Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Monday, 2 April 2012

The one where I 'come out' (Part Five)

*This is the fifth in a series of posts explaining how and why I decided to 'come out' as an Egalitarian.  This post will make a lot more sense in light of the first post, second post, third post and fourth post'*

... As I tried to tell myself that the title didn't matter - I realised that it was no longer about me.  It was about the experience of all women.  If I continued to keep quiet, could I expect anything to ever change?  How many other women would walk a similar path and end up unable to fulfill God's calling on their lives?

I knew I had to say something, and this time it was obvious a little whisper would not be enough...

For two weeks I experienced a deep rooted sense of unease.  My heart hurt.  I prayed for peace, but it failed to come.  I tried to live out Philippians 4:8, and think about all things noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy - but my soul found no rest.  A battle fought within and I longed to experience the respite of a victory on either side.  But it remained relentless.

A PA.  It's only a title.  A PA?  It's only a title.  But, a PA?!  I wanted to be able to accept it, to let it go, and to move on.  But I was torn.

What did it matter?  Did the title actually create any barriers to stop me doing the work I believed God had called me to do?  Not really.  So why did I still feel unable to let it go?

What was really at stake here?  Had my pride forced its way to the surface, forcing discomfort and unrest to propel rebellion?  Had I developed an enlarged, unrealistic and unhealthy view of myself? Had I lost sight of the things that mattered to God, in favour of what was important to me?

'He must become greater, I must become less.'  (John 3:30)

Yes.  God, you must increase, and I must decrease. 

I laid my frustrations down.  It was about Him, not me.  As long as I continued to serve, the title was of little importance.  And yet, still no peace.

But why?  Accepting the title of PA would have no impact on my ability to serve God in the way that I had been.  So my distress had to be founded elsewhere.  

Could it be that this was something God actually wanted me to fight for?  Was this why I had not found rest?  If so, would I be brave enough to do it?   I was doubtful.  I feared confrontation.  I feared being seen as a status seeker.  I feared becoming a trouble maker instead of a peace keeper.  Then, with all these fears floating around my head -  I realised that I had made it about me.

If this was something God wanted me to challenge, then I would do it, and face any consequences afterwards.

With a surprising surge of boldness I arranged to see the Elders.  That was easy.  The difficult part came a few days later when we sat together to discuss my role.  Despite knowing this was something I had to do, I felt sick. 

The conversation started and on the surface all seemed fine.  Discussion flowed easily around pay, hours, expectations etc.  I spoke at speed and kept the conversation going.  Perhaps then 'the' subject wouldn't come up.  However, I knew it must.

Whilst my mouth engaged in conversation, my thoughts were elsewhere.  How could I bring the subject of my title up?  Would the words come out?  More importantly, would I be able to contain the anguish that thrashed inside?  I am not an 'emotional' person usually, but this went deep.  I feared releasing the pressure on the valve, and an ugly and uncontrollable wave of emotion flooding out - (potentially confirming the theory that 'women are too emotional to lead').

As fear engulfed, I wanted to run.

'God's not given a spirit of fear, but of love, power and sound mind.' (2 Timothy 1:7)

I had to do it.   

'Can we discuss the title?'

It was out.  I half expected to be sent out of the room like a naughty child.  I shook, if not physically, emotionally.  I searched for a place to hide with embarrassment and shame.


Could the beating of my heart actually be heard in the room?


I don't remember the exact words that followed, but as I began to off-load my thoughts, a peace began to fill the space they previously occupied.  I felt able to express my concerns with honesty, clarity and sensitivity.  A sound mind.

'Do you think a guy would happily accept the same title?'

That was the issue at the root of it for me and I was pretty sure I already knew the answer.  In fact, I seriously doubted whether PA would have been suggested in the first place.  My suspicions were confirmed.  Gender made a difference to the proposed title.  In both cases the actual role and responsibility would be the same, and yet the title different.  This was injustice.  Sure, the title would have no impact on my ability to work, but what would accepting it without question say?  That it was acceptable to call a woman a PA, but not a man?  That a man fulfilling the same role should have a more appropriate title, but it was safer option to use PA for a woman?  I knew I had been right to challenge it.

With the question that followed I realised I hadn't actually considered anything beyond querying the title.  'If not PA, then what?  I thought about it ...

I had Probationary Minister's status with the Assemblies of God (training for full status) and had completed a degree in Theology.  I led the youth work, ran the women's ministry, gave significant input in the running of the church and served on the Pastoral Team.  A suitable title?  I knew what I thought, what I hoped for ... but dare I speak it?

And then, somehow, in the midst of the awkwardness, the word 'Pastor' was spoken.  Who spoke it first, I don't actually know.  Perhaps it was me?  Perhaps not.  But what did it matter?

'What is the work you actually do?  It is that of a Pastor.  A Pastor who assists the work of the Senior Pastor.  An Assistant Pastor.'

It was agreed and I allowed myself to relax.  It was going to be alright. 

Two weeks later came the official announcement at church.  I was called up to the front and the Elders prayed for God's anointing on my life as I served in my new role as an Assistant Pastor.

Although I felt a peace, I knew that for some in the congregation this announcement may cause a degree of concern.  Perhaps concern is too strong a word.  A questioning?  A woman serving as an Assistant Pastor? 

No one spoke up or walked out in objection.  In fact, after the service and during the weeks that followed, the comments I received were encouraging and supportive.

I thanked God for his faithfulness and strength through the storm, and gave my all to the work he had called me to do.  Training with AoG continued, and my ministry developed.  I loved it.  I knew I was in the right place.  I felt his presence, power and peace. The journey was exciting and fulfilling.

I enjoyed calm seas for a while, but storms were building in the distance, and it wouldn't be long until I once again found myself in the middle of them.  Jesus never promised a smooth journey did he?  But he promised to stay with us through it. This encourages me to keep going.  At times giving up does sound tempting, but I know that God has called me to push on through, not only for my sake, but for those that follow.

When the storms subside, I will continue to share my journey with you, but for now it would be both insensitive and painful to do so.  Through it all though I know that God is good and faithful and knows the plans he has for me, for good and not disaster, to give a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

For all those riding the storm at the moment - hang on in there - you are not alone.

You may also like:
Part One in this series
Part Two in this series
Part Three in this series
Part Four in this series


  1. In your position, I'd have found the title of "Personal Assistant" deeply offensive. So glad you spoke up for yourself.

    1. Thanks Mary Beth - yes, now it is all in the past I am pleased I spoke up too - :) Thanks for commenting!

  2. Well done for sticking to your convictions.

    1. Thanks Ria - when I realised it was more than 'me' I had to - pleased I did now :)

  3. Beautiful post! Thank you so much!! Well done for speaking up, for yourself and for others! You will never know how many lives may change from the actions you take. :-) blessings and prayers to you!!! x

    1. Thank you :) It did seem like a unnecessary fuss about nothing important at the time - which was why I was so hesitant - but I do think it needed challenging - otherwise I can't expect things to change in the future! Thanks for your comment :)

  4. Thanks Jo for sharing your story with us. I am encouraged by your pioneering. Hope the storms settle soon xxx


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