“I would have given her [the Church] my head, my hand, my heart. She would not have them. She did not know what to do with them. She told me to go back and do crochet in my mother’s drawing-room; or if I were tired of that, to marry and look well at the head of my
husband’s table. ‘You may go to the Sunday School if you like it,’ she said. But she gave me no training even for that. She gave me neither work to do for her, nor education for it.” Florence Nightingale in a letter to Dean Stanley, 1852.
Florence Nightingale, “the Lady with the Lamp,” was the founder of modern nursing.
The world was the richer for her decision to devote her life to serving others through the nursing profession, but the church was undoubtedly the poorer.
The church misses out when women are not allowed to use their God-given gifts.
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Many people, as they get older, settle back into a life of quiet retirement, enjoying the fruits of their years of labor. They are content to relax, to sit back and savor life.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I want.
I don’t want to drag myself across the finish line of this life. When that line comes in view in the distance, I want to break into a sprint, flinging myself wholeheartedly into everything God has for me right up until my last breath, even if the only thing I’m physically able to do is intercede for others. I want to finish well.
And as I cross the finish line, I’ll hear the angelic cheers…
(Remind me of that as I get older!)
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In my last post I shared a very funny video–but with an underlying message that affects women in the church today.
For the past few centuries, women have been perceived as having one of two roles (and yes, I know that this isn’t true for those brought up in poverty). But here is what secular culture generally dictated:
- Like the video suggests, women are to be mere reflections of their husbands, uninterested in “important” things such as finance, politics or religion. They enhance their husband’s reputations by looking pretty and acting according to convention. They spend their time in fripperies and trivia (I like little kittens). Their opinions are considered uninformed and unimportant.
- A woman’s place is in the home. She runs a good household, brings up her children well, engages (if there is time) in wholesome social/church activities. Her concerns are entirely wrapped up in the running of her household. Her opinion on “important” issues outside the home is irrelevant.
These secular views still impact the role of women in the church today. I remember well one of the first women’s conferences I attended in this country. One evening, we painted each other’s nails! Yuk! I hope I’m not treading on anyone’s toes here (pun intended) but to me it seemed a parody, a caricature of women’s ministry, a waste of God-given talent and time.
Many still believe that a woman has no role of relevance outside the home. A woman working outside the home is a necessary evil. A woman should not hold a position of strategic authority in the church (for a treatment of the Scriptures that seem to imply this, check out a series of posts beginning here.)
The Proverbs 31 woman not only ran her household well–she ran a thriving business. Deborah led a nation. Esther saved a nation.
Society today has thankfully changed. But some of these old cultural conventions still linger on.
Let’s get rid of our cultural handicaps.
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One of the things I miss most from the UK is the British sense of humor. It’s dry, and often quite subtle.
Here’s a hilarious example–but one that packs a punch. (Thank you, Graeme, for sending me the link.) As women, we may not face social limits in the same way, but we do have boundaries in the church.
There’s a (mostly) unspoken rule in Christianity. It goes something like this: God only uses a woman when a man is not available.
It’s a convenient rule because it allows women on the mission field to do things that women are not allowed to do here at home.
Does this seem strange to anyone else?
Recently MIchele Perry was interviewed on the TV program, 100 Huntley Street. She has an extraordinary story. Watch this video and you’ll see why she is one of my heroines of the faith.
Michele blogs at http://fromtheunpavedroad.com/
According to Jesus, if there’s a lack of harvest, it’s not because the harvest is especially difficult, it’s due to lack of workers.
The harvest is great but the laborers are few. (Luke 10:2)
Jesus’ solution? We pray for workers for the harvest. These workers are not only existing Christians, but also those who don’t yet know the Lord. However, in the church, we often sideline half the workers for the harvest—the female half. Their engagement in the harvest is limited to inviting their friends to attend church with them. (I recognize this is often true for the men too.)
If we truly want to see great harvest, then women need to take on roles usually assigned to men. They need to make disciples and baptize them, to teach and train, to start churches, to give Communion, to strategize and plan for the harvest.