As women we often fall into the trap of viewing the world from the outside in. We see jobs we’re prohibited from, positions we are never seriously considered for, and levels of authority to which we don’t seem to be allowed to rise. We see men of lesser skills or aptitude or work ethic handed opportunities it’s clear we’re far more qualified for. We see, in other words, limitations. As a result, we feel discouraged—resentful, even—and sometimes that resentment leads us to double down in our determination to break the glass ceilings we still see at the highest levels of leadership in the world and in the church.
But what if we tried viewing the world from the inside out instead? Allowing the Holy Spirit to train us through the Word, prayer, discernment, and wise counsel to see our lives the way God has uniquely molded and made us to live them. Then the question is no longer, “can a woman break those glass ceilings” (of course she can), but rather, should you—you Rachel or Katie or Amanda or Heather—break that glass ceiling? Is this what God is calling you to do in your specific situation? Or are we merely trying to prove a point, or seek what feels very much to us like justice?
If it’s the latter we can’t help but fail, even if we manage to secure the coveted raise or promotion. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) If it’s the former—if this is how Jesus is calling us to live out our vocations in the world—then no human obstacle (and there will be obstacles), or wiles of the enemy (and there will be plenty of those too), will be able to stop us.
St Paul tells us that we are “to lead the life that the Lord assigned, to which God has called you” (1 Cor. 7:17). Think about that. We are not just to live a life but to lead it. To stand clear-eyed at the helm following the lead of the Living God. Some years that may be in the workplace, others through raising our children or serving the church, or through some seemingly insignificant volunteer job or hobby or passion project that suddenly bursts forth into new fruit that could not come from anyone but us.
So when we think about 21st-century women in leadership, let’s look past the easy snares of gender and limitation, and set our eyes on the path of calling. When we lead the life that the Lord assigned, we only have one boss. And we can rest assured that He always has our best interest—and the world’s—at heart.
Learn how to make sense of nonsensical situations by taking Peter’s lead when he obediently trusted Jesus despite it defying human logic …
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)
Jesus knew the physics of sound traveling over the water, so He used Peter’s boat to teach the large crowd that day. We know that Peter was about done working for the day. He was washing his nets and probably thinking about going home to get some much needed rest. After Jesus had finished teaching, He asked Peter to go to deeper water and get his nets dirty. REALLY? I think that the equivalent for us would be: You’ve just finished cooking, eating, and cleaning up your dinner. You have washed the pots and pans and have loaded the dishwasher. Then Jesus says to you, “Make me supper.” How would you react?
Look at Peter’s answer in v.5. First of all, Peter calls Jesus, “Master.” He knew that Jesus was an important person; One Who taught with authority. (By the way, have you acknowledged Jesus as “Master” of your life today?) Then he was honest. They had worked all night and had struck out. NO FISH. There isn’t anything much worse than working for hours with no tangible result! My guess that is Peter only made money when he had fish to sell!
I absolutely LOVE the next part: “but, because YOU say so, I will let down the nets.” Have you used that line with your kids, “Do it because I said so!” Well, Peter was acting with childlike obedience in this situation. HE let down the nets and the result was incredible: so many fish that two boats began to sink! Peter then saw Who Jesus really was and starting following Jesus as a full-time disciple. (walking away from a fortune, by the way!)
Is Jesus asking you to do something that doesn’t make sense? This definitely didn’t make sense to Peter: a good fisherman didn’t fish in the middle of the day, in deep water.
What is your nonsensical situation? Do you have to trust Him with a health scare? Do you have to trust Him in a marriage that isn’t what you dreamt of? Do you have to trust Him in a job that is stressful and demanding? Do you have to trust Him with finances that don’t add up?
No matter what situation you might be in, Jesus wants you to respond with trusting obedience. Keep praying. Keep reading His Word. Keep coming to worship. Keep serving. He will prove Himself faithful! He has a good plan for your life!
Karen Lippert is the Director of Women’s Ministry at Divine Redeemer in Hartland, WI.
By Marge Franzen
Have you ever savored a home-grown tomato? Watched it grow in your backyard? That small, hard green tomato grows into an appetizing, ripe fruit because it stays connected to the plant. If the green tomato ever falls off the vine, it never develops.
Jesus uses the picture of the vine and branches for our spiritual life:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Just like the tomato automatically grows and ripens if it stays connected to the plant, we will also bear spiritual fruit if we stay connected by faith to the Vine—Jesus.
We learn more about the fruit that develops in Galatians 5:16-25. Here the apostle Paul tells us how the Holy Spirit brings transformation. First Paul talks about what develops in our lives when we are disconnected from the Vine, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21)
Then Paul contrasts that with the fruit that forms when we are connected to Jesus:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Of course, we could never make such a turn around on our own will power or determination to reform. Verses 24-25 tell us that our past selves have died in Christ and the Spirit connects our dead branch to the life-giving Vine Jesus.
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25)
We can rejoice that the Spirit is transforming us by grace through faith. And it all starts with God’s love. The truth that we are connected is proof of the love God has for us. As we experience this connection to the Vine Jesus we develop all the varieties of His love; joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
THE FRUIT BASKET
Here’s a quick tour of the fruit basket:
JOY is rejoicing love, joy of the Lord that is independent of the situation. It best presents in joy that celebrates another as the focus of God’s love.
