I didn’t choose to be a female pastor. I merely told God I would do whatever He asked. I would go wherever He sent me. I would be whatever He wanted me to be. And He called me to be a pastor.
Trust me, I know all the verses. You know, the ones about how a woman is not supposed to teach. How she is not supposed to have authority over a man. The one that says she is supposed to be quiet at church and ask her husband questions at home. I’ve read the verses. I have lamented over those verses. “God, how can you call me to be a pastor? Don’t you know your Bible seems to tell me that is not okay?”
And yet God whispers to my heart, “Daughter, I have called you to be a pastor.”
Sometimes God doesn’t explain Himself. He just asks us to obey. He leads us down a path we don’t understand. A difficult path. A path that longs to make us scream, “God, it would be so much easier if you would put me on another path! Why do I have to walk this road?”
I wanted to be a pastor’s wife. You know, a ministry position that is perfectly acceptable for women. No one ever tells a pastor’s wife that God hasn’t really called her to that position. No one tells her that because she is a pastor’s wife she obviously cannot understand Scripture and can’t be trusted with any interpretation of the Bible. No one says that a woman can’t be a pastor’s wife. Because that is a perfectly acceptable ministry position for a woman.
I’m not saying that it is easy to be a pastor’s wife. I am fully aware that position comes with a whole bucket of challenges as well. No ministry job is easy. But for a woman to be a pastor? Now that’s a whole different story.
I’ve wanted to quit. I’ve wanted to take the easy route and listen to the critics. What if I just teach women’s Bible study? Most people are okay with that. Or I could teach children. Women are trusted to teach as long as it is training up children. (What is the exact age that it is no longer okay for a woman to teach? I can’t seem to find that verse.) Or perhaps the cliche, I could help in the kitchen. You know, where women belong. Because that’s what Jesus told Martha and Mary right? “Mary, go help your sister Martha in the kitchen because that’s where you belong!”
No, wait! That’s not what Jesus said. He said, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Mary had chosen what was better!?! But she was sitting on the floor. At the feet of a man. Listening and learning. According to the customs of the time, this was not okay! A woman sitting at a man’s feet sent a very different message. Perhaps, Martha was trying to protect the reputation of her sister. But Jesus never cared much about what other people thought. He cared only what God the Father thought.
I’ve tried to remain silent. What if I just hide the fact that I’m called to be a pastor? I could still read my Bible and pray. Maybe I could be a prayer warrior. That is a great thing for a woman to be! Yes, I’ll do that. I’ll just be quiet and pray. But then, like Jeremiah my bones cry out. “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
I cannot! The Word of God is in me like a burning fire. I cannot hold it in. I cannot pretend that God has not called me to be a pastor. It is my very heartbeat.
One day, I couldn’t handle the stress of it and I screamed at God, “Why is this so hard? Why couldn’t I just be a pastor’s wife? It would have been so much easier!” And God, gently and firmly, responded, “Kelly, I have not called you to be a pastor’s wife. I have called you to be a pastor.” Tears stream down my face when I think of those words He spoke over me. Words that brought freedom and refreshing to my very core. Before that I had thought I was called to be a pastor. I knew I was called to ministry, but I didn’t have complete confidence in what that ministry would look like. But after that, I have no doubts. God has called me, a woman, to be a pastor.
The part that breaks my heart the most is that it is not the world that is critical of my calling. It is the church. My non-Christian friends have no problem with me being a pastor. In fact, they encourage me. It is the church that tries to put back chains that God has broken off. It is Christian friends who say that God couldn’t have called me to be a pastor because I am a woman. It is Christians who say that I must not understand Scripture because, according to Paul, a woman could never be a pastor.
I often imagine Paul’s heartbreak if he could see the limitations those words have put on women. Paul loved women in ministry! He commended them often. He spoke very highly of them. If he had known how those words would be applied for the next 2000 years, I imagine he couldn’t grab his eraser fast enough! Paul was in the business of breaking of chains and setting people free. Those words have been used by Christians for years to limit women, to prevent them from fulfilling what God has called them to do, and to put them in bondage and wrap chains around their very core.
As damaging as those verses have been, the Holy Spirit knew what He was doing when He inspired Paul to write those words. Just as Jesus knew what He was saying when he told the disciples in John chapter 6 that they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Those were hard words to swallow, difficult truths to understand. Many of his disciples walked away from him that day. He didn’t call them back to explain it. He wanted those who would trust him even when they didn’t understand. At the last supper, those words would become clear. They were symbolic. We eat the bread to remember his flesh that was broken for us on the cross. We drink the cup to remember his blood that was shed for us. But only those who were willing to trust what they did not understand were invited to the table.
I don’t understand why God allowed Paul to write those words. I could give you the historical context at the time and explain to you why I believe those words were written (and I would be happy to do that if you want to know more), but the reality is, I must obey. I must choose to trust God even when I do not understand. I must have faith that God knows what He is doing even when it does not make sense to me. Because one day, our eyes will be opened and we will stand before Truth Himself. And I want so badly to be able to say, I obeyed You. I served You even when I didn’t understand. I chose to follow You even when people told me I was wrong. I cared more about Your opinion than the opinions of man. I lived out my calling and accomplished everything you placed me on earth to do. Even when I didn’t understand.
*Luke, 10:42, Jeremiah 20:9, John 6:53, Luke 22:19-20