As we celebrated Father’s this past weekend, I was reminded of just how lucky I am to have my Dad in my life. He has been such an amazing support and driving force behind my ministry.
Everyone has a different story. All childhoods are unique and no parent is the same. Lately I’ve come across many stories of woman who grew up in complimentarian homes that had father’s who loved them but used their “male authority” to belittle their daughters. These ideas fed down through generations led women to feel inferior, incapable of pursing certain careers in ministry or leadership, and overall valued as less than their brothers or other male family members.
Long before I even knew the words complimentarian or egalitarian I knew my Dad was different from those around me. We attended a very strict Southern Baptist Church, but my Dad seemed so very different from the other men. The other men loved their wives and daughters, but they seemed to carry themselves in a way that said they were superior. My Dad made it his mission as a parent to not do this. My home functioned in a way that both my mother and my father were honored and valued for who they were, neither was seen as ‘in charge’ or better than. Though from the outside looking in my parents held typical conservative roles, my mom stayed at home and did all of the housework while my Dad worked full time. However, all decisions were made mutually regarding financial decisions, parenting styles, discipline, and even regarding careers. My mom’s choice to stay home was hers, my Dad’s choice to work full time was his. And they found a way together to make that dynamic work in a way that was beneficial to both of them as well as my sister and me.
These values carried over to the way my parents treated my sister and me. Specifically my Dad, from the beginning he wanted us to know that we were important. He worked to instill hard work into us, and always encouraged us to pursue whatever we set our minds to, no matter what the rest of the world had to say about it.
The moment that truly changed how I saw myself all comes down to the way my Dad supported me. Though I grew up in a home that was very much egalitarian, the complimentarian views I was surrounded by sneakily planted themselves into my heart. The overarching idea that women could not hold positions of authority was instilled into me early on. I had never seen, or even heard of, a woman who held the position of pastor. When God called me to be a pastor at the young age of 8, I told myself he was calling me to be a pastor’s wife or missionary because I didn’t think it was possible for me to be pastor as a woman. This mindset carried with me until I was in college and heard God’s voice clearly telling me I was called to pastor, not be a pastor’s wife. Doors had been opening for me to join the ministry so I took a leap of faith, taking a position at a complimentarian church as the Youth Women’s Minister (there will be a later post on the use of this title, check back for more). After operating in this position for sometime I felt God calling me to pursue more. I sheepishly approached the all male staff at our church and asked if I would be allowed to preach one Sunday during the youth service. I was met with a resounding NO. They continued on to tell me that it was not possible for a woman to speak or even lead worship from the stage if there was a man over the age of 18 in the room. It was too risky, they weren’t willing to let young men and women think that a woman was capable of holding a position of authority.
My spirit broke. I had taken a step of faith even asking, but everything inside of me said I should be speaking out not sitting on the side lines. My first instinct was to approach my Dad about the situation. He had always been my biggest cheerleader, and I trusted him to know if the truth on if God could/would call a woman to a position like that.
I remember vividly his overwhelming respect, honor, and encouragement. He looked me dead in the eye and reassured me that I could do anything. He had my back and was ready to go to battle fighting for my rights. He sat with me researching scripture and we found, for ourselves that the bible is by leaps and bounds egalitarian. Helping me build an arsenal of response so I could defend myself to the naysayers. Then he told me to do what I knew in my heart was right but was terrified to follow through on. He told me to go in and face that all male staff and present them with what God had shown us, and if they were not willing to be supportive to quit my job.
The next day I stepped into that meeting with confidence. My father bathing me in prayer the entire time. After pouring out my heart and trembling with the power of the holy spirit (and let’s be honest a lot of fear) I was met with an “I’m sorry we do not agree.” Before I had my opportunity to tell them that I was going to step down they made the choice for me, and I was fired.
Upon returning home, my Dad wrapped me in his arms and told me how proud he was. We cried together, and he encouraged me not to give up. That day took so much from me, but out of it birthed something entirely different. Something stronger.
Had my Dad not been the force of confidence and support behind me I would not know the power that I have as a woman and a child of God. He took that seed of complimentarinism that had been planted all of those years ago and uprooted it for good. He reminded me of the power behind his and my mom’s relationship as equals. And reminded me to NEVER let someone tell me that I cannot, because he raised a daughter who was capable of doing anything.
So Dad thank you for reminding me who I am when the rest of the world trys to say something different. I am so lucky to have had a Father who was willing to defy all odds, go against the grain and stand up for women as equals in this fight we call life. Whatever challenges I may face in life I know who I am, because you have been and always will be a constant reminder that being a woman does not mean I am inferior. The world needs more Dads like you.