We recently rented A League of their Own to watch with the family. It was an instant hit with our daughters. I love that movie, because it illustrates with great humor and accuracy what women can achieve in male dominated fields, without sacrificing what makes them uniquely feminine. Of course, the most memorable line of the whole movie is when Tom Hank’s character coaches with the same harsh language he would use on anyone who missed the cutoff on a key play, and his distraught player breaks into tears. Everyone now knows, “There’s no CRYING in BASEBALL!”
Whatever it is, baseball, medicine, politics, or ministry, it can be tough to go against the grain. Growing up, I believed I could be anything I wanted to be, from a firefighter to an astronaut, from a teacher to a lawyer. I knew talent and education could limit me, and my height (and lack of coordination) might keep me from professional gymnastics, but I never thought of my gender as being a limiting factor. Despite the optimistic naiveté of my childhood, I learned long before I pursued this calling that being a woman in a male dominated field would have challenges. From having to explain repeatedly that you are the minister, not the minister’s wife, to the discomfort of professional meetings where you are the only female in the room, many circumstances and many individuals will force your awareness that you made an unconventional career choice. Beyond that, it can be downright hurtful when members of your own congregation profess their view that the Bible clearly forbids women to be ministers, or confide to your husband they have to close their eyes to be able to take in a sermon when a woman preaches.
Those obstacles are frustrating, and thrust upon me. But what bothers me the most is when I become the cause of my own insecurity. Generally, it is in those times when church life gets a little too political, or when interpersonal dynamics get a little heated. I am pretty sure that I deal with conflict in a very different way than a man would. I seem to have two modes: passion or emotion. Neither comes across to others (especially men) as rational. When I’m passionate, it seems to scare people. When I’m emotional, I feel like I’m feeding all the prejudices against women.
I had one of those experiences this week, where someone interfered with my ability to do my job because of their prejudices. I couldn’t invoke the passionate response, because it wasn’t something I really even cared about. But it made me mad, and I took it harder and more emotionally than I needed to. Having to work that hard to control my emotions made me feel weak and girlie. I could hear Tom Hanks in my head, saying intensely, “There’s no CRYING in MINISTRY!” I did hold it together, only a couple people got a glimpse of my frustration, and I did not cry; but I felt intensely silly, and girlie, and like I was letting all my fellow women ministers down.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. Romans 16:1-2