Though it’s been over 20 years, I remember with clarity a college professor’s powerful illustration about the nature of Christian ministry. This professor, also a long-time minister and volunteer hospital chaplain, had been called upon to be a pastoral presence in two contrasting yet related situations: first, as a new mother promptly parted with her newborn daughter, and then minutes later when the infant was presented to her adoptive parents. The point of the illustration was that a minister is sometimes involved in the full spectrum of emotions; in this case the pain and sadness of one mother stood in stark contrast with the joy of another. As a young ministerial student, I got the point well enough. Years later, I get it even better.
But here’s what I didn’t get at the time. The professor was male. All the students in the class were male. As poignant as the illustration was, it could also be used as a powerful illustration of a different truth: It would have been better if that minister—the one called upon to escort a newborn girl between mothers—had been a woman. Such a scenario is surely one example of a woman’s place. But because of the presuppositions of my own Christian heritage, it didn’t occur to me at the time.