I almost missed her. She thought I had left. And she could have left, too, but instead she sought me out so that she could give me a gift. I had just preached my first church service at Covenant Baptist Church, where Kyndall Renfro serves as senior pastor. She was an elderly lady who was just visiting on this particular Sunday. She knew the woman who had passed and had come for her memorial. How unlikely that our paths should cross, and yet, she had this gift for me.
Her skin had aged with the years, and there was a slight purple tint to her lips. Her voice was quiet and shaky, and she spoke slowly, but with assurance. Mostly though, she drew me in with her eyes. In them I saw deep kindness and wisdom. A bit teary, they gave away a mix of flooded emotion, partly suggesting a sense of victory and partly projecting the feeling of great relief. It was her eyes that made me throw off my insecurities for a moment. It was her eyes that made me believe her when she said there is a place for me.
“I go to a funny church” she said with a wink. Kyndall and I looked at each other and smiled. We knew this was code that actually meant she attended a church where women were not welcome in the pulpit. “I was really impressed by you this morning,” she went on, showering me with encouragement and compliments I felt sure I didn’t deserve.
Then came the gift.
She looked at us both and said something like “You know, there’s never really been a place for women”, and she motioned toward the pulpit. “But you’re showing that women can do it, and they can do it just as good.” In that moment she looked so proud and so victorious, as if the years of keeping quiet had finally been defeated. And those eyes of hers were dancing, portraying just how much she really meant it. And she smiled at us in a way that made me feel like I was just given a really important secret that I couldn’t keep to myself.
I don’t always know what it means to be called, but I would imagine it’s kind of like holding a water balloon in your hand. You can’t hold it too tightly, and its form is constantly changing as it rolls across your palm. But I do know one thing about calling. It is a gift. We don’t necessarily ask for it, but when it’s given to us, we feel compelled to open it and use it. That nameless elderly lady gave me a gift when she looked into my eyes and dared me to accept her words as truth. There is a place in the pulpit for men and women. There is a place in the pulpit for me.
About the Author
Aurelia Pratt is a May 2012 Truett Seminary alumna, receiving both a M.Div and a M.S.W. degree. She will also be serving as one of the teaching pastors at a new church plant, Grace Baptist Church, in Round Rock, Texas.