The Sunday She Stood

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L_Megs

I was 30 years old the first time I heard a woman preach.

And no, it wasn’t a women’s conference. Or a Bible study. She wasn’t a visiting missionary, or giving that cute little mini message that happens before the actual sermon.

I mean honest-to-goodness-Sunday-morning-real-deal-preaching.

I happened to be at a church I drop in on once in a blue moon. After being enveloped in the sweetness of worship, I settled contentedly into my straight-backed chair. Bible open, pen poised. Ready.

Then she walked up.

I had never seen a She walk up to the platform. On a Sunday morning. You know, when the serious Christians come to church to hear a message. The message. For, like, the whole week.

My pen froze in my hand and I looked around nervously.

Was someone going to get upset? Leave? Was she going to be greeted with eye rolls and scowls?

I held my breath and darted my eyes to the right and left. As I scanned the congregation, I realized I was the only one who wasn’t completely at ease.

Bibles were being flipped open, pleasant expressions remained intact, all eyeballs stayed decidedly fixed forward.

Actually, I was the only one acting anything less than a functioning human being. I chided myself for thinking I was in for a rumble, and assumed the settled posture of my fellow congregants.

I had several friends who attended the church, and I later brought up the fact that I had never heard a woman preach before that Sunday. I was greeted with raised eyebrows and looks of comic disbelief.

“Really? You can’t be serious.”

I was serious.

And their amused bewilderment left me feeling something I wasn’t expecting.

I was jealous of how surprised they were. Of how run-of-the-mill it was for them to see a woman affirmed in her obviously God-given calling. Of their ideas and giftings and person being so completely untainted. Of how normal it was for them.

Of their freedom.

And though jealousy is touted as an emotion we’re supposed to flee from, I confess I don’t regret that ugly feeling bubbling full-force up and into the depths of my soul.

Because it stirred something in me. Something I hadn’t known until that very moment.

I had no idea that a part of my heart had been dormant. That I’d always felt a bit squashed into a too tight mold of womanhood. That I had been holding on to a deep wild hope that there was more. That there could be more.

More had never been presented to me. In 30 years of life, more wasn’t an option.

And yet that day, there it was. Staring me in the face. That run-of-the-mill-Sunday my little girl heart was bust open. My eyes lost a little of their fog. My soul warmed. Like wrapping my fingers around a steaming mug of tea, and being shocked at how cold I had been all along.

And it’s not because I feel called to preach. Goodness no. It’s because I feel called to be fully myself. It’s because I feel called to enter into whatever path God has for me. It’s because for years I understood that half of the population was just a little more confined. A hair or so less called. A wee bit less of a real leader.

I didn’t know any different. Until she showed me.

And now I can’t go back, though I admit I’m wrestling with this newly warmed soul. These clear eyes. This more-ness. What does it look like? Is it just an inner knowing? Or is this an upheaval of great spiritual proportions?

I have no idea.

But I know I felt the shift. The Sunday that she stood up. And no one cared.

No one but me.

Image credit: Carla de Souza Campos

 

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Megan Gahan
After over a decade in the fitness industry, Megan now spends her days chasing two pint-sized tornadoes disguised as little boys. By night, she is a writer and editor for SheLoves. A proper Canadian, Megan can often be found in the woods or at Tim Hortons. She writes at megangahan.com.
Megan Gahan
Megan Gahan

Latest posts by Megan Gahan (see all)

Megan Gahan
  • It was quite interesting reading about your experience of first hearing a woman preach. I grew up in a denomination that has ordained women since its inception nearly 150 years ago so the idea of this not being a possibility is what has always caused me some amazement. We have a long way to go still in using all the gifts of women but I’d say it’s more of a structural issue than theological. I am thankful for the growing number of women who are now able to answer their full call to speak and teach the word God has called them to. And I’m glad this experience for you was one to take notice of and, I think, celebrate.

    • Megan Gahan

      I too am grateful for the women stepping into their full calling – more and more are standing and bringing others along with them. I love that you grew up seeing this as natural. What a gift. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and reading . . .and celebrating!

  • Angela Doell

    Beautiful. Thank you for reminding me of the freedom we can so easily take for granted. x

    • Megan Gahan

      I’m not sure if you remember Angela, but it’s you I’m writing about in this piece! I think I briefly mentioned it to you at the SheLoves Christmas party last year. I was attending Relate with the Mercy girls, and you were preaching that Sunday. It was such a marked moment for me. I could not be more grateful to you for so beautifully embracing the mantle God has clearly set for you. It has been such an example to me, and truly helped me step a little more fully into being all of who I’ve been called to be – not just the pieces that I think measure up to what’s acceptable. Thank you so so much my dear.

      • Angela Doell

        I love how you shared this story so much. You made cry a little and smile a lot. You just totally reminded me to thank God for all the brave men and women who cleared the way so I can be fully myself. Shaky knees stepping up to a pulpit and all.

