Genesis 21:8-21 CEB
8 The boy grew and stopped nursing. On the day he stopped nursing, Abraham prepared a huge banquet. 9 Sarah saw Hagar’s son laughing, the one Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Send this servant away with her son! This servant’s son won’t share the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
11 This upset Abraham terribly because the boy was his son. 12 God said to Abraham, “Don’t be upset about the boy and your servant. Do everything Sarah tells you to do because your descendants will be traced through Isaac. 13 But I will make of your servant’s son a great nation too, because he is also your descendant.” 14 Abraham got up early in the morning, took some bread and a flask of water, and gave it to Hagar. He put the boy in her shoulder sling and sent her away.
She left and wandered through the desert near Beer-sheba. 15 Finally the water in the flask ran out, and she put the boy down under one of the desert shrubs. 16 She walked away from him about as far as a bow shot and sat down, telling herself, I can’t bear to see the boy die. She sat at a distance, cried out in grief, and wept.
17 God heard the boy’s cries, and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “Hagar! What’s wrong? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy’s cries over there. 18 Get up, pick up the boy, and take him by the hand because I will make of him a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went over, filled the water flask, and gave the boy a drink. 20 God remained with the boy; he grew up, lived in the desert, and became an expert archer. 21 He lived in the Paran desert, and his mother found him an Egyptian wife.
Hello, my name is Melissa, and I am female.
Whew! That felt good. I'm glad I got that off my chest. I felt the need to start with announcing my gender, because I'm about to jump head first into the deep end of gender equality. I have to say, I'm not comfortable bringing this subject up, yet again. I really believed it would be a topic I would ignore, the obviousness of it all being that I am a female in ministry. The fact that I keep coming back to gender topics. There are also a few sharks living in this water I'm about to dive into. I'm not fond of getting bit. These sharks are:
OK, I just put all my cards on the table. I'm holding nothing up my sleeve. I come vulnerable and ready to discuss this topic. In our scripture, Hagar suffers from something not on the above list of sharks: Females can be a female's worst enemy.
The domino that started the whole line falling, leading to Hagar and her son being exiled to the wilderness, was Sarah. She had the issue with Hagar being the mother of the first born son of Abraham. Sarah tells Abraham to exile her and her son. She didn't want Ishmael to get any of the inheritance.
Reading scriptures like this week's, cause me to weep for both Hagar and Sarah. Females today will throw other females into the metaphorical wilderness. This all happens in moments where we could be the best cheerleaders. At times where we could raise another up, we push and cut down. I want to speculate as to why we do this, and what we could do in the future:
We see images like this, and begin to see female positions of power as a scarce commodity. This picture is the entire weekday line-up on the Blaze Radio network. To be fair, I'm sure it's difficult to find strong female voices for a radio show. It has typically been a male's field. The Blaze also added S.E. Cupp to their weekend line-up, so there is a female. They also have a couple on their television network. Yet, this image still disheartens me. Whether it is true or not, it makes me feel like there is no space for a female voice; female leadership. I feel the good-'ol-boys club still exist, and space is limited for female membership.
This mindset would set me up to see the scarcity of the situation, not the abundance. I think, the solution to this is generosity. What we have isn't the outcome of limited positions females can fill. What we have is from the ability we have to do the job. We have the potential to achieve greatness. All of us. This is why I tend to be overly generous in praise. If someone does something brilliant, male of female, I believe in abundant love. Abundant love means there is more than enough of God's grace to go around.
We have lower expectations for males than we do females. Another way to put it, women hold exceptionally high standards on their own. When I was in middle school I saw a female in the pulpit for the first time. My entire view of female ministers rested on this one woman's performance that Sunday morning. It was unfair to place so much on one person. Years later, at my first church job, I would see a male minister using the rainbow from Noah's Ark as a weak pretense to sing "Somewhere over the Rainbow." It was an absolutely horrible sermon. Seriously, I only learned rainbows were pretty. Yet, I didn't leave thinking all men should avoid preaching. I also didn't think his bad preaching was cause for him to be fired. My expectations of him were lower than what I naturally expect of any female.
I think we know what's on the line when we see a female taking a position we know has been primarily male dominated. We know what is going to be said if she messes up even a little, "Well, we tried a female and it just didn't work." I've heard it before. When I worked in Kentucky I was the second female minister to be hired by this particular congregation. A female congregant told me she wasn't coming to church, "We already had a female minister and it didn't work. We tried it, and it failed. I'm not coming for another one." See? All that pressure put on one person, to signify an entire gender. We, females, know what's at stake and we only want the best in the lime light.
I think the solution is to set equal standards on males and females. We need to expect more than Clark Kent from the males, and less of Super Woman from the females. This isn't saying the person working, male or female, shouldn't give 110% to everything they do. This is saying the people should look equally on our leaders for their character and performance, not their gender. This is easier said than done. It is often what we don't realize we are doing that causes the most harm.
What would I like you to do with this? As females, we know when we have been pushed into the wilderness. It is easier to recall when we have been slighted, than when we have slighted. Sometimes we don't even know when we have cut others down out of fear or unreasonable expectations. If you are up to it, I want us to meditate on the times we have been Sarah. I want us to think about times we were the one disconnecting someone. Then, I want us to pray for forgiveness. Follow it up by finding someone to be a cheerleader to. Abundantly love.