I was recently having a conversation with a friend who is a talented songwriter. She had recently learned that a family she was visiting lived downstairs from her songwriting role model, the one that she had looked up to since she was a little girl and who had inspired her to write. My friend was asked if she wanted to go upstairs and meet this famous genius, but instead of making a beeline for the stairs she declined the invitation. This famous woman was right up the stairs and my friend declined?? I looked at my friend for a moment like she was crazy, and then I asked her why in the world she would let an opportunity like this slip by. My friend said, “Well, who am I to go up there and meet her?” implying that she was basically a nobody wanting to meet a somebody.
This reminded me of countless times I asked myself the same question. I happen to live in a town where the idol is not money or cars… it’s academia. It’s about who published that paper, who went to the most prestigious school, or who got the most impressive job after they graduated. I had no graduate level degrees, no Ivy League education, and no accomplishments that were worth anything (these were lies I told myself). When we first moved into town I thought I was just a plain person living in a sea of highly intelligent individuals who were making a difference in the world through their accomplishments. I found myself constantly asking the question, “Who am I?"
I desired to form deep relationships with people around me in my community, but I asked myself, "Who am I? I can’t talk to these people. Half the time I don’t even know what they’re saying, and I feel like a fool saying anything.”
When I was asked to lead worship for the first time at a national conference, I almost bailed many times because I asked myself, "Who am I? I don’t have enough experience or theological knowledge to even attend this conference, let alone lead worship!"
When I was offered my first official church job as a music director, I was completely confused, and I asked myself, "Who am I? I never went to seminary. I don’t even feel like I know the Bible! Am I good enough at singing/playing? I’m not that talented."
In her book “Leaning In,” Facebook CEO Cheryl Sandberg observed that, during meetings, it was the women who didn’t ask questions during a presentation or make themselves heard. It was the women who chose not to sit at the table with their male counterparts. It was the women who thought they were helpless against choosing between work and family duties. These women were probably thinking, “Well, I could advocate for myself… but who am I?"
As Christian women, and as Christian women worship leaders, we must come back to this question time and time again in order for things to change. Most of us work in male-dominated environments. Some of us are even in environments where it is explicitly stated that only men should have top leadership roles, period. So many of us are left feeling alone in fending for ourselves. Too often the message coming from our workplace is "Who are you to think/do ____?"
It could be incredibly easy for us to lose patience or feel infuriated by these working conditions. It would be even easier to give up and just go with the flow, or to even quit. But I wonder what would happen if we turned around and asked ourselves this question in an affirming, nonjudgmental manner: Who am I?
- I am an incredibly beloved daughter, fearfully made by a loving God.
- I am a woman who follows Jesus when he calls, no matter where it leads me.
- I am a woman who will seek the Lord’s heart with courage and creativity.
… and the list goes on and on.
When we remind ourselves of the incredible worth that we have given to us by God, it’s empowering! What possibilities can there be when we lead worship from that place of incredible worth? What are we teaching and modeling for the next generation of women leaders, and for our daughters and granddaughters? What have we to fear in advocating for ourselves? Anything is possible, and that is exciting news for the Kingdom of God.
So, my dear sister... Who are you?