Some time ago I asked my dad to write a guest post for my blog, and his response was phenomenal. As I was preparing the post for publication, I looked through some photos of my dad and me on my computer. In a folder marked, “Ordination,” I came across a candid photo of my dad and I, posted below.
A lot of ministers I know still have things they received the day of their ordination. I have met those who have a watch or a Bible or some other memento that was given to them by a mentor or parent on the evening of their ordination.
My dad bought me pearls. A beautiful necklace made of tiny delicate pearls.
I am sorry to say that at the time I couldn’t appreciate the full weight of their value. The evening was charged with emotion. Dad also gifted me my late mother’s bible that evening, and I missed her so much. I wanted her to be there. “She would have been so proud,” everyone kept saying to me. I missed my mom so much that night that I overlooked what may be the most significant item I now own.
Forget that I have a dad thoughtful enough to give me a gift for my ordination. That in itself is a great gift. But it wasn’t just a gift. It was pearls. Here is what those pearls say to me:
1 – I am on your side.
Although both my father and I work for an organization where women are welcomed to be ordained, women leading in ministry is often not a reality many people see. There are still people – ordained by this same organization – who debate whether women should be in ministry and in fact whether I am sinful for preaching and teaching. There are powerful men who, at worst, intentionally keep women out of their pulpit and, at best, simply forget to consider the voices of women.
My dad putting a strand of pearls around my neck put him forever on one side of that line. He stood up in front of the entire council and said he was proud of me. He called my name for ordination with his own voice. “I am in with this women in ministry thing,” he said with those pearls. “My colleagues may disagree with me or lambast me, but I am all in. My daughter is ordained. And I am proud.’
“Where did you get those pearls?”
“They were a gift from my dad for my ordination.”
It was celebrated as right and good and significant.
2 – You can be fully feminine and lead well.
I have been surrounded by many different styles of woman all my life. I grew up in Indiana, where style tends to be more casual, and moved to Paris, where everything is a bit more clicky and streamlined. I value both. But Paris changed me – it changed how I dress and walk and interact. It changed the way I express myself as a woman. I don’t think I would have worn pearls before Paris.
He could have given me a watch or a Bible or a nice pen, but he gave me pearls. To me, pearls are symbolic of understated glamour, classic style. I love them. I love how they feel against my skin. They make me feel prettier. I don’t say that to devalue any other woman’s style. This isn’t about me saying what all women should be – this is just me telling you who I am. For me, red lipstick and pearls are what I love. And I have learned that you can preach boldly in red lipstick and pearls. It doesn’t cheapen the message.
“Feel pretty when you preach,” those pearls say to me. “You can wear pearls and heels and have blonde hair and be a good leader,” they say. “You don’t have to dress like a boy to be strong. You don’t have to be a man to be taken seriously.”
Those pearls tell me that I can fully embrace who I am as a woman and be taken seriously. It is not frivolous or less intelligent to do so. I do not have to pretend to be someone I’m not to be worthy of calling. God knew me when He called me.
3 – You don’t have to care about the naysayers.
I want to acknowledge that I approach this topic from a place of extreme privilege. I do not see as small the weight of having parents who affirmed God’s call on my life. This is a gift afforded to few – a mom and a dad who ‘get it’ and are all about it.
I think one reason I don’t care when people tell me I can’t is because my dad says I can. He was proud of me that night. He was proud to put those pearls around my neck and he was proud to lay his hands on me and ordain me.
No offense if you’re reading this and you disagree with everything I say. But the weightiest voice in my life says I can. The man who spends more time in prayer than anyone I know and who values the presence of God more than anyone I know – he says I can. I watch him value the voices of his female colleagues. I watched him honor my mother and now I watch him honor my stepmother. I watch him speak about women with dignity. So if you feel the need to disagree with me – publicly or privately – about what I’m doing with my life, that’s fine. I’m not mad at you. I just don’t have time to care. This is a luxury afforded to me because I have found validation and affirmation. And if you think that’s ‘sad’ as some past commenters have, neither my dad nor myself can be bothered to share your sadness. We have work to do.
If you’re a dad and you’re reading this, and your daughter shows leadership skills or is called into ministry, get to know her. If she would love and value a pen, get her a pen, but don’t try to make her into a son. Don’t try to nurture a masculinity in her because that’s what you understand a leader to be. Let her know that she can be fully feminine – whatever that expresses itself as in her – and lead well. Don’t try to make her into something you understand. If she is a leader, if she is a pioneer, you might never understand her – but you can support her. Whatever will say to her the things those pearls said to me – that’s what you do.
And if you’re reading this and you’re a woman and no one gave you pearls for your ordination – if you were all alone and your dad didn’t understand or approve – know that there are men who are fighting for us. And if you’re reading this and you’re a man and you don’t have daughters, you can still give those ‘pearls’ – affirmation your daughters in the faith need. I would urge you, in either group – watch those younger girls in the ordination class. Be the person who gives them ‘pearls’ whatever those may be. Be the champion you needed. Be the voice you needed to hear when you were younger. Let someone in the next generation know – I’m on your side. And I am proud.