“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2 NIV
It is a lovely spring morning in Alabama. Out in the rural area I live in, in a small “town” there are still the sounds of multiple birds chirping, bees buzzing, roosters crowing, hens clucking, the occasional swish of tires on the street outside my front door. But here, on our back porch, even within easy sight of houses and sheds it feels as if I am alone in the screened in womb of which I’ve become quite attached too recently. Having my quiet time with God out here with a good cup of coffee has been a “want to” of mine since I started my flowers, vegetables and herbs growing.
Being out here, regardless of the time of day, renews my heart. Being out here, reading God’s word, renews my mind. Being out here, praying and seeking God’s will renews my spirit. Because those parts of me are renewed then I am renewed also in the roles of my life. As a Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. As a student of the Scriptures. As a wife. As a mother. As a sister. As an aunt. As a church member. As a friend. As a writer. The list is shorter these days since my disability retirement, but I’m learning that this too is a renewing.
It is extra special this year that the seasons of my life are in alignment with the seasons of nature. Winter, with its cold winds and icy rains, dark skies and short days seemed endless but it too matched my season of life. My depression deepened. My hope diminished. My spirit sought shelter from the harshness of winter. Because I found that shelter in Christ then just as the earth warmed and the season changed so did I.
And of course Easter arrives with spring and the resurrection reminders can’t help but put one’s mind toward renewed life, renewed faith.
As a female, I willingly confess to you, that I often wondered if I was losing touch with my “female” side when I was in the work force. Even during the time I was in ministry. For many years, all but ten months of my time in the ministry, I was without husband or child. It was easier to work long hours, nurture other’s children and youth and work seven days a week to meet the demands of the congregation. Yet it was during this time I found myself losing my “female” side.
It wasn’t welcomed as easily in a Southern Baptist church as it would have been in another denomination. There were times other ministers, who were male, would “put me in my place” quite clearly and sometimes not with an attempt of kindness. I never desired to a senior pastor position or one that would require my preaching. It was only towards the end of my time in ministry when I had at last been able to enjoy some formal seminary training and was asked to teach what I had learned to small groups in our church that I lead a group that had adult men in it that was focused mainly on Scripture. But I learned you had to have a thick skin to be a female in ministry if you wanted that “title”. It was important to me to be able to say I was the youth minister for my church. It was easier for others if I used the title youth director. I knew other male counterparts in the same line of work I was with the same credentials and no one had a problem with them being a “minister” yet allowing a female to use that title was a touchy issue most of the time. So I learned to “think like a man” more than “like a woman” in ministry. I wasn’t always successful, but I was far more than I believe people realized and in doing so I lost touch with my “female” side.
Once I made the transition into the non-profit work field my ability to cater more to my male attributes was something that allowed me success. I remember the day we received word that one of our counselors had passed away unexpectedly in New Orleans where he grew up and had taken a brief and unplanned trip that weekend. When my supervisor told me, even though by then due to circumstances and some unusual phone calls I already suspected the truth, when she told me Keith had passed away it brought tears to my eyes and pain to my heart. Just at that time I was reeling with the shock and news a delivery of office supplies arrived. My supervisor stood there in amazement as my “professional” side immediately took over and the delivery man left never knowing anything was wrong. “How did you do that?” she asked. “One second you’re nearly crying and clearly upset and the next you can’t tell a thing is wrong with you!”
For me the trick to being a female in a male dominated field is to learn how to separate what you’re doing with your emotions. I called it “boxing up your emotions”.
The upside of this is that I learned to look at situations and issues from many different viewpoints before making a decision and to be concise about it. The downside was that when I needed my ability to be female, to center on my intuition as a female I often had to struggle to identify it, it was no longer an automatic part of me.
God’s word more than the warmer air around me or the sounds and sights of nature awakening after their dormant season has created a renewing in me. My world, in many ways, has gotten smaller. And I find that subjects I thought God and I were finished with, such as the role of women in ministry and especially pastoring are rearing their heads from dormancy. I’ve had a very good friend who is a pastor and a male challenge my belief of what scripture says regarding this topic. Suddenly I have a deeper longing to “know God’s word” than ever before in my life. Not to know it intellectually as much as to know it in my heart. There is a difference in having the knowledge of a subject and a knowledge of it that creates a passion in you to have it be a living, breathing part of you.
And too I must make my life a living sacrifice for Christ daily, minute by minute. Nothing in living the Believer’s life is ever a “single” aspect, all things are as connected as the body parts Paul uses to describe the Body of Believers known as the church in I Corinthians 12:12-26.
Spring gives us many opportunities to think about renewal in our own lives. I hope this spring finds you renewing your spiritual self as well as any other part that may be in need of a fresh breath of springtime air.
In Christ’s Love,