It was another hot summer day in Texas as I drove across town to meet up with friends — some new, some old. We piled onto a long picnic bench and, as we waited for our food to arrive, we passed the time by introducing ourselves. Even before it was my turn, my mind started racing with what to say: Should I share a few standard facts about my life, like where I live and what I do? Which parts of my life do I include? Which parts do I downplay?
I think many of us, as women, struggle with how to present ourselves in public and what we want people to know about us. This is especially true for me as an Indian American woman. In the traditional community and home where I grew up, I was taught to be humble and not focus too much on myself as an individual. For example, if you asked a first-generation Indian grandmother, she’d probably say it’s okay for me to share that my husband is a pastor but talking about the work I do in the church could come across as prideful, even selfish. I had grown up learning to share minimal details about myself and my work while also downplaying my unique contributions in the home, in ministry, and in society at large.
By the time it was my turn to share, I was a mess inwardly. My heart was thumping fast, and my words came stumbling out. I think I stuttered something about church planting and added another half-broken sentence about writing and teaching before quickly turning my eyes to the next person, hoping this would signal them to start talking and my turn would be over. To my surprise, one of my friends quickly jumped in and said, “Well, hold on now. You do much more than that, Michelle.”
My cheeks felt like they were burning. But fear quickly turned to relief as my friend spoke encouraging words over me. Not only did my friend mention my titles — that is, the roles and positions I have, he also mentioned some of the things I’d accomplished. Finally, and to my surprise, he added, “I’d listen to Michelle speak any day.” In a few sentences, my friend not only named the good work I was up to, but he also put his own name as a reference for me. I was stunned and also extremely grateful.
That simple encounter changed my life.
My friend went out of his way to show that he valued me and my contributions in the world — and not in some theoretically vague sort of way. He did it by naming my titles, my good works, and aligning his reputation with my own. Since that encounter, I’ve sought to go and do likewise — not just to say I value my fellow women but to also show it in my words and with my actions.
Valuing the contributions of women is not a secular agenda. The Bible valued women first. From the very first woman, Eve, who was a co-priest with Adam in the temple garden, to Achsah, Jael, Deborah, Esther, and Ruth in the Old Testament to Tabitha (Dorcas), Lydia, and Priscilla in the New Testament, as well as the unnamed women prophesying in the public square (1 Corinthians 11), Scripture believes in the giftings and talents of women. Women in the Bible were strong and capable. They served in high level leadership, and they accomplished great things for the kingdom of God. More than that, they were praised for their good works. King David praised Abigail for her wisdom. Tamar’s cleverness was attributed by Judah as righteousness. Jesus Himself praised the faith of many women and spends time in the homes of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others.
Today’s reality in many ways is a far cry from the biblical model. I think of fellow pastor’s wives with incredible talents, who have been taught to call themselves nothing more than faithful attendees at church and helpers to their husbands. I think of female entrepreneurs and artists, pursuing gospel restoration in their communities, but whose contributions are not treated as equally significant as to their male counterparts. Then there are the female speakers and teachers, whose voices are treated more as a threat to the church than as a vital asset. Things are not as they should be.
How different would our world look if we valued each other as Scripture does? Most of us come from cultures where we were taught not to make a big deal about the work that women do, so learning to praise women the way God does will take time and intentional effort.
So how do we do this?
The next time we’re in a group gathering, whether a dinner fellowship at someone’s home or an encounter at work or in our community, let’s take the time to name another woman’s good works and align our own reputation with hers. In the church, let’s show that we value the contributions of women by giving them the titles they deserve and making space on Sunday mornings to publicly name the good work that women are doing in our local body.
Seeing and naming each other’s good works is how we can show we value each other. Let’s intentionally point out the good and the beautiful in each other’s lives. Let’s affirm the gifts and talents that we see in our fellow women, proudly sharing their titles and contributions to the kingdom when the opportunities come. And let’s be willing to put our own name on the line to vouch for and recommend each other.
Sisters, let’s live into the biblical calling to value women as God does, and may we do so to the glory of God.Leave a Comment