Kay is the National Director of Children Worldwide
I often joke that being a woman in ministry who works with children AND has a disability, I really don’t stand a chance in some of the more theologically conservative brands of churches that I was brought up in. I was ‘given’ a view of what a woman of God should be by the church I grew up in (not the one I now attend) and also by my ‘theologically conservative’ family.
Through studying the Bible and reading the work of other theologians I’ve now come to a completely different conclusion of what a woman of God in the 21st Century should be. My views haven’t gone down well with some of my family and their reaction to this has been a source of great sadness to me.
When I was going up (In the 20th century!) I was taught that a woman of God is some one who marries - and then gives up her hard worked for career, has lots of babies, cares for her husband and house, and can only be trusted to teach children and her fellow women. (And of course make the tea and coffee after services.) I had the “Princess Ideal” drummed into me!
For me, being a woman of God is not about being a princess (or a house wife for that matter!). For some the princess idea is a good and helpful notion, but the fairy tale element of being a princess is weak - it implies that I need my prince charming to come and help me achieve my status in Christ. I don’t. I was no less a woman of God before I married Steve than I am now.
I have been told that not having children makes me selﬁsh and not the woman God wants me to be (my paraphrase of various comments - but the implications were all the same). No one bothered to ﬁnd out that I actually couldn’t have children, and these comments were hurtful on many levels. I have friends who happen to be single and/or childless who are amazing women of God, and often put me to shame. I’m proud to have them as my friends.
So what does being a woman in the 21st century mean to me now? Well, it’s common sense stuff really!!
It’s not about how I look or what I do. It’s not about my marital status or how many kids I have. It’s not dependent on how well I can cook or how often I clean my house…. in fact, if it was down to house cleaning - I would be less than holy! It not even about the fact that I often use wheels rather than legs to get around. To me, it IS trying my best, through the help of the Holy Spirit, to stay close to God through all the usual means and admitting when I struggle with this!
It’s being kind, compassionate and slow to judge. It’s having bags of understanding and being able to say to a friend in pain “yep, life sucks – let’s have a coffee” rather than trying to give all those really irritating platitudes whilst trying to ‘ﬁx’ them. I ﬁnd this is a much better way of ﬁnding a more appropriate way to help (if needed) and pray for them too.
It’s about being who God wants me to be, not who everyone else thinks I should be, whilst also accepting graciously the feedback of trusted friends. Please note: This is not about saying “I am who I am, like it or lump it”. God often uses our friends to help us grow and change into the person He wants us to be. I am grateful to the friends I have who mentor, support and challenge me!
I have an added twist to being the woman that God wants me to me…
Being disabled brings many challenges and has a habit of increasing my cynicism levels about church and faith. I have to work hard not to fall into this trap, and it isn’t easy - being disabled means I have to put up with a lot of junk! Being a woman of God means I need to work this through with God…..regularly!! ! Just as some would challenge the notion of a woman in ministry, some folk don’t quite ‘get’ the idea of a disabled person in ministry either and constantly want to ﬁx me, or can’t understand that a disabled person can serve as well as being served.
For me, a small part of being a woman of God in the 21st century is trying to be a role model to other people, especially children, who also happen to be disabled - showing them that they too can serve.
I am a woman of God:
One who happens to be disabled.
One who serves children and children’s workers.
I am told that it shows in your eyes…… I hope it shows in mine.