If I had a dime for every time I heard Beyoncé beckon the single ladies at the wedding bouquet toss, my student debt would be entirely paid off. As a former wedding photographer I can tell you, there really is nothing new under the sun. But this is not a beckoning from Beyoncé. No, this is a song for my ladies in theology. Listen up.
The first thing that I want to tell you is this: You’re going to get your ass kicked. Stay with me here. I know that’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but it’s true. You’re going to need some seriously thick skin. Start to develop it. But as you do, keep your heart soft.
Thick Skin – Soft Heart. That’s a motto I offer to you.
You’re going to be chewed up and spit out. Your gift of preaching and teaching and intellectual inquiry will always be under speculation so just get used to that right away. Consider this your “what to expect when you’re expecting”.
As a preacher you’ll be encouraged to be authentic, but polished. Be vulnerable, but not too vulnerable. Be transparent, but also guarded. It’s like a dance without a rhythm that you can only figure out as you go along to the nonexistent beat. But you can do it. I know you can.
Thick skin – Soft Heart.
You’ll be tempted to grow angry and hard-hearted. Try not to. Men will say demeaning things simply because you different body parts. And women will criticize you because, well, for some reason we tear one another down rather than come together as the super awesome sisterhood gang that we could be. Resist the urge to tear others down – men or women. Your greatest weapon is grace and confidence.
Don’t apologize for who you are. You are you – the very woman GOD created you to be. You don’t have to be anything or anyone else. A teachable spirit will allow you to live you courageously. It takes all kinds of kinds to make the world go round. Trust that YOU’VE got something magnificent to offer the world.
When you’re afraid that you don’t measure up (and you will be afraid), remember that you serve a God much bigger than you can possibly know. Examine what it really is your afraid of – more often than not you’ll realize that those fears matter none at all because you’ve got the Creator of the cosmos rooting for you.
You’re going to fall flat on your face. A lot. Be cool about it. Own the fact that it happened. Don’t sweat it. Learn from it. Let it change you. Let it mature you. And get your butt back up. Falling is inevitable. But if you’ve got thick skin and a soft heart, you can laugh at the falls, learn a thing or two, and be ready to do it all over again. And again. And again.
Don’t go at it alone. You’ll die. No really. Solitude will be the death of you. Grow your squad now. Find older women to guide you and mentor you. Actually, find men to mentor you too – there’s something insanely rad when you’ve got a brother from another mother as part of your squad. Find peers who are gracefully living as theologians and practitioners and collaborate together. Find younger women to mentor and help develop the next generation. Find prayer warriors to cover you. Don’t go in without a proper prayer covering. Trust me on this one. Pray, baby. Pray.
Thick Skin – Soft Heart.
Don’t try to be all things. Because you can’t. Don’t aim for perfection (that temptation is our greatest vice as women). Perfection is a B of a lie anyway. Be you. My gosh that sounds disgustingly cheesy. Like one of those overpriced wood blocks with cliché quotes painted not them. You know exactly what I’m talking about… But seriously. Be YOU. Oh what the hell… Be-YOU-tiful. Yup. Be you and be it beautifully. Gracefully. Confidently.
DO NOT COMPARE. DO NOT COMPARE. DO NOT COMPARE. This is something I’ve told the young women I mentor for as long as I can remember. Comparison is the death of all joy. Don’t give in. Keep you eyes fixed. Encourage others rather than compare. It takes all kinds of kinds, remember? And you don’t have to be all things, remember? That woman who is funnier than you, the one who’s quick-witted and an external processing goddess – LET her be! That’s HER gift. YOU have your own gift. TOGETHER, our sisterhood can get sh*t done. Collaborate, don’t compare.
Thick Skin – Soft Heart.
I could go on for days, but I’ll close this little note with these first encouragements. You’ve got this. I believe in you. The world needs you. Grace. Confidence. Thick skin and a soft heart. Keep on, sister. Keep on.