Normally I’m the woman who cringes when she gets an invite to a women’s conference, especially if it has flowers and tea cups on the cover. I was never the girl who dreamed daily of marriage and motherhood and while you would see me dress up like little girls often do, I certainly liked sports more than knitting. To this day I’d rather be at a wine bar with friends talking about books than at your kitchen table having craft time. These are all good activities, we're just made to have specific propensities.
But despite my own tendency toward certain likes or dislikes, here I am. God literally, graciously and deliberately shifted my career from seeking personal success and selfish glory to serving and teaching women. One was done for myself and the other can only be done through him. I often feel like I’m a fish out of water. But then I realize that’s exactly why I can minister to women. Feeling like a fish out of water isn’t a rarity. For many women, feeling somewhat out of place is the norm. We have a tendency to think we’re the only ones or different than the others. The problem is, while our experience and personhood is unique, much of how we feel and go through is the same, regardless of hobby choice.
While a whole book can be written on the subject (and many have been), here are a few things I am learning about discipleship with other women:
It’s not about other women liking me as a person, it’s about them loving Jesus as God. Yes we need to be loving, kind, and relatable in a sense, but it doesn't mean that we need to be clones of each other. I spent the beginning of my womanhood trying to look like whoever the women’s leader was at the time. This is so unhelpful. God didn’t create me to be her. He created me to be me-becoming-like-him. I will never be "all things to all people," even if I might try. I could try and it would be exhausting if I sincerely thought accomplishing it was an actual possibility. But what I can do is seek to love, be kind, to serve and pursue those who are different than me. In fact, I praise God for the women I know, love and meet with who like different things or are gifted in different ways than I am. It is such a beautiful thing to experience God move in others, to watch him be the creator and gift-giver, and then see others walk out specifically in how God created them. It is stunning.
My goal should never be for women to fall head over heels for me; my goal should be for them to fall head over heels for Jesus.
I’m not saying we don’t need to be relational, we do. Jesus is, so we need to be. But if my goal is for people to love me as their savior, I will fall and crush them on my way down. I need to be careful not to confuse someone’s affection for me as leading her to Christ.
Do you want your disciples to love you more than they love Jesus? Would you rather keep them from turning away from you or turning away from Jesus? Do you correlate the two? As teachers, moms, wives, friends and servants, we are called to speak the truth in love. This balance is integral in ministry. Are you willing to speak the truth in love or are you willing to only speak that which you selfishly define as love? Are you striving to be like Jesus, both 100% grace and 100% truth?
Embracing my womanhood is embracing godliness. God has given women specific roles in which we should function, and praise him for that. It actually makes life a lot easier than it would be without them. I don’t mean embracing womanhood as our culture sees it, but embracing womanhood as scripture sees it.
God has given specific gifts to each person. It is my goal to leverage those gifts for God’s glory, for myself and for others. I need to be faithful with what he has placed before me. Working in the position God has placed me, with the gifts he has given me as a woman, is one of the greatest ways I can serve God and his people. This will look radically different from woman to woman. For some it will look like homeschooling their children (beautiful), for others it will look like leading their women’s bible study (beautiful), developing software (beautiful) or being president of a non-profit (beautiful). Grapple with what God has given you, not what he has given others. What does it look like to function uniquely as a woman. . .with the gifts God has given you. . .in the place He has deliberately allowed you to be?
We don’t need to tell women how to be a better mom, wife or friend; we need to teach women how to be more like Christ. We love a list of to-dos. Our society is plagued with striving for perfection. We want to be the best cook, best engineer, best crafter, best mom, best Instagrammer, best servant, best teacher, best girlfriend, best communicator, best lover, best warrior for the latest social justice cause.
We have confused glorifying God in all things with being the best at all things at all times.
When we succeed at doing something we think is great, we feel good about ourselves. However, when we are striving to be like Jesus, we're forced to recognize perfection only comes at heaven. If there is a genuine try towards godliness, arrogance won’t even be an option because we’ll be incredibly aware of our desperate state before a holy Savior. As we disciple and teach, we shouldn’t be pushing women towards being the better wife, we should be teaching women to be a better Jesus-imitator. The result will in fact be a better wife. Being better at life is a bi-product of being in relationship with the Life Giver. Therefore, we should be teaching women how to study their Bibles, not read the latest Christian best seller on parenting or singleness. I know there is a time and place for books and teachings (yes, I recognize the irony of saying that here), but my hope is even when we do read those books---it leads us to the Word of God.
Being a faithful leader looks like showing others Jesus, not ourselves. While we should strive to be faithful friends and examples, the only true and worthy example is Jesus. If we are going to truly teach others, not only should our joys point to Jesus but our personal failures as well.
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.