This is part 3 of a series on what the bible has to say about letting women lead.
Women aren’t perfect, men aren’t either. There’s no implication in this series that they are. Even though we’re all level when it comes to our perfect status, women get the short end of the stick when it comes to being recognized as an equal contributor to influence others.
Even though women, like all huMANity, are flawed, they are irrepressibly competent, capable, and courageous. It’s not their imperfections that hold them back, it’s the attitude and perception that they have leadership limitations. Imperfection doesn’t equal limitation. The fractured view of woman sets statutes of limitations upon them.
Despite the marred view, women are doing some incredible and irreplaceable work in the world.
The attribute that stands out to me most about women, is their willingness. This quality is not true of all women, but it is a defining aspect of many who emerge as cultural influencers.
Willingness is defined and demonstrated by openness and boldness. Willingness is a neutral virtue that expresses itself in different ways, some healthy and some risqué.
Take Britney Spears. Willing to dance around with a snake around her neck. Willing to be a slaaaaaaave for you.
Unfortunately for the unbridled lust of men, there are many women who are willing to take it all off.
Other women are willing to stay with him, even though he doesn’t even deserve to date a tree.
These are a few examples of the risqué nature of willingness. There are some actions and behaviors that women should be unwilling to associate with and participate in.
Then there’s the glorious nature of willingness. A willingness that is not risqué but risky and brave, compelling many to live vibrant lives of willingness.
Amelia Earhart was willing to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, and she was willing to attempt circumnavigating the globe. She is quoted as saying, “I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
One of the most radiant versions of willingness is Brene Brown, who was willing to be vulnerable in front of a TED Talk audience with her shame. “Vulnerability,” she shared, “is our most accurate measurement of courage — to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest.”
Then there’s the list of women I mentioned in part two of this series, who are read and tweeted and quoted and envied for being willing to admit that their lives are a hot mess. Shauna Niequest describes her life like this:
This is who I am…not the sparkly image, not the smoke in mirrors, not the accomplishments or achievements. This is me, with all my limitations, with all my weaknesses.
–Present Over Perfect
And how about Michele Obama? Stepping to a mic, like Joan of Arc to a battle, in New Hampshire, willing to speak up for the dignity and sexual protection of women, with gracefulness and confidence, “The shaming comments about our bodies,” she spoke bravely, “the disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.” Amy Sullivan wrote a report for yahoo.com that asserted Michele Obama as one of the most powerful speakers of this era because she is human, and with that bracing humanity comes vulnerability. It means hearing the hateful things said about her and her family, and being hurt. In large part for the sake of her daughters and all children.
One of finest examples of willingness comes from one of the most popular women in history, Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Mary was from a town called Nazareth and she was pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. The gospel of Luke tells us that Mary was a virgin and pregnant with the son of God at the same time. When word got to Joseph, he was less than thrilled and more than unwilling to move forward to marry Mary. He must have been pretty close to calling it off that an angel had to assure him that it was all part of God’s plan.
Mary, in contrast, was willing from the beginning.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”
Her response is awe-inspiring. Holy. Sacred. Her words may have made her more immaculate than her womb did. This willingness–to be the Lord’s servant–set her apart, and it has set women like her apart ever since.
This is the willingness to go to church when your boyfriend or husband is antagonistic or uninterested.
This is the willingness of single women to travel as a missionary to foreign lands with unfamiliar people and customs.
This the willingness to step into roles of leadership and authority over girls, boys, women, and men with composure and humility.
This the willingness to step out of the stereotypes and embrace a God-sized vision and direction for life.
To carry God in the womb.
To be a servant of the Lord, no matter the risk.
To deliver the good news to a world of raised eyebrows and hardened hearts toward women, with a message for all people.
This should be the mantra: If she can, we can.
Mary is a tangible example of willingness that all women can imitate. You don’t have to be a virgin or a Jew. All you have to be is willing. Willing to receive an assignment from God and face the challenge and the criticism and the misogyny head on. Who knows, you may just bring God into someone’s world in ways you never expected.
A child in your classroom.
A teen mom in your neighborhood.
A wife on the rocks of divorce.
A coworker in the office.
A man set in his prejudiced ways.
God works miracles through the willingness of women.