I know you’re probably wondering what in the world this post is about! I promise this isn’t about some DaVinci Code-esque conspiracy theory that Jesus was actually a woman, but before I explain what I mean by “female Jesus,” let me back up a bit.
Last night I was talking with some women who serve as women’s ministers in other parts of the country. We were discussing the fact that, throughout our service as leaders, we are always in the position of discipling other women but rarely in the position of being discipled. When you’re THE woman in charge, most people either think you’ve got your stuff together so you don’t need someone to pour into you, or no one feels adequate for the job. As a result, you’re left with this constant void that you yearn to be filled by an older female friend. And this deep heart cry for discipleship isn’t limited to women in leadership. Most women I know desire to have an older woman who will reach out and mentor them. That seems to be a constant unmet need among women in churches.
However, I have to admit that there is a great irony in my personal desire for a mentor. You see, throughout various seasons of my life there have actually been numerous godly women who counseled and encouraged me, not the least of which is my own mom. While there hasn’t been one, single woman who’s been my spiritual mentor throughout the course of my Christian walk, there have been many women along the way who took the time to listen to me, encourage me, and give me godly direction when I needed it.
Why then, does the yearning persist?
The answer to this question became apparent when I examined my expectations of what this “ultimate mentor” would look like: She would be considerably older, wise and insightful, honest yet gentle, and she would always know the right thing to say. She would be able to see right through my motives and my actions to what is really going on. She would always know the right verse for a difficult situation, and she would get me. She would have the right answer and the most inspirational insight for every challenge I face. And finally, I would feel totally at home with her, like I could be myself and feel completely safe with her.
The thing is, I’ve never met a woman like that. In fact, I’m not sure a woman like that even exists. Which led me to a personal epiphany about this whole discipleship predicament: When I really think about it, I don’t want a female mentor; I want a female Jesus.
I say this because my standards for a mentor are impossibly high. What I want in a female mentor is essentially Jesus in the flesh, comforting me and giving me the clarity I need for tough decisions in life…but in female form.
Maybe this sounds totally off the wall to you, and maybe you have completely normal expectations of a spiritual discipler, but I suspect that unrealistic standard is why so many women feel dissatisfied in this area. I suspect it’s one of the reasons we are easily disappointed with the women who do offer to pour into us. We’re so pre-occupied with yearning for the “perfect” mentor who focuses solely on us and is this tremendous spiritual mind that we don’t recognize the amazing women around us who are helping to fill that job. (Again, I may only be preaching to myself on this and you may have really normal expectations of discipleship, but this is just where I’m coming from)
When you think about it, the one-to-one discipleship model is not a model we get from Jesus. His model was 12 to 1. Of course he was Jesus so he could handle that many disciples without breaking a sweat, but even so, I think we need to be a little more flexible when it comes to the requirement of having ONE woman who is going to focus only on pouring into us. If you’ve found a female friend who can fill that role in your life, it is indeed a gift and I am not at all discouraging those one-on-one, Paul and Timothy relationships. In fact, I encourage you to be proactive in asking a woman to disciple you if you feel that need. But it’s not the only way to do discipleship.
When Jesus departed from this earth he left us with the church, his “body,” and it is through our relationship with Christ’s Body of followers that we grow in discipleship. Different members in the church community present us with different aspects of Jesus at different times. Some women will comfort you. Some women have the gift of wisdom. Some women will just go out and have fun with you. And when you add up all the gifts that these different women bring to the table, you draw nearer to a complete vision of the character of Christ. No woman has all those attributes, because God didn’t set it up that way.
So all of that to say, one-on-one discipleship is a great, Scriptural concept and it can be a tremendous blessing when done well, but what is more important is that you have a group of women around you who can love and support you with their various gifts, speaking truth into your life when you need it. That yearning for a “female Jesus” type mentor who does it all and always knows the right thing to say is more easily fulfilled by a church of women, not just one. And let that also be a comfort to those of you out there who are thinking about pouring into younger women. You do not have to be a female Jesus who always knows just what to say and has your life all together. The young women in your church already have a Savior, but they need you to help them follow him, share your experience with them, and encourage them with your gifts. You not only have a role in discipleship, but you are designed to be a functioning part of the Body of Christ.