I am a leader.
If you know me now, this is no surprise. But it took me a long time to realize this, and even longer to realize that this was OK.
As a kid, I was always the one organizing the games or leading group projects. As a college student and young adult starting out in ministry, I was the one providing direction, clarity, and organization. Sometimes I didn’t seek particular roles and even eschewed invitations to lead. Nonetheless, for some reason I often became the de facto leader in many situations.
At the same time, for many years my developing gift was largely discouraged. As a kid I was sometimes described as “bossy,” obviously a negative label. I was told that women should not have strong personalities, that I could be intimidating, that men should be in charge, that one day I would mature — the implication being that I would grow out of these tendencies and become quiet and submissive.
For years I felt that something was wrong with me, that I had some sort of character flaw. Why couldn’t I just be part of the crowd? Why did I get frustrated being stuck in the pack? Why did people look to me to be in charge even when I intentionally tried to blend into the woodwork?
A few people referred to me as a leader, but I thought they were referring to my positions: R.A., youth director, administrator. For the most part, the conservative evangelical culture I grew up in did not look favorably on women as leaders, either in position or personality.
I don’t know when exactly I finally embraced my leadership, not just who I am as some sort of mistake to be corrected, but as a God-given gift. I think it was partly the result of scoring high on leadership on every spiritual gifts inventory I ever completed. I think it was partly because I began tracing some patterns in my life and realized I had been exercising effective leadership for years, dating back to those unrefined days on the school playground. And I think it was partly because I had finally moved out from under the restrictive umbrella I had lived and worked under, to a church and other environments and relationships that truly valued leadership gifts in women and challenged what I had come to believe.
Whatever the factors, it was about eight years ago that I finally realized I had been trying to squelch an important piece of who I am. And I can now declare with confidence, conviction, pleasure, and a healthy sense of pride: I am a leader. God made me this way, and He made no mistake. My leadership is a gift from God, and God not only desires but also expects me to use it to advance His kingdom, no matter what others might say is acceptable.
Thank you, Lord.