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
Patrice Burrell says
This was so refreshing to read. I am becoming more intentional about celebrating other women, and I appreciate the scriptural value you’ve shared. Blessings to you Michelle!
Maura Michael says
Your words are so true. Not only do we as women tend to stand back when it comes to talking about ourselves, we also tend to tear other women down by being judgemental about how they act, what they say, are they doing all the “right ” things, etc. What we could all accomplish for His kingdom if we looked at ourselves and each other through the eyes of our Savior. So after reading this today I’m going to send all the amazing women in my life a thank you card letting them what I appreciate about them.
This was wonderful. Thank you for acknowledging what we do. I do not watch much of the news but I turned it on this morning and there was a story about women in art. And how they have been overlooked, dismissed and how the truth about their contributions has been hidden. The statistics on how they are left out was shocking. There is now an effort to bring the truth to the surface and all across the country exhibits are being shown in major museums to identify and name the women and their contributions. While reading this post I thought about Mary Magdalene and the women who were there every step of the way with Christ. And how they have been described unfairly. Thank you.
Sarla Williams says
Thank you Michelle it was such a refreshing read!! Amen to all you’ve said. Whether in culture or church unconsciously we equate humility by thinking less of ourselves despite God affirming us! He delights in us His daughters & rejoices over us !
Michelle, He has surely used you to remind us what it means to value another. Thank you. Even Paul in many letters to the churches does mention some women by name commending them for something specific. This is one article I will share. God’s continued guidance as you use the written word .
Sarla Williams, Sri Lanka
I think there’s another layer in this, in that often for women, instead of “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” it’s “the nail that sticks out gets pounded down” – I’ve experienced the jealous sniper-fire that comes when Person 1 publicly recognizes my accomplishments but Person 2 feels that any recognition of someone else detracts from Person 2’s status/value/etc (I do not know how much of this is tokenism vs. something else). So also: we need to be Christian when other people are getting attention or praise, rather than looking for ways in which we can reassure ourselves that we are superior to them. (and we maybe need to be wise about contexts when praising people, so we don’t set them up as a target instead of helping them! Except maybe we just need to normalize praise so other people don’t feel as much like it’s a zero-sum hard-competition thing? I don’t have the answers to this.)
Anyway. Wise as serpents, innocent as doves, and I don’t really know how to deal with public praise because I’m afraid of being “taken down a peg or two.”
Ruth Mills says
I’m laughing because I’ve gotten several articles today each touting a specific demographic that is under-recognized…women, children, blacks… Oh if the church could just see as Christ does. Image bearers of the Living True God. No minorities just reflections of a vast & creative Creator. May we build everyone up regardless of sex, age or color!
Beth Williams says
Women have been taught to be humble. Adding to that society doesn’t value women as it does men. It has taken many many years for people to realize that women can play a vital role in society. We now have women on the Supreme Court, as astronauts, flipping houses, & as judges. I applaud all these women out there going against conventional wisdom & forging a path for others.
I, like you though, don’t like to shine the spot light on myself. Feel as though God wants to reveal us to the world & does it through others. He is also applauding & valuing us as individuals. Letting us know that we have great talents & how pleased He is with us. For instance I volunteer with Loaves & Fishes food bank doing whatever needs to be done. Another volunteer mentioned to me that he heard I was a good cook. “Me a good cook? huh?” was my thought. I came home & made some food for him-he’s battling cancer & another man who’s birthday it was. Now I cook for others all the time & get pleasure out of it.
I am going to see & name others’ good works. Making them known to the world as not just another woman, but a woman with talents.
Brenda M. Russell says
Thank you for sharing your story. I agree with you that for too long society and some companies and some leaders and some families fail to acknowledge the brilliant work and contributions made to the labor force, government positions, church officials and others by many talented and skilled females.
This does not take any credit from anyone in leadership positions. Just think about how many bosses would not be as efficient without their administrative assistant. How many doctors would forget their clinic days and rotations without their nurses. When you wake up and smell your breakfast, most of the time the Mother is at the Helm in the kitchen.
I am so grateful for my mother and grandmother. I would not know the love of Christ without their guidance. Some publishers would miss deadlines without help from their proofreaders and editors.
We are not speaking against any job or employee. All people who are gainfully employed are valuable and truly appreciated. We can say that since the Pandemic, many titles and positions have changed in duties and responsibilities.
I know we can honor, respect and value the gifts and talents we all bring to the table.
Keep up the great work everyone.
Carol Brown says
This so important for all people, no matter their age. Often we do not recognize the value others see in us. Use those words to let people know as often as you can. Thanks for sharing. You are awesome.