shame. I tire of the battle.

But Jesus always seems to whisper “Stand back up.”

“Yes, stand back up.”

This past week a dear young women connected to our faith community died in a tragic car accident. I’ve journeyed with her and her family for almost 9 years as a pastor on a bumpy, pain-and-grace-filled road, and we are all so sad that it ended this way. A few days ago we were with her family working on a venue for her memorial service, and the large church her family was connected to offered their space.

Until they found out I was a female lead pastor.

Yes, it’s 2013 and we are still having these conversations. Why?

Because there is a battle that is beyond flesh and blood to keep women around the world on their knees.

The associate pastor at the church called us on speaker phone and shared that unfortunately, their theology couldn’t support a woman in the pulpit. They said my co-pastor Karl could perform the memorial service in their church, but not me.

I was sitting, but I could feel my legs crumble beneath me. My heart fell to my feet, and the sting of tears rose to the surface.

But here’s the most beautiful part of that moment—Karl shook his head, “No way,” and the father of my sweet friend immediately told him, “Okay, well I guess it won’t work. There’s no way we’d do it without Kathy,” and politely got off the phone.

They stood with me.

And I stood back up.

That’s our only hope for real change.

We have to stand up every time we get knocked down.
We have to stand up when we feel like maybe we were meant to crawl.
We have to stand up when shame flushes our face.
We have to stand up when we hear a voice in our head that tells us we are supposed to sit.
We have to stand up even when our legs are so very tired.

Because there are far more pressing issues for women in this world than whether or not we can preach from the front of North American churches, and we need an army of women who will get off their knees and stand up for dignity, equality and restoration in this broken world.

But here’s the greatest part—we don’t have to stand up alone. Like Aaron holding Moses’ hands up when he became weary, our friends can lift us back up again and again and stand alongside us, shoulder to shoulder, toe next to toe, hearts supporting hearts, hands lifting heads.

Yeah, in the kingdom Jesus spoke of, God’s daughters are not supposed to crawl. They’re supposed to stand.

Dear SheLoves sisters, every time you get knocked down, stand back up. Hold your head high, and stand back up.

When you keep standing back up, I can, too.

When we stand, others begin to stand, too.

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at www.kathyescobar.com and is the author of Down We Go--Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids.
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  • Unathi Babalwa Guma-Njingolo

    So beautiful! Thank You so much. 2013? I never would’ve thought. I am honestly blessed with a church environment that empowers women. So much so that reading the prejudice you’re endured is shocking to me. But heck man I like this “We have to stand up every time we get knocked down.We have to stand up when we feel like maybe we were meant to crawl.
    We have to stand up when shame flushes our face.
    We have to stand up when we hear a voice in our head that tells us we are supposed to sit.
    We have to stand up even when our legs are so very tired.” Be abundantly blessed in your ministry. Stand with the authority of Christ.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks unathi. yeah, i am so grateful for my community, too, where all of this nonsense is a non-issue. it’s really truly a gift and it’s so beautiful. but it is so good to remember that it’s still far more rare than it should be!

  • Lisiwe

    Oh this is beautiful, thank you so much. Each of us have platforms and we should remain standing in our posts. “When we stand, others begin to stand, too”

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks for sharing. yes, we all have different passions and my heart is not just for pastoral ministry but for all women to stand tall and strong and free in what God has called us to do.

  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    Thankyou for sharing, Kathy. Sometimes I pretend it’s not so hard to be a woman called to ministry, I too didn’t intend to end up in the pulpit, but it’s the calling that matters and the ministry. Blessings on you as you walk along-side of so many. I always love to think of the little girls in church hearing our voices from the front and how maybe that will change things for them someday.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks kelly, yes, that is a big motivator for me, the girls. seeing my daughter grow up into someone free and strong with a really powerful voice is one of the coolest things. i am so glad we got out of the system we did early enough because the truth is that if we had stayed, we were in a place that would have kept her silenced.

  • http://www.gabbingwithgrace.com/ Grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    Amazing post! Love this “Yeah, in the kingdom Jesus spoke of, God’s daughters are not supposed to crawl. They’re supposed to stand.” AMEN!!!!
    I will stand!!!

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks for sharing!

  • Celeste Wyatt Lee

    Reading this I feel your pain and discouragement — even if they are momentarily. I was an elder in my church for over 10 years and as we shared a pastor with two other churches I preached frequently. Then someone moved into the church and convinced half of the church it was not Biblical for women to be leaders and up front. After two years of battling – with the church equally divided — I walked away. It was too much. There were also other unhealthy patterns with this church. I had not spoken for almost three years and was asked to present for a Lenten service. As soon as stepped on the platform — my heart knew it was home. It was like putting on your favorite jeans, or crawling into your own bed. So were I belong.

