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