So I’m a bit of a jerk. A surprise to some. Not so much to others. In May, New Leaf hosted In the Company of Women, a conference for men and women who long to see the mission of God advanced in Canada through shared leadership. Last year, when my almost friend Jared Siebert mentioned this idea of reclaiming and envisioning shared leadership between men and women, I knew I was all in. I jumped on the conference planning team willing to do whatever was required of me. Or so I thought.
My contribution to the planning team included monthly video chats, brainstorming emails, some creative thinking and a blog post. I felt pretty good about it all until a couple of weeks before the big day I realized that almost all my conference planning buddies were also speaking at the conference. Suddenly, I felt woefully inadequate, doubted my contribution to the whole thing and was ready to jump ship. Told you. I’m a jerk.
Most of the time I think I’m all that and a bag of chips so I wasn’t too sure what to do with this seed of self-doubt that had been planted. First, I threw myself a pity party. When that fizzled out I decided my only course of action was to just suck it up and fumble along like everything was fine. Once again, God had a much better plan. Thank you Jesus!
It did occur to me to actually say something out loud to my planning buddies but I knew this was my thing not theirs. And I didn’t want to rain on their parade so I as usual my husband got an earful and he carefully reinforced the fact that this was all my stuff at play which I did my best to process.
I woke up on the day of the conference eager and excited. No self pity or doubt in sight. Just good vibes and the sense I needed to be open to whatever came my way. This felt way better than my pity party so I went with it. When I arrived at the conference I set up the book sale table, carried boxes, delivered messages, pointed people in the right direction and answered a bunch of questions. Then I sat down and listened to a diverse group of women talk about shared leadership in the kingdom of God. I was challenged, encouraged and inspired.
One of the speakers, Dr. Linda Ambrose, professor of Canadian History at Laurentian University, who has extensively studied the history of women in Canadian churches, said two things that are still whirling around in my head.
- Dr. Ambrose spoke about Agnes, a woman who co-pastored and planted churches with her husband in the early 1900s. Agnes was also a mother and she wrote about how the women in the church would bake birthday cakes for her children because they knew Agnes’ schedule was jammed packed with church stuff.
- Then Dr. Ambrose asked, “How do we as women support or fail to support each other?”
And then I realized. I almost failed to bake the cake. I came uncomfortably close to failing my sisters. God had me exactly where He wanted me the day of the conference. The room was filled with strong, determined, courageous, grace-filled women – those speaking on stage, those nursing newborns or chasing two-years in the audience, those finding the courage to introduce themselves to their hero, those speaking words of encouragement – and I had a front row seat to witness it all. That conference room was a glorious cake baking factory and it was beautiful!
So for me the most challenging part of shared leadership has nothing to do with men and everything to do with women. I need to step fearlessly into my circle of women confident in my gifts and abilities. I need to know that my contribution has value and worth no matter what it is.
And I need say yes to what God has planned for me. So YES! I will carry your books, countdown your presentation time, handout the chocolate, pray for you, encourage you and walk alongside you. And whether you are onstage, backstage or completely unaware there even is a stage – I will be your biggest fan.
I will also try really hard not to be a jerk.
Oh, and I do bake a pretty mean chocolate buttermilk cake. The irony.