PEACE is reconciling love that values relationship over the details of conflict. Rooted in shalom, it moderates our coming and going. As we are reconciled with God we can bring wholeness to our relationships with others.
PATIENCE is enduring love. The root is literally holding back anger. With patience we combine determination and mercy to moderate our actions, both immediate and long term.
KINDNESS is amiable love. We give value to another by showing interest, listening, remembering details. We see them with God’s loving eyes.
GOODNESS is correcting love, not for the sake of being correct, but to bring about healing change in another’s life. Only by striving for God’s standards can we be sure we’re on the right course.
FAITHFULNESS is reliable love. We find that reliability in large and small things proves our commitment to people. We become trustworthy and true relationship can grow. One way to walk this path is through the faithful use of our Spiritual Gifts.
GENTLENESS is humble love. Rather than insisting on our own ability to be our own god we submit to God’s saving love for us. When His gentleness moves us into the sphere of another person we are more tolerant. We graciously refrain from using force and humbly join another’s journey.
SELF-CONTROL is disciplined love. We turn from the Then of our past habits and enter the Now of Spirit grown restraint and moderation. We are able to serve other people better.
Reviewing that fruit inventory may leave you disheartened about missing fruit in your life. I encourage you to review it with a friend or two. This gives you each the opportunity to affirm the fruit that is budding, growing, and ripening in each other. You may be surprised at the fruit they see in you.
But don’t ignore the conviction you have about missing fruit. Take time to meet with the Spirit. You may find these steps helpful as He leads you to grow and mature in spiritual fruit.
- Narrow your focus down to one fruit and go on a long journey with the Holy
- Spirit and your small circle of friends.
- Study that fruit in scripture.
- Make the connection of how it appears and impacts a relationship.
- Recognize the damage inflicted by the lack of a particular fruit.
- Don’t try harder in your own strength. But pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is revealing and moving you to be through His connection with you in the means of grace.
- Follow through and hold each other accountable.
- Celebrate each sign of growth the Spirit brings.
Click here to download a free booklet to use as a discussion guide and journal.
Now think again of that home-grown tomato and its life cycle. First you notice a little round bud at the base of a fertilized flower. Next you watch that green ball grow larger and larger. Then there’s the gradual ripening from green to mouth-watering red. Finally, that tomato nourishes you with vitamin C and minerals in a delicious taste treat. The Holy Spirit’s work in your life has the same stages as He grows each fruit on Paul’s list. First there’s just a little bud of Spirit-inspired patience or kindness that’s barely noticeable. Growth through contact with God’s Word brings more notice. Ripening can come through our experience as the Holy Spirit walks us through the highs and lows of life and we are encouraged by our faith community. Finally, our fruit fills its purpose – not to nourish us, but to nourish others with a faithful replica of God’s love.
About the Author: Marge Franzen, as Leader for Equipping Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle has lengthy experience in Bible study and adult discipleship. She is excited by a teaching approach that uses history and culture to bring the Word of God alive in people’s lives today. She enjoys finding and developing new teachers and coaching leaders, but the best part of all is watching God directly affect people through His Word. She has found that God delivers on his promise to “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:21 Marge has a degree in education from Concordia University Chicago, and in theology from Concordia University Wisconsin and is certified as a Lay Minister with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, but the credential nearest to her heart is Grandma.
For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.
Strength of character, compassion and determination. These qualities impressed WLI’s selection committee and led them to select Concordia University Wisconsin student, Kristen Struyk, as the 2015 recipient of the Donna J. Streufert Women’s Leadership Award. The award and a cash scholarship benefit young women in recognition of dedicated and innovative leadership.
Kristen struggles with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). She explained it this way: “RSD is characterized by constant, severe, burning pain, swelling, and hypersensitivity. Simple things like putting on socks or running water from the shower can cause tremendous pain. There is no cure but monthly nerve block injection procedures help keep the pain manageable.” However, Kristen’s struggle alone doesn’t set her apart; rather how Jesus Christ has shaped her character and put her to work. Kristen received three distinct nominations for the Women’s Leadership award. This speaks volumes about how others view her leadership.
According to Kristen, “Believe it or not, a smile and positive attitude are not my natural reactions to pain—they are hard-fought-for. Somewhere along the way, I’ve learned not to use my pain as an excuse for a sour attitude or bad behavior. Instead, God has managed to use it to help me develop sweetness, resilience, strength of character, and a heart to en-courage others.” Kristen has served as president of the CUW Psychology club, Nursing Home minis-try leader, peer leader for Psych 101, youth leader at Christ Church for third through fifth graders, and as a Direct Care resource for those with developmental disabilities and mental illness. In the midst of this, she has also found time to be an advocate on cam-pus for those who struggle. Kristen just completed her junior year in the CUW School of Nursing.
WLI Executive Director, Darcy Paape, had the privilege of presenting the award and scholar-ship to Kristen. “I feel honored to know Kris-ten,” says Darcy. “Spend an hour with her and you can-not help but leave feeling encouraged, inspired and humbled. It was my honor to present the Donna J. Streufert Women’s Leadership Award to such a candidate.”
We also wish to acknowledge applicants, Emily Marciniak, Morgan Brandt and Victoria Hildebrandt and our other nominees, Ellicia Wilder, Lindsey Weber, Sarah Harms and Stephanie Bonguard, and offer our thanks for their exemplary Christian leadership.
To learn more about WLI and what we have to offer, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.