By Halee Scott
It’s no great secret that women face many challenges in the path to leadership. From limited opportunities to the tension of balancing work and family to misperceptions about the way we lead, many are the things that impede our way to progress. Yet through my work as a leadership professor and consultant and through my life as a Christian, I’ve become convinced that the primary challenge for women is -- Are you ready? Because this will hurt -- the primary challenge that we face on the path to ministry is ourselves.
In the book of Ruth – besides the story of Ruth herself, we encounter the story of Naomi. Often when we read or study the book of Ruth, Ruth’s courage and conviction become the focus of our study. In the shadow of Ruth’s faith, it is easy to overlook Naomi. Naomi’s troubles begin when she is driven from her home because of poor economic conditions. Today we’d describe it as an economic recession or a depression.
At first, the move-to-Moab plan seemed successful. Even in the face of her difficult financial situation, even in the midst of the loss of her home, she still described herself and her life as full. She and her family were able to find food; both of her sons were able to find wives. But then, devastation came and Naomi lost her husband along with both of her sons. Sit with her a minute. Imagine what it would be like to lose your husband, your children, or other family and friends that you rely on.
Maybe some of you have.
All of a sudden, Naomi is plunged into a world of complete loss. She is faced not only with the emotional devastation of losing her husband and sons, but also losing the security of her whole life. Her future and her own existence are a big question mark. In this time of loss, her perspective shifts. She loses hope. She tries to send her daughters-in-law away, saying to them, “It is more bitter for me than you.” She asks that people no longer call her Naomi, which means “pleasant or sweet” and instead call her Mara, which means “bitter.” Both the circumstances of her life and her response to it are bitter.
But God had not abandoned Naomi. As we know, she had at her side a daughter-in-law of incredible faith and courage, and through their circumstances, God was able to bring about a plan that ultimately ushered in the crowning act in all of creation—the salvation of people through Jesus Christ.
Could Naomi, in the land of Moab – the land of great loss -- have imagined this? When I look at Naomi and then I look at my own life, I have to ask myself how many times I have let bitterness and discouragement keep me from doing what God has called me to. How many times have I let my circumstances detract me or distract me from the sweet spot that God has called me too?
It doesn’t just have to be discouragement or disappointment or heartache that keeps us from our calling. It could be overfilled lives or hectic schedules. How many times have I overlooked an opportunity to minister because I was so busy that I didn’t see the need right in front of me?
If we are very honest, the greatest challenge that we have to face in our ministries, in our path to living out our callings, is not the limitations imposed on us by others, but the limitations we impose on ourselves.
The future of ministry by women is in our hands. God is calling women to share in the work of his kingdom. And there is work to be done. We don’t have to look farther than the daily news to see how much the world needs God’s people. In fact, we don’t have to look farther than our own neighborhood or our own church community. What can you do in your context, despite the challenges you face, to act boldly now? Not next month or next year or after you finish seminary or raise your children, but here, today, this week? Reflect on this, because every one of us has a part to play in the future of ministry by women.
Halee Gray Scott, PhD, is an author, independent scholar, and researcher. Currently, she serves as a professor of Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Wesley Seminary and a professor of theology at A.W. Tozer Seminary. She has an M.A. In Religion. Her mission and passion is to help people learn to live, love, and lead well through leadership development and spiritual formation. Join the conversation on leadership and spiritual formation on her website, www.hgscott.com.