Originally published Wednesday, 29 May 2013.
(Hello, my beautiful, strong sistahs! Welcome back for part two of spiritual leadership qualities to look for in a MWWF. Missed part one? You can find it here. I really want to hear what you all have to say about these things, so please, feel free to leave a comment below. It's a big, tough, humble pill to swallow, and these lessons are still very much a mystery to me.)
When I was a little girl, and when I wasn't reading Cinderella or Harriet the Spy, one of my favorite books was Harold and the Purple Crayon. He was this adorable little bald-headed baby who would have adventures with a trusty companion---his purple crayon---always by his side.
(Do y'all say "cray-on" or "crown?")
Whenever he would get himself into scrapes, he'd point his crayon into the void and draw his way out of something. He'd create doors to walk through. Or make himself scuba gear if he suddenly found himself under water.
Right now, I sort of wish that my left hand was smudged with the remnants of a purple crayon. Because I'd really like to draw myself out of this post; just create a little window in the virtual world, open it and flee the scene.
But a few days ago, I wrote about stepping closer to people. And I think an important part of sisterhood comes with wading into subjects within our lives that are difficult. And as Glennon Doyle Melton says in her new book, Carry On Warrior (loved, loved, loved this read), "We can do hard things."
So, ladies, let's take a step closer, here. I asked my Naval Officer friend, my go-to expert in leadership (when in doubt, ask a military man, right? Anchors aweigh!) to jot down a few thoughts on spiritual leadership.
I asked him to help because if we, as single Christian women, don't know what it is we're looking for, how can we expect to enter these healthy, "equally-yoked" relationships--absent of control or manipulation--that our youth pastors, pastors and Christian lady conferences keep talking about?
Go ahead, find that needle in a haystack without knowing what-the-crap a needle looks like.
So, Naval Officer says that most men and women see the role of a "spiritual leader" as more of a "spiritual manager." Someone who concerns himself (or herself) with getting the "boxes checked." Someone who ensures their children are praying, their family attends church, someone who advocates for involvement in the church.
Maybe even grills a few hot dogs for the youth group every now and again.
Now, I feel like I need to tread carefully here: these things aren't in and of themselves bad. (I mean, it's Memorial Day...who doesn't love a good, burnt to the crisp hot dog?).
But, if we're going to concern ourselves with that pesky verse in Ephesians (5:22) that tells wives to "submit to [their] husbands," (which gave me cause enough to think for a while that maybe that was to much to ask for. And that, perhaps, I would never ever ever ever ever get married, because that sounds, frankly, like a bunch of...you know what) then we must also look at the flip side of that verse...
The part of the verse that says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the Church.
And I somehow think that we got off the hook rather easily.
Naval officer explained that spiritual leadership looks more like servant leadership. It means getting in the fray of difficulties. Leading from the inside out, rather than dictating from the outside in. Leadership is relational. And if we want a good example, we should just get to know Jesus a little bit better.
He also says it's important to keep an eye out for a man who:
-Prays and fasts.
-Participates and engages in relationships within his church.
-Lives a simple life, devoid of vices and extravagance.
-Is compassionate and forgiving.
-Is honest, and trustworthy in everything he does.
It's a simple notion, really. But I know so many women who have made compromises and thinks her man is a "spiritual, Godly man" simply because he prays before meals.
But, does he embody Christ in his actions? Does he speak with love and truth? Does he honor and respect you, your soul, your body, your dreams, your pursuits?
Ladies, I think we should also tread very carefully. I don't believe it was ever God's intention for us to bend or eventually break under the will of a mere man.
For instance, I had an old boyfriend told me once that his mother really loved me. Of course, being the girl I was then--and being a little too curious---I egged him on.
He told me that she favored me because I was a total "sweetheart" and I would definitely be a "submissive wife" one day.
Oh my gosh, how do I even articulate how hard and fast my blood boiled?
You see, this ex-beaux was just a man. He wasn't a Godly man. And he certainly wasn't leading me anywhere I wanted to go. In fact, he took me in quite the opposite direction; and introduced a lot of hurt into my life that I am still (apparently) recovering from.
That, to me, breaking under the wrong man's beck and call, was what I thought the definition of submission was. And I never intended to feel that way again.
Even to this day, restaurant servers, my friends and family, and even complete strangers will call me "sweetheart." And I cringe, because it makes me feel weak. It makes me feel like I'm the type of woman who wants to simply just draw her way out of a tough spot.
It makes me feel inconsequential. I want to be the warrior, the writer, like Glennon, who does hard things.
I want to be the woman, the sister who steps closer. I want to love madly, and live freely. I want adventure. I want to be strong.
And the fact that a man and his mother saw something in me that seemed meek or quiet was simultaneously maddening and paralyzing.
See? This is why I wanted to be packing heat with a purple crayon hoisted by my side as I wrote this week. I'd be willing to call "foul," and drop a yellow flag on any man who would demand submission from a woman who wasn't his wife.
Further, I'd be willing to say "run for your life!" to a man who wasn't fulfilling or even acknowledging the second part of the chapter that calls men to "love [their] wives, just as Christ loved the church.
Something about that strength, something about that sort of leadership is something that I could get on board with having in my life. As fun and empowering as being independent is, I think we need others---as people, not just as women---to lead us closer to Christ.
We can do hard things together.