At the women's leadership conference I attended this last weekend, I remembered something that happened to me when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. It wasn't a big, dramatic experience; and I hadn't totally repressed it, either. I just had not thought about it for a long time. This weekend I started thinking about it in a different light.
My home congregation was a mission church. We were growing like crazy in the 1960s. People packed into the sanctuary every Sunday. But that was not going to be the permanent sanctuary. When I was in junior high, we set about building a new, larger sanctuary; it would be modern and square, with a bell tower and a balcony.
This was very exciting to me. We were in on the ground floor of something very exciting. There was a model of the new building up; there were plans to expand even more after the sanctuary was completed.
I remember sitting with my family the first Sunday after the sanctuary was completed. As I was listening to my pastor preach (and I often did listen to the pastor, who preached short and interesting sermons peppered with anecdotes), I suddenly thought, "If I was a man, that's what I would want to do."
Now you have to understand something: at the time, I had never ever spoken in front of people in a group. I was very shy, so it seemed to me that this thought came out of nowhere, and I quickly repressed it. Of course, the thought also seemed to come out of nowhere because only men preached.
I have always thought that the thought was so strange that it had somehow to be directly from God.
But this weekend, I had another thought, as well.
I thought about the fact that since almost the time I could write, I had been writing: poetry, stories, plays, essays, pretty much everything. But I would never dare to speak the things that I was writing down. And most of the writing stayed private as well. Perhaps one of the things I was fascinated with was the idea that someone could take their thoughts, their ideas, their words, their creativity, and put them out in public where everyone could hear.
That would take courage.
The voice of God in my head when I was in church that day? I still think it was a call to ministry. But now I also think it was a call to have courage.
I heard that call again this weekend.