        PS. I would’ve told you a few years ago I definitely wasn’t called to preach – so you never know. 🙂

        • HBurns

          Megan… I am entering the conversation right here as I just read this piece and was so blessed at every word and found myself wondering who you may have heard preach that day for the very first time. Wow it blesses me that it happened in our world and it blesses me so much that it was Angela as there are layers of miracles here for me. So many…

          How I love your honesty and bravery and your willingness to embrace new things in God. You truly bless me so immensely every time I sit and read your wisdom. Today was truly a blessing for me. I love you – I adore you. xoxo

          • Megan Gahan

            Thank you so much Helen & Angela. You have both blessed me far more than you realize (as well as your wonderful church). I am so grateful for the foundation that was laid within me as a child through the church we attended. But I have made great strides in my faith and relationship with Christ since then. I have been able to step far more fully into my calling than I thought possible. You both have been instrumental in giving me the courage to stand – in my own way. So soooooo much love to you both

          • Me too! I want to step in too! What a gorgeous conversation … I love that it was Angela and at our church … The foundation for women and empowerment so strong. I love how it ripples out. Perfect.

  • Sandy Hay

    For the first time in years I attend a church where women don’t preach. I love this church and especially the pastor. But part of me is missing. Not that I’m called to preach either. But there’s something deep inside that’s needing more. I won’t go hunt it. God has brought sheloves I’ll wait for more.

    • Megan Gahan

      I love these thoughts you express Sandy, because it’s so applicable to where I’m at right now as well. I’m so grateful for this community, because it’s helping fill that yearning I have for more. Thanks so much for reading my dear

  • Anne-Marie

    ‘That I’d always felt a bit squashed into a too tight mold of womanhood. That I had been holding on to a deep wild hope that there was more. That there could be more.’ love this so much. deep thoughts for my Monday Megan. Amazed you are already up and writing. Wow, mama!

    • Megan Gahan

      Oh goodness Anne-Marie, I wrote this last month! Don’t be thinking I’m coherent enough to be writing these big thoughts right now! I have no idea what I’m going to produce for next month . . .it might be a bit jumbled. Thank you so much for reading and commenting my friend. I always always appreciate it.

  • A good reminder for us all, Megan! Thank you!

    • Megan Gahan

      That moment was my wake-up call. And then your book was the tipping point. There was just no going back after that! I am so grateful for you my friend . . .because of you I got messed up in the best possible way! I’m still in the mess but I’m so much more of myself in the mess than I ever was in the neat and tidy. So appreciate you reading and encouraging. xxx’s

  • Bethany Olsen

    Hallelujah! I love this so much. And you made me laugh with this:

    “I had never seen a She walk up to the platform. On a Sunday morning. You know, when the serious Christians come to church to hear a message. The message. For, like, the whole week.”

    Thanks for highlighting the absurdity of THE SUNDAY MESSAGE being so all-important that one’s gender dictates whether or not one can deliver it.

    • Megan Gahan

      I thought I had to clarify that – because I had seen women at conferences and the like. But never the Sunday message. That was always off-limits! So it was a BIG deal for me. Thanks so much for reading on your birthday! You are the best . . . and year 29 is going to be the best! Love you dearly my friend

    • I loved that bit too Bethany! It reminds me of something both you ladies would say.

  • Melinda Cadwallader

    My heart beamed all the way through this. Glorious!

    • Megan Gahan

      Well I cannot ask for better than that! Thank you so much Melinda!

  • This is gorgeous.

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you so much Ganise 🙂

  • cjdeboer

    I love this Meg. I too grew up only seeing men at the pulpit so it’s a breath of fresh air and so liberating to be part of a church where women preach. Thank you for the reminder of how important this is. xo

    • Megan Gahan

      Your church is such a gift. Obviously, this experience happened at Relate, and I could not be more grateful to their community for waking me up, so to speak 🙂 Love you

  • Bekah Harmon

    Wow, I think I was 21 and I thought it was strange and Lutheran. She was also wearing robes and this little southern baptist girl was not ready for it. Now looking back post seminary and many years behind me I realize it was new, but should have been less shocking. I have changed, I have realized my giftings, i must teach and communicate truth. I am lost without those in my life. So, Knowing my church would never let me preach is a current struggle. Seminary trained, but too female.

    • Megan Gahan

      So cool to hear how you’re walking out God’s calling on your life Bekah. Praying you’ll have many opportunities to share your story and your giftings – even if not at your own church. Thanks so much for sharing and reading. Much love

  • pastordt

    LOVE this. You told it so very well, Megan. (And congrats on that gorgeous baby boy, friend.) These lines? “And it’s not because I feel called to preach. Goodness no. It’s because I feel called to be fully myself.” YES AND AMEN.

    • Megan Gahan

      I got an AMEN! The highest compliment! Than you so much Diana. Love having you here.

