I love seeing my name in headlines. I suppose that makes me well, decidedly human. I love being loved. I relish being included, mentioned, cited, and most of all, seeing me everywhere! But, really, is that what this is all about—is this becoming more like Jesus? Yet, it happens over and over again. Maybe I’m just now getting the point. Here is what I mean.
I had to smile this week, when a Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) staff member appeared in my office like the angel Gabriel announcing the good news. “Oh thou, blessed among women, you have been named on the Rachel Held Evans’s “101 Christian Women Speakers’ list.” My first thought was, “Well, that’s better than a PhD from England’s best, right?”
My second thought belonged perhaps to “my better self, ” as I remembered walking the cold windy streets of Philadelphia last winter, back and forth from my hotel to the lecture halls of a conference focused on justice. As one of the speakers, I was thankful to have a platform for CBE’s mission—to dismantle patriarchy as a biblical ideal. Yet, as I navigated the frosty streets of Philly, I was struck by an unbearable contrast between the techie cool of accomplished justice speakers and the dull and pedestrian manner of those working Philly’s inner-city churches. Beaten down by the arduous challenge of running small, barely sustainable nonprofits, these faithful giants of Christ were anything but cool. Yet, day after day these nameless, fameless leaders ran homeless shelters, food banks, immigrant offices, and children’s services, completely oblivious to the marketing machinery driving a conference on justice down the street—a conference where they may never speak, and where I treasured my moment in the sun. “Had they even heard of it?” I wondered.
Yet, their sandals I am not worthy to touch!
But, I suspect that heaven’s banquet will be filled with such guests, served by Christ himself who said, “When you did this to the least of them (even as no one noticed) you did it as to me.” “Enter and receive your reward, ” he will say. “Though you were nameless on earth, and while few celebrated your work, yet you were fiercely faithful. Enter my glory, for it is such as you that my kingdom awaits.”
How thankful I am for Rachel’s advocacy that promotes women speakers who are, too often, systematically excluded from Christian events. I thoroughly endorse and respect her goal. Yet, I also recognize the eternal and invisible power of the marginalized, like those I met in Philly, and like the women leaders we meet in Scripture who are also systematically overlooked.
Ignored though they are, they can—and should—be our truest mentors!
From these women we learn perseverance; from them we observe fierce initiative and boundless faith; because of them we discover Christ’s impartial welcome, love, omnipotence and justice. Their example helps us become truer to goals that are eternal. Of them the writer of Hebrews (possibly Priscilla) said: “Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith, ” (Hebrews 13:7). And, as Paul also said,
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).