One of the gifts of being in ministry are the ecumenical gatherings of pastors, when we come together and share our common love for God’s people. On one occasion, I attended a meeting where our host served a more conservative congregation.
As was often the case in my early years, women were few in number. On that day, there were two of us in the sea of men. Our host, offered a devotion, which I found meaningful. But then he began to pray. Several times, he repeated in his prayer that God make us “Men of God.” By the time he was done, I was thoroughly exasperated with him. Didn’t he realize there were women in his midst? Was he clueless to women’s issues? Did he have a sense that in his prayer he was excluding the two of us?
It was not one of my better ministerial moments. After thanking him for his devotion, I said to him, “That try as I might, and pray as I might, I will never be a ‘man’ of God.” People laughed, he was embarrassed. Then he said, “My wife has been telling me I need to be more inclusive.” I don’t remember ever seeing him at a Ministerial meeting again. Nor, did my clergywoman colleague return, citing that prayer as her reason.
We don’t like being corrected or considered insensitive. Which is part of the reason today’s racial reckoning can be so very difficult for us to respond to. I want to be considered sensitive and caring. Yet, I have never experienced the trials of my black neighbors. I have lived white privilege without recognizing it as such. In ways I do not comprehend, I have caused offense. Maturing as a Christian means that we continue to learn and to grow in our understanding of ourselves and others. Painful encounters can be turned into grace. God wants for all of us to grow in our relationships, our understanding and our love for each other.
“The Lord corrects the people
and disciplines those
he calls his own.” Hebrews 12:6 CEV