Editor’s note: back by demand, here’s a post I wrote several months ago on another site. I thought it would be a great conversation to begin again.
Several months ago, our church moderator came to me as I was trying to make a difficult decisions about whether or not to attend a normal church event or to take some needed time with my husband. I was struggling. I really thought I should be at church. It was really hard for me to embrace the fact that it was going to be ok if I was not there.
And then, the church moderator, came and boldly addressed me. She said the problem was that I had the “Baptist Women Syndrome.”
I was quick to ask what in the world she was talking about? I’d never heard of such a thing.
“Wasn’t I doing a good job? Didn’t she see how hard I was working being attentive to the details around the church? Didn’t she see that I was trying to keep all my responsibilities covered at work, home and in life?”
And her reply went something like this: “That’s exactly the point. You are a Baptist woman what you’ve just described is exactly what you do.”
She went on, “You’ve worked so hard to get where you are. You’ve had to perform 10x faster and higher than your male colleagues to even be considered for ordination. There are hundreds of women who would kill to have your job . . . . Your syndrome is that you think if you stop for a second or show weakness or humanity, it will all be taken from you.”
Though these words were hard to hear, the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was completely right. I do have the Baptist woman syndrome. And, I know there are sisters of mine out there who have it too.
For it is true, being a Baptist woman in ministry means that you always have to have your act together. You always have to know your stuff. You always have to preach better. You always have to present yourself well. You always have to be thinking of how to get a higher education degree. You always have to be ready to be the token female at any Baptist association meeting. You always have to be ready to talk about I Timothy. You always, always.
Though we trust our congregations called and choose us because they believed in what we could offer them as a leaders, there is something in the back of our head that says, “Beware: this can all be taken away very soon.”
The problem with all of this nonsense is that it leads us in patterns of behavior that are less human. We work longer hours even when we are part-time staff. We work for less money with a smile on our face because we have a job. We take on extra denominational responsibilities that our male colleagues don’t want. We take the youth on one more outing even with the weekend away from our children. We don’t ask for help when we are on the edge of burnt out, sick or overwhelmed. We don’t complain. We show up, we do, and we keep going until we have to take drastic measures to change things because we’ve been doing it so long that we don’t know how to stop.
A colleague shared this quote with me today from Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church, “The call to serve God is first and the last call to be fully human.”
I fear my colleagues and I have kept putting serving God and the church so high up on the priority list that we might just be becoming less and less human every day.
If we are going to have to get over our syndrome, my ministry sisters, then we are going to have to keep taking courageous steps to keep remembering we are more than our jobs. We have to take vacations and turn our cell phones off. We have to audaciously trust God to bring us ministry opportunities to us that help us to be who we need to be in all areas of our lives. We have to trust our moderator when she says, ‘Chillax and take the Sunday off.” And, I’m learning to say: “Thanks be to God.”