    Thank you for sharing this. It gives me hope that there is a place for me to stand. I have read your posts with great interest and even considered coming to your church when I visit Denver – but so far have not had that opportunity. I always thought – she is blessed to serve where she is wanted — easy for us all to do if we don’t know the whole story.

    Starting today I will be asking God to show me were and how He wants me to do that. And I will be lifting you and your service to Him up as well.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      what an amazing story. thank you for sharing the realities and i am so glad you found a place again. that is definitely “standing back up” and gives me a lot of hope! come visit us anytime. i am so grateful for our little crazy community. it’s really a gift and after we made it through the first year, it really did all settle down and was a non-issue and has been since then. so much of it was baggage from where we came from. one of the parts i love the best is that equality here is not just about gender but across all kinds of other differences, too. i think sometimes that is what makes these moments a little freakier because i’m so not used to it in my day to day. but it’s a good reminder and helps me not take it for granted and want to keep working for change. peace, hope, and courage to you in living out what you are called to do!

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  • http://www.twitter.com/teenbug Tina Francis/ @teenbug

    This is EXACTLY what I needed today, Kathy.

    Everything I care about–my marriage, family, friendships, photography, writing–requires me to stand up again + again + again.

    I woke up this morning feeling like a boxer nursing wounds in my corner of the ring. And then, THIS.

    Thank you, friend. Hugs.

    Standing back up,
    Teen

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks tina.yes again + again + again. God help us. tons of love and hugs from colorado and hope we can party up there one of these days! meanwhile, know i am praying for strength in our weary legs.

      • http://www.twitter.com/teenbug Tina Francis/ @teenbug

        Yes, please, Let’s party it up, soon!!!

  • Sherry Naron

    Dear Kathy, I’m sitting at my desk literally in tears over this statement…”We have to stand up when we feel like maybe we were meant to crawl.” Gosh, I feel like that almost always. I’ve been standing up on the inside for most of my life, but it never made it to the outside very often. BUT…I’m standing up now because I’m determined to make a difference, to stand up for things that are broken that God has called me to help fix (no matter what anyone else thinks). I can’t crawl any longer, there are things I’m supposed to do, and I can’t accomplish it crawling around on the floor with my face pointed down. I’m thankful for this community, as we stand up together. This is simply beautiful! I’m standing beside you!

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks dear sherry. your comment made me cry and yes, we stand with you. listen to what is stirring in your heart and stand strong. you are not alone!

  • Helen Burns

    Thank you so much for these powerful words and for getting up. I love you for it and celebrate your strength, commitment and courage.

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks helen. i am grateful that somehow we’re all in this thing together, all in different situations, called to different things, passionate about different issues, but this call to stand binds us together. we really do need each other.

  • Laurie

    Very encouraging and inspirational! I am so glad you kept getting back up, your ministry is a tremendous source of grace and healing for so many people! Thank you Kathy!

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks, laurie!

  • Debby Hudson

    I read this with a fair amount of shock and disbelief. I can not believe this is still happening. Today. Here. I come from a background that has ordained women since its founding. I also have never read a limitation of who the gifting of pastor is for. In the passages telling about the gifts if the spirit never do we read “for men only” or “restricted access”. I’ll stop my mini rant to thank you for sharing this hard reality and to thank God for the support and strength he provides. Keep telling the stories and keep standing!

    • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

      thanks debby, it is crazy, really crazy, but real so it’s good to remember so that those of us who do have full access in our communities can help share our stories and hopefully open some doors for those who don’t.

  • Bev Murrill

    Kathy, I met you a few years ago at The Refuge with our mutual friends, the Potters. I was impressed with you then as a strong and wise church leader and reading this has reinforced that opinion. I have been in ministry over 30 years as a senior church leader and have had similar experiences to those you have described here. It’s a tough gig, but truly, the only thing that works at times like these is to keep getting back up; just have to get up one more time than we get knocked down.

    I love your clarion call to women/people to stand for dignity, equality and restoration in a broken world. That’s exactly it. You go, girl!

  • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

    Oh my. I love this so, so much!

  • Barbara Blackburn

    Bless you, Kathy. And, thank you. My pastor is an African American woman whom I love dearly.

  • Rachel B

    Thank you for this. I’m a young woman in ministry tiring of being knocked down, but this has given me courage to keep getting back up. May God bless you as you continue to share this life-giving truth.

  • Karla Holton

    This is just so touching and beautiful. Praying we all remind each other to stand even when we just feel like we aren’t getting anywhere…because we won’t if we don’t stand up and keep going. May we all be emboldened and strengthened by each other as we stand together. Thanks so very much for the reminder.

  • Suzanne Burden

    Oh, Kathy, how I needed your words. So very weary of this fight. Thanks for reminding me that we must stand back up…so others can stand, too.

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