by Ralen M. Robinson

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. (Psalm 139:14)

“When did you become Lutheran?”

“Will you leave the ministry after you have children so you can be a mom?”

“How do you expect to lead a church when you have not led a family?”

This line of questioning has blanketed me throughout my pursuit of ministry. It has been draped over me– at times, I tripped over it and it obstructed my view.

This veil of questioning has weighed me down. My presence, ability and self have always provoked a line of inquiry because of my cocoa hue, coiled curls, and female body. Today, a pastor can be anyone with a fire, desire, and passion for proclaiming the Word, leading the people, and living into biblical text and doctrine. And yet my presence and womanhood spark a plethora of feelings, acquisitions, and resistance.

And still, I stand. I do not stand alone, but behind me is anyone that has felt they didn’t fit the mold, been questioned because of who they are, and faced obstacles that have made them contort themselves. I stand with every female pastor who has been hushed, women in ministry who have been called “darling,” and anyone who has peered from the margins with a fire and desire to lead. You are seen and heard. The church is changing.

If you believe enough

A few years ago, the entire assembly erupted in applause; there were joyous exclaims of praise, and excitement radiated throughout the room. Yet, I peered at the altar in awe and felt alone at that moment because I had just witnessed the first African American woman to be ordained a bishop in the Evangelical Church of America (ELCA).

I looked at the altar with tears because I saw that it was possible–if you believed enough and dreamed enough. As the assembly cheered and shouted with joy for this victory, I felt the little girl inside me who, twelve years prior, could finally see someone who looked like her. I stood in awe for the little girl who didn’t fit the bill of what an ELCA pastor was.

I grew up in a Lutheran church in a little neighborhood in an urban metropolis. There my faith was formed and it grew. It was there I first felt called to be a pastor in the church. Yet, I felt I didn’t fit the bill to be a pastor. To be a pastor seemed to be untouchable; Pastors were the closest thing next to godliness and that title was meant only for the devout. I was full of flaws, and I wasn’t perfect. I didn’t pray enough, couldn’t recite scripture, had limited biblical knowledge, and was not supposed to be a pastor.

You are enough

I grew up and was reared by wrinkled hands that had already raised the previous generation. I didn’t feel I was enough– my upbringing was not picturesque, yet the rose-colored lens of life and family is misleading. We are conditioned to see idyllic images that don’t encompass those days that weigh us. It is those days when we don’t feel as though we are enough, when we’re anxious, have chaotic thoughts, and when our voices are muted–you are enough. You are seen, you are heard, and your presence is needed. Worth is not determined by your pedigree, education level, or accolades but by the content of your heart.

You are enough! You are perfectly imperfect and a part of the beautiful tapestry of the church with its rough edges. I echo David’s Psalm 139 saying you are wonderfully made. You are cut in the image of God and in that image, there are no flaws. In that image, you are loved unconditionally, given reassurance, and blanketed with grace.

We make up the stained-glass tapestry of the church. Although we are different sizes, hues and shapes–we each add value and create something breathtaking. You, my beloved, are worthy, loved and cloaked in unyielding grace. Beloved, stand in your beauty, hone your voice, ignore the naysayers, and continue to shine.

Closing prayer

Creator God, you created us in your image. Remind us that we are created in your image when we fall short, feel unworthy, and doubt. An image that shines bright and is full of love. A love that wraps us up in times of doubt and uncertainty. A love that blankets us and shields us when we need it. A love that tells us we are wonderfully made. Amen

Discussion questions:

1. How do you stand firm in who you are?
2. How can you continuously use your voice despite doubt?
3. What is giving your life value right now?

Ralen M. Robinson is a Pastor at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, KS. When she is not pastoring she is pursuing her Doctorate of Ministry in Homiletics and participates in leadership roles in the wider church. Ralen believes her faith and a good pair of shoes can take you a long way.