  • What a great post, Meg. So so great. The humour. The message. The a-ha. I love what you bring and I’m excited to see you released to that fullest of full potential. O, my … I can only IMAGINE!!!!

    • Megan Gahan

      Thanks so much love.

  • Amy Hunt

    What I love most about this is that it isn’t just your eyes opening and considering a woman being a preacher, it’s what is stirring and what is birthing within your spirit. The irony doesn’t escape me here, either, given your recent birth. God knits things together for such a time and for you, dear Megan, all this is colliding for such purpose. Your heart is being opened to new possibilities and it’s a widening of your world — your internal world — and your willingness (as awkward and hesitant as you may feel) that is what enables Him to show you so much. Keep being honest in the process, especially with yourself. There’s grace for the wrestling; we’re human and loosing all we *thought* is a heavy and big deal. {hugs}

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you dearly Amy. This was nerve-wracking to post on a few levels for me, and I so appreciate you standing with me and affirming the place I’m at. These last few years have seen a great widening of my world, and while it’s overwhelming at times, I am so grateful for it. Much love

      • Amy Hunt

        This place you’re at, dear Megan, is one that makes my own senses stand up and say, “me, too!” because my world is being widened, too, and it is overwhelming, yet I, too, am grateful . . . and . . . it’s such a gift to know we aren’t alone. When we see that, our capacity to choose the courage to be raw and real is ever more widened. Much love to you, as well.

  • This is so relevant to where I find myself, Megan. I must confess to having had some of the exact same thoughts recently when my children were playing with dinosaur magnets on the fridge (I know! Bear with me …). My daughter and son were lining up the little dinos into a row and then they placed one magnet opposite the line. My daughter piped up and said, “This one is going to preach to the others.” I continued stirring my soup. Nothing startling there, I mean don’t all little kids act out their experiences? But what she said next caught in my throat and brought me a hearty dose of exactly the kind of sweet jealousy you mention in this piece: “The preacher is done now and SHE is going to sit down.” I was floored! Like you said so beautifully, not because I want to preach or because I want her to preach – but because I WANT HER TO KNOW IT’S AN OPTION NOT PROHIBITED BY HER ANATOMY.
    As a post script to my story, I should mention that we began attending a church with a woman pastor about six months ago and I know that I know that I know it has been good for us in more ways than I can even articulate. The above example being one of them.
    So thank you for putting words to the sacred emotions and subsequent ponderings of such a moment. This resonates with me deeply.

    • Megan Gahan

      That is just the coolest Kelli. And something I want my boys to also feel is completely natural as they grown up in the church community. I don’t have a daughter, but the importance of this for my sons runs just as deep. Thanks so much for sharing this sacred little family moment with me. My kidlets are still young, but what you’re expressing is so much of I want to move toward over the years. So appreciate you taking the time to read and comment and encourage – you are just the best. Much love to you my friend.

  • Bev Murrill

    I don’t know why, but I was so surprised at this … you forget how it is for other people. Like Angela, it reminds me to be grateful to God and to my brothers and sisters for the grace given to not have to fight this through anymore.

    • Megan Gahan

      It’s true Bev – not everyone grows up with as diverse an experience as others. I attended fairly conservative churches growing up. Even after I moved on to a different church body, seeing a woman preach on a Sunday was something I didn’t witness. I saw them preach in all other settings, but not Sunday. So this specific Sunday was a big deal to me. One that I am so grateful for. And one that helped me step a little further and more confidently into what God has for me. The SheLoves community has also been instrumental in my journey. You included! I may feel a bit behind at times, but I’m catching up fast 🙂

  • Crystal Clear

    Hard to believe you had never seen a woman preach in 30 years. Forgive me, but that is ridiculous!

    • Megan Gahan

      Not sure if you noticed in the piece, but I had seen a number of women preach – just not on a Sunday morning 🙂 I understand this is not everyone’s experience, and it’s wonderful that you had such great exposure to both male and female pastors growing up. But I don’t believe it warrants calling my experience ridiculous. I so appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.

  • Alena Belleque

    I still haven’t heard a woman preach (except at women’s events), and I’m 28. This post…thank you, Meg. ♥

  • Megan this was beyond beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing. I currently have only ever heard woman speak as a “special guest” speaker or as the pastor’s wife sharing her heart, never in the capacity of a female pastor on staff preaching the normal Sunday morning sermon.

  • Donna-Jean Brown

    Thrilled for your move toward the true freedom that Christ called us to, Megan! So many women have been so bound and crippled by non-biblical sexism. And the other side of the same coin is that men have missed out on our God-given gifts, and forced into their own painful prisons because of wrong expectations of “masculine Christianity.” Those feelings and intuitions you and Sandy both describe here are the Holy Spirit’s sweet voice calling us on into abundant freedom for loving service.