I started teaching classes this Fall in the religion department at a liberal arts university in Nashville. I. LOVE. IT. If my students are enjoying the experience half as much as I am, I think we’ll have a successful semester. I’m optimistic that they are, because after my first day of classes, literally half of the students came up to tell me how excited they were to be in the class.
A good number of these eager learners were girls, a fact that is not lost on me. When I checked in with one of my colleagues who also teaches Hebrew Bible at the school, he pointed out that I was making connections he never could have because he was a man. Yes, my students are excited about being in my Bible classes. But in our conversations they have found points of connection they wouldn’t have been able to with a male professor. They liked my shoes, we had the same color nail polish, I reminded them of their mom (YIKES YIKES YIKES, but I’ll take it!).
I struggle with brining myself to ministry in ways that I don’t think guys worry about. I wear black when I preach because I’ve gotten comments on my clothing and style before and I’d rather just side-step the issue as much as possible. In teaching and ministerial settings, I am conscious of every time I talk about Junia or my role as a mom. Even my tick of twirling my hair when I’m bored is something I’ve tried to quit doing. I’m worried it conveys a flippant, unprofessionalism that isn’t reflective of my true attitude.
I am a strong-willed leader by birth and yet I am still very cognizant of the process of living in to my spiritual authority. I feel I am continually balancing being my true, authentic self, and being someone who can be taken seriously in a historically male-dominated spiritual culture. The two are absolutely not mutually exclusive; I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought they were.
Who I am as a woman is just as reflective of God’s image, and it’s an image that needs to be shared. I’m not trying to hide this fact by acting a certain way or portraying a certain persona but - at least for me - being a woman in ministry certainly comes with a number of considerations.
I don’t want to be someone who brings everything back to gender, but it’s kind of hard not to. I’ve written before about my hope that feminism won’t matter to my daughter. I hope that all the things I’m struggling with, the lines I’m walking, the calculations I’m making won’t be visible to her and that she’ll take equality as a given.
I hope the same thing for my students. And I hope my presence as a Biblical authority in the classroom goes at least part way toward making this a reality for them.