“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29, NIV)
For those who follow me on Facebook, you will note it has been an interesting day for me. To be honest, I’ve spent most of it hysterical, because I can’t believe people. The day got off to a start with quite a bang: I encountered a prophalying false prophet who tried to con money out of me, and when I called him on it, he accused me of insulting him, not having faith, and then blocked me. If that wasn’t enough, I had someone else start bothering me (yes, he was irritating me) yesterday afternoon into this morning. He claimed to be a minister and seemed to want to talk to me via the phone and Skype. I explained the phone wasn’t going to happen, as it costs me a lot of money to talk to people in many countries overseas (it depends on the country – for example, Europe isn’t that bad, but countries in Africa and Asia can cost up to $2.00 a minute depending on where they are), and Skype was the best option. So, completely ignoring what I said, he called, to which I did not answer the phone, and got to hear my voicemail message.
Ah, my voicemail message. That message has been the same since I’ve had the phone, which is about a year now. No, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I’d have to call it to even tell you what it said. Well, this individual comes back on FB to tell me how “anointed” my voice is. I was like, um, ok…whatever…already thinking this person is not only weird, but annoying now, too. As I was busy last night, I said, “If you want to talk to me on Skype, you can wait until tomorrow.” Alas, things were left at that.
Funny what a difference a few hours makes. Today I was accused of not only not being anointed, but also not being a woman! He told me I sounded like a woman-man, whatever that is. It was also stated that if he was to work with me in a ministerial capacity, I would have to “prove” I was a woman to him via camera. Now, we all know this didn’t go over with me, and we all know I was tempted to call him an assorted statement of names, but the bottom line to me was simple: he accused me of being dishonest about myself and presenting myself falsely, and I was, therefore, not working with anyone who insisted I was not who I, indeed, am. When I posted about the woman-man issue on here today, some of us started sharing about our backgrounds…and that got me to thinking about my own life and God’s course of action within me in the shaping of His apostle.
I grew up the youngest of five, all girls: the oldest is twenty-two years my senior, followed by twenty-one years my senior, eleven years my senior, and eight years my senior. For those of you who think that would be wonderful, that is way too much estrogen in one generation. Then my oldest sister had to up and have a girl, my niece, who is eighteen months younger than I am – thus, in the same generation, yet another girl, who was also the devil incarnate. It was a life of hair-pulling, biting (yes, I said biting), incessant teasing, gossip, outdoing each other, competition, and yes, secrets. I learned very young not to reveal my personal issues. When I was in Kindergarten, I had a friend who was a boy. I made the mistake of sitting with him on the bus one time and my sisters had to tell everyone about it at the dinner table. They accused me of having a “boyfriend,” as if, at six, that was even humanly possible. Even my father, who wasn’t much to speak of or ever interested in anything having to do with us, had to tease me about it. I learned early on that girls were not to be trusted – they were catty, mean, and self-centered. This was reiterated throughout my life, over and over again. I found it hard to have many female friends, and the few I did have, we always seemed to have issues. There was one I had where we had an infamous not-speaking fight for three weeks at a time at least once per year and others who I spent more time not speaking to than speaking to. The “girls club” I more or less hung with in elementary school was on and off, even at eight and nine years old. It was a wild and weird world, time and time again.
As far back as I can remember, I played with the boys. The games were simple, the rules were clear, you didn’t have to worry your business would be spread all over the school, and offenses were easily forgotten. I’d spent so many years hanging out with my first boyfriend, I was, in many ways, one of the guys. Even when he wasn’t around, I still hung out with his friends, who, in turn, were my friends. We shared books, visited each other’s houses, and his boy scout troop even wanted me to join the troop and become a boy scout! Everyone knew it, as much as my Catholic school instructors hated it, they put up with it, and despite their best efforts to turn me into the girl they thought I should be, it never happened. First chance I got, the ugly sweater vest came off, my blouse got untucked, and the tights came off. Even back then, people saw fit to challenge my perspectives. I was accused of being unfeminine, un-nurturing, and not enough of “a girl.” The most girly thing about me was my long hair, and funny, even that wasn’t right – they all wanted me to cut it or put it up in a bun. It seemed like I just wasn’t ever going to become what their definition of a “woman” was.
This was all years before I had any idea I was an apostle, or even knew what an apostle was. I was not just different as a person, I was also different as a female. This was marked in so many ways, and even confirmed in my name: I am named after two men. I am named after Dr. Lee, who was the attending OBGYN at my birth, and Brendan of Klonfert (Brendan being my Confirmation name), an Irish saint who I later learned was an apostle. Even my last name, “Marino,” is the masculine form of “Marina.” Nothing about me was like the other girls: I was around all boys, and wanted the same opportunities they had. It wasn’t right that they could be a priest if they so chose to and I was automatically disqualified because I was a girl. It wasn’t right that they were encouraged to be ambitious and aim for things in life and I was to settle for being a mother and sitting in the church pew. I wanted more, I sought more, I was destined for more. If what I wanted was only for men, God made me the wrong gender (and we wonder how all these things get started – the nonsense and confusion of the traditions of men). Yet God never told me I was the wrong gender, nor did He tell me what I wanted was only for men. In fact, God never told me there was anything wrong with me, or anything that made me unfeminine or unqualified to be a woman. Time after time, God simply affirmed that I was different.
Down the line, the relationships obliviously changed. The games with the boys changed (I don’t think I have to elaborate as to how, we can all figure it out) and male-female interaction became more complicated. This didn’t change female-female interaction; that got more complicated, too. Everything was about who you were dating, who you were seen with, and this never-ending competition over guys, jobs, and status. I did find, however, that it was still easier for me to interact with men than women. Even with a man who was a total flirt or had the hots for me was easy for me to handle; it was all the jealousy and competition I didn’t know how to sport. I didn’t tolerate it then, and don’t tolerate it now. I have always been one to speak my mind, and that doesn’t always go over easily in church settings. I had numerous men tell me I was unqualified to do this or that, and even had a man tell me I had a demon, because no woman could want to preach without having a demon. In hindsight, it’s funny to think about some of the things we went through in the doctrinal war of sexism. We’d run around, making sure no one saw us in a pair of pants or wearing make-up, not to mention the numerous times I lied about dying my hair or having gotten it cut because “some people had a problem with that.”
If I look back over the years, I realize that much of my formation and approach to ministry comes from the formation I had over the years, largely influenced by men and the males in my life. Even though my parents separated when I was seven and I did not have my father in my life from that point and I was largely raised by women, I was deeply influenced by the male leaders I knew. Our pastor in the Catholic Church definitely had his downfalls. He was a grouchy, nasty alcoholic with a bar in his bedroom. I didn’t like him. Now, all these years later, I still remember his words in sermons and hear his words in my head when it comes to authority issues. Talk about a change…never saw that one coming. My early pastors as a Christian were all men, and I had far more respect for them as leaders than the women I saw in the church during that time. The first person to ever back my ministry, promote me, publish me was a man. From them, I learned to teach, I desired to know more about the Word, how to be professional in ministry, and how to handle myself. I also, with many of them, learned not what to do, how not to act, and how not to treat people. I learned the importance of teaching on doctrine, not on emotions and feelings, which is what women are stereotyped to teach about. I was, and am, the kind of female leader that men who support women in ministry easily get behind and easily raise the flag for…and, especially in the beginning, the type many women love to hate.
So imagine my shock when God told me to do women’s ministry. He didn’t tell me to abandon leadership training and Christian education, or stop doing what God has called me to do, but to simply expand. I needed to take my same approach to ministry and apply it to learning and all things in the Word that apply to women, women in ministry, and the woman’s call to freedom in Christ. I have been established to proclaim and establish truth and order as much as pertains to women as it does to general issues in the church. Now, all these years later, I am considered one of the foremost experts in women’s ministry and the Word on issues pertaining to women and women’s ministry in our modern times. It hasn’t been easy, and was a deep struggle for me as I overcame my own notions and stereotypes about what it meant to be a woman and a woman in leadership. I still encounter men who don’t want to receive the authority of a woman, and refuse to be covered or led by a woman for one reason or another. Down this line, I still encounter women who don’t support other women in ministry, and are catty, nasty, and hair-pulling and biting, just in different ways. Now, I am able to handle it in a way I never could, because now I see, now I understand, and now I recognize God’s plan. Throughout my entire life, God wanted me to see that the Spirit He gave to me is the same He gave to the men I knew, and the women I knew, as well. We’ve stereotyped leadership qualities as being male when they are, in fact, neither male nor female: they are Spirit-driven, gifts given to equip us in our ministries. We either believe that, in Christ, there is neither male nor female, or we don’t. I had my early influences, training, and truth so I could see for myself that God didn’t make a mistake when He created me female, nor when He called me to be an apostle. There is no contradiction in me – which means the contradiction is in, and of the world. If there are people who can’t understand or see that…it isn’t my problem…it isn’t God’s problem…and it’s not in the Word, either.
In the discussion earlier today, it was nice to learn I was not the only woman who grew up surrounded by guys, duly influenced by those days and positioned for a future purpose. There are some of us who are just honored to experience our call throughout our lives, and the differences that call reaps. Sure, some would say we aren’t feminine, or that we have the characteristics of men, but these people just don’t know who we truly are, the power of our call, or the truth about our amazing God and His equipping us for ministerial purpose. Today I may wear a skirt or dress, do my hair up all pretty, wear Versace perfume, and wear make-up, but that doesn’t change the truth of my call, the purpose of my message, or the power God has invested within me. From my own life, I have truly learned that one Spirit deposits a true message within men and women alike…and in Christ, we are neither male nor female…but only one.
So, I dedicate this word to all my fellow female apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers out there, who have been different throughout life. I dedicate this to every one of you who was told you couldn’t do something due to the traditions of men, who ever felt incompetent, put down, subordinate, or hated, even by other women. I dedicate this to all of you, who never fit in, and still don’t fit in, as we work to figure out who we are and what our ministries mean. I stand here with you all, and support you, and am excited as we walk this ministry together; as we discover our place with the Lord, and embrace His Spirit in our lives. Just like a biological heir, we, as spiritual heirs, can look back and see our positioning and preparation for the inheritance God has bestowed upon us. God doesn’t make any mistakes, and He has always known exactly where to put us, and when.
“One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless. And we, though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.
Gentile or Jew, servant or free, woman or man, no more.” – “One Bread, One Body,” John Foley