This week, the CBE Scroll features a series called “The Parsonage,” written by CBE Intern Krista Wilson, who is currently a student at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. In it, she writes about her experiences living with a group of women who have felt God’s call to minister in the church. Enjoy!
At the Parsonage, the entire first floor is essentially one long room. Of course there are walls, but if you stand at the entrance and lean to your right, you can peer straight through the dining room, kitchen, living room, and out the back windows to the garage. Not that this presents a problem in and of itself, until you want to have a private conversation. Unless you plan on whispering, no matter where you sit, anyone can hear you from the living room back through the kitchen, dining room, all the way to the front door.
This concept of “openness” reflected in the house architecture has become a significant part of all our lives. Living with five women in leadership positions, I have learned how they function through different spheres of openness:
First is the openness with God.
Approaching an all-powerful being, understanding that everything we are familiar with and cling to might suddenly be challenged is a little more than intimidating. Sometimes when God calls us to a vocation it feels more like a death sentence. Or somewhat less dramatically, like a father retracting from our childlike grasp some kind of prized Star Wars action figure or American Girl Doll.
We adhere to our own visions and dreams and pray that God will fulfill them (Please can I be a Jedi master? Please can I have comforts like my dolls?) We do not always pray that God will make pastors out of us or that He will tell us to go to seminary. In fact, most of us never pray for this. However, He knows better. He knows the gifts He has granted us, the gifts He has entrusted us with.
And if He calls us to use these, then all I am going to say is this: we better say yes.
After we accomplish openness with God, we must be open with ourselves.
Acknowledging God’s calling is one thing, but it is an entirely different territory to accept it, absorb it, and allow it to become part of who we are. There is no greater roadblock to faithfulness than a stubborn or fear-ridden heart. But to be open to the self, to admit and admire who we are as God has created us to be—then we can begin to be transformed.
For two of my roommates, attending seminary was never on their list of “to do’s after graduation.” In fact, for these two women the thought of pastoring was foreign and unthinkable. However, through their relationships with God, attending seminary became not only a possibility but a manner in which they could live out their creational destiny. Although often challenging (pastoral paychecks are not very high), accepting this vocation has allowed for a deeper understanding of who they are as individuals.
Finally, after the submission to God and acceptance within the self, comes the openness with others.
Here we are in the public sphere. This is where we act— where we not only believe, but speak. Sometimes, we simply have to lean over a fence. Other times, we have to do this from behind a pulpit. Regardless, there will be opposition— from those who deny God’s existence to those who tell women to their faces (and behind their backs) they cannot be pastors. But there also exist communities who will ask: “What can we do to support you in this?”
Although difficult, openness with others is essential. This comes with the understanding that if we get caught cowering from rejection, then we may miss our calling and dismantle our convictions.
For the Parsonage, openness is more than the fact that there are no doors from the entrance, to the dining room, through the kitchen, and back to the living room. Openness is the routine devotion of spending Monday nights together, answering the question regularly, “How are you doing, really?” and asking, “What can we do for you?” It is inviting the neighbors in once a month for chili feeds and backyard movies, no matter their faith. Further, it is the inviting of one another into the individual— turning the direction of life up to God, into one’s self, and then out for the other.