Last night my dad and I went to hear Jeff Walling speak at the Pepperdine Lectures. On the way over he asked me if I would share with him what I had shared earlier in the week with the ladies at the conference. He didn’t know it, but he was asking me to share with him my calling to ministry, which might include preaching some day. What ensued was a three hour conversation full of emoting (ok, certainly mostly or only on my part) and childhood events remembered and forgotten. I shared my sentiments about growing up in the Churches of Christ, how I felt like a second-class citizen and did not receive the instruction or encouragement that I wish I would have received. I invited him to imagine what it must have been like (and still is, in many places) for a young girl growing up in our tradition—not being taught how to pray or speak (ok, we probably did this in cradle roll, but we were never really ‘taught’ as adolescents or young adults), generally not having your value or worth in the Kingdom expressed or reinforced, not having female role models in the church to learn from about ministry (this is an overstatement, I did see women baking casseroles, taking care of children, delivering food—but these were not the types of ministry I felt drawn or called to—I didn’t see women doing what I subconsciously felt like God wanted me to do).
I talked about my relationship with him—his emotional distance and general unavailability and how that impacted me and continues to eat away at me. Only in the last few years have I begun to uncover and address the scars left by our heritage, feeling rejected and neglected by my dad, and how those have hugely influenced my relationship with God. I realize it may not seem altogether appropriate to lump issues with my dad and churches of Christ together, but they have both been with me all my life and are inseparable in my mind. Anyway, that’s all another talk for another day. The thing I wanted to share today was the outcome of our conversation last night. I’m sure I was not talking to the same dad from my youth, and even now I didn’t really recognize him. When I told him in a terribly round-about way that I think I might have been blessed the gift of preaching, he didn’t freak out. He wasn’t angry, he didn’t condemn, and I don’t think he judged. We talked a lot about women’s roles in the church, what scripture says and doesn’t say, what are the ramifications of chalking certain things up to ‘culture,’ the validity of scripture as a whole, what changes when we interpret single bits of scripture in light of the overall message of Christ… etc.
We certainly didn’t agree on everything, but he surprised me with his overall response. He said that I have to do what is right for me, I have to go where I feel like God is leading me…there are things that he may not feel are right for him, but he’s not going to say they’re not right for someone else. He said that he is still very unsure about gender issues in the church, but regardless of whether he approves, he will always support me.
“If one day you are preaching at a church, I will definitely come and listen,”
he said. That totally blew me away. Here I was attempting to prepare myself for the condemnation and sermons about the lakes of sulfur, and he tells me that he’ll willingly go hear me preach!—and this, without my asking! I totally couldn’t believe it. Now I’m sure this isn’t the response I’ll get from much of my extended family, but it was unbelievably comforting and encouraging. I still have very mixed feelings, but our conversation last night was a huge step towards healing.
That rocks! I am so proud of you (can I say that?) for speaking up! I heard several women mention the same fears at the conference. I had them as well. So far no one has said a negative thing to me. And my Dad is a die hard Catholic – and he came to church and watched me preach my first sermon a few weeks ago! I so hope that happens for you too! Your story is so exciting! I told you God blessed you! Peace to you —
That’s some pretty good news. As a non-preacher I’m not sure how much my endorsement is worth, but it’s there [ir]regardless. I also don’t know how this all fits together scripturally, but I see the potential for you to be even more of a blessing to people and to the church than you already are. I could go on about this, but I’ll nix the sap for now.
I just happened onto your blog today. That’s awesome that God extended His grace to you in that way through your dad supporting you and your calling, whether he necessarily agrees or not. I hope that God continues to affirm His calling in your life. May you know that His acceptance and not anyone else’s (though it’s nice to have friends and family support and encourage you in your dreams) is what matters in your life and ministry. Bless you!
jen hale christy says
Man you guys–what can I say? The outpouring of encouragement has been amazing and wonderful. Holly, through your kind words and your brave example, you’ve been such an encouragement to me. Dave, no need to fear the sap, being real is refreshing–thanks for the talk 🙂 BJ, Thanks so much for your encouraging words, keeping my focus on God as the one from whom I am to seek acceptance has been a real struggle…man, someone I don’t even know points it out…I guess transparency isn’t an altogether terrible quality…
There’s a really good series you might want to hear. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it’s available for how you might find it. Bruce McLarty did it at the College Church (Harding) recently. It was a two- or three-week series titled something like, “Equal but Different” or something like that.
Thanks for sharing your heart and your journey. Since you were at the Women in Ministry conference, I’d encourage you to share some of your reflections over on the Gal328.org forum. You might even point your dad to some of the site’s resources.
Its funny how that encouragement thing works! You encouraged me so much just by being in Love’s class. And its funny you think I’m brave (b/c I wouldn’t have)…I thought you were so brave! When you spoke you had the courage and conviction to serve God in your voice, your face, your gestures, and it was inspiring!
Joel Maners says
Thanks so much for sharing this. I have 2 daughters, ages 6 and 8. I don’t want them to grow up feeling like second-class citizens in the church. I would like to get your perspective on what parents (especially dads)could do better in raising daughters. Thanks again for sharing.