Learning to Walk Through the Open Door

Everywhere around me I’m being told that strong women are self-reliant, hard working, unstoppable forces. I cannot tell you how many Instagram posts I’ve seen featuring sloganed materiel with the phrases “make sh*t happen,” “girls run the world,” or “girl power.” The list of idioms is pretty much endless. 

When I first started seeing these posts, I double tapped with furver. I believe in the power of women. I believe that women can change the world. I believe that women are unstoppable forces. I believe women can and should be able to do everything a man can do. But now, years later, I have to wonder if the women’s rights dialogue is doing us any good. 

While there’s plenty of truth to the importance of a woman believing in herself and supporting herself and supporting other women, I’m afraid this dialogue has failed at its original purpose. Instead of empowering women to partner with men, cross gender boundaries, the only success I see is making the hearts of strong women hard and unkind and the minds of weak women stubborn, unteachable, and completely self-centered. 

Before we start calling for pitch forks or a Handmaiden’s Tale stoning please read with my heart’s intent. I believe women are entitled to as much education as they want. They should grow their knowledge and their understanding. They should have equal paying jobs. They should have meaningful work that employs their strengths. They should find fulfillment in their life’s purpose. 

As a woman in full time ministry, I clearly see the social injustices on women in the professional world. I live in a man’s world. I know, from personal experience, the loneliness I feel when I walk into a room of ministers and pastors that are all male. I’m excluded from conversations, given polite smiles as the token woman, and never recognized for the importance or influence of my life’s work to the people I love and serve. Instead, I’m recognized for my beauty, my "female" talents, my personality, my social media charm, or my father or grandfather’s ministerial success. 

It’s hurtful. It’s painful. And it’s wrong. 

But, I have to tell you, I have difficult time believing that just getting my masters in an all female cohort or just joining a support group where my grievances can be aired or just demanding attention from my leadership will do any actual good. In fact, I believe it does more to hurt my reputation than anything else. 

Women have the power and authority to be anything God has called them to be. But, I know God’s character enough to know that He did not create any woman or man to be hard, unloving, closed-minded, self-centered, OR self-reliant. God created us for relationship with each other and for partnership with God. 

My parents raised all their daughters to be individualists. There’s a bunch of family dynamics that play into my personality and the choices I’ve made. But, just so we don’t muddy the waters, let’s just say that I am generally very strong, slightly stubborn, and hard working. I’m pretty blunt and definitely determined. I’m not a perfectionists, but excellence is a personal value. To top that off, for many reasons, I’ve been in a season of singleness for quite awhile which essentially means, if necessary, I can change a flat tire myself. I rarely allow anyone, man or woman, to assist me. 

Recently, my closest guy friend and I retrieved lunch for ourselves and a few friends. It was my turn to drive and I happened to be carrying the take out meals that we had purchased. Purse on my arm, keys in my hand, I had a plan on how I was going to get in the vehicle. I would just put the drinks on top of the car, open the backseat door, throw my purse and the food in the backseat, and then put the drinks in the cup holders in the front. That was my plan. I was ready to make it happen. 

And then my friend did something I hadn’t
planned for. He walked ahead and opened the driver side door.

It seems little, I know, but I realized in that moment that I had a choice. I could accept his help and adjust my plan to accommodate his thoughtful care or I could reject his assistance. My plan required more time and effort on my part, but it was my plan making it optimal for me. His action of assistance required a level of vulnerability of myself. To accept the open door, I would have to acknowledge that his plan was better than mine. It demonstrated kindness, preference, and thoughtfulness. 

Now, if you’re a guy reading this I’m sure this internal dialogue is baffling. But I assure you, a civil war raged in my mind for the entirety of three seconds. 

Ultimately, I chose to accept his help. Truthfully, it was a little difficult, but I’m really glad that I did. Accepting his help required nothing of me except choosing to see a better way and walking through the already open door. 

So what does this story have to do with the whole women’s power thing?

Well, everything. 

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think most women only see the closed door that’s guarded by ten men. That’s the door we want to walk through. We’ve pictured in our minds what walking through that door will look like...what it will feel like. The adventure. The acceptance. The validation. If only we could get these ridiculous men to move out of our way. 

But if we would allow ourselves to look around the room, I bet there’s a good chance we’ll see another door not guarded by a man, but opened wide for us to walk through. I propose we stop trying to fight our way into a door that we’re never going to get open and look for another door that leads to the same place. Look for the men who are self-assured enough to open the door for women. Be a woman self-assured enough to walk through a door opened by a man. Recognize that you don’t have to open the door yourself. You just have to be brave enough to accept a door that someone else opened. Be brave enough to recognize that assistance is not weakness. It’s teamwork. 

When I think about God’s plan for humanity, it’s not difficult to find that teamwork plays a significant role in the success of actualizing God’s plan. For example, everybody knows of the successful Apostle Paul.  But his success wasn’t achieved on his own. The door for his success was opened by Barnabas. If Barnabas had not spoken up for Paul, validating his conversion and call, the mistrust of the early church would have significantly diminished or thwarted his success all together (Acts 9). And Barnabas was only the first of many team-working partnerships that Paul benefited from. 

Now, sure, Paul was male, but there are multiple examples in God’s Word of doors opened by men for women too. 

Barak opened the door for Deborah. 
David opened the door for Abagail. 
Boaz opened the door for Ruth. 
Mordecai opened the door for Esther. 
Elijha opened the door for the Shumanite Woman. 

And these are just some of the examples in the Old Testament.

Teamwork and community among the genders is part of God’s plan. We—humanity—working together in partnership with the Holy Spirit can only be more successful. The challenge for both genders is recognizing that there are plenty of doors. We don’t have to protect doors from each other. We have to recognize there are some doors that are ours to open and there are some doors that are ours to walk through. Either way, teamwork makes the dream work. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee." Generation to generation, male to female, there is power is working together toward one common goal. Purpose in your heart to be brave. Be brave enough to open doors. Be brave enough acknowledge that your way may not be the best way. Be brave enough to walk through a door that someone else opened for you.

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