Long story short, I ended up (somewhat kicking and screaming) in the job of a seminary professor. It took faith to believe this was a better way. Why would God close the womb of someone who wanted a family (wasn’t that the highest calling?) and direct her to “men’s work”?
Even once I was inside the academy, I kept assuming I needed to shove my gifts into a sex-segregated silo, but my colleagues and bosses kept urging me out of my separate sphere. “You have experience speaking,” they told me. “You’ve told stories for a living. Why can’t you share that info to help our speakers create more compelling messages?”
My male colleagues wanted me to help train our upcoming shepherds in ways they themselves would never be able to help…like telling what it’s like to be a female parishioner sitting under a male preacher. (“Don’t forget to quote less-represented voices once in a while.” And “that Father’s Day sermon—remember, fathers sometimes have daughters, too.” “Why are you skipping the Tamar story in your series on Genesis?”) And what it’s like to be a female fertility patient in need of pastoral care. And modeling how a sister can love brothers without hypocrisy or weirdness. And in mysterious ways we cannot even quantify.
Those in training to provide pastoral care need men and women helping to shape them. Because the church is not a single-parent family. When healthy, it is a two-parent family, with mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. Besides, pastors in training need to see that men and women in leadership can partner in the gospel and dearly love their colleagues with holy love (see Rom. 16). Because complementarity means we are not the same; and because we are not the same, we lack something when we go it alone. Because we were made to need each other, male and female imaging God together. So together we must image God fully as we seek to nurture this generation and the next, with none of us saying “I have no need of you.”
* * *
As for Justin, during his desert deployment, he saw violence no human should see. And because chaplains cannot carry weapons, he carried a video camera and accompanied his guys to the front lines. He ended up producing a movie about his battalion’s experience. And because the seminary where I teach is committed to the marriage of arts and theology, they sent me to attend the premiere at the Boston Film Festival—where Justin’s film won “Best Documentary.” I met some of the guys in his battalion on that trip, and I’m not gonna lie—a few were a complete mess (there might have been a fist fight in a hotel). But Justin told me, “They may be messed up guys, but they’re my guys.” They called him “Chappie,” and they clearly loved their shepherd.
As I walked down the red carpet that night, that young Army-captain chaplain, a leader of men, got the crowd’s attention and pointed to this woman with grey in her hair and lines around her eyes. “My mentor,” he announced, like that was the thing that made him most proud. And I tasted salt.
Later he texted me these words: “When you’re shaping up into who you’re going to be, it sometimes takes teachers to tell you that you can fly.”
And sometimes those teachers are women.
Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too” (Rom. 16:13). Because even great male shepherds need females to help* them, in Christ, be all that they can be.
Sandra Glahn, Reflections of a Female Seminary Professor Copyright ©1996-2016 Bible.org, reprinted with permission
This article originally appeared here.