Monday, December 16, 2013

Put Me in Coach

I used to think that playing sports with boys for the first time was somehow different from playing sports with anyone for the first time.

While confident in my own ability to catch a frisbee, hit a ball, run somewhat adequately...there's always this fear that comes with having to prove myself able. Because, you don't just walk onto a field or court and have everyone just know that you're going to be useful to them as a teammate. You have to earn it. 

Playing sports with boys for the first time quiets my soul, especially when I don't really know 'said' boys. Warm-ups are crucial because in those first ten minutes, I must show them that I'm not entirely incompetent. My game-face is on. I don't want to be that girl who runs around on the field, waving her hands for a pass and somehow gets completely neglected every time. I don't want to be that girl on the volleyball court who has guys diving in front of her to get balls because they're scared when I touch it, it'll soar the wrong direction. I don't want to be a benchwarmer.

Perhaps it's pride. 
But part of it is just that I love playing sports and when I'm playing with people who trust me to, ultimately, do a good job even when I mess up from time to time (because who is perfect?)...I feel empowered, I feel enabled. There's a joy, an excitement, a pressing on to becoming a better player. My teammates encourage me when they throw me a pass, believing that I might score...that I might bring success to our team. To know that I'm on a team where I had a part (no matter how small) of the victory...there's not a lot that can replace that feeling. I want in that game. 

I recently attended a conference and one of the seminars I went to was on women in ministry. Women leaders in ministry, specifically. I began to hear the chorus of women who struggled to find their place among men...whether that was a self-doubt brought on by lies and insecurities, or whether they actually met external opposition from the men they worked with...not one of us could fully admit that being a woman in a leadership position had come without any sort of tension. Whether single, married, assistants, directors, program people, administrative people, old, young...there was a common thread of figuring out how to weave our gifts and passions into a traditionally male-dominated culture with balance, grace and humility.  

And so here's where the sports parallel comes in. 
As much as I like to think playing sports with guys feels different than playing sports with girls, it doesn't always. In fact, it's the playing sports with new people that'll get you. Because, you don't know how they're going to play. Joining up with an indoor league of female volleyball players can be just as intimidating as jumping into a soccer match with a bunch of males. 

I think the key is knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and being able to act accordingly. While I know I won't ever be as a fast as 90% of the guys on the field, I know that if I'm thrown the frisbee, I'll usually be able to do something good with it. I know that while I'm never going to be a spiking and blocking queen, I can assist in setting and attempting to hustle. 

I guess I think that my role in ministry doesn't have to be much different. As a woman playing sports, I can acknowledge weaknesses (and strengths...) I might possess because I'm a woman in the arena, but it doesn't mean that I can't play. It doesn't mean that I can't compete. It doesn't mean that I don't have something good to offer to the team. I have to be confident, I have to be willing to put myself out there, I have to be willing to call for the frisbee, to go for the ball... and I have to be willing to screw up every so often. I have to know my limitations and plan accordingly. I have to earn the trust of my peers, my teammates. I have to prove that I'm capable. It doesn't matter if my teammates are all males, all females, or comprised of both. Who I am going into the game doesn't change. The things I'm good at, the things that I'm bad at, the things that I need to work on... they remain the same. How I can better utilize those things can change based on my teammates, though.

As a woman in ministry, it's easy to feel intimidated, inadequate, to allow the fears of what others may be thinking of you to interfere with your ability to play. It's easy to assume that no one wants you on their team because you're a girl and don't have anything good to offer. Sometimes, unfortunately, the assumptions may even be correct. But, I think that as women, we're in a place of being able to prove ourselves to people. We can show that we have what it takes. That we can work hard. That we are competent. That we do have something good to offer.

We get to choose.
We get to be women who get to decide if we're going to play or just run around aimlessly hoping someone will throw us the ball (and, if they don't... are we going to be women who go out of our way and hustle to make sure we get the ball?).

I think when we really go all out and prove ourselves able, we are going to find ourselves supported and backed by our teammates. We are going to feel enabled. We are going to feel empowered. People will start to believe in us...truly believe in us.

And the best part of all of this is that you don't have to be athletic to prove yourself adequate. You just have to know your gifts and strengths within the ministry you are in and make sure you are living out of them to the fullest. Make sure you are reliable when you get thrown the ball, make sure you do something good with it...and make sure you enable your teammates to be successful, too (don't be a ball-hog).

It's a cool opportunity.
Always filled with room for fears, hesitations, possible limitations and intimidating responsibilities... but it doesn't mean that we ever have to be stuck in those.

Believe in yourself.
Believe in the place that the Lord has you in right now.
Believe that He has given you gifts, passions, dreams and that you can utilize those wherever you are.

Catch the frisbee.
Dive for the ball.
Be invested in a team that is doing something you believe in... a team that is making waves in eternity... and do your part in it.

It's the body of Christ.
Function like it.

And yes, maybe in a perfect world people would always just throw us the ball and give us opportunity regardless of our gender, our age, our known abilities... but, in my experience, it doesn't always work out like that. In knowing that sometimes things aren't always ideal, I still want to be used to the fullest... I still want all of us to press harder into being a part of the team. A valuable part. A necessary part.

Let's get off the bench.
Let's get ready to play.

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