5/9/16 – Morning Musing: Being Me

Last fall, I went to a conference specifically for Christian women in leadership. I was really excited to go and there was one particular session that I was looking forward to: Working With Men: Dive, Survive, or Thrive. I was familiar with the speaker for this session and knew that she was a pioneer for women where she is employed. Since I was working in a place where the overwhelming majority of leadership positions were filled by males and the majority of supportive roles were filled by females, I had found myself chaffing…struggling under the weight of this. Now don’t get me wrong…I was never looking to climb the ladder…I wasn’t even looking for a job when I got that one…I just wanted to minister to people…to help people see and embrace the truth and grace and freedom available to them…I wasn’t interested in money or position and so I was able to approach things without an agenda.  

Anyway, I went to this session with some of my work friends and the most humiliating thing happened: The speaker began to speak and I began to furiously take notes. As the session progressed, I began to feel heavier and heavier until I just sat there open-mouthed and confused. Is this really happening? Did I really just hear her say that women needed to suppress their emotions in order to work with men? And thank the men that allowed them to be a leader? What? And then it happened. I felt the first tear fall down my cheek. No!!!!! Stop! I berated myself as my vision blurred while I sat there on the second row and cried as the speaker asked this room full of women leaders to suppress what is a big part of many of us and is fully God-given. The message I received loudly and clearly was “If you want to be successful in this male-dominated field, you will need to become more masculine so that the men can feel comfortable with you.” The speaker made eye-contact with me and was visibly disturbed by the expression on my face complete with the tears, sniffing, and red blotchy skin. No poker-face here!  

My co-workers who were with me were trying to help me out but I just couldn’t seem to reign it all in. It took me a while to find words for why I was so broken by that speaker’s message but I finally did. I was grieving. This woman, whom I had looked up to was giving me the same message as the men that I had struggled with: There is a specific persona that I would have to embody if I wanted to get to really do ministry. I would have to suppress the strongest parts of myself and be inauthentic in order to get the opportunity to speak truth to people. Do you see the irony? I would have to lie about who I am to myself and others if I wanted the chance to speak truth…any truth I could ever offer anyone would have to begin with a lie. I couldn’t stomach this at all. I had come so far from the self-doubting girl who didn’t understand why God had made her “incorrectly” (a female with “male” gifts of leadership, pastoring, teaching, etc.) I had finally reached a point of understanding that I, too, was an image-bearer of the Almighty despite being female…had finally started to accept my God-given and carefully designed character and personality and this message directly attacked the freedom that had finally become available to me. I had gotten this message a lot over the years and had been able to disregard it most of the time because I figured that we all learn our lessons at different rates…just because I knew something was true didn’t mean that everyone else already knew it. What made it so very painful this time…was that this message was coming from a woman who had paved the way for me…she should have known better.  

I lost respect for one of my role-models that day because she was asking me to be inauthentic…to lie to myself and others about who I am…to hide. I have a lot of flaws…and I own them fully…but inauthenticity is not one of them. I can not and will not pretend to be less so that others can feel good about themselves.  

So, how are you doing with this? Do you know yourself? Really know yourself? Do you understand how your specific characteristics are meant to benefit the world around you? Do you sometimes doubt your gifts and design? Where do those doubts stem from? What usually spurs you to deny who you are? How can you change that way of thinking around so that you can honor not only how you were designed…but also the One who designed you?  

My prayer today is that we would be authentic people who love others, ourselves, and God well by speaking and living out truth because if what we offer isn’t truth, we are just filling the world with noise.

Much love friends,

5/2/16 Morning Musing: Owning Your Own Stuff

They were sitting in our dining room yelling at each other across the table while Stan and I watched them…studied them to get a feel for how they handled disagreements. My conclusion was that they battled against each other instead of with each other. When we got everyone settled down again, they each continued to get riled over the most trivial things until there was another explosion of venom from each of them. “Alright, this isn’t productive. Let’s take a step back for a minute.” But they kept yelling and trying to get the last word in. “You may be alright with disrespecting each other but I won’t have you disrespect me so each of you needs to back down now.” That got their attention. They sulked for a bit. We talked through a plan with them and they were thankful and shocked when we said that we would be willing to meet with them again. But the real test came when they went back home and didn’t have any referees present to call out the penalties…when they had to choose between saving their marriage or saving face. They chose to save face.

This was hard for me…I had to let them choose…even if their choice was wrong…even if their choice was going to harm them…even if their choice would have lasting repercussions for their kids. I have been through this with people before and while I can do my best to advise them and love them well, I can’t want their health more than they do. I can’t own it for them. (I’ve tried that before and absolutely failed…failed the person I was trying to help and completely depleted myself as well.) Their success or failure would be completely their own…although I suspect they would each find someone to blame.

So, how are you doing with this? Is there someone in your life that is struggling with something? Can you help them without taking ownership of their problems? It’s a hard line to walk…caring deeply and loving well without protecting the other person from the hurts that could lead to learning and change. Are you personally struggling with something right now? Is it possible that you are trying to hand ownership off to someone else? A potential scape goat to blame if things don’t work out the way that you want? Are you looking for someone else to be more invested in your recovery than you are? How can you find that elusive place of seeking out help and resources but still maintaining ownership of your situation?  

My prayer today is that we would love deeply while seeking wisdom. That we would remain clear about our own limitations (physical or psychological) and that we would learn to honor those limitations. We can’t be all things to all people…we weren’t designed to be…and if we were, it would only diminish others…so it wouldn’t be very loving. I’m praying that we would also have clarity about our own stuff…that we would fully invest in these lives that we live and not squander the blessings by believing that they are obstacles.  

Much love friends,