By Rev. Rebecca Caswell-Speight
During my sophomore year at Georgetown College, I heard God’s call for me to go into ministry. The call that day is still one of the strongest feelings I have ever experienced. Alone in the in the middle of my dorm room, God spoke to me. I sobbed, I sat and I questioned what I was hearing. Finally, like Samuel, I allowed God’s call to embrace me, as I listened.
Over the next six months, I met with some of my mentors who helped me and supported me. I informed my church which had cultivated this call throughout my life. I changed my major and moved from serving at a local pizza place to serving at a local congregation.
The trajectory of my life shifted quickly as I found more and more ways to serve. In the years that have followed since my day of calling, I have been led to serve in numerous places throughout the country and with people who taught me lessons that I still use. I am grateful for each of these congregations who were willing to listen to God’s call for them and for me.
Recently, the so-called question of women in ministry has been raised again and my reading of these hateful words and hearing a women’s call questioned has left me frustrated.
I have been challenged by the blog posts, articles, Facebook comments and tweets from a group of men who laughed at and ridiculed Beth Moore, a prominent Christian writer in conservative circles. When evangelical pastor John MacArthur was asked to respond to the ministry and the call of Beth Moore, he uttered two words, “Go home.”
The way MacArthur and others at the Truth Matters Conference belittled Beth by saying that God’s call on her life is wrong and is a rejection of Biblical authority not only hurt Beth, but the numerous other women and girls called to serve God in their own unique way.
Judging by the current onslaught of “Not Going Home” hashtags and Facebook profile pictures I have seen circulating, there has been a harsh reaction to this panel of men’s comments at the conference. Their dismissive words and callous laughter reignited the frustration of many of my ministry friends, congregants, and supporters as well.
For me, these men’s words opened old wounds of the times anyone has questioned God’s unique call of me that day in my college dorm room so many years ago. Old wounds like the first day I sat down in my college preaching class and a young man turned to look at me and said, “What are you doing here? Women can’t preach.”
Or the wound of the time I announced to my family that I was going into ministry and one of my family members openly laughed at me. The wound while I was a student in seminary when a church member complained about my socks (Seriously, socks!). The wound of a college friend who, after my organizing a state-wide celebration for women in ministry which made the news, told me that she was praying for me and my colleagues so that we would see the error of our ways.
The wounds from this long list of times I have been told to “go home” hurt, but they do not define me or deny God’s call for my life in any way.
Those wounds will not silence me or make me go home, because for each harmful moment I have experienced, there are ten more moments where God has shown me that I am already home.
I know I am home when I notice a young lady at church who is too scared to go into her Sunday school class and I take the opportunity to crawl on the floor next to her and her father and teach them about the Ten Commandments.
I know I am home when I get to lead an ordination service for someone that I have mentored and get to affirm her call from God.
I know I am home when I stand in the baptismal waters with a new Christ-follower as he shares his faith story in front of our faith family.
I know I am home when I serve communion, when I stand behind the pulpit, and when I stand next to a hospital bed. It is during each of these holy moments that I know “I AM HOME.”
When Jesus’s parents could not find their young son, they came back to Jerusalem where they found him in the synagogue. Jesus informed his parents that he was shocked that they worried and were searching for him. Didn’t they know where he was? Jesus was at home going about his Father’s business. Just like Joseph and Mary, the men at the Truth Matters Conference who question the call of God in women’s lives believe they are lost.
Just like Jesus, women who have heard God’s call shouldn’t worry about those who choose to question their calling. These women in ministry who faithfully answer God’s call have no use for the words “go home.” They are already home, going about God’s business.
Rev. Rebecca Caswell-Speight serves as Minister of Families, Faith Formation and Connection at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga.