This is to the women who lead. This is you, collectively, who faithfully followed in the Father’s leading to serve. This is to the women who wonder if it’s all worth it, if this struggle is really making a difference…
We met in the third grade. It was my first time going to “real school,” and with it all of the sights, sounds, and experiences of a new place. There were kids I didn’t know, systems I didn’t understand, and rules I hadn’t learned. It was exciting on some level, sure.
But more than anything I was scared. I’d always been a shy, quiet one. I was your typical unassuming wallflower that to tried to hide in the back row, hoping that if no one noticed me it would all be over soon.
And it would have been easy for you to just let me by. I could handle the academics, and if you had just seen me as one more face in the crowd of kids you’d certainly have fulfilled your duty as a teacher.
But you weren’t going to settle for that. Instead, you saw beneath my meek exterior. You saw a small boy that wanted to be included, that wanted to make friends, that wanted to enjoy the community of the classroom but just didn’t know how to start. And so you gently prodded and pushed, always looking out for me to make sure I was a part of everything.
You led me to see the power of compassion. And I was changed.
Many years later, we met again. I had grown up, standing on the edge of adolescence and manhood. Within just a few months I would be heading off to college and embarking on the rest of my life.
I was a rough mix of confident and cowardly in that stage, showing an outward bravado to hide my deeper insecurities. I knew that my life would change, and soon, but knew little about where it all would go. In that time of transition, I was often baffled about who I was supposed to be, confused about how to take these sprouts of talent and make a life out of it.
But where I saw confusion, you saw potential. You found one thing that I was good at and taught me how hard work could take that seed and grow it into impact. You had that special gift of believing in me before I believed in myself.
You led me to see the power of encouragement. And I was changed.
We met again on the other side of the world. I was in a new job in a new place. I also had new responsibilities that – let’s be honest – I wasn’t totally ready for. And you were my boss.
You were going to call me that afternoon to talk about the situation. I couldn’t avoid it anymore. I had screwed up, and my negligence in handling something very simple was going to be costly – to a team, to a school, to an organization.
I was dreading that call because I thought I knew what was coming. I was expecting to be chewed out, to be reprimanded, to have my face rubbed into my fault in the hopes that I would see my error and never do it again.
Instead, you listened. And you heard. You didn’t address my stupidity, but forgave and offered me another chance. You knew that I’d already beaten myself up enough to know that I didn’t need any more judgment, and in your wisdom used it as a teachable moment to build me into a better man.
You led me to see the power of grace. And I was changed.
And if I could see you today, the women who’ve led me, I would tell you to keep on. Keep on doing what you can do. Keep on leading how you can lead.
I can’t know how hard it is to feel constrained and restrained by the same tired, old ideas. I can’t imagine how discouraging it is to see your giftings, your passions, and your ambitions stifled in the name of tradition. I can’t begin to understand what’s it like to feel trapped because of the gender God gave you.
But what I do know is that we need you. We need who you are. We need what you can uniquely bring. We need you to endure, persevere, and lead in the ways that only you can.
Because you change us. Because whether or not we remember it or recognize it, we each have been shaped and molded by women who lead, who have the courage to take hold of the mantles before them.
So please, for the sake of all good things, keep leading.