It happens sometimes, as a woman pastor. You get a little weary of it all.
Weary of having to defend yourself. Weary of feeling you’re not taken quite as seriously. Weary of putting a positive spin on it. Weary of pretending it doesn’t bother you to be working with people who smile at you warmly at the pastors gathering, but who will preach against your call three days later. Weary of those who don’t smile at all. Weary of people assuming you just ignore certain passages of Scripture, that you don’t hold Scriptural convictions as deeply as they do about why you do what you do. Weary of those guys on the internet.
A number of years ago I was weary. I was tired of all of it. I didn’t want to have to be tough anymore. I didn’t want to be “that woman pastor” anymore. I would have been just fine to be a little un-called.
But in God’s perfect timing, right in the middle of that weary season, I went to a retreat for women clergy in my denomination. About a dozen of us gathered at a cozy chalet nestled in tall trees on a cold lake and got to know each other while we ate a lot and let ourselves take naps.
There wasn’t a big agenda. Instead, each woman was given a one hour slot to share and receive prayer. It was simple enough – during our hour we would talk about what was going on in our lives or our ministry. Then the other women would pray for us.
Of course if there was anywhere to talk about being weary of being a female pastor, this was the room. I was actually the youngest woman there. Most of the women present had decades of experience on me, and when I shared that I was in a weary season, they nodded, knowingly. And then they prayed.
Hands laid on my shoulders, my back, my head, my feet, they knelt around me and lifted me up to God. It was intimate, awkward, vulnerable, powerful, and oh-so-necessary.
Here’s the thing when you receive prayer: sometimes it doesn’t feel like a whole lot. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes it feels just kind of nice. But sometimes – the really amazing times – you are absolutely certain that the Spirit of God has broken in from Heaven to earth and spoken right to your heart. This was one of those times. And this was the prayer, from a sister pastor who had heard my words and seen me weary and brought me again to the Lord who called me.
One hand on my shoulder, one high in the air, this dear sister prayed: “God, sometimes we hear voices from others about our call and we need to hear them. But sometimes those voices we hear are from (and her voice went deep and low here) the very pit of hell. And I pray you would send those voices that are making Leanne feel overwhelmed as a woman you have called back to the pit of hell.”
I want to tell you that I felt the truth of every word of that prayer from my soul to my toes. I knew that I had started listening to a narrative in my head that was not God’s truth for me. In fact, it was a lie from an enemy that would like nothing more than to see every woman called to preach the love of God stay silent.
I haven’t really felt that depth of weariness since that time, but when I feel it sneaking in, I remember that prayer and I say to that lying voice in my head: “Stay in the pit of hell, where you belong.”
My sister pastors, I know that it can get weary. People can tell us not to read the tweets, ignore the comments, keep pushing through. I’ve said it myself. And I know that sometimes it is hard to do that. Sometimes we are still going to get weary, because we are just tired of being told to stop, to go learn the Bible, or to go home.
But here is my prayer for you today: That when you feel yourself thinking those voices rumbling around in your head – those ones telling you that you can’t do it, that you shouldn’t do it, that’s it’s too much – that you would yell back at them, and you would tell them to go back to where they belong: to the very pit of hell.
I pray that instead you would hear the voice of the God who called you, who still calls you, from your soul to your toes, saying: “Keep going.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’ve got work to do. My sisters, do